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Let's bring back the fishing pier at Dunton Locks

Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

Most of us that got hooked on fishing spent time shore fishing, or fishing off docks and piers.

Our area has limited shore and public pier fishing these days, as most of the area lakes have had all the property around them purchased and are now privately owned. One area gem that holds many memories for adults, kids, and families, was the public fishing pier on Lake Sallie at Dunton Locks Park, next to the river inlet into Lake Sallie.

The pier was updated in 2002 after the dam between Muskrat and Sallie was modified for fish passage. That pier was 54 feet long with a 40 foot "T" on the end and was 6 feet wide. It was handicap accessible and enjoyed by many wheelchaired fishing enthusiasts over the 15 years it was available.

The state maintained and repaired the old pier several times over the years before the harsh ice of 2016 and ice-out with high winds in the spring of 2017 destroyed the pier to the point of no possibility of repair.

Many anglers have been waiting for the return of that fishing pier, and will continue to wait unless we act as a community of many stakeholders to take action to get it back where it belongs.

I visited with Nathan Olson with our Area DNR fisheries office to discuss what we need to do to get the fishing pier back on site. The original pier was purchased by the DNR Parks and Trails Division, but future funding is questionable at best these days. Becker County may be able to contribute some funds, but is not able to cover the entire cost.

Monetary support from additional sources make it more likely we can get this pier replaced. Our community has a history of doing great things for kids and recreation. The return of Detroit Mountain and the very cool Ice Castle on Little Detroit that volunteers brought to life this winter, are only a couple shining examples of many.

The location is unique in the fact that the pier is anchored to shore on property owned by the state, while the surrounding property is owned by Becker County for the operation of Dunton Locks County Park. The park has a picnic area with a kitchen, other picnic tables and cookout areas, walking trails, and bathroom facilities. It makes for a great area for shore fishing/pier fishing and family activities.

Because it is anchored to state land, the pier has to be manufactured by MINNCOR Industries (the Department of Corrections industry program).They are specifically engineered and designed to meet safety standards for public use and weight issues, and meet all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

We are looking at extending the pier to 60 feet with a little smaller "T" on the end to minimize the chance for ice damage, and the pier will be moved into the open water channel to minimize future risk of damage. The DNR will monitor and maintain the pier.

The total cost will come in at around $25,000. We are looking for financial help from clubs, groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals. We are counting on some financial contributions from Becker County, and the State Parks and Trails.

In the short time we have started this process, we have commitments from the FM Walleye and Twin Cities Walleye clubs, as well as some individual members of these clubs. Brad Laabs Guide Service, Dunton Locks Pottery, Quality Bait and Tackle, and Roach Farms are in for donations as well (as we are putting our money where our begging is!)

We have reached out to the Lake Sallie/Melissa Lake Association as well, and are hopeful for some contribution for this lake improvement project.

The Lake Melissa/Sallie Walleye Foundation has raised money and done private stocking for the lakes as a non-profit 501(C)(3), and has offered to act as the non-profit for this project.

If you want to help with a donation, make checks payable to: Lake Melissa/Sallie Walleye Foundation (your donation is tax deductible) and mail to (or drop off at) the DNR office at: 14583 County Highway 19, Detroit Lakes MN 56501. You can put Attn: Nathan Olson on the bottom left corner of the envelope.

Spread the word. I am willing to come talk to any group willing or interested in being a part of this project. You can email me at: Let's get this done!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)