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DNR officials await annual walleye run

Each spring the walleyes make their spawning run between Lake Andrusia and Big Lake, and Department of Natural Resource Fisheries officials are waiting to greet them.

Typically, the males are the first to arrive, and a day or two later the females show up. When both sexes are represented spawning begins, and that is why the DNR officials are on hand.

"When we have a decent concentration of walleyes, about 20 to 25 fish, we'll begin collecting the eggs and the milt," said Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries Supervisor Gary Barnard.

"I think the walleyes will start to run very soon," Barnard added. "Based upon what I am seeing, I expect we'll be taking eggs next week. We usually take eggs for seven to 10 days, but I expect we may be in and out of there very quickly this year."

If the walleyes begin to run next week, it will represent the earliest egg take at the Big Lake Creek location since record keeping began in 1971. Prior to this year the record was April 9 in 1981 and the walleye run has begun as late as May 1 (1996).

This year's egg-take quota at the Big Lake Creek site is about 220 quarts of eggs. Those eggs will be trucked to the Park Rapids hatchery for incubation and, when the young walleyes reach the fry stage, the fish will be returned to Bemidji for stocking.

Those 220 quarts are ex-pected to yield almost 10 mil-lion fry. Most will be stocked into area lakes while another three million will be placed into rearing ponds and allowed to grow to the fingerling size. Once they reach that stage the young walleyes will be stocked into area waters.

Among the area lakes scheduled to receive walleye fry this summer are:

Andrusia (137,000), Moose (365,000), Plantagenet (740,000), Gull (1,900,000), Big (2,100,000), Long Lost (340,000), Big Rice (200,000), Little Rice (27,000), Kitchi (231,000), Big Wolf (126,000) and Cass (1,011,000).

DNR officials also man a hatchery on the Mississippi River near the Power Dam and that facility will be home to 359 quarts of eggs which will be taken from the Boy River. After being exposed to oxytetracycline (OTC), those young walleyes will be stocked into Leech and Woman lakes as part of a study.

"We have the capability at the Power Dam hatchery to mark the fish with OTC," Barnard said.

"We used OTC to help monitor the walleye population at Red Lake and we were the first hatchery to expand OTC marking to large fry stocking studies," Barnard said.

Fry marked with OTC can be traced later in their development and DNR officials can better obtain an accurate picture of a lake's walleye fishery by comparing OTC fish and non-OTC fish during future sampling.

The public is invited to visit the hatchery on the Power Dam Road east of Bemidji and observe the natural process of walleye eggs turning into walleye fry.

Another early spring DNR Fisheries project that is just around the corner is stocking trout in the area streams.

The stream trout season begins April 17 and area anglers have some options for opening day. Prior to the opener, DNR officials enhance the trout populations through stocking. This year the officials hope to have the stocking completed by April 16.

The spring yearling brook trout stocking schedule in-cludes 500 into the Necktie River and 300 into Sucker Brook.

The Clearwater River will receive 1,000 rainbow trout yearlings in April plus another 1,000 rainbows and 1,000 brown trout in May. Battle Brook near Kelliher is slated to receive 600 rainbows this month.South Long Lake near Itasca Park also will receive 14,500 yearling rainbow trout this month.

For more information on the walleye run or the trout stocking, contact the Bemidji DNR Fisheries office at 218-308-2339.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200