WAYZATA — The sturgeon known to some as Lou is still lurking in the Minnehaha Creek, which has more people speculating about where the fish came from.
On July 24, two Edina boys — Mac Hoekstra, 12, and Owen Sanderson, 14 — and a group of their friends spotted and caught a sturgeon swimming in the creek near the West 56th Street bridge in Edina. They ended up releasing the fish back into the creek, and the Minnesota Department of Resources attempted to catch it to bring it somewhere the fish would thrive, but the estimated 70-year-old fish evaded capture.
DNR West Metro Fisheries Supervisor Daryl Ellison said on Aug. 5 the sturgeon has been spotted in the same general area, however, it hasn’t created the same public attention as it did in late July.
“We haven’t made an attempt to catch and move the fish,” Ellison said.
Where did it come from?
With the monstrous fish swimming around in the creek, many have wondered where exactly the sturgeon came from.
Some believe the fish in Minnehaha Creek could be Lou, the legendary monster fish that’s been spotting numerous times over the years in Lake Minnetonka. Gray’s Bay does flow into the creek, and there was a Lou sighting reported by spear fisherman Mark Gjengdahl in the bay back in May.
The Westonka Walleye Program, a privately-funded organization founded in 2012 that stocks walleye in Lake Minnetonka, is among those who are confident the sturgeon in Minnehaha Creek is the infamous Lou from Lake Minnetonka.
In a post on Facebook in early August, the group shared photos comparing the lake fish and the creek fish, noting they both have similar white markings and scars.
Over the years there’s been debate about what type of fish Lou is, with many believing it is a sturgeon. However, the DNR’s website does not list sturgeon as a fish that’s in Lake Minnetonka.
“We haven’t seen any of our sampling data of a sturgeon collected in Lake Minnetonka,” Ellison told Southwest News Media.
Johnny Range, the founder and president of the Westonka Walleye Program, said there are lots of rumors and stories of how a sturgeon would get into the lake, including the DNR dumping sturgeon from the state fair pond in the 1950s, as well as a rail car dumping a boxcar of sturgeon traveling from Colorado to Minnesota in the lake because of a bad aeration system.
Nevertheless, even with rumors swirling of the fish’s original whereabouts, Range estimates the sturgeon, known by some as Lou, is more than 100 years old.
To some fishermen, like Range, seeing a sturgeon in Lake Minnetonka is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
Rory Nelson, a fishing guide for Minnetonka Masters Guide Service, claims to have spotted sturgeon in Lake Minnetonka on multiple occasions.
A fishing guide for 23 years, Nelson said one winter while ice fishing on the lake he was using an underwater camera connected to his fish house when he saw four sturgeon swimming together. He also claimed to see five or six near the Gray’s Bay Dam, which controls the amount of water that flows from Lake Minnetonka into Minnehaha Creek.
“There is a lot more than one,” he said.
One of the overlooked aspects of Lou’s rise in fame in recent weeks, according to Nelson, is the exposure people have to the sport of fishing and Lake Minnetonka.
“If it gets someone out fishing, all the better,” he said.
BACK TO TONKA?
Even though the Westonka Walleye Program is focused on stocking walleye — more than 100,000 since 2012 — this new revelation of sturgeon in the lake is grabbing Range’s attention.
Recently, he has had conversations with fish farmers about stocking sturgeon in Lake Minnetonka. According to Range, the farmer he is partnering with has given him a quote on the price it would be to stock sturgeon in the lake. In order to stock fish in the lake, Range said he needs to get DNR approval, something Range is feeling “skeptical” will happen, and reach an agreement with his fish farmer to stock the lake.
Range said one reason to have an increase of sturgeon in Lake Minnetonka is to rid the waters of invasive species such as zebra mussels, clams and common carp, which sturgeon eat as bottom-feeders in the ecosystem. He said several million pounds of carp are living in Lake Minnetonka, making up 50% of the lake’s biomass.
Nelson believes if sturgeon were to be stocked in Lake Minnetonka, there would be no concern about their wellbeing.
“Sturgeon in Lake Minnetonka would be safe,” he said.
And now, as the famed fish is still on the lam swimming in Minnehaha Creek, the debate continues surrounding what to do when, or if, the sturgeon is caught again.
“This fish came from Lake Minnetonka. I think it should go back to Tonka,” Range said.