GRAND FORKS, ND – You never know what you’re going to catch in the Red River.
Nathan Mytych of Grand Forks discovered it with his own eyes on Saturday, October 2, when he landed a 38 inch lake sturgeon on the Red River in Grand Forks while fishing for walleye with his fishing buddy Tom Luney of Grand Forks. The sturgeon struck a live sucker hooked by the tail in 12 feet of water, said Luney, who shared the photo.
“We thought he was a catfish (at first), but we questioned him at the end of the fight because he didn’t come to the surface – he was digging,” Luney said, who frequently fish the Red River.
Historically, lake sturgeon thrived in the Red River and its tributaries until the early 1900s, when dam construction, pollution, and other human activities decimated the population.
Efforts to restore lake sturgeon to the Red River basin began in 1997 and 1998, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocked juvenile sturgeon in the Red River and several tributaries, using fish from the Red River. Rainy River.
A new era in the recovery effort began in 2001, when the White Earth Nation began stocking lakes north of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, as part of a cooperative production and stocking venture with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said Nick Kludt, Red River Fisheries Specialist for MNR in the Detroit Lakes.
The Minnesota DNR began stocking in 2002 as part of the business with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa began stocking lake sturgeon in Red Lake tribal waters in 2007, a Kludt said. The Rainy River First Nations in Ontario collect the lake sturgeon eggs for exploitation and they are hatched at the National Hatchery in Valley City, North Dakota.
To date, the cooperative effort between the tribes, the DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in 567,334 lake sturgeon fry, over 2.1 million fry, 375 juveniles and 4,402 yearlings stored in the Red River basin, Kludt said.
“We don’t directly store the Red River,” Kludt said. “Instead, we are storing the habitats of tributary rivers and lakes. We know that downstream dispersal occurs at various stages of life, so the natural movement of lake sturgeon disperses them throughout the basin.
Occasional catches of Red River lake sturgeon have been reported over the years since stocking efforts began, but the released Mytych sturgeon is the largest to occur in the Grand Forks area – at least among catches that have been reported to the Grand Forks Herald. .
In the Grand Forks area this year, one fisherman reported catching a 32-inch sturgeon in mid-May, and another fisherman reported catching a 28-inch sturgeon in late August, Kludt said. MNR typically receives one to five reports of Red River sturgeon each year, he said.
A major milestone in the lake sturgeon recovery effort occurred last spring when MNR sampled two reproductively mature female sturgeons in the Red River basin. A 53-inch female captured at Deer Lake in Otter Tail County was released downstream from Orwell Dam on the Otter Tail River after MNR staff implanted a transmitter. A second female “just under 55 inches” was captured and released under the Otter Tail Lake outlet dam a few miles upstream from Deer Lake, Kludt said.
MNR documented the first mature lake sturgeon female in the basin in 2019, Kludt said, so three have now been confirmed since reintroduction efforts began.
Sturgeon populations have now recovered to the point where MNR offers a catch and release season throughout the Red River basin. The fishing has been very good at times in recent years, says Kludt, especially on the Otter Tail River.