Where did Rochester’s lakes come from? Let’s dive in.


“Those seven reservoirs that have changed bank fishing in Rochester forever,” says Minske. “It’s really giving a lot of people the opportunity to fish close that otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.”

Minske hears a lot in his shop; tales of 40 inch Northerns in the Silver Creek Reservoir; a 40 lb. catfish from Foster Arend; rumored Pike at Chester Woods.

But the reservoirs aren’t the only places producing fish.

Jeff Ellerbusch, Analysis, Planning & Policy Supervisor at Olmsted County, recalls fishing for sunfish with his son at Northern Hills Golf Course, and says that some of the city’s newest ponds, on the north side of the Main Street Shopping Center along 40th street SE , have already attracted fishers.

Access to some of these ponds is touchy, however; only waters connected to a stream are considered public in Rochester. Cascade Creek, for example, runs into Cascade Lake, but Lake George and Salem Lake are private.

But Why are there Fish in the Gravel Pits?

For some lakes, the answer is simple: the DNR stocked them. Brian Beyerl, Fisheries Specialist for the Fisheries and Wildlife Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says the DNR stocked several reservoirs throughout the city with naturally reproducing species.

Other fish make their way into unlikely bodies of water ‘naturally.’ In the 70s and 80s, the Zumbro River flooded into Foster Arend and a gravel pit north of it, bringing new fish into the isolated waters. Recently, Cascade Creek overtopped its banks into Cascade Lake, almost certainly bringing new fish.

As for fish arriving in gravel pits unaffected by high rivers?

The popular answer is waterfowl.

“It would have to be the perfect scenario for that to happen and I highly doubt that would happen,” says Beyerl. Some plants, like sago pondweed, can transfer things via waterfowl, but those instances are rare.

According to Ellerbusch, at one old sand and gravel pit, a person stocked the ‘lake’ with northerns and bass. No one knew about it until they snuck in and started catching fish.

Other ponds, like in the Salem Creek area, secured permits to stock their ponds.

The lake by Whistle Binkies South has geothermal energy pipes – black hoses that run underwater and help heat buildings nearby.

“We’re from a county without a natural lake. We have reservoirs and we have these things that are basically groundwater stormwater collection areas. That’s just the uniqueness of Olmsted County,” says Ellerbusch.

For more information about Rochester’s water situation, we recommend the following resources: The Minnesota DNR’s lake finder page; Olmsted County’s GIS app; the 2013 Rochester Water Primer.

Bryan Lund is a Rochester-based writer and regular contributor to Med City Beat.

Cover photo: Construction of the Silver Lake dam, circa 1936 / Courtesy HCOC

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