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05-21-03: Grand Lake walleye stocking begins

Fish from the earlier stockings now measure about 16 inches

The Daily Standard
    Ohio Division of Wildlife officials began releasing 718,000 walleye fingerlings into Grand Lake St. Marys this morning.
    Heading up the operation, as he has since walleye were first stocked in the lake in 1999, is St. Marys Fish Hatchery Supervisor Mort Pugh. The hatchery has 25 ponds where millions of fish are raised for stocking throughout Ohio.
    When Pugh checked the young fish late last week they were about an inch long and still needed to grow a bit to reach fingerling size, roughly 1 3/4 inches long. So far all indications are that this year's batch of walleye are healthy and eating well, he said.
    "They look really good and fat," Pugh said. "There are times when a pond will start to run out of food for the fish and they can look thin. We have no indication of that this year."
   The fingerlings are being released at several locations around the lake over a period of three to five days, depending on the weather, he said.
     Once this year's stocking is complete, the division will have stocked 52.8 million walleye in the lake since the program began. Fish from earlier stockings now measure about 14 to 16 inches long, according to reports from local fishermen and wildlife officials. The division will continue to stock walleye in Grand Lake for the time being, Fish Management Supervisor Doug Maloney announced earlier this year. The stocking program first began on an experimental basis five years ago.
    Pugh said the walleye eggs were harvested from the Maumee River on April 2 and April 12. Shock boats dangling electrodes into the water temporarily stun the adult fish, which float to the surface of the river. Wildlife officials then stripped the eggs from the females by gently squeezing their abdomens. Sperm from the males was mixed with the eggs in a pan and the fertilized eggs were shipped to the hatchery.
    The eggs hatched late last month and the young fish were then placed in ponds at the St. Marys hatchery where they continue to feed on an abundance of plankton in the water. Plankton is microscopic plant and animal life used as food by most aquatic life.
    Pugh said wildlife officials already stocked 257,740 walleye fry, measuring about 3/16 of an inch long, in the lake last month. They are so tiny that people in the hatchery business refer to them as "two eyes and a wiggle." It takes about five days after the eggs hatch for the fish to grow to fry size.
    This will be the fifth year walleye have been stocked in the lake and the third-year fingerlings - which have a better survival rate than fry- will be stocked.
    Other than the walleye stocking program, the St. Marys Fish Hatchery does not provide any other fish for stocking in Grand Lake St. Marys. Grand Lake is a self-sustaining lake, which is not stocked.
    The walleye stocked in Grand Lake will not be able to reproduce because they require rocky or gravel bottoms on which to lay their eggs and spawn, Pugh said. Grand Lake has a mostly clay and dirt bottom.
    The St. Marys Fish Hatchery last year raised a total of 5.15 million fish of five species, which were stocked in about 63 lakes around the state. Species raised include channel catfish, large mouth bass, saugeye, walleye and yellow perch.
    The hatchery also produced 6,500 pounds of fathead minnows which were used in muskellunge production at the London Fish Hatchery near Columbus and the Kincaid fish hatchery in southeast Ohio.


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