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March 20, 2012

Public invited to watch Lake Michigan fish

KEWAUNEE -- Recent warm weather has state egg collection facilities up and running earlier than usual to produce the next generation of Lake Michigan trout and salmon. The public is invited to come along and watch the process and see the fish up close through viewing windows as they "climb" the fish ladder into the facilities.

The C.D. Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility in Kewaunee County along with the Root River Steelhead facility in Racine County are both checking fish for the first time March 20. Watch the video showing the egg collection process.

Both facilities turned on the pumps last week to send river water through the fish ladder and facilities in preparation for egg collection and juggled getting fish out the door at some hatcheries from last year before getting ready for this year's take.

"Everything is on the fast track this year," says John Komassa, southeastern Wisconsin Hatchery group leader for the Department of Natural Resources. "At the Root River, we're about a week ahead of normal."

At the Besadny facility, they're starting operation a week ahead of what's normal and three weeks ahead of when they turned on the pumps in 2011 during a cold and late spring, says Mike Baumgartner, facility manager.

"The recent warmer weather made the ice go out sooner and because the ice was going out and the snow was melting, the water levels in the river went up," he says. "That's a trigger that attracts the fish, as well as daylight and water temperatures."

Lake Michigan trout and salmon do not successfully reproduce in the warmer temperatures and fluctuating water levels found in Wisconsin tributaries to Lake Michigan. So DNR gives them a hand. Once the eggs and milt have been collected from the fish, the fish are released back to the rivers for anglers to catch. The eggs are fertilized on site and sent to state hatcheries where they are incubated, hatched, and stocked back in the river more than a year later.

This year, the Besadny facility turned on its pumps March 15 and overnight had about 100 fish move into the collection ponds, Baumgartner says. "We are scheduled to sort through our fish Monday for the first time and then at least weekly, more often if the run is strong enough, through about mid-April to continue sorting and spawning fish from the length of the run."

The Besadny facility is located at 3884 Ransom Moore Lane, off of County Highway F, west of Kewaunee, on the west bank of the Kewaunee River. The site is open daily, dawn to dusk and the building is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Baumgartner says that people who want to watch the egg processing will want to call ahead (920) 388-1025 to make sure it's going on that day and to come between 9 a.m. and noon.

The Root River facility is located on the Root River, inside Lincoln Park, in Racine. After March 20, DNR will be processing fish at the facility on Mondays, and thanks to a Salmon Unlimited volunteer, the viewing window is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Komassa says. People can call ahead to (262) 594-6218 to confirm the processing is occurring.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Komassa (262) 594-6218; Mike Baumgartner (920) 388-1025

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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