MANKATO, Minn. - The Minnesota DNR designated the Minnesota River as infested waters this week after it discovered zebra mussels last September in Lac qui Parle, which is a Minnesota River reservoir.
The DNR also says the designation is based on individual captures of bighead carp and grass carp from Granite Falls to the confluence of the Mississippi River.
"What’s hard is the invasive species, they shut down a lot of places we can trap our minnows out of, which makes it hard for wholesalers and minnow trappers," said Cathy Winkler.
Winkler has been running her bait farm since 1986 in Mankato. When any water becomes designated as infested waters, there is no bait trapping allowed at that body of water without special permits. That, Winkler says, has made doing business more challenging as hundreds of lakes and rivers in Minnesota receive the designation by the DNR.
"It trickles down to the business," Winkler said. "It does hurt a lot of people. However, I think it's a good thing because we don't want invasive species. But we have to find a cure, because it's going to keep spreading.”
According to the DNR, 130 Minnesota lakes have been infested with zebra mussels. In addition, hundreds of bodies of water are infested with other invasive species, adding up to about 5 percent of Minnesota waters.
“We consider these designations carefully, especially when they affect businesses and people,” said DNR Invasive Carp Coordinator Nick Frohnauer in a release.
Frohnauer added that just because a body of water receives the designation does not mean that specific body of water is infested. Rather, others connected to it may be.
“I don’t believe the Minnesota River specifically will affect my business, but over the years, all these bodies of water falling victim, it certainly has,” Winkler said.
Fewer and fewer people have decided to get into the business of harvesting bait with regulations and fewer locations to do it, Winkler said. However, she could not put a number on how much business has suffered.
The DNR says the designation of the Minnesota River is a proactive step in trying to prevent zebra mussels from spreading to other bodies of water.