PIKE RIVER— Hatchery operations got underway here this week, with a goal of collecting 500 quarts of walleye eggs for use in stocking operations around the state. While the hatchery’s …
PIKE RIVER— Hatchery operations got underway here this week, with a goal of collecting 500 quarts of walleye eggs for use in stocking operations around the state.
While the hatchery’s operations have been an annual rite of spring for decades, the facility, operated by the Department of Natural Resources, was closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the facility is operational this year, the hatchery remains closed to the public and the traditional sale of white suckers, which are netted in the Pike River along with walleye, won’t be held this year for the second year in a row.
This year’s quota of 500 quarts is down a bit from past years, but the number is based on the stocking needs around the state, according to Tower Area DNR Fisheries Manager Edie Evarts.
A large majority of the fry that will be hatched here in the coming weeks will be stocked within the Hudson Bay drainage, while the rest will go to lakes in southern Minnesota or to private growers who will raise the fry to the fingerling stage for later stocking by the DNR.
Last year, the DNR undertook almost no stocking in the state’s lakes as a result of the pandemic. That includes Lake Vermilion, which saw increased fishing pressure this past summer.
But Evarts said Lake Vermilion is well-positioned to weather a few years without artificial stocking. She notes that the lake has an abundance of large female walleye that provide substantial brood stock for the lake. “There are so many big spawning females, the lake probably doesn’t need much help,” said Evarts.
Test netting on Vermilion last fall also confirmed that the lake is currently home to some of the highest walleye numbers on record, thanks to a series of strong year classes.
And Evarts notes that stocking can be a balancing act at times. “If there are too many fry, they may compete with each other,” noted Evarts. If so, that can limit the first summer’s growth of the young walleye, which can reduce winter survival.