Paddle fish prefer St. Peter as a meeting point | Local news


Keep your big fish craving specific when you cast a fishing line in the Minnesota River over a deep spot near the Highway 99 bridge. The whopper you catch in could be one of Minnesota’s largest native fish, a paddle fish.

“It wasn’t my intention to catch one; I wanted to catch pikeperch, ”said Jared Holland of St. Peter, who caught an 80-pound paddlefish near the bridge on the eastern edge of town last week.

Holland was in a boat towing the river on November 23 when he felt a strong pull on his leash. His first thought is that he grabbed a submerged tree trunk. Then the boat began to move slightly as its catch tried to swim away.

“I knew I had something big at stake.”

Paddle fish are listed as an endangered species in Minnesota, so the one caught by Holland was soon released back into the river. Another fisherman took a few photos before he was released. The pictures of the long-snouted fish held by the 1.70-meter-tall man who caught it sparked lively conversations at the Dutch family’s thanksgiving ceremony.

“I’ve never seen him so vividly,” said Holland’s aunt Darla Gebhardt from Neu-Ulm.

Her nephew learned how to fish from his father, Gebhardt said when she reported the paddle fish news to The Free Press.

“My father never caught one,” said Holland.

Getting a paddle fish out of the water was an unusual experience for Holland, which fishes two to three times a week if the weather permits. He said that while the species is not extremely rare, paddle fish are only brought ashore when a hook grabs them by the skin or jaw.

“You can’t really ‘catch’ anyone. They don’t bite traditional fishing bait – paddle fish are filter feeders, ”said Tony Sindt, Department of Natural Resources Minnesota River fisheries specialist.

The species, which has been around since prehistoric times, uses gill appendages known as rakers in feeding.

“They swim around with their mouths open and pull zooplankton out of the water,” says Sindt.

“It is illegal for fishermen to keep a paddle fish when one is caught because that type of fishing is illegal in Minnesota. They are perhaps the only fish species for which there is no open season – all year round. “

Jared Holland from St. Peter holds up the large paddle fish he caught while trolling in a deep spot near the bridge over Highway 99 in St. Peter. The fish, which Holland estimates weighed 80 pounds, was released back into the waters of the Minnesota River.

According to an article in DNR publication Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, an adult paddle fish in the state is typically 50 inches long and weighs about 40 pounds. They can be found in streams from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in river drainages as far as Montana and to the east as far as Pennsylvania.

Minnesota’s paddle fish are primarily found in two rivers, the Mississippi and the Minnesota. The fish prefer deep areas where the current is sluggish. Adult paddle fish have no enemies, so they typically live more than 20 years.

DNR researchers have used implantable ultrasound transmitters to track paddle fish movements.

“We don’t know where they are from minute to minute; we follow big, long movements, ”said Sindt.

He said if the fish Holland caught had a transmitter it would not have been visible. The battery-operated devices are implanted in the body cavities of fish.

Scoop fish populations are increasing after declining over the past century due to factors such as habitat loss and overfishing.

Sindt said recent research suggests the Minnesota River once again has a “fairly abundant population” of the species. The waters near the Highway 99 bridge are a popular hangout for paddle fish.

“We did a small sample (from Minnesota) in October and November this year. Of the 14 paddle fish we found, half were caught in the St. Peter area, ”said Sindt.

Boutchee big fish 12-9 (copy)

Johnny Boutchee (right) gets help from passers-by after catching this 45-inch paddle fish on the Minnesota River in early December 2020.

Last December, near the same St. Peter spot where Holland brought in a whopper, Johnny Boutchee pulled out a 45-inch paddle fish that was too big for a 40-pound scale.

“It took nearly an hour to get ashore,” said Boutchee, a retired maintenance worker who tried fishing before picking up his granddaughters – and wasn’t about to grab a giant.

“It was upstream, downstream. My spool was half empty so I tried to get some line. I was just lucky. If these guys hadn’t been there, I would probably have lost it. “


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