Wolf Creek winds through Austin’s largest park, Todd Park, in August 2019. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, at the request of Cedar River Watershed District, plans to start annually stocking rainbow trout in Wolf Creek at the park, starting in April 2020.

CRWD, DNR team up on trout project

Rainbow trout to be stocked annually in Wolf Creek starting in 2020

AUSTIN, Minn. — Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 — Austin’s largest park will get hundreds of rainbow trout stocked in its creek each spring starting in 2020 thanks to a partnership between the state and local watershed district, officials announced today.

Next April, Wolf Creek — a Cedar River tributary that flows through the nearly 150-acre Todd Park in northeast Austin — will receive up to 600 rainbow trout raised and stocked by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This is the result of a proposal made by Cedar River Watershed District technician James Fett, who collected water-temperature data in 2017 and 2018 at an unshaded part of Wolf Creek in the park.

CRWD’s James Fett, fresh out of the water from assisting DNR with surveying Wolf Creek, talks Aug. 22, 2019, about how he proposed stocking trout in Todd Park.

“It is uncommon for new trout waters to be added like this, at least in our nine-county area of south-central Minnesota,” said Craig Soupir, DNR’s Waterville Area Fisheries supervisor. “Most streams with decent cold-water habitat already are stocked or managed for trout.”

Fett and Soupir announced the project today along Wolf Creek in Todd Park with City of Austin officials.

LINK video of Wolf Creek at Todd Park: youtu.be/7MJU-WvO-i8

DNR’s Waterville staff will retrieve 300 rainbow trout raised at the DNR’s State Fish Hatchery in Lanesboro and place them in Wolf Creek a day before next year’s trout season opener on April 18. This will start a “put-and-take” fishery in Wolf Creek by stocking rainbow trout of a larger size for anglers to catch and keep, if desired, through Sept. 15, 2020. A catch-and-release trout season then will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 15, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, to the April 2021 opener.

Rainbow trout (MN DNR)

Another 300 rainbow trout likely will be stocked in Wolf a few weeks after the April 2020 opener to boost numbers, Soupir said.

“We will stock harvestable rainbow trout around a half pound each, which is a nice, catchable size to anglers and above a size that predator fish like northern pike and bass can eat,” Soupir said.

Mower County does not have streams stocked by DNR for trout. However, Fett, who does water-quality testing and works on enrolling cropland into native prairie and wetlands, thought the Wolf Creek watershed could host trout given its cooler water fed by springs and large amount of wooded areas and conservation land.

Kids walk Wolf Creek’s shoreline in August 2017 in Todd Park.

“We’re very grateful for DNR’s strong support of our idea,” Fett said. “It’s exciting to think about what’s ahead. Todd Park is ideal public access for trout anglers, and we think this partnership can get future funding to enhance access and habitat.”

Todd Park has more than 8,800 feet of public shoreline on Wolf Creek for fishing access, Fett said. The park hosts a spring-fed pond that outlets cold water into Wolf Creek, which begins northeast of Brownsdale.

In recent years, Wolf Creek’s watershed has had a significant amount of native prairie and wetlands installed through conservation projects on land along the creek upstream from Todd Park, Fett said. These have included conservation enrollments through the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and state Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program.

Fett is working to finalize a new MN CREP enrollment with Steve and Diane Persinger of 100 cropland acres to be converted permanently into native prairie and wetlands along Wolf Creek, just upstream from Todd Park. He’s also working on a MN CREP contract for an additional 104 acres of cropland along Wolf Creek, north of the Persinger parcel.

DNR tried managing trout in Wolf Creek in the 1980s and ’90s when Mower County was managed by DNR’s Lanesboro Fisheries, Soupir said. Young trout stockings failed to develop into a fishery over several years, and DNR stopped the effort. Surveys indicated a problem from predator fish — northern pike and largemouth bass — coming into Wolf from the Cedar River.

“We plan to take a bit of a different approach, and our goal is to utilize the cold-water resource of Wolf Creek and the great access provided by Todd Park,” Soupir said.

Waterville Fisheries started managing Mower County in 2004 but has limited trout resources compared to the Lanesboro office. That makes a stream like Wolf Creek a great opportunity for Waterville staff to manage and offer anglers, Soupir said.

At this time, Wolf Creek is not a designated trout stream — which involves a lengthy process that might not be pursued — but anglers will need a Minnesota fishing license and trout stamp to possess trout from non-designated waters like Wolf, Soupir said. Trout stamps are not required for children age 17 and younger and adults age 65 and older.

“Our goal is to provide a unique angling opportunity in southern Minnesota, and we encourage anglers to harvest the fish — that’s why we stock them,” Soupir said. “A few fish could survive the 2020 angling season and take residence in Wolf Creek. If that happens, it would be great but the trout stocking will continue annually every spring if it proves successful.”

DNR Waterville Fisheries staff and CRWD technician James Fett conduct survey work Aug. 22, 2019, to assess habitat and access conditions along Wolf Creek in Austin’s Todd Park.

Waterville DNR Fisheries also manages trout in Rice Creek near Northfield (a self-sustaining brook trout fishery) and Pauls Creek, east of St. Peter, which it manages as a “put-and-take” rainbow trout fishery similar to the plan for Wolf Creek.

“Pauls Creek has been tremendously successful,” Soupir said, “and we envision a similar result on Wolf Creek.”

LINK: Link to trout information online with MN DNR:

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fish/trout/index.html

Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store