Grand Lake St. Marys to make switch to saugeyes

St. Marys, Ohio – The DNR Division of Wildlife will discontinue
walleye stocking at Grand Lake St. Marys this spring in favor of a
saugeye program, said Ray Petering, administrator of fish
management.

Begun in 1999, walleye stocking at Grand Lake has failed to meet
the division’s expectations, according to Petering. The lake’s
natural turbidity and temperature spikes in the summer have been
contributing factors.

“There was a little bit of success in the tailwater (below the
dam), but that was about all,” he said.

Elmer Heyob, the division’s hatcheries administrator, expects to
put about 100,000 saugeye fingerlings in Grand Lake by mid-May as
part of a pilot program for that popular sport fish. A saugeye is a
cross between a female walleye and a male sauger.

Heyob believes saugeyes will thrive in Grand Lake for exactly
the same reasons that walleyes didn’t. Saugeyes prefer warm, turbid
water, the fisheries biologist said.

Hand-dug in the 1830s to supply water for the nearby Miami-Erie
Canal, Grand Lake’s 10,000 water acres present particular
geographic and hydrologic challenges to biologists. The lake
straddles the state’s Ohio River and Lake Erie watersheds, meaning
its waters flow both ways. Fish stocked there could potentially end
up in either body of water.

So, the Grand Lake fish will be a special type of saugeye to
avoid that possibility. To make sure the genetics of Ohio River
sauger don’t end up in Lake Erie, biologists plan to develop
triploid saugeye for Grand Lake – fish that are completely
incapable of reproducing, Heyob said.

The project is not without some precedent. About 15 years ago,
the division developed a limited number of triploid saugeye as part
of a research program. However, there was no general production at
that time.

During the first week of April, DOW staff will collect eggs from
walleyes at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield and fertilize
them with milt from Ohio River saugers. Using a device called a
pressure shocker, fisheries personnel will quickly render the
fertilized eggs sterile.

“They must go into the pressure shocker within five minutes of
spawning and stay for 10 minutes,” Heyob said.

The whole process is both high tech and costly, he added. One
pressure shocker costs about $28,000. It will take at least seven
staff members to handle the many steps and observe all division
protocols for avoiding disease contamination.

The fertilized eggs will be held at the London State Fish
Hatchery for early testing for viral hemorrhagic septicemia, then
go on to the hatchery at St. Marys.

Heyob expects to gather at least 20 quarts of walleye eggs from
C.J. Brown in order to get the 100,000 fingerlings needed for Grand
Lake.

“Creating triploids takes a lot more eggs,” he said. “And, it
comes at a cost.”

If all goes well, the stocked saugeyes should be 7 to 10 inches
by spring of 2010 and a catchable 13 to 17 inches a year later.

The DOW already stocks saugeye in about 47 Ohio lakes where they
are a popular pursuit of anglers.

“They are good to eat – better than walleye,” Heyob opined.

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