Stocking more fish that are hard to come by

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Stocking more fish that are hard to come by

Post by hemichemi » Fri Jul 11, 2014 4:13 pm

From:,4570,7-15 ... --,00.html?

The Department of Natural Resources' change of direction - from stocking northern muskellunge to Great Lakes muskellunge in many of the state's waters - has had its share of bumps in the road, largely because department personnel are having a tough time capturing fish for reproducing.

"These are extremely difficult fish to capture," said recently retired fisheries biologist Liz Hay-Chmielewski. "It's difficult to locate ripe females."

Fisheries Division crews from the Lake Erie basin and other management units throughout the state spent three weeks this spring electrofishing in the Detroit River trying to capture muskies.

"Every night the crews would leave the shop around 6 p.m. and get back around 3 a.m.," Hay-Chmielewski said. "And they get up and do it again and again. This is year five of a 10-year plan to develop a Great Lakes muskie brood stock in two inland lakes. It's a huge effort. It takes a lot of people to pull this off."

Working out of the Belle Isle Yacht Club, the crew obtained permission from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to work the Canadian side of the river this year, too, but it wasn't as successful as they had hoped according to Hay-Chmielewski.

When staff captured ripe females, they put them in floating cages until personnel from the state's fish hatcheries could come out and spawn them.

Matt Hughes, who works out of Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery, said the DNR had hoped to produce 1.5 million eggs this spring, but wound up with 430,000.

"We only had nine females to work with this year and they were crossed with 13 males," Hughes said. "If a female has an abundance of eggs, we'll split them up so we can cross them with multiple males. We incubate them separately and we rear them separately; we're trying to get the most genetic diversity we can, so if a female has a fair number of eggs, we'll split them up and create two families instead of one.

"When we stock the brood-stock lakes, we know, genetically, what we've contributed each year," he continued. "We stock every family so everything that comes out of there is an equal genetic mix. We have the best contribution we can possibly make."

Hughes expects the hatchery to produce an ample number of fingerlings to supply he brood lakes - anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 fish, depending on their size.

"If they're less than eight inches they get stocked at double the rate that they're stocked at if they're more than eight inches," he said.

"The biggest hurdle to jump is capturing the fish," he continued. "Once we get those brood-stock lakes stocked with enough genetics, we'll be able to go there directly and get our eggs. Our efforts will be a lot easier."

The change to Great Lakes muskies from northern muskies was made to stock the fish that were native to the Lower Peninsula in that peninsula's lakes and rivers. Northern muskies are native to parts of the Upper Peninsula, though that is the species the DNR has used for its muskie-stocking program for years.

"We're just trying to mimic nature more," Hay-Chmielewski said.

Hay-Chmielewski is optimistic that developing brood-stock lakes with Great Lakes muskellunge will pay off down the road. The brood-stock lakes will provide a reservoir of Great Lakes muskies if something should happen in the Great Lakes.

She also said two muskie lakes in her management unit - Belleville Lake and Lake Diane - have received preliminary stockings with Great Lakes strain fish and may get some more this year, if there are any fingerlings left after the brood-stock lakes have been stocked. The DNR is hoping to continue growing this program in the future as the management needs are clearly there.
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