February 4, 2014
WILD ROSE, Wis. - Baby, it's cold outside - but Wisconsin's next generation of Great Lakes trout and salmon are safe and warm inside the state's fish hatcheries and growing bigger by the day -- for the day when they'll be stocked into Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
"Most people only see the hatchery at work when it comes time to stock fish," says Al Kaas, propagation chief for the Department of Natural Resources.
"But those fish have to start with spawning, incubating and rearing, and that's what's going on now to help provide great fishing opportunities in the future."
State fish hatcheries play a vital role in maintaining fishing opportunities in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and their tributaries. Now is when much of the behind the scenes work happens that produces the Great Lakes fish that will be stocked in the spring as well as inland trout to be stocked in lakes and rivers where natural reproduction isn't sufficient, Kaas says.
Pacific salmon (chinook and coho), brown trout and steelhead originally stocked decades ago to control invasive alewives are now popular among anglers but the fish do not reproduce in great enough numbers in the wild in Wisconsin's Great Lakes tributaries.
So every fall, DNR fish crews collect eggs from chinook and coho salmon and brown trout, and those fish are hatched, incubated and raised for stocking later. In the spring DNR crews collect eggs from steelhead, walleye and musky.
Chinook salmon do naturally reproduce in the wild in Michigan in substantial and growing numbers, helping supply more than half of the chinook caught in Wisconsin waters during the summer months, but stocking of chinook is important to provide the fall spawning runs along the tributaries.
This past year, DNR again met its egg collection goals for Lake Michigan trout and salmon, with state fish crews meeting goals for egg numbers and reporting high numbers and good size chinooks, larger than average coho, and one of the latest Seeforellen brown trout spawning periods in recent memory.
"We had a fairly slow start with low river flows and warm temperatures, but ended with high numbers and good size chinooks returning to all three of our egg collection facilities with Strawberry Creek having the most impressive return," says John Komassa, who oversees operations at the three facilities.
DNR operates egg collection facilities on Lake Michigan tributaries - Strawberry Creek in southern Door County, the Besadny Anadromous Facility on the Kewaunee River, and the Root River Steelhead Facility, on the Root River in Racine County.
Coho returned to the Kewaunee facility and Root River facility, with the Kewaunee site seeing high numbers and larger coho when compared to the average, Komassa says.
Seeforellen brown trout were collected on the Root River and Kewaunee with all the fish taken to the Kewaunee egg collection site. The Root River provided more fish than the Kewaunee. The number of adults was down and spawning activities ended later than normal, he says.
Those eggs were taken to Wild Rose for incubating and hatching. Now, some of the partially developed eggs at the "eyed" stage are carefully packaged up and sent to other DNR hatcheries for rearing before they are stocked out in the spring.
Other fish are also inside DNR hatcheries as well now. Inland trout that will be stocked out in the spring before the fishing season are being raised at several DNR hatcheries and about 1,200 yearling Wisconsin River strain lake sturgeon are spending the winter at Wild Rose and will be stocked in the spring.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Komassa, 608-275-3315