Another successful walleye egg-collection operation is in the books-and in the jars. Walleye egg collection operations wrapped up April 29 when the final batch of eggs was collected in Fergus Falls. In all, more than 4,500 quarts of walleye eggs were collected at 10 operations throughout the state.
Each year, Minnesota DNR fisheries staff set up temporary egg stripping and fertilizing operations at various locations around the state to meet the stocking needs prescribed by individual lake management plans. After eggs are collected and fertilized, the initially fragile eggs are hardened for several hours with fresh water. After hardening, the eggs are transported to a hatchery building and measured into special hatching jars where they incubate for two to three weeks before hatching into fry.
Roughly one-third of the 360 million fry anticipated to hatch this year will grow in rearing ponds throughout the summer and then be stocked as fingerlings in 362 lakes this fall. The other two thirds of the fry are stocked directly into 302 lakes within a few days of hatching. Fisheries biologists check on the survival of stocked fingerlings or fry with follow-up assessments.
“While stocking walleye is an important part of our fisheries management strategy, it’s also important to note that 85% of walleye caught by anglers are naturally produced,” said Chris Kavanaugh, northeast regional fisheries manager. “Many Minnesota lakes have excellent natural walleye reproduction without any stocking, but in some lakes, the walleye fishery exists solely because of stocking.”
Individual lake management plans prescribe the timing and amount of any stocking based on the available habitat, prey availability and past success. Not all lakes can benefit from stocking. While time and labor intensive, walleye eggs collected this way have a much higher hatching success rate than what occurs in nature. However, maintaining good water quality and natural spawning habitat with a healthy adult population can produce many more walleye than hatcheries can provide. Each lake that has an egg collection operation is restocked with fry to more than compensate for the egg collection activity.