Listen: 20180907_CarpRemoval (Dunbar)

MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar reports on the removal of common carp from Stieger Lake in Victoria, Minnesota. The fish have become a nuisance in some lakes because they're so good at moving around and destroying the habitats of more desirable fish species.


2019 MNSPJ Page One Award, third place in Radio - Feature category


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SPEAKER 1: Common carp are being removed from some of Minnesota's lakes by the truckload. The fish have become a nuisance in some lakes because they're so good at moving around and destroying the habitats of more desirable fish species. Elizabeth Dunbar checked in on a project on a small lake Southwest of Lake Minnetonka and filed this report.


ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Four workers in hip waders are taking turns tossing huge fish from a boat into the back of a pickup truck.

JORDAN WEIN: 10, 12.


ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Each of those thumps is an 8 to 10 pounds fish landing in the truck bed. The carp are flopping around, and mud is flying everywhere.

JORDAN WEIN: We go home to our significant others smelling real bad. So we have very patient significant others.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Jordan Wein face is caked in mud. He's general manager for Carp Solutions, the company performing the work here at Steiger Lake in Victoria where they've removed about 2,000 pounds of common carp just today.

JORDAN WEIN: They can really dominate the biomass in a lake. They can have a large effect on churning up the bottom of the lake, which you get to see with poor water quality in lakes where it's brown, but it's also green on top.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: And in places like the Minnehaha Creek Watershed district where lots of lakes and streams are connected, common carp move around and take over fast.

JORDAN WEIN: Their ability to repopulate an area is pretty astounding.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: This project starts at the headwaters of Lake Minnetonka where adult carp are removed by using cracked corn to lure them to nets. A half million dollar Legacy Amendment grant is paying for the project. That's the fund voters created in 2008 to send some of their sales tax dollars to conservation and arts projects.

ERIC FIELDSETH: We want to address carp spawning.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Eric Fieldseth of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed district says the project involves several strategies and will take 10 years. To limit carp hatches, Fieldseth says they'll aerate shallow lakes in the winter to boost the bluegill population.

ERIC FIELDSETH: Bluegills eat the carp eggs and are good at carp control of spawning. And then we have barriers in place as well in strategic locations to both contain populations as well as prevent access to some other carp nurseries.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Fieldseth says research by the University of Minnesota has shown that removing large numbers of fish, limiting reproduction, and making sure the remaining fish aren't able to move around much can reduce the population and improve wildlife habitat and water quality. For now, Wein says there's a pack of homeless wolves at the Wildlife Science Center in Wyoming Minnesota that will happily devour the ugly fish.

ERIC FIELDSETH: They have the best fed wolves in the state I'm sure.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Of course, common carp weren't always this despised. Some European immigrants who settled in Minnesota in the 19th century loved eating carp. The fish arrived in Minnesota on trains and were introduced into the lakes.

Now, more than 100 years later, watershed managers are trying to reverse that mistake. Homeless wolves aren't the only ones getting a meal out of it. At Steiger Lake, a man with a long gray beard and a yarmulke under his baseball cap drove up in his minivan and took about 10 fish home to make--

SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE] fish. It's a traditional Jewish food.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: [? Anatoly ?] wouldn't give me his last name, but if you're looking for some guidance on what to do with carp, he's your guy.

SPEAKER 2: So you fillet it, you grind, you add all kinds of stuff. If I'm going to take 10 of them, it's a lot of work. I'm just going to grind it, make into a meatloaf, fish loaf. It tastes really good actually.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: He says carp is a cheap source of protein. He's even converted a skeptical co-worker.

SPEAKER 2: I made it at home, I brought, he kept asking for more. He liked it so much.

ELIZABETH DUNBAR: Ready to give it a try? Check the kosher section at your grocery store. Reporting on the environment, Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio News, Victoria.

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