CRWD, Minnesota DNR team up on trout project

Austin’s largest park will get hundreds of rainbow trout stocked in its creek each spring starting in 2020 thanks to a partnership between the state and local watershed district, officials announced today.

Next April, Wolf Creek – a Cedar River tributary that flows through the nearly 150-acre Todd Park in northeast Austin – will receive up to 600 rainbow trout raised and stocked by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This is the result of a proposal made by Cedar River Watershed District technician James Fett, who collected water-temperature data in 2017 and 2018 at an unshaded part of Wolf Creek in the park.

Fett and Craig Soupir, the Minnesota DNR Waterville Area Fisheries Supervisor announced the project Thursday along Wolf Creek in Todd Park with City of Austin officials, including Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm.

DNR’s Waterville staff will retrieve 300 rainbow trout raised at the DNR’s State Fish Hatchery in Lanesboro and place them in Wolf Creek a day before next year’s trout season opener on April 18. This will start a “put-and-take” fishery in Wolf Creek by stocking rainbow trout of a larger size for anglers to catch and keep, if desired, through Sept. 15, 2020. A catch-and-release trout season then will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 15, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, to the April 2021 opener.

Soupir stated that another 300 rainbow trout likely will be stocked in Wolf a few weeks after the April 2020 opener to boost numbers.

Mower County does not have streams stocked by DNR for trout. However, Fett, who does water-quality testing and works on enrolling cropland into native prairie and wetlands, thought the Wolf Creek watershed could host trout given its cooler water fed by springs and large amount of wooded areas and conservation land.

Fett stated that Todd Park has more than 8,800 feet of public shoreline on Wolf Creek for fishing access.  The park hosts a spring-fed pond that outlets cold water into Wolf Creek, which begins northeast of Brownsdale.

In recent years, Wolf Creek’s watershed has had a significant amount of native prairie and wetlands installed through conservation projects on land along the creek upstream from Todd Park, Fett said. These have included conservation enrollments through the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and state Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program.

Fett is working to finalize a new MN CREP enrollment with Steve and Diane Persinger of 100 cropland acres to be converted permanently into native prairie and wetlands along Wolf Creek, just upstream from Todd Park. He’s also working on a MN CREP contract for an additional 104 acres of cropland along Wolf Creek, north of the Persinger parcel.

Soupir said that the DNR tried managing trout in Wolf Creek in the 1980s and ’90s when Mower County was managed by DNR’s Lanesboro Fisheries.  Young trout stockings failed to develop into a fishery over several years, and the DNR stopped the effort. Surveys indicated a problem from predator fish, including northern pike and largemouth bass coming into Wolf from the Cedar River.

Waterville Fisheries started managing Mower County in 2004 but has limited trout resources compared to the Lanesboro office.  Soupir stated  that makes a stream like Wolf Creek a great opportunity for Waterville staff to manage and offer anglers.

Soupir went on to say that at this time, Wolf Creek is not a designated trout stream, which involves a lengthy process that might not be pursued, but anglers need a Minnesota fishing license and trout stamp to possess trout from non-designated waters like Wolf.   Trout stamps are not required for children age 17 and younger and adults age 65 and older.

Waterville DNR Fisheries also manages trout in Rice Creek near Northfield (a self-sustaining brook trout fishery) and Pauls Creek, east of St. Peter, which it manages as a “put-and-take” rainbow trout fishery similar to the plan for Wolf Creek.