Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Joe Albert

Lanesboro, Minn. — Ed Stork walked onto a section of dock
extending over the blue water of one of the ponds at the state
cold-water fish hatchery in Lanesboro.

As soon as he set foot on the section, the majority of the
pond’s 150,000 rainbow trout yearlings rushed to the area, making
the water dark and roiled. The rainbows fought among each other to
get to the pellets Stork, the hatchery’s manager, threw into the
pond.

For now, these fish rely on Stork and others to feed them.
Within weeks, the ponds will be empty, the fish scattered to
various lakes and streams throughout the state.

The Lanesboro hatchery, as well as the Peterson, Crystal
Springs, French River, and Spire Valley hatcheries all are gearing
up for the deposit of yearling and fingerling rainbow trout, brown
trout, and lake trout.

The fish will be stocked in nearly every kind of water in the
state — from trout streams on the North Shore and in the
southeast, to iron ore pits near Brainerd and elsewhere, to
two-story lakes like Bad Medicine, where trout compete with other
fish like northern pike and walleyes.

The five hatcheries produce the millions of trout that are
stocked each spring and fall.

Lanesboro hatchery

The Lanesboro hatchery produces nearly a million combined
rainbow trout and brown trout fingerlings and yearlings for
stocking each year.

The hatchery has nearly 800,000 trout on hand for this spring’s
stocking: 548,430 brown trout fingerlings, 22,600 rainbow trout
fingerlings, 31,123 brown trout yearlings, and 184,050 rainbow
trout yearlings.

The hatchery’s trout are stocked throughout the state, though
nearly 530,000 brown trout fingerlings are slated to be released in
trout streams in the southeast, while about 90,000 rainbow trout
yearlings will be spread across mines, streams, and lakes in
northern areas.

The brown trout fingerlings are stocked in streams that don’t
have enough natural reproduction to maintain fishable populations,
said Jim Wagner, DNR area fisheries manager in Lanesboro.

About 80 percent of the streams in the southeast are managed as
wild, which means their trout populations are strong enough to
sustain themselves without stocking.

Unlike brown trout, rainbow trout are stocked to be caught by
anglers. They’re often placed in areas of high fishing pressure,
like urban fisheries, or for special events.

“The goal behind stocking catchable rainbows is to get as much
return as possible,” Wagner said.

Crystal Springs hatchery

Whereas Lanesboro’s fish head all over the state, many of the
fish produced at Crystal Springs stay local.

The hatchery produces yearling rainbow trout, fingerling brook
trout, lake trout, and splake, which are a lake trout and brook
trout hybrid.

The vast majority of the 28,500 yearling rainbow trout will go
into Whitewater, and between 25,000 and 30,000 fingerling brook
trout will go into various streams in the southeast. A small
portion will be stocked north, in places like Brainerd and Detroit
Lakes, said Kevin Cook, the assistant manager at the hatchery.

The number of stocked rainbow trout has increased as suitable
habitat and fishing pressure has increased.

“It provides some additional opportunities and takes some
pressure off the wild brown trout out there,” Cook said.

Peterson hatchery

The Peterson hatchery produces lake trout for inland lakes, as
well as splake.

This spring, about 101,300 lake trout fingerlings will be taken
from Peterson and stocked in lakes around Brainerd, Hinckley, Grand
Marais, and International Falls.

The hatchery also has raised more than the usual 2,000 to 5,000
splake for stocking this spring. Within weeks, 6,100 splake will be
stocked around Aitkin, Grand Rapids, Duluth, and Ely, said Lee
Peterson, hatchery manager.

Spire Valley hatchery

While the brook trout from the Crystal Springs hatchery are
meant to re-establish wild populations, nearly all of the 27,000 to
30,000 yearlings stocked from Spire Valley hatchery are meant
solely for anglers to catch, said manager Gary Mattson.

The most fish — 5,750 yearlings — will be spread among five
lakes in the Finland area.

In the mid-1990s, after a kidney disease took a toll on the
brook trout it had been using, the hatchery began using a domestic
strain from St. Croix Falls.

“They grow like weeds when you put them out in the pond,”
Mattson said. Yet, at least in the Brainerd area, many see few
seasons of growing in the wild. Mattson sees brookies between 9 and
14 inches, but 17- and 18-inchers are rare, he said.

French River hatchery

The vast majority of fish produced at the French River hatchery
are stocked in Lake Superior, just yards downstream from the
hatchery.

The French River hatchery produces Kamloops rainbow trout,
steelhead, and chinook salmon. This spring, about 110,000 Kamloops
yearlings, 40,000 steelhead yearlings, and 42,000 chinook salmon
yearlings will be stocked. In some years, as many as 355,000
chinook salmon yearlings are stocked, but a lack of eggs led to the
decline in yearlings, according to the hatchery.

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