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

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Hatcheries operate if shutdown occurs

By Tim
Associate Editor

St. Paul — Should Minnesota legislators and the governor end a
stalemate and settle on a budget for the next two years, life
happily will go on at DNR fish hatcheries. And if they don’t,
department officials say fish-rearing activity shouldn’t face much
of a setback; at least one staffer will be available at each
hatchery, and at coldwater (trout) hatcheries, possibly two.

“We’ll carry on business as usual — fish feeding, production,
raceway cleaning,” said Ed Stork, fish hatchery supervisor in
Lanesboro. Spring stocking is complete, he said, and trout don’t
spawn until fall.

Stork said what would be most noticeable if a partial government
shutdown occurs, is the closing of facility tours.

Walleye hatcheries, too, have completed the stocking that needs
to be done in the spring.

“They were moving a lot of fish out this week,” said Roy
Johannes, DNR commercial fisheries manager. More tasks would be
needed to be done at cold-water hatcheries, but staff for hatchery
duties had been deemed “essential” and would be retained in case of
a continued budget impasse.

“But that’s just bare bones, to keep things going,” Johannes

Bruce Pittman, DNR hatchery specialist in Waterville, said fry
and frylings had been disbursed, and that they’d finished stocking
muskie transplants.

The Waterville hatchery consists of 30 acres of ponds, primarily
for walleyes and channel catfish.

Bruce Gilbertson, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Spicer, said
the New London hatchery continues to produce walleye frylings.
However, he said, “We’ve already exceeded our original goal for the
production of frylings, but there are still fish available, so we
continue to harvest and move them to where they can be

Frylings (bigger than fry, smaller than fingerlings) are stocked
to lakes or rearing ponds,” Gilbertson said.

The New London hatchery contains about 40 acres of fish-rearing

More noticeable should the DNR not receive funding by July 1,
will be that fisheries personnel won’t be available to answer
questions from the public, or to aid lake associations. Shoreline
restoration efforts also would suffer, Pittman said.

Another major summer effort for DNR fisheries are lake surveys,
“snapshots” of the state’s lakes that are done periodically to
determine fish populations in lakes, and to help in the creation of
lake management plans. Some could be delayed for a year, Gilbertson

“One of the interesting things is, with much of the work we do,
we don’t get an immediate response,” he said. “Lake surveys set the
direction for several years; with walleye stocking you might not
see the results for three to five years.”

Pittman, a state employee for 27 years, said he hasn’t worked
through a government shutdown during that time and expects it would
be avoided this time. “But there’s always a first time,” he

Creel survey

A fish study in northeastern Minnesota could hit a temporary
bump in the road should a budget compromise not be reached.

Earlier this year, personnel from the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe
and the 1854 Authority tagged walleyes on three lakes in the far
north. Anglers have been placing recovered tags in boxes at lake
access sites, and they’ve also been interviewed by creel clerks
hired by the state DNR — clerks that likely wouldn’t be available
in the case of a shutdown.

However, Persons said the Fond du Lac Band might consider
“covering” for displaced state workers.

“They have a strong interest in continuing the creel survey,” he
said. Boxes would continue to be available for tags, and
information could still be mailed to the DNR office for future

The lakes being studied this year are Caribou, Crescent, and the
Fish Lake Reservoir. The focus of the study is angler walleye
exploitation, Persons said.

“We want to estimate angler exploitation,” he said. “We don’t
really have those values for lakes in this neck of the woods. Our
data and that from Fond du Lac electrofishing (surveys) indicate
that on these lakes exploitation might be high.”

The intent is to similarly examine other area lakes next year,
Persons said.

Jack Wingate, DNR Fisheries research manager, said the
department had requested just the three creel clerks working Lake
Mille Lacs be kept on as “essential” in the event of a partial
government shutdown. As of Outdoor News press time, that request
hadn’t been OK’d Wingate said.

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