Muskegon River walleye’s eggs set for collection by DNR for stocking

KWS walleye egg harvest 18 JORDAN ALLISON SCOTT ZAJAC.jpgGrand Valley State University graduate student Jordan Allison (hand at bottom of photo) gathers egg samples to test for disease as Scott Zajac, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries technician, extracts eggs from a walleye at the Pine Avenue boat launch site on the Muskegon River near the Croton Dam in Newaygo County in 2009.

WEST MICHIGAN – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources was set to begin collecting walleyes Tuesday from a portion of the Muskegon River as part of process to restock the fish in Michigan waterways.

The DNR’s plan calls for Fisheries Division personnel to collect 54 million walleye eggs from the Muskegon River this year by capturing walleye below Croton Dam in Newaygo County and stripping eggs to be raised for future stocking efforts.

In addition to Tuesday’s collection, the DNR plans to use an electro-fishing boat over seven total days during the weeks of March 26-30 and April 2-6.

Sampling usually begins each day at Croton Dam about 8:30 a.m. and proceeds downstream to the Pine Street access site. If more eggs are needed, additional collections may occur downstream to the Thornapple Street access site.

The egg-stripping operation is conducted at the Pine Street access site, about two miles downstream of Croton Dam. This process generally begins between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. The public is welcome to observe how the eggs are removed from the fish before they are packed and shipped to the hatchery.

KWS walleye egg harvest 6.jpgScientists from the DNR, Grand Valley State University’ss Annis Water Resources Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were on hand to collect samples of walleye eggs, sperm, fins and scales to study in 2009. They expected to take approximately 4 million eggs from two different days of work.

The goal for the Fisheries Division officials is to raise 9 million fry for transfer to rearing ponds throughout the Lower Peninsula. The walleye fingerlings raised are set to be stocked in lakes and rivers, with an additional 3.5 million fry scheduled to be directly stocked in the Grand River and in Thornapple Lake.

DNR officials contend that the walleye populations in the Lower Peninsula are dependent on the fingerlings produced from Muskegon River eggs, as well as many inland lakes in the Lower Peninsula. The DNR estimates the size of the walleye spawning run in Muskegon River at about 40,000-50,000 each year.

“The Muskegon River has the largest run of walleye in the Lake Michigan watershed south of Green Bay,” said Rich O’Neal, Fisheries Division biologist for the Central Lake Michigan management unit.

Walleye production has been reduced in recent years as Fisheries Division has been cautious to avoid bringing viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) into the hatchery system or spreading it to other waters. New techniques for disinfecting walleye eggs make increased production of walleye possible, according to the DNR.

Anglers who wish to avoid the walleye collection activities should fish downstream areas of the river. The DNR asks anglers to exhibit caution when fishing near the electro-fishing boats. Wading anglers are asked to exit the water when the boat approaches.

Eric Gaertner covers the outdoors, government and politics. He can be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter @EricGaertner1.

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