In this video, Lake Sturgeon are drawn to this new rocky habitat on the Otter Tail River. This constructed rapids was just built this winter and already has lots of curious visitors. Some of the Lake Sturgeon are even exhibiting spawning behavior. Other species including white suckers, log perch, and walleyes were observed in the rapids. During the spring months, many fish species make their annual run up the rivers and out of the lakes in search of spawning grounds. Many fish are looking to spawn in steeper, faster flowing waters with gravel or rock substrates that will keep their sticky eggs clean and oxygenated. This new rapids has created a stretch of ideal spawning habitat that can be rare in some river reaches or inaccessible because of barriers such as dams and undersized culverts.
This lake outlet dam was modified into a rock ramp for fish passage and to maintain some of the dam functions. These ramps are designed to maintain the crest, or runout elevation, of the dam while allowing fish passage and accommodating fishing and paddling. The rock ramp has large boulder weirs or arches that create steps that gradually step down the water level. The boulders are strategically placed and gapped to allow fish of all shapes and sizes to swim through the rapids under all flow conditions.
This project is a cooperative effort between East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Houston Engineering. Funding for these projects comes from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment (through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council) and the National Fish Passage Program (from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).