Pros and Cons of having loons on the lake

Message from SMLA Board Member Brent Paterson:

Much has been written about the loons on Six Mile Lake during this past two year period, this message is written to present the pros & cons and the facts concerning the loons on our lake, including their two mating platforms and their affect on Six Mile Lake fish populations.

In discussing the benefits, I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Loons make a pleasant sound on our lake, they stay only on clean lakes with good fish populations, and to many people, I’m sure they are considered a nice looking creature. If there are any other benefits to their presence, I am not aware of them.

The negatives concerning Loon presence on our lake also need to become known to the lake residents as well, so that we can become well informed about this topic, should any Loon issue ever become voted upon at one of our general membership meetings.

Loons, unlike ducks and swans are “divers”; they are ferocious eaters of fish feeding mostly on perch, bluegills and and other species of fish in our lake. A mother, father and two chicks will eat a half ton of fish over a 15 week spring/summer period! When the two chicks become juveniles and later on as adults, this fish consumption amount further increases. I have been told that there were as many as nine Loons on our lake during this summer period, and although some of them were not here for the full 15 weeks, they too, were consuming large quantities of fish out of our lake, thus, increasing the loss of fish in our lake.
The Loons are very similar to the Cormorants, another diver, who also consume large quantities of fish. Ask any “old timer fisherman” on our lake and they will tell you that the perch and Crappie fish population were almost wiped out because of the presence of Cormorants on our lake a number of years ago. Unfortunately, I have spotted 3 cormorants on the lake in recent weeks adding to the existing loss of fish population attributable to the Loons.
The only difference between the Loons and the Cormorants, with respect to fish population declines, is that we have mating platforms for the Loons installed on the northern and southern end of our lake serving as egg hatching platforms for the Loons. These platforms are there for the express purpose of increasing the Loon population on Six Mile Lake. They were installed by a resident on our lake.

As a new board member in my “freshman year” with the SMLA I have come to the conclusion that the continuance of maintaining birthing units for the Loons would only lead to further fish declines, which is not a good thing for the many fisherman who enjoy fishing on our lake. Some pundents may say that there are other predator fish in the lake that also consume smaller fish, and although true, these fish have always been here, unfortunately, the Loons are a new variable introduced to Six Mile Lake that will further diminish our fish populations. In addition, the DNR has just this year planted fingerling Walleyes into our lake; how many of them were lost because of the presence of the Loons?

The Loon birthing platforms are also an infringement upon the recreational boater on the lake because boaters are required to slow down to create a “no wake zone” for approximately 50 yards on each side of the Loon platforms, you can see this zone set up between the buoys on the northern side of the lake. For the recreational boater, taking the kids out tubing is a no-no in the areas of the Loon platforms.
Conclusion:
Loons have been around for thousands of years and they have survived just fine over the decades without the introduction of man made platforms. Although the Loons make pleasant sounds I think it’s good for all of us to become aware of the potential consequences of stimulating Loon egg hatching on Six Mile Lake.

Any comments and suggestions concerning this message are most welcome.
Brent Paterson, SMLA Board member

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