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Dokken: Sturgeon catch bodes well for species' continued recovery in the Red River Basin

Efforts to re-establish lake sturgeon in the Red River Basin began in 1997 and 1998, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocked juvenile sturgeon into the Red River and several tributaries, using fish from the Rainy River.

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Nathan Mytych of Grand Forks with the 38-inch sturgeon he caught Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, on the Red River in Grand Forks. Contributed/ Tom Luney

GRAND FORKS -- You never know what you’re going to catch in the Red River.

Nathan Mytych of Grand Forks found that out firsthand Saturday, Oct. 2, when he landed a 38-inch lake sturgeon on the Red River in Grand Forks while fishing walleyes with fishing buddy Tom Luney of Grand Forks. The sturgeon hit a live sucker hooked through the tail in 12 feet of water, said Luney, who shared the photo.

“We were thinking it was a catfish (at first), but were questioning it at the end of the fight because it did not come to the surface – it was digging,” said Luney, who fishes the Red River frequently.

Historically, lake sturgeon thrived in the Red River and its tributaries until the early 1900s, when damming, pollution and other human activities decimated the population.


Efforts to re-establish lake sturgeon in the Red River Basin began in 1997 and 1998, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocked juvenile sturgeon into the Red River and several tributaries, using fish from the Rainy River.

A new era in the recovery effort began in 2001, when the White Earth Nation began stocking lakes to the north of Detroit Lakes, Minn., as part of a cooperative production and stocking venture with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the DNR in Detroit Lakes.

The Minnesota DNR began stocking in 2002 as part of the venture with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa began stocking lake sturgeon in tribal waters of Red Lake in 2007, Kludt said. The Rainy River First Nations in Ontario collects the lake sturgeon eggs for the operation, and they are hatched at the Valley City National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota.


To date, the cooperative effort between the tribes, the DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in 567,334 lake sturgeon fingerlings, more than 2.1 million fry, 375 juveniles and 4,402 yearlings being stocked into the Red River Basin, Kludt said.
“We don’t stock the Red River directly,” Kludt said. “Instead, we stock the tributary river and lake habitats. We know downstream dispersal happens at various life stages, so the natural movement of lake sturgeon disperses them throughout the basin.”

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Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Detroit Lakes, Minn., holds a reproductively mature female sturgeon sampled in May 2021 in the Red River Basin. The presence of reproductively mature sturgeon bodes well for reintroduction efforts in the Red River Basin. Contributed/ Nick Kludt, Minnesota DNR
Contributed/ Nick Kludt, Minnesota DNR

Occasional lake sturgeon catches from the Red River have been reported over the years since stocking efforts began, but the sturgeon Mytych released is the biggest one to occur in the Grand Forks area – at least among the catches that have been reported to the Herald.


In the Grand Forks area this year, an angler reported catching a 32-inch sturgeon in mid-May, and another angler reported catching a 28-inch sturgeon in late August, Kludt said. The DNR typically receives one to five sturgeon reports from the Red River every year, he said.

A milestone in the lake sturgeon recovery effort occurred this past spring, when the DNR sampled two reproductively mature female sturgeon in the Red River Basin. A 53-inch female captured from Deer Lake in Otter Tail County was released below Orwell Dam on the Otter Tail River after DNR staff implanted a transmitter. A second female “just shy of 55 inches” was captured and released below the Otter Tail Lake outlet dam a few miles upstream from Deer Lake, Kludt said.

The DNR documented the first reproductively mature female lake sturgeon in the basin in 2019, Kludt said, so three now have been confirmed since reintroduction efforts began.

Sturgeon populations now have recovered to the point where the DNR offers a catch-and-release season throughout the Red River Basin. Fishing has been very good, at times, in recent years, Kludt says, especially on the Otter Tail River.

It's a 200A

My hunt for a red, single-mantle Coleman lantern to replace the one I owned more than 40 years ago came to an end this week, when a shiny, like-new collectible model was delivered to the Herald office.

In collector circles, the single-mantle red Coleman is known as a 200A. I was thrilled to receive it, and the price I paid was more than reasonable. The lantern is in mint condition, and the seller even threw in four mantles.

The like-new single-mantle "200A" Coleman lantern Brad Dokken purchased from a collector in Wisconsin. Brad Dokken/ Grand Forks Herald


The sequence of events that led to this memorable purchase began two weeks ago, when I wrote about a 50-plus-year-old Coleman camp stove that was destined for the junk heap before being rescued and refurbished earlier this year.

In the column, I mentioned the single-mantle Coleman I had owned years ago and how I would like to find a replacement for the lantern I should have taken better care of at the time.

A Coleman enthusiast from Switzerland came across my story and posted a link on the Coleman Collectors Forum. Within hours, a Coleman collector from Wisconsin reached out to me with an offer to sell one of the 200A lanterns from his extensive collection of Coleman products.

The rest, as they say, is history.

For now, at least, I think the 200A is more for looking than for lighting, but I’m glad to once again have an old-school Coleman lantern in my inventory of camping gear.

I’ll definitely be taking better care of this one.

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Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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