NANFA-- Gilt Darters in the St. Croix

Mark Otnes (
Sun, 15 Jul 2001 17:42:51 -0500

I hit the road at 4:30 in the morning on Friday and by 9:00 I was wading
around in the St. Croix river on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. I wanted
to get a couple of Gilt Darter for my aquarium and decided to check out a
new spot where the Snake River empties into the St. Croix. Unfortunately
the Snake was dumping in very tea colored water into the river and it made
snorkeling here impossible. Up stream in the St. Croix there weren't any
rapids or any fast water in sight, so I figured I better go to my reliable
spot further up north. I hate going and parking in this other spot because
its on a poor part of a reservation and cars are broken into a lot here
(there's broken car window glass all over the parking lot and a sign warning
you off what might happen).

So, 45 minutes later I got to the reliable spot, put all my valuables in the
trunk and left the window open and the car unlocked. From here its the walk
from hell. There are ungodly numbers of horse and dear flies, a tangle of
brush along the river, or if you walk the river the footing is impossible
with all of the boulders and rocks. Anyway I made it through the brush and
finally got my gear up along the bank. It was well worth the trip. The
water was clear and there were scattered groups of Gilt Darters in the fast
current above some rapids. There were also a lot of redhorses present, some
of which had lampreys on them. According to my new Fishes of Wisconsin book
the Chestnut Lamprey is the only one in the river, so that must have been
what they were.

I took a couple of Gilt Darters and then headed back west. On the way back
I stopped at the upper Snake River north of Mora. I decided to snorkel this
and it was one of the weirdest experiences. The water was clear but tea
colored with a visibility of about 4 feet. Everything had a reddish tint,
especially my skin, it was really surreal. There weren't a lot of fish
present but I eventually saw a few Gilt Darters, a logperch, and about a
dozen Horneyhead Chubs.

Altogether a good trip, and no one messed with my vehicle while I was in the

Mark Otnes
Fargo ND

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