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Paynesville Press - June 25, 2001

View from the Lake

Carp were introduced to lakes in the mid-1800s

By Linda Lorentzen

In the late 1960s, my brother and I would often go fishing in the little bay in front of the cabin. The thick weeds in the shallow waters provided perfect spawning areas for bass and sunfish. We would peer over the edge of the fishing boat and count the number of fish beds, small little clearings, made by the spawning fish. Every once in a while we would spot the dreaded ugly carp and shivers would run up and down our spine. Fortunately, the carp never seemed to bite on our lures. Then came my brother's bow and arrow era and the mighty hunter began to seek the carp. I'm not sure how many hours he spent poised over the edge of the boat; bow taut and arrow ready to fly, waiting for the mighty carp.

One day he came ashore with hunter's pride actually carrying a large carp. He had successfully shot his one and only carp. I remember thinking that the carp was absolutely disgusting and that I would never touch one! No one I knew would ever consider eating carp. Little did I know that in another part of the world carp was considered a delicacy.

In this summer's issue of Minnesota History, a quarterly publication of the Minnesota Historical Society, an article appeared which had reference to Lake Koronis. "Without Careful Consideration: Why Carp Swim in Minnesota's Waters" by Steven Hoffbeck provides an excellent summary of the events leading up to the distribution of carp, the importance of railroad trans-portation, and the long lasting impact of the introduction of a non-native fish into Minnesota's waters.

Stocking of Minnesota lakes and rivers began in the mid-1800s. Many references are made in the early issues of the Press regarding the large numbers of fish being taken out of Lake Koronis and the worry that the glut would negatively impact all future fishing. Minnesota was known throughout the country for its lakes and opportunities for fishing and hunting.

At approximately the same time, introduction of other transplanted species was taking place. For example, the English sparrows were introduced in the 1850s as predators for insects. The hope was that the sparrows would take care of the pesky insects, such as mosquitoes. Theories began to emerge calling for the introduction of foreign species of fish to augment the natural species, providing for better fishing environments.

A commission was established, the Minnesota Fish Commission in 1874, with a mission to change the make-up of fish populations in the lakes and rivers of the state. The commission wanted to augment the natural fishing providing new species that would be desired by the general population and the sportsman. Transportation of the carp took place via the railroad. Of course, the railroad also trans-ported the tourists who were so much a part of the state's economy.

No clear records were found as to specific placement of carp in Koronis. We know from a humorous article in the New Paynesville Press in 1904 that carp had made their presence known in the lake. "Our lakes are rather thinly stocked with German carp but should any be hooked we publish the following recipe for preparing them. "Clean the fish nicely. Let it dry for two days in the sun. Nail the fish to a pine board, covered with salt, and after standing two days longer, put in the oven and bake slowly for six hours. Then draw the nails out and eat the nails and board which are said to be the best part of the fish."

With today's knowledge of the inter-relatedness of the watershed, it is easy to imagine that carp could have been placed anywhere along the Crow River and had access to Lake Koronis.

Yearly reports appear in the Paynesville Press about the efforts of the Sportsmen's Club to remove some of the carp from our lake. Through the efforts of many of the club's members thousands and thousands of pounds of carp are removed. Why is this important to the lake? Because carp can reproduce at an incredible rate a 20-pound female can produce up to two million eggs each year. Carp grow quickly and live long lives while they churn up the bottom of the lake. Few sportsmen fish for the carp, although a website exists dedicated to the promotion of carp fishing: Introduc-tion of this species into the Minnesota waterways has forever changed our view from the lake.

Information for this column was taken from: Minnesota History, the Quarterly of the Minnesota Historical Society, Summer 2001; New Paynesville Press, Aug. 11, 1904 issue;

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