Record late start for Pike River hatchery

Marshall Helmberger

LAKE VERMILION—DNR fisheries officials were hopeful this week that operations at the Pike River Hatchery would get underway by Friday, May 3, but ice conditions on the river will ultimately determine whether that’s possible.

The May 3 start, if possible, would be the latest start to the hatchery season since the DNR started tracking the data. The previous record was April 30, according to Duane Williams, large lake specialist with the DNR’s Tower area office.

The impact of the late start on walleye spawning is a bit of an unknown, but fisheries officials typically prefer late starts to earlier ones, because the spawning run tends to be more compressed in late years, which allows the DNR to complete the egg harvesting more quickly.

“I’ve seen the full range in just two years,” said Edie Evarts, the Tower area’s new fisheries manager. Last year, the hatchery set a record for its earliest start ever when officials began egg collection on March 26.

This year’s late start does not bode well for ice-out on area lakes in time for the May 11 fishing opener. Typically, the hatchery begins egg-taking about two weeks before ice-out on Lake Vermilion. If that trend continues this year, that would put ice-out right around May 15. In other words, don’t forget your ice auger.


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