Sparlin talks about river fishing

NEW ULM – River watershed district board members and Minnesota River enthusiasts attending a resources tour got a real time look at fishing Thursday at the Riverside Park boat landing.

Scott Sparlin, Executive Director for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR) talked about the fishing on the river to several dozen people while a night crawler and spinner dangled on the end of a fishing line. Sparlin got a strike and reeled in a small catfish halfway into his talk.

“If you like fishing backwaters, this is the year to do it,” Sparlin said as a light breeze could be felt at the water’s edge, under large shade trees. “The river is up and its got lots of fish.”

Earlier in the afternoon, tour participant Richard Meyer of Appleton reeled in about a foot long drum fish that Sparlin said should taste pretty good.

“Walleyes and catfish are starting to hit (on the Minnesota River near Appleton),” Meyer said. “Perch fishing has been good for a while on Big Stone Lake.”

Sparlin told tour members to always cast at an angle with the current to avoid snags. He used night crawlers on shanked hooks, snap-on weights and standard spinners.

“You never know what you’ll catch in the (Minnesota) River,” Sparlin said. “I’ve caught sturgeon, walleyes, Northern Pike, carp, mud puppies, paddle fish, suckers, Buffalo fish, catfish, even American eels and many other species. I’ve caught as many as nine species in one day.”

He talked about a number of southern Minnesota fish that transported by refrigerated truck to the East Coast where they become part of fresh sushi at Asian restaurants in New York City and nearby large cities.

Sparlin said the story of the American eel itself should be reason enough to feel strongly about improving the water quality of the Minnesota River and its big watershed.

“When they’re (eels) ready to propagate, some American eel will swim the length of the Minnesota River to the Mississippi River at St. Paul, then swim south through St. Louis, past New Orleans, into the Gulf of Mexico, around the tip of Florida, far offshore to the Sargasso Sea to deposit their eggs,” Sparlin said.

From there, young eels may take years riding ocean currents and migrating inland to rivers, lakes and streams where they feed and mature for 10 to 25 years, then migrating back to the Sargasso Sea.

“If that story isn’t enough to make you believe its important to preserve the river, I don’t know what it will take,” Sparlin added.

He led a tour of the Minnesota River History Center in the former schoolhouse in Riverside Park before tour participants returned to the New Ulm Event Center for beer and wine tasting, a buffet dinner and Minnesota River wildlife and natural history program. Polka music by local musicians followed.

The tour continues Friday including a spouse’s tour of New Ulm historic sites.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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