Pollution control officials excited about fish discovery

Published 6:51 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A little fish found in the Cedar River watershed over the summer is big news for the state’s pollution control agency.

Ozark minnows, which are extremely uncommon in Minnesota, were found for the first time ever in Turtle Creek during an August survey, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency — a good sign for an impaired water system.

“That’s why we’re so excited,” MPCA spokeswoman Catherine Rofshus said of the minnow, which was also found in high numbers in Otter, Orchard and Rose creeks. “For the Austin community, it’s a strong signal that you have a strong fishery here.”

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The Ozark minnow wasn’t the only encouraging find — Redfin Shiners were found for the first time since 1964 in Turtle Creek, according to a press release.

The MPCA, along with the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District, conducted more than 50 fish surveys in the Cedar River and several of its tributaries in the Austin area as part of the state’s intensive watershed monitoring plan.

The survey crew collected large walleye, as well as large carp, in the Cedar River below Austin’s wastewater treatment plant.

Dobbins Creek also had a high number of smallmouth bass, a few largemouth bass, rock bass and other sunfish species.

Matt Taylor, district technician with the Mower County SWCD, said finding the bigger walleyes was most exciting and encouraging to him.

Overall, he said the tributaries of the Cedar River showed a healthy variety of fish.

The Mower County SWCD, along with three area watershed districts, did the surveys as part of an ongoing pollution study of the Cedar River Basin in southeastern Minnesota.

Though the variety of fish was generally healthy, high sedimentation, or cloudy water, may be stressing the fish population in some stream sites, the MPCA notes.