The famous sturgeon of Lake Lida, which has been stored at an undisclosed location, was brought out for a rare public viewing last summer. The families of Harold Rice, Dick Swenson and Perry Swenson were once again able to view the famous sturgeon when it returned to Lake Lida and made an appearance at the Swenson Family reunion July 23, 2016 at the John & Karen (Rice) Borg home on Matson Beach, previously the home of Harold and Helen (Swenson) Rice. As the family was gathering for a photo, the sturgeon appeared, a surprise to all but Harold’s two grandchildren who were able to make the arrangements. A total of 81 descendants of the Carl and Agnes Swenson family attended from 10 states with all nine siblings represented at the 2 day event. The two surviving sisters, Kay (Swenson) Torgerson from Glenwood, MN and Connie (Swenson) McGregor of Pocatello, ID were cherished guests. The following day, Kay Torgerson’s family hosted the group at their cabin on Lake Franklin for a second day of fun! Following all the excitement, the sturgeon has gone back into seclusion.
Legendary fish ‘reunites with descendants of the guys who landed it nearly 7 decades ago
It’s the most famous fish in Otter Tail County–perhaps the entire state–and it was resurrected last summer.
Stored at a secret location, the “Monster Sturgeon of Lake Lida” fish “posed” for a family reunion photo last summer.
The fish was landed after being speared in 1948 on the frozen surface of Lake Lida. It weighed 102 pounds and was the talk of the territory.
For decades, it was the last recorded sturgeon caught in the entire Red River basin, according to DNR officials. Sturgeon have been reintroduced to area waters, including Otter Tail Lake in 1997.
But for most of the last century, the sturgeon was inhibited from moving and reproduction because of the network of manmade dams and obstructions–extending all the way to Canada.
So, the Lida sturgeon remains one of the most celebrated fish stories in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Karen (Rice) Borg notified us last winter that the fish was on display for the extended family gathering.
Starting in 1949, the fish was one of the county’s top attractions at the old Perry’s Supper club, midway between Pelican Rapids and Vergas on County Road 4. The late Perry Swenson, who founded the supper club, was Karen Borg’s uncle. The fish was on display for about a half-century.
“I have cleaned up the board and vacuumed the fish and I’m so thrilled to have it. As a child, I used to look up at it over the back bar at Perry’s,” wrote Borg in an email.
Interest in the famous Lida sturgeon, and the reintroduction of sturgeon to area waterways, has been sparked on several fronts.
The Minnesota DNR’s proposal to modify the Pelican Rapids dam to allow free fish passage has raised awareness in the city and the Pelican Lake-Pelican River area. Restoring a more natural flow of the river through Pelican Rapids could restore what were probably natural sturgeon spawning waters in what is now Mill Pond.
Borg said she had considered lending the mounted sturgeon for a length of time for display at the Pelican Rapids Visitor Center. “It’s too important a bit of area lore to let it waste away!” said Borg, but she will want to consult with the extended family.
She contacted the Pelican Rapids Press, following a series of articles pertaining to the Lida sturgeon and the dam modification proposals.
The Pelican Rapids City Council is anticipating public information meetings with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the near future.
The prospect of modifying the dam, which has become an iconic fixture in Pelican Rapids, has been a concern for some longtime residents.
The damsite is also the location of “Pelican Pete,” the statue of the world’s largest pelican.
But the dam, which has sustained some damage and deterioration, is expensive to repair and renovate–much of which will likely be at expense to city taxpayers.
If the city agrees with dam modifications that improve habitat for various native aquatic species–including sturgeon–the DNR may finance the entire project with state funds.