The haul wasn’t as much as he’d hoped for, but colder temperatures late last week created a layer of ice over the north end of the lake on Saturday, preventing Deslauriers from pulling his nets along the area. He suspected there were a lot of fish along the north end, where a culvert provides for running water from a smaller body of water.
When the ice gave way on Sunday, it was too windy to launch the nets, and a subsequent try on Tuesday morning had to be aborted when winds again picked up.
Deslauriers had last netted fish from the lake three years ago, with quite a successful haul of buffalo fish. He markets the fish to buyers in New York, but his haul this week will first spend some time in the Fulda Golf Course pond.
As for the carp — as well as some sheepshead (freshwater drum) — without a market for the roughfish, they were disposed of.
“With the uneven bottom there, the carp are really tough to catch,” he said. “They’re right on the bottom.”
Then again, he said maybe there aren’t as many carp in the lake as thought.
“We sonar it and there were a lot of fish in there. We just could not get to where we wanted to,” he added.
Deslauriers plans to return to Nobles County late next week and, while Lake Bella, which is quite shallow, may be frozen over by then, he’s hopeful to still launch nets in Lake Okabena for a seining operation.
“I expect Okabena to still be fishable,” Deslauriers said. “We’re hoping to catch Worthington just before the lake freezes up. We get some of our best hauls right
On Wednesday, OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said the carp in Lake Okabena appear to have congregated in the middle of the lake, where the water is deeper and it is more difficult to get a good signal.
“Once we have ice on the lake we’ll be able to track them better,” Livdahl said. “They’re not in Sunset Bay — they’re not in the ditches. They’re in deep water in the middle of the lake.”
With historical records on carp seining in Lake Okabena, Livdahl said spreadsheets up to the 1960s show that carp are “really hard to catch in Lake Okabena.”
“You need to get your nets around the school of fish,” he said. “In Lake Okabena, they’ll school up in a place where it’s hard to get your nets around them.”
Last February, the watershed district paid Deslauriers $4,500 to do carp seining through the ice on Lake Okabena. It didn’t net as many of the roughfish as either Deslauriers or the district had hoped.
“There were (carp) there — tagged fish — but by the time the nets were pulled to shore, the fish were gone,” Livdahl said.
Deslauriers said that if Lake Okabena is iced over by the end of next week, they will plan another wintertime fish seining on the basin.