Anderson: Tomorrow's walleyes from today's DNR stocking

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2014 - 1:00 AM

About 575 million eggs are collected each spring to give natural reproduction a hand.

view larger photos

  

When Gov. Mark Dayton fishes Gull Lake near Brainerd on Saturday, he might catch a walleye born not of its waters but conceived instead in a bowl and hatched in a jar — a product of the complex fisheries science that underpins the state’s ambitious walleye stocking effort.

Count Department of Natural Resources fisheries section employees Mike Knapp and Owen Baird as two of the program’s surrogate parents.

The other day, amid a spring chill that kept most people indoors, Knapp cradled a bulbous female walleye in his arms before leaning over a plastic bowl and stripping the fish of her eggs.

As quickly, Baird towered over the bowl and squeezed a male walleye of its sperm, or milt, fertilizing the eggs.

Like the other half-dozen or so workers at this DNR walleye egg collection site on the Pine River, an inlet to the Whitefish Chain of Lakes about 30 miles from Gull Lake, Knapp and Baird were layered in fleece and draped in rain suits.

While they stripped walleyes, their co-workers shuffled atop metal catwalks surrounding large, walleye-filled trap nets. Some brandished long dip nets, dividing male and female fish into separate holding areas.

This and similar egg collection and fertilization efforts at eight DNR sites statewide are the first steps in the state’s nearly $4 million annual walleye stocking program. The effort is critical to maintaining what is widely believed to be the nation’s best walleye fishery, even though an estimated 85 percent of the nearly 4 million pounds of walleyes caught by Minnesota anglers each year are wild.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to help natural production if we can,” said Brainerd area fisheries supervisor Marc Bacigalupi. “Supplemental stocking reduces the possible adverse effects of periodic poor natural reproduction.”

About 575 million eggs are collected each spring throughout Minnesota to bolster anglers’ fortunes on the 1,000 state lakes where natural walleye reproduction is either sporadic or nonexistent.

And while some of Minnesota’s big walleye “factories” such as Lake Mille Lacs aren’t stocked, others of the state’s storied walleye waters are. This includes 9,400-acre Gull, which — even though it has held walleyes dating to before white settlement — annually receives about 3 million mosquito-sized “fry.”

Other noted walleye waters near Brainerd that are stocked either annually or semiannually include Pelican, North Long, Round and the Whitefish Chain.

At the DNR’s Pine River station, eggs captured and fertilized are taken to the agency’s Brainerd hatchery and housed in special three-quart jars.

Water flowing through the jars oxygenates the eggs the way waves or current do in the wild.

In about 21 days, the tiny fish, or fry, emerge with egg sacs attached and are transported to destination lakes. The DNR’s 11 hatcheries are located strategically throughout the state, so none is more than three hours from its assigned stocking waters.

“The sac will feed the fry for a day or two, but they need natural food such as zooplankton as soon as possible,” Bacigalupi said.

Each year, as many 350 million fry are produced by the DNR, with a portion of those deposited in rearing ponds where they are allowed to grow until fall. Then, as 4- to 8-inch “fingerlings,” they also are stocked.

The availability of so many rearing ponds throughout Minnesota, some of them wetlands or shallow lakes, enables the DNR’s walleye stocking program to outpace similar programs in other states.

Bacigalupi said individual lake management plans determine whether given bodies of water receive fry, fingerlings or both. The number of fry and fingerlings stocked can change depending on the results of summer and fall lake surveys.

  • related content

  • To catch a walleye: 10 tips for the fishing opener

    Thursday May 8, 2014

    Walleyes are beautiful, delicious — and at times — difficult to hook. Here’s how to land one for the opener.

  • Tackle basics to put walleyes in your boat

    Thursday May 8, 2014

    • Spinning rod. Costs of graphite rods vary widely, from about $25 to more than $200, so seek guidance from...

  • DNR Brainerd area fisheries manager Marc Bacigalupi, foreground, watched as a big walleye was scooped from a trap net on the Pine River.

  • A walleye caught in a DNR trap at a Pine River egg collection station in Crow Wing County, one of eight such sites statewide.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day 3
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 28 FINAL
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Indianapolis
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
UCF 10 FINAL
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
UNLV 34
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
ULM 0 FINAL
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close