DNR confirms zebra mussels in lower Otter Tail River

It’s probably just a matter of time now before zebra mussels make their ugly appearance along the Grand Forks stretch of the Red River and points downstream.

The presence of larval-stage zebra mussels, or veligers, was confirmed in 2010 at the source of the Red River in Wahpeton-Breckenridge after the invasive species was found the previous year in Pelican Lake farther upstream in the Red River watershed.

Since then, there haven’t been any confirmed reports of adult zebra mussels in the Red. But this week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the presence of adult zebra mussels in the Otter Tail River downstream from the Orwell Dam. DNR officials said low water levels in the river revealed zebra mussels of various sizes attached to rocks and debris.

As a result, lower reaches of the Otter Tail River from the confluence of the Pelican River downstream to the Bois De Sioux River confluence — where the Red River begins — will be designated as infested waters.

The DNR also will designate Lake Miltona and Lake Ida as infested waters, the latter for precautionary reasons because it is the next lake downstream from Miltona.

There was at least a glimmer of good news, though, in Lake Irene in Douglas County and Rose Lake in Otter Tail County, where DNR officials didn’t find any larval zebra mussels after an eradication effort to remove juvenile zebra mussels that had been found in small, localized areas of both lakes.

The DNR used copper sulfate in an attempt to eradicate the mussels and completed fieldwork to evaluate the efforts this past week.

“We did not find any veligers in our water samples or large zebra mussels during our scuba searches this summer,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist in Fergus Falls. “However, during our fall searches, we did find adult zebra mussels in both lakes.”

In a news release, Olson said that because monitoring efforts did not produce any veligers or juvenile zebra mussels, the DNR cannot confirm that zebra mussels have reproduced in either lake. The recent find of adult mussels means that despite early detection and a rapid DNR response, efforts to kill the zebra mussels in these lakes were not successful.

DNR staff will continue to monitor these lakes next year to evaluate the zebra mussel populations.

More information about aquatic invasive species is available on DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.

Sturgeon jumps into GF fishing guide’s boat

“They were jumping into the boat” often describes good fishing, but the phrase usually isn’t taken in the literal sense.

Grand Forks catfish guide Brad Durick couldn’t quite believe his eyes Thursday night when this 29-inch lake sturgeon jumped into his boat while Durick was fishing the Red River near Drayton, N.D.

Grand Forks catfish guide Brad Durick saw the phrase take on a whole new meaning Thursday night, when he and some clients were fishing the Red River near Drayton, N.D.

What unfolded during the evening fishing excursion definitely ranks among the coolest fish stories I’ve encountered in quite some time.

As Durick tells it, a thunderstorm delayed their evening excursion, but once the storm passed, the crew hit the water, and the catfish were biting. Durick had just netted another catfish when he caught a quick flash of something out of the corner of an eye, followed by a “thunk” right at his feet.

That’s when he saw it: A small lake sturgeon had jumped into the boat. The fish measured 29 inches, Durick said, and was in “flawless” condition.

“I have been hearing of more and more sturgeon being caught on the Red River but had never caught one or even seen one in person,” Durick said this morning in an email. “I was pumped that a sturgeon had just jumped in and landed at my feet.”

The sturgeon most likely came from a stocking effort the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has conducted the past several years on tributaries of the Red River in an effort to restore the species to the watershed. It’s not uncommon to hear of a few of the sturgeon — most of them similar in size to the one Durick encountered — being caught by anglers fishing other species.

But this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one literally jumping into the boat, even though sturgeon are a species known for clearing the water. After a couple of quick photos, the sturgeon was released to brighten another angler’s day.

“This has got to be the coolest fish that has ever been in my boat,” Durick writes. “I finally saw a Red River lake sturgeon in person but still have not caught one.

“Oh well, still the fish of the year.”


Wednesday morning sturgeon

The Red River near Lockport, Man., is known for its channel catfish.

But lake sturgeon? They show up occasionally at Lockport — and elsewhere along the Red River — but they’re far from common.

Thanks to the magic of technology, I received the most recent report of a Red River sturgeon shortly after 10 a.m. today, when Jim Stinson, a friend from Lockport, emailed a photo he’d taken with his Blackberry only minutes earlier.

Marv Miller of Mount Morris, Ill, caught this 44.5-inch sturgeon this morning on the Red River while fishing below the St. Andrews Lock and Dam in Lockport, Man.

Marv Miller, a catfish fanatic from Mount Morris, Ill, caught the 44½-inch sturgeon while anchored in fast water below the St. Andrew’s Lock and Dam in Lockport. Miller, 78, and his wife, “Neat” — short for Juanita — make the pilgrimage to Lockport twice a year, staying for several weeks at a time and battling behemoth cats every day in all kinds of weather. I’ve fished with Marv on a handful of occasions, most recently May 21, and wrote a feature story about him in 2008.

He and his wife have put a lot of channel cats through their boat over the years at Lockport, but I’m pretty sure this is his first sturgeon from the Red River.

A look through the Herald’s archives shows that a Winnipeg angler, Steve Swiston, caught a 76-inch sturgeon below the Lockport Dam in May 2002. The behemoth was just shy of the provincial length record, a 78½-inch monster Jenny Regan of Missouri caught in 1996, also below the Lockport dam.

Manitoba law requires anglers to release any sturgeon they catch.

While nowhere close to record status, Miller’s sturgeon was big enough to qualify for entry into Manitoba’s Master Angler program, which requires sturgeon be at least 43 inches long.

That’s not a bad way to start a day of fishing.