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DNR opens new access to Vermillion River

DNR  fisheries supervisor TJ DeBates released more than 1,000 trout into the Vermillion last week.

The Vermillion River has long been a popular destination for fishermen seeking trout close to the Twin Cities, and it’s about to get even easier to get access to the urban trout stream.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced last week that it has acquired two pieces of land along the river in Empire Township. Between them, the purchases add up to 114 acres of land and nearly two miles of shoreline along a river that has gained a reputation for producing trophy-size fish.

The smaller of the two parcels is located about half a mile north of County Road 66 along County Road 79. The 52-acre property straddles the river and includes five acres of grassland and 25 acres of woodland. It is located near an existing DNR wildlife management area.

The larger parcel is located farther south and east along the south branch of the river. The property, located south of CR 66 and west of Highway 52, includes 25 acres of grassland and 20 acres of woodland.

TJ DeBates, east metro area fisheries supervisor for the DNR, said both properties will be open for hunting, trapping and other recreational uses in addition to fishing.

“You’ll find you can go out and wet a line. You can do some duck hunting. You can do some turkey hunting. You can do some deer hunting,” DeBates said. “Anytime we can provide any kind of public access close to the metro, it’s a good thing.”

The two new properties are part of a growing complex of land being preserved for recreational use in the area. The DNR already operates the 918-acre Vermillion River aquatic management area and the Vermillion Highlands Wildlife Management area nearby, and Dakota County is planning a 460-acre regional park in the area.

The two new acquisitions are good news for the fishermen who typically descend on the Vermillion in large numbers this time of year for the start of the trout fishing season. This year’s season started last weekend, and the DNR stocked the river with 1,000 rainbow trout on Friday afternoon.

The fish averaged 12 inches in length and weighed about half a pound each.

The river draws anglers from across the twin cities for the start of trout season.

DeBates said the trout population in the Vermillion, which in stretches near Farmington provides the kind of cold, clean water the fish need to survive, has been good in recent years. He said sampling has shown “decent numbers” of brown trout in the river.

“In certain stretches they’re pretty stable. In other stretches, they’re down, but that’s pretty typical for a population,” DeBates said. “They go up and down.”

The DNR is making plans to provide parking at its two new properties. DeBates said that should go in soon.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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