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Commercial fisherman removes 5,000 pounds of carp; 20,000 pounds of buffalo fish from Lake Okabena

Two weeks ago, Deslauriers and his crew fished Lake Bella, about 8 miles south of Worthington, where they harvested an estimated 30,000 pounds of buffalo fish, a few thousand pounds of common carp and a small amount of sheepshead.

One of the larger buffalo fish is slid into the awaiting loader. The buffalo fish will eventually be sold to fish markets on the East Coast.
One of the larger buffalo fish is slid into the awaiting loader. The buffalo fish will eventually be sold to fish markets on the East Coast.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — It was a successful day on Lake Okabena Monday for southwest Minnesota’s commercial fisherman, Scott Deslauriers. Just as the sun was setting, he and his group had pulled in an estimated 20,000 pounds of buffalo fish, roughly 5,000 pounds of common carp and a few hundred pounds of sheepshead (freshwater drum) from the Worthington lake.

 Scott Deslauriers scoops a basket of buffalo fish, common carp and sheephead from within the nets used to catch the fish Monday morning.
Scott Deslauriers scoops a basket of buffalo fish, common carp and sheephead from within the nets used to catch the fish Monday morning.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

“Comparing it to our last few hauls, we did really well,” Deslauriers said Monday evening, adding that he’d like to try a second haul from Lake Okabena later this week. With wind in the forecast on Tuesday, and a predicted morning low of 13 degrees by Friday — likely bringing an end to his fall fishing season — Deslauriers could return Wednesday or Thursday, weather permitting.

“If we can squeeze out another haul, we will,” he said.

The fishing crew cast their nets into the water at approximately 9 a.m. Monday, concentrating on an area of Lake Okabena’s northern shoreline. Using the Centennial Park boat landing as their home base, they spread the nets through a large area where sonar equipment they used last week revealed a large population of fish. The nets were pulled toward shore between Chautauqua and Centennial parks, and then the haul was slowly pulled by boat toward the landing.

 Southwest Minnesota commercial fisherman Scott Deslauriers (far right) unloads a bucket of buffalo fish, common carp and sheephead onto a sorting table as crew members fill a loader with the buffalo fish.
Southwest Minnesota commercial fisherman Scott Deslauriers (far right) unloads a bucket of buffalo fish, common carp and sheephead onto a sorting table as crew members fill a loader with the buffalo fish.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

“They were fairly close to the shoreline,” Deslauriers said of the fish. “We were able to get them. I was pretty happy.”

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Still, they split a “pretty good sized” school of fish in the process.

Deslauriers said the buffalo fish will go in one of his ponds for now, and when the pond freezes over and is safe to work on, he and his crew will begin loading them out and hauling them to fish markets on the East Coast.

 Scott Deslauriers unloads a basket of fish from Lake Okabena Monday afternoon as workers sort the buffalo fish from common carp and sheepshead.
Scott Deslauriers unloads a basket of fish from Lake Okabena Monday afternoon as workers sort the buffalo fish from common carp and sheepshead.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

He estimated the largest of the buffalo fish — and common carp — caught Monday weighed in at 20 to 25 pounds.

“There was not a lot of small carp,” Deslauriers said. “We did have a fair amount of small buffalo come in as the net was landed.”

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The nets also captured some “decent” sized walleyes, which were removed from the nets and returned to the lake, as well as catfish.

Two weeks ago, Deslauriers and his crew fished Lake Bella, about 8 miles south of Worthington, where they harvested an estimated 30,000 pounds of buffalo fish, a few thousand pounds of common carp and a small amount of sheepshead. About half a dozen walleye and several catfish were also caught in the nets there and safely returned to the lake.

The carp harvested from Lake Bella were given to a nearby landowner and applied as fertilizer to a farm field. That is also the plan with the carp taken from Lake Okabena on Monday.

During commercial fishing on southwest Minnesota lakes this fall, Deslauriers said there seems to be a substantially higher ratio of buffalo fish than common carp based on his catches.

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“The carp seem to be disappearing and the buffalo seem to be flourishing,” he said. “Then again, I could seine a different part of the lake and catch a bunch of carp. They like shallower, muddier bays.”

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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