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Something's fishy in Manitoba

Jill Colton, staff writer

June 21, 2011 — Overland flooding and carp -- a fishy combination for the residents of Siglunes Manitoba.

High water has lead to overland flooding.
High water has lead to overland flooding.

It's not the kind of sight you would expect to see in a field -- or in your front yard for that matter. But thousands of carp have made their way onto flooded farmland because of high lake levels.

Darcy Hardman is the emergency co-ordinator for the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews but for now he's on loan to the Rural Municipality of Siglunes to help out with the flooding issues.

He says that weather has a lot to do with the current fish problem. “With Lake Manitoba, the wind direction changes and the high gusts help increase water levels of the lake by a good 1 to 3 feet or even more.”

Essentially the water ran over the roads -- this allowed the carp to get to the other side, which contains fields and not the actual lake. Once the wind direction changed again, and the water levels dropped, the carp became trapped on the wrong side of the road.

“The fish seem to be attracted to the moving water. They'll just be hundreds of them sitting on the road as the water is rolling over, pushing them to the other side.”

Not your typical catch and release fishing for Siglunes residents.
Not your typical catch and release fishing for Siglunes residents.

Hardman expects the winds will shift again, but there's no guarantee the fish will find their way back.

“Hopefully they're smart enough to swim back the right way -- but this could end up putting another thousand fish on the wrong side of the road instead of going back into the lake,” he explains.

If the high water levels don't recede, this could become an ongoing issue through the summer months.

Hardman says some pockets of water contain about a thousand or so carp. Fish are even getting into the pumps and swimming in residential areas that contain deep water pooling.

At this point, close to all the fish are healthy, but there's a chance that a lot of carp will die when the flood waters recede -- and that will be a giant mess to clean up.

“Farmers are not going to be happy. The end result is that they don't want to get stuck cleaning up the mess.” He also notes that a rotting fish smell wouldn't likely sit well with residents.

A plan of action hasn't yet been formulated. Hardman says they have to wait for the water to spill over again, and they'll revaluate the situation from that point. Provincial officials are also trying to come up with a plan.

But Hardman believes Manitoba Conservation isn't so keen on saving the fish. “The carp are not indigenous to this area -- so Conservation isn't concerned about this particular species of fish -- they're not happy having them in their lake systems.”

Because the fish are surviving at this point, and the waters are still high, Hardman believes using valuable flood resources at this point wouldn't be the best investment.

“Instead of using the resources to look after the fish, we could be building dikes and helping people and their residences.”

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