OH: St. Marys stocking plans nixed for ’11

Lake troubled by toxic algae issues

Columbus – As the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and
others work to correct the pollution issues causing toxic algae
blooms at Grand Lake St. Marys, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has
responded to the situation by suspending its only fish stocking
program at the big lake.

Ray Petering, fisheries biologist with the Inland Fisheries
Program, said the stocking of triploid saugeye has been temporarily
suspended due to the water quality, contact and fish consumption
advisories issued by the EPA and Ohio Department of Health.

“We are hoping this is a short-term thing,” Petering said. “We’re
taking it a year at a time. We hope conditions at the lake get
better quickly and we’ll resume stocking as soon as conditions
approve.

“The EPA is doing things in the lake and watershed and we hope it
can turn things in the right direction,” he said.

Saugeyes are the only fish stocked at St. Marys and the triploid
strain is produced only for the St. Mary’s program. Although
saugeyes, a hybrid of sauger and walleye, normally do not
reproduce, some can prove to be fertile. Because sauger do not
occur in the Lake Erie watershed and St. Marys straddles the Lake
Erie and Ohio River watersheds, a strain of the hybrid was needed
that did not have the potential of interbreeding with Lake Erie
walleye.

Under the terms of Great Lakes Commission regulations, Ohio agreed
not to stock regular saugeye in tributaries of Lake Erie.

At one time, Petering said, the state tried to stock walleyes at
St. Marys, but they failed to thrive in the warm, shallow, turbid
waters of the lake. Saugeyes, however, have done well at other old
canal-feeder lakes like Buckeye and Indian lakes.

“They’re more suited to the environment than walleye,” he
added.

To create the triploid strain, a pressure shock is administered to
the developing eggs, Petering explained. It makes production of
fingerlings for stocking more difficult and they are still working
on improving the process to produce enough fingerlings for the
stocking program. And for a lake the size of St. Marys – 12,680
acres – hundreds of thousands could be stocked without overstocking
the lake. (The normal stocking rate is about 104 per acre.)

“We’re limited because of the technique for producing the
fingerlings,” Petering said. “It’s a new technology for us. It’s a
work in progress.”

In 2009, 23,794 fingerlings were stocked and in 2010 the number
climbed to 195,330. Most of the production occurred at the London
Fish Hatchery. That will be suspended until the stocking program
resumes.

Some of the fish stocked the first year could start showing up in
angler catches this year.

“It takes a couple of years for the fish to reach a size of
interest to anglers,” Petering said. “We hate to see a gap (in the
development of the fishery), but that’s the way it is.”

Meanwhile, although the saugeye population is relatively small, the
biologists will still be watching how it develops.

“We’ll be spending a fair amount of time on the lake studying a
number of issues,” Petering said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on
them.”

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