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Lake Okabena's low water levels changing carp movement

Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District to delay design options to trap common carp in Sunset Bay.

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Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl uses an antenna and radio to track carp in Sunset Bay in this July 13, 2019 file photo. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — With water levels below normal on Lake Okabena and Sunset Bay, tracking efforts have revealed the radio-tagged carp aren’t congregating in the south end of Sunset Bay like they had during the past two spring seasons.

Carp spawning is usually under way at this time of year, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl shared in his report to watershed managers during a Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“The carp are acting differently,” he said. “It might be because of low water levels. There’s still quite a bit to learn.”

With the new information, Livdahl suggested the district wait with plans to start designing traps to contain the carp in the bay over winter as an attempt to freeze out the roughfish population.

He’s hopeful a fall seining event planned by southwest Minnesota commercial fisherman Scott Deslauriers will prove successful in removing roughfish from the lake.

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Over the past two years, the district spent $52,000 on carp control efforts. The bulk of that money paid for implanting carp with radio frequency devices and PIT tags, tracking their movements and data analysis. The city of Worthington provided the funding, and Mayor Mike Kuhle recently told Livdahl he was disappointed in the amount of money spent for engineering services, rather than on carp removal.

“When we went into this, we knew we needed to spend some money to get some information,” Manager Casey Ingenthron said. “I agree that we have to wait until this fall to see what happens with seining.”

Bella Park activity leads to trail cam discussion

Livdahl shared with managers some recent discoveries at Bella Park, including that a trio of individuals have been driving dirt bikes in the park even though it’s signed that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the trails. He also said he’s received two reports this spring of dead animals wrapped in blankets.

Upon investigating one such report last week, he found that someone shot a dog and left it along a trail in Bella Park with a coat laying over it.

“While I was looking for the dog, I found a dead cat wrapped in a baby blanket,” Livdahl said. “It would be nice if they did the burying part, rather than leave them on top of the ground.”

He also told of increased activity in the park and noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Trails division has offered to do some maintenance on the boat ramp in the park.

Throughout the summer, Livdahl said trail maintenance and weekly mowing will be done to encourage continued trail use.

Upon hearing of some of the activities in the park, Manager Jay Milbrandt suggested the district install a few trail cameras out there, particularly because of some of the vandalism that has happened in the past several years.

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Meetings to continue via Zoom

Managers also discussed whether to continue to conduct meetings via Zoom or resume in-person meetings for the first time since March 2020.

Livdahl said if in-person meetings were requested, attendees would have to wear masks and social distance.

“As long as the state of emergency is in place — and it sounds like it will be until July — having the online meeting makes sense,” Livdahl said.

Milbrandt and Ingenthron agreed.

“I think it’s worked, it’s been efficient and we’ve been able to deal with business,” Milbrandt said.

Ingenthron suggested continuing to do Zoom as long as the board can, noting that if consultants are requested to join a meeting, they can do so virtually without the added expense of driving to Worthington.

“I’ll keep doing Zoom if I’ve got to wear a mask,” added Manager Steve Bousema.

In other business, the board:

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  • Approved an erosion control permit for the city of Worthington during a street resurfacing and sidewalk replacement project on Clary Street near McMillan Street.

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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