A little history and a big point was made when Adam Savariego caught a juvenile, flathead catfish while angling at 12:30 a.m. on May 13 on the pedestrian bridge spanning the Minnesota River in Granite Falls.
The Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce wanted to call attention to the improved fishing opportunities made possible by the removal of a dam on the Minnesota River. It recently offered a hand-carved fish decoy by artist Eric Soine as a prize to the first person to catch a flathead catfish in the Granite Falls portion of the river starting with the 2013 opener. Adam Savariego dutifully had a photo taken of himself holding a small flathead catfish at the recognizable landmark to prove his feat. He’s now on camera holding the prize too.
For 107 years, the Minnesota Falls dam downstream of Granite Falls served as a barrier to the natural migration of fish in the Minnesota River. Importantly, there have been no flathead catfish, lake sturgeon, paddlefish or sauger caught above the Minnesota Falls during those years, with the exception of a fish or two purposely transplanted upstream of the dam by anglers. But no matter how many fish were stocked above the dam in this manner, they were never able to develop a self-sustaining population.
Things are now changing. Fisheries personnel with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expect a big improvement in the fishing opportunities upstream to the Granite Falls dam. Xcel Energy removed the Minnesota Falls dam this winter. The river now flows free and drops by about 17 feet over a two mile stretch. The area above the former Minnesota Falls site offers outstanding spawning habitat, and that is likely to have benefits all the way to the Mississippi River, according to Luther Aadland, a river ecologist with the Minnesota DNR in Fergus Falls. The re-opened spawning habitat will likely attract lake sturgeon from portions of the Mississippi River.
Aadland will be speaking about the improvements Friday evening at 7 p.m. in the Granite Falls City Hall. He is part of a presentation making note of the improvements in the river. John Hickman will show a documentary on some of the people behind the river revival. Erik Wrede, Minnesota DNR water trails supervisor, will speak about the 50th anniversary of the state’s water trails system.