Northwoods Experience: MN DNR Harvesting Walleye Eggs for Brainerd Area Lake Stock
The Minnesota fishing opener is less than two weeks away, but the state Department of Natural Resources is already doing some fishing of their own. At the mouth of the Pine River at Whitefish Lake, the DNR has set up a trap to catch walleye during their spring spawning. It’s part of an effort to keep lakes stocked with walleye, not just for this year, but for years to come.
They begin by first trapping the fish and then sort them by male and female. They then take the females ready to lay eggs and squeeze them out of the fish and into a bowl. The milk from the male walleye is mixed in along with bentonite clay to keep the fertilized eggs from sticking together and allow them to hatch at a much higher success rate later. The eggs are then cleaned in water using a fine mesh basket dipped in the river before being stored in coolers for transport to the hatchery.
Once in the hatchery, the eggs are divided into separate jars and are placed on a battery attached to long water troughs. Once the fish hatch, the baby walleye, known as fry, will swim to the top of the jar for air. There, they will flow out a spigot at the top of the jar and into the trough. From the trough, the fry will travel through pipes to large raceways where they grow until they are big enough to use as stock in area lakes.
In addition to stocking walleye for fishing, it is also important for keeping a lake’s ecosystem balanced. Walleyes are top predators in a lake and are necessary to keep forage species at acceptable levels. The walleye hatched and released into the wild won’t be large enough to catch for 3-4 years, helping keep the lakes stock up in meantime.
More information on walleye stocking and management can be found on the DNR website.
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