It's time to gawk at the gar, stare at the sturgeon

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2012 - 7:54 AM

Spectators watch the big fish at the DNR fish pond at the State Fair..

Photo: Darlene Pfister, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It's one of the most popular fishing holes in the state, though no one catches a thing.

An estimated 500,000 people will flock to the Department of Natural Resources fish pond at the State Fair beginning Thursday to gawk at about 45 fish species -- including some monster sturgeon, muskies and catfish, as well as trout, walleyes, northerns and bass.

In a state with more than 10,000 lakes and 1 million anglers, the fish pond is a star attraction.

"The most popular fish every year are always the paddlefish,'' said Roland Sigurdson, DNR aquatic education specialist with the agency's MinnAqua program. "Most people have never seen one.''

The odd-looking river fish, rarely caught because they feed on plankton, have a long paddle-like snout and a shark-like tail.

Another river fish and stranger to many anglers -- the long-nosed gar -- draws gawks. The species, covered with hard, diamond-shaped scales and with a mouth full of sharp teeth, has been around since the dinosaurs.

This year, the biggest fish in the pond likely will be a lake sturgeon pushing 60 inches and a pair of flathead catfish each weighing about 70 pounds.

Several hundred fish will swim in the 50,000-gallon pond filled with 55-degree well water. The 45 species reflect just a portion of the 163 fish species found in Minnesota, though some others -- including perch, crappies and sunfish -- are on display in aquariums inside the DNR State Fair building.

"If we put those in the pond, they'd be quickly eaten,'' said Sigurdson.

Though the DNR puts minnows and small suckers into the pond as food for larger fish, sometimes display fish such as smaller brook trout disappear, too.

"The muskies aren't shy about taking one of those now and then,'' Sigurdson said.

So where does the DNR get the fish?

The brown, brook, rainbow and lake trout come from DNR fish hatcheries. But most of the fish were caught over the years by DNR fisheries staff during surveys and are kept at a small DNR pond in St. Paul, which will be drained Wednesday so the fish can be captured and moved to the fair.

"There's always some mortality in our pond,'' Sigurdson said. "An eagle's nest has developed nearby, and we're pretty sure they help themselves.''

In the past, poachers have snuck into the fenced pond and stolen fish, too.

So the DNR occasionally supplements its collection with catches from DNR fisheries staff or even the public. The big sturgeon at the fair was the gift of an angler who caught it legally in the St. Croix River several years ago.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


New England 14 FINAL
Kansas City 41
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Rangers 6
Toronto 0 FINAL
Detroit 3
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Florida 4 FINAL
Dallas 5
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arizona 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question