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State crews expect to collect 24 million walleye eggs from Muskegon River to preserve population

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources
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DNR personnel at the spawning location at the Pine Street access site on the Muskegon River below the Croton Dam.

Over the next few weeks, crews will be gathering walleye eggs from the Muskegon River.

They expect as many as 50,000 adult walleyes during the spring run. Michigan Department of Natural Resources crews will be using electrical equipment to send jolts through the water to stun the fish. They’ll be netted, and then hand-stripped of eggs from females and sperm from males to fertilize them.

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Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
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A DNR crew conducts electrofish sampling on the Muskegon River.

The DNR expects to gather as many as 24 million walleye eggs in just a few days.

Those eggs will be transferred to rearing ponds at locations around the state until they hatch. Then they’ll be transferred to larger ponds. Once the fish reach a couple of inches in length, they’ll be gathered into tanker trucks and released in order to stock rivers and lakes across the lower peninsula.

The DNR only stocks coldwater and coolwater fish such as the walleye. Warmwater fish such as bass do fine on their own, and climate change is actually helping their populations flourish farther north in the state.

Walleyes are expensive to raise and stock, but they are very popular with anglers. The fish is also challenged by several factors, including habitat, food availability, and predators. And, of course, climate change is making it harder for them to survive in some of Michigan's lakes and rivers in the far southern areas of the state.

The crews will start looking for the fish as early as this week. When they start collecting walleye will depend on water temperatures, whether there are fish ripe with eggs, and other factors. They’ll spend four days taking eggs.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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