Seine Fishing In Southwest Minnesota

Hard at work.

I was driving home “the back way” today, as I do always now that hwy 60 is being worked on, and I took the dirt road past Lake Bella rather than the tarmac. I love going that way because it’s much more scenic and one is apt to see eagles as opposed to semis.
Team work.

As I drove past the lake, I had to brake and back up and turn onto a side road, for there in the water at the edge of the lake were fishermen. And not just any old fishermen. Seiners.
Half a mile of net...organized and at rest.

They were standing in the shallow water at the edge of the lake, mending their nets. They had not gotten the work done they’d wanted to that day, as the nets proved to have issues.
Mending the nets.

Needle work.

Scott Deslauriers, Steve Schmidt, and two other guys they’d hired just on a part-time basis (and who chose to remain anonymous) were mending their half-mile long net there at the edge of the water. The Daily Globe had an article about these guys last fall. They’re fishing for Common Carp – the kind of carp that most people around here DON’T want to catch. The kind of carp that, if you catch one, you’re not allowed to throw back into the lake because they’re so unwanted.
The second day. He went all over the lake, banging with a stick on the side of the stir up the fish, I suppose?

But these guys want them. And so do their customers.

The second boat - out of three. He was on one side of the lake, the boat with the stick was on the other...and the nets were laid.

The net, spread out.

And just exactly who are their customers? Kosher restaurants and groceries in New York City, as well as Asian markets, where they sell the fish live. All of the fish travel to NY in a “live tank”, which, when you think about it, makes total sense as anything with the label “kosher” has to be killed in a kosher way in order to be, well, kosher – so no one else but a rabbi can oversee the death of these fish!
Hauling in the net.

Tightening the nets.

Scott said that as soon as he gets his load of fish, he’ll head down to Omaha, Iowa, and the fish will be on a semi truck within hours of leaving Lake Bella. Within 28 hours of leaving Omaha, they’ll be swimming in New York City.
The fish had a little to say about this activity.

It's a long process, tightening the net...

But, before that could happen, they had to get those nets mended and the fish caught.
The nets narrowed and the fish roiled.

Throwing out the small ones.

Tightening the noose.

So, hoping for good news, I stopped by again the next day. Three times, in fact. They probably thought I was a deranged stalker.

That day brought good luck. Between 5 and 6 thousand pounds of good luck. Which, at an average weight of 7 pounds per fish, makes approximately 850 Common Carp heading to New York City.
I asked how they get 6,000 pounds of fish into the live tank and Scott said, “With a load this small we’ll hand-dip them into the tank.”

There a big guy, thrashing around.

Not exactly a job I’d relish. In fact, the truth is, I’d be incapable of doing any of what they do – it takes a lot of muscle and a lot of silent working.

I’m too wussy and I talk too much.

Narrower and narrower...

And the net is cinched.

Scott and Steve – who only talked when I asked questions and never offered information otherwise (though they didn’t seem to be irritated by me and were perfectly friendly) – were hoping to seine again the next day, which, as everyone around here hates the carp, came as exceedingly good news.
Hauling the catch - all 6,000 pounds.

Several cars and trucks stopped along the road during the time I stopped to watch the seiners. It’s not every day that we see such things, you know. In fact, one old timer with whom I struck up a conversation, said that he remembers seeing them seine in the winter, way back when. “They’d cut a big hole in the ice and thread the nets down in and do it that way,” he told me. I had trouble picturing how that would work, but I’ll take his word for it.
A stick marks the spot.

How about that? Little old Lake Bella, Minnesota…providing food for Passover to the Orthodox of New York.

You just never know what’s going on right around your very own corner, do you?

8 Responses

  1. This was an interesting feature story, Gretchen. So you’re too wussy and talk too much. Well, I for one appreciate that you talked too much and asked all those questions because I definitely learned a lot from this piece. Well done.

    1. 🙂 Thanks! It was interesting, for sure. I’m not sure that my kids felt it was quite as interesting as I did…but they survived! The Daily Globe covered the story last fall, so it’s not brand-new news, but still, it’s interesting – and I have a lot more pictures than a newpaper had room for!

  2. Nancy Cook

    Very interesting, Gretchen! I love your posts, blogs, whatever! You are so cute! And how we can enlarge the picture to see the snail in the next blog it way cool!! Great job!! Have a wonderful week!

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. And I definitely appreciate your encouragement! I’m enjoying myself with it all, that’s for sure! All the pictures really help tell the story, don’t they?

  3. Jenny

    Very interesting! All the way to New York. Wow! Your seine fishing is quite a bit different from ours around here! I’m glad you stopped to watch them. I can just picture the kids not appreciating it as much as you did! I got a kick out of the catch and don’t release! That’s a lot different than around here also!

    1. well, they DO release other kinds of fish! But yes, given a closed environment, no one wants those carp stuck in the lake!

      Ian enjoyed it so some degree…more than the others, anyway! But yes, it was very interesting. And yes, I thought about ocean seining…though I don’t know much about it…made me think of Snow Falling on Cedars…you’ve read that, haven’t you?

      1. Jenny

        I have read it. That book just makes me think of gardening on Bainbridge Island. My mind turned that island into Bainbridge. I believe it was roughly based on it. Funny what we think of when we remember something!
        I thought it was interesting that there are people who want to eat the carp, when everyone where you are hates them so. Do they taste yucky? And if so, what do the people who want them do to make them palatable?

        1. They’re bottom feeders…so I guess that affects their taste. I know that the Jewish community uses them for fish balls…so maybe all the frying helps the flavor! ha. I’m not sure what the Asian community does with them – but they buy them live in the market, apparently. They, of course, eat all sorts of sea food that we don’t normally, so I guess it’s just a different palate? Different opinions of what tastes good!

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