HOMER, Minn. - Thousands of fish wiggle and splash in a long, narrow cut in the Mississippi River ice, 5 miles south of Winona. It is big time commercial winter ice fishing. The DNR is also on hand, keeping a lookout for a particular type of fish: Asian carp.
This same fishing hole yielded a few of the dreaded species on Wednesday, according to Dan Dieterman, a Minnesota DNR official. "Yesterday (Wednesday), when they were loading out a truck, there were four Grass carp and one Silver carp that were captured or pulled out of this same seine (net) haul."
George Richtman and his crew from Trempeleau, Wisconsin, take approximately 18,000 pounds of fish from the river in a day. Richtman does not think the carp, which can weigh 100 pounds and jump into fishing boats, are as much of a threat to native species as some fear.
"Maybe I'm totally optimistic, but I don't feel they're gonna be the problem that they were on the Illinois River. Part of my theory is that we got a stronger predator base in the Mississippi up here as what the Illinois River had, "said Richtman.
Richtman says the Minnesota fish will feed on the youngest Asian carp, containing the threat. "Any fish that will eat the shad out of the river will definitely eat the Asian carp," said Richtman.
Still, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is concerned about the impact of the foreign fish on Minnesota's sports fishing industry.
"We have been seeing the occasional Asian Carp for about four or five years as far north as Lake Saint Croix," explained Dieterman. "The one species that seems to be of greater concern to a lot of recreational users is the Silver carp and this is only the second one that's been captured in Minnesota waters and that was yesterday."
Richtman, who said he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for 34 years, does not believe current calls to close the river's locks and dams are a good idea. "I don't feel that the commerce loss justifies it. I'm thinking maybe a bubbler system to hold fish back. That's my theory," said Richtman.
Dieterman said he thinks Thursday's haul of fish will be the last one this winter from the river south of Winona.
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