Three reservoirs harvested this year; goal of 90 million eggs about half complete
PRATT -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' (KDWP) annual spring walleye egg harvest has been under way since March 19, and the agency's goal of 90 million walleye eggs for the state's hatcheries is about half way complete. Fisheries biologists are harvesting walleye eggs at Cedar Bluff, Hillsdale, and Milford reservoirs, where nets have been placed to catch spawning females that provide eggs for the department's walleye and saugeye programs.

All sperm and egg collection will take place on each lake and the fish returned to that lake immediately to prevent spread of aquatic nuisance species (ANS). Although ANS have not been found at these lakes, the measure is precautionary. Eggs will be fertilized onsite, and no fish will be moved.

At Perry, Banner Creek, and Clinton reservoirs, male sauger are being caught and milked to fertilize walleye eggs for the saugeye hatching program. Fertilized sauger eggs will also be taken to the Milford Hatchery, where sauger will be hatched out. Fry will be returned to the lakes from which they came. About 3.5 million sauger eggs have been harvested to date. In addition to KDWP's 2009 statewide harvest goal of 90 million walleye eggs, the agency hopes to collect 6 million sauger eggs.

Biologists will work for the next few weeks collecting and fertilizing walleye eggs, transporting them to KDWP's hatcheries at Farlington, Milford, and Pratt, and eventually stocking fish throughout the state. Some fry will be stocked in hatchery ponds to be raised to fingerling size and stocked later in the spring. Others will be stocked directly into lakes as fry. Because the Meade Hatchery is actively involved in a new bass propagation program this spring, that facility will receive no walleye or sauger this year.

Fewer than 5 percent of eggs hatch in the wild, so artificial spawning and hatching is used to increase hatching rates as much as 40-50 percent. When hatchery-bound eggs reach their destination, biologists monitor incubation closely. Water flows are checked to ensure constant but controlled movement. Water temperatures and oxygen content are also routinely checked. Dead eggs rise to the top of the jars and are siphoned off each day. At 60 degrees, hatching generally occurs on the eighth or ninth day of incubation. As the fry break out of their egg cases, they are carried upward by the water into large circular holding tanks where they are held for two to four days. Then they are ready for stocking.

All this activity means more fish in the frying pan for Kansas anglers. In fact, the hatching process makes Kansas walleye, sauger, and saugeye fishing possible. As snow melts across the Kansas landscape, waters warm and days grow longer. It won't be long before walleye anglers will be drifting lake flats across Kansas, searching for one of the tastiest fish that swim, an opportunity made possible by KDWP fisheries and hatchery biologists.