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Recent fish kill below Lake Bella dam included largest-ever population of invasive fish species

The fish reportedly died from low oxygen levels due to high temps and low water levels in late July.

Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond, littering dead fish on the banks of the Ocheyedan River.
Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond, littering dead fish on the banks of the Ocheyedan River.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Friday released a report stating that 140 invasive carp were among the fish species killed below the Lake Bella dam in recent weeks.

It is the largest documented number of invasive carp in one location in Minnesota, the release stated.

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DNR crews followed up on a report to recover the carcasses and take data on the invasive carp. Low oxygen levels due to low water and high temperatures were believed to be the cause of the fish kill.

Lake Bella is approximately 100 yards from the Iowa state line and is connected to the Ocheyedan River, which in turn connects to the Little Sioux and Missouri rivers in Iowa. Populations of invasive carp have been confirmed in those rivers of the Missouri Basin, south of the Minnesota border, since at least 2011. The DNR routinely collects invasive carp below Lake Bella Dam.

Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond last week on the Ocheyedan River.
Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond on the Ocheyedan River.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

“There is a dam at the Lake Bella outlet that keeps invasive carp out of the lake, and it would take an extraordinary flood event to overtop the structure, so there is currently no concern about these carp moving farther upstream into the reservoir,” DNR Invasive Fish Coordinator Grace Loppnow said.

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Invasive carp have been progressing upstream in the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio river basins since escaping into the Mississippi River in Arkansas in the 1970s. These large fish compete with native species and pose a threat to rivers and lakes. No breeding populations have been detected in Minnesota waters.

The DNR Invasive Species Program has built partnerships with state and federal agencies, conservation groups, university researchers and commercial businesses to prevent the spread of invasive carp. The DNR is actively engaged with invasive carp prevention efforts in southwest Minnesota.

The DNR proactively surveyed the Missouri River watershed in Minnesota to identify locations to prevent expansion of invasive carp populations in southwest Minnesota. As a result, the DNR completed eight projects that limit expansion and protect aquatic resources. Lake Bella’s dam structure already prevented fish movement, so no additional work was needed at that location.

The DNR provided financial support to the Iowa DNR to build an electric barrier at the outlet to the Iowa Great Lakes near Okoboji. The outlet channel also flows into the Little Sioux and Missouri rivers. This barrier helps protect not only the Iowa lakes, but also aquatic resources in southern Minnesota.

The DNR Fish and Wildlife Division leads a comprehensive sampling program to monitor fish population changes and impacts of management actions. This includes routine monitoring in southwest Minnesota.

Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond last week on the Ocheyedan River.
Low water levels and high temperatures resulted in a fish kill below the Lake Bella outlet pond on the Ocheyedan River.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

State funding sources, including the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, Outdoor Heritage Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have provided key funding for deterrent actions and the DNR invasive carp detection and response program.

Invasive carp captures must be reported to the DNR immediately by calling (651) 587-2781 or emailing invasivecarp.dnr@state.mn.us. Take a photo and transport the carp to the nearest DNR fisheries office or make arrangements for it to be picked up by a DNR official. Do not release captured invasive carp. A permit can be requested at mndnr.gov/Permits/Invasive_Species to keep captured invasive carp for consumption or disposal.

More information about invasive carp is available at mndnr.gov/Invasive-Carp.

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