Thousands of goldfish inundate Chaska area lakes

April 19, 2019 05:31 PM

The bright orange fish really stick out when the sun hits them through the water. But look closer, and you'll see there are thousands more brown fish, too. It's an infestation of goldfish affecting five lakes in Carver County, and people are starting to take notice.

"Yeah I'm really surprised they lived through the winter," said Sheryl Bjork, who was running on the trail along Big Woods Lake Friday morning. "Maybe there's a new hobby or pastime to come goldfish fishing, I don't know," she said with a chuckle.


But Madeline Seveland with the Carver County Water Management organization says the fish are causing a serious problem for water quality. The fish, known for being harmless pets at home, are a harmful invasive species in the wild. 

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"They kind of muddy up the water when they eat and stir sediments up and release phosphorus and rip up aquatic plans, which we need to keep the lakes clean, and they out compete our native fish for food and shelter," Seveland said.

Seveland said the fish are also spreading from Big Woods Lake to the four other lakes in the Grace Chain of Lakes in Chaska, including Hazeltine Lake. She said the fish have likely been here for years, but the population is now booming and the large schools of fish are hard to miss.

In the wild and in prime conditions, goldfish can grow to be a foot long and can live 25 years. And, there's not much water management workers can do about it. Trying to remove all of the fish would be next to impossible and would be prohibitively expensive. So, for now, the goldfish seem to be here to stay.

Seveland said it all probably started with someone innocently dumping an unwanted pet goldfish in the lake—something she said you should never do for this exact reason.

"Find another home for it, surrender it at a surrender event or donate it. But, never just release it into the water," she said.

As tempting as it might be you can't come and scoop up some of these live goldfish and take them home and put them in an aquarium. It's illegal to remove live fish from waterways across Minnesota. But, you can help by fishing if you have the appropriate license.

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Matt Belanger

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