Rainbow future; Trout to be introduced to Wolf Creek

Published 9:25 am Friday, August 23, 2019

Trout fishing is coming to Austin.

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Cedar River Watershed District announced Thursday that rainbow trout will be introduced to Wolf Creek in April of next year.

The move comes after about a two-year study to make sure Wolf Creek, which runs through Todd Park, is a viable habitat for the trout.

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“This is going to be very popular,” said Craig Soupir, supervisor of the DNR’s Waterville Area Fisheries, while standing next to Wolf Creek Thursday morning.

A couple days before the trout fishing season opens on April 18, 2020, 300 rainbow trout will be stocked in the creek. A couple of weeks after the opener another 300 trout will be introduced to bolster the numbers.

The trout that will be introduced will be harvestable immediately, which is known as a “put-and take” fishery. That will go through Sept. 15,  2020. A catch-and-release trout season will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 15 as well as Jan. 1, 2021 to the April 2021 opener.

Employees with the Department of Natural Resources measure widthwise Wolf Creek during a habitat study Thursday morning. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Each fish will be around a half pound each. This is a change from an earlier effort to stock Wolf Creek.

“In the 80s and 90s we tried it, but they were only a few inches long and never really got established,” Soupir said, blaming predation as the probable reason the trout never took.

However, while the DNR will be doing the stocking, Soupir quickly pivoted the credit back to the work done on a local level.

“We’ve got to thank our local partners down here, because it started with them,” Soupir said.

Specifically it started with technician James Fett with the CRWD who started looking at the possibility in 2017.

At that time Fett took a look at the creek and started asking the questions necessary that led towards this idea becoming reality.

“In 2017, 2018, I decided I would deploy a temperature probe just to see if the temperature would be sufficient for trout to live,” Fett said.

The project fell into line relatively quickly because a lot of necessary things that were already in place including land north of the creek, which includes the restoration of native prairie and wetlands through programs like the Conservation Reserve Program and Reinvest In Minnesota.

CRWD technician James Fett measures the deapth of Wolf Creek. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Steve Persinger and his wife Diane are landowners that have contributed 100 acres of land set aside by MN CREP, another such program. Through MN CREP the Persinger’s land is permanently dedicated to native prairie and wetlands.

Through MN CREP, landowners are paid for the land, however, Persinger said Thursday it was just the logical step.

“We bought a piece of ground and Wolf Creek ran through it. It made sense to investigate it,” he said. “It was the right thing to do for us and for the state.”

Fett is also currently working on a MN CREP contract for another 104 acres of land along Wolf Creek, north of the Persinger’s land.

Keeping the land natural helps water quality by doing a variety of things including keeping water cool and filtering it, both of which are important for trout populations.

After Fett put out the temperature probes, it was quickly determined that the stream could hold the trout.

Earlier Thursday, Fett, Soupir and other DNR staff were in Todd Park conducting a habitat study, to further determine what will need to be done down the line to further bolster the trout habitat.

While very little needs to be done on the surface, Fett said some work may have to be done in some areas including developing pool habitat.

While the introduction of trout to Wolf Creek is a big announcement, the creek itself has not been designated as a trout stream, which involves a lengthy process that may or may not be pursued. However, anglers will still need a Minnesota fishing license and trout stamp to possess trout.

Regardless, having a stream with trout inside of Austin could be a potential first stop for anglers when the season opens next April and Fett doesn’t see any reason why Wolf Creek can’t be a destination further into the future.

“The biggest thing is the water temperature and water quality and we know it’s good in Wolf Creek,” Fett said. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems with public participation, so as long as we have those three things, I don’t think it will fail.”