Indiana gets all the eggs it needs for state muskie stocking from all-important Lake Webster
Despite the low number of adult muskies now present in Lake Webster, Indiana DNR fisheries biologists were able to catch enough females this spring to obtain nearly 500,000 eggs.
That amount fills the annual quota needed to support Indiana’s muskie stocking program.
Biologists captured 88 muskies in trap nets set over an eight-day period in late March and early April at the 774-acre lake in Kosciusko County. Fifty were adult males and 24 were adult females.
From this group, five females were “ripe” enough to provide nearly 11 quarts of eggs that were stripped from the fish, fertilized with milt from males, and then transported to the Fawn River Hatchery in Orland.
The eggs were then shipped to the East Fork Hatchery in southwest Indiana, where they will hatch and eventually produce 20,000 muskie fingerlings that will be stocked in 14 waters throughout the state.
Muskie stockings are necessary because few muskie eggs and newly hatched fry can survive in the wild in Indiana. As a result, the entire stocking program depends on the egg-take at Lake Webster.
Biologists have had difficulty trapping enough ripe females in recent years as the population has declined. They say a combination of factors ranging from changes in hatchery production methods to changes in habitat conditions contributed to the decline.
To counter the decline, biologists are now stocking larger muskie fingerlings that have a better chance of survival and have put limits on the amount of weed control at the lake to provide more cover for young muskies.
Apparently, efforts to boost the population are speeding recovery.
Twenty-seven muskies less than 30 inches long were captured during the trapping operation.
“That’s the highest number of young muskies we’ve caught in 10 years,” said Jed Pearson, DNR biologist.
Five of the young muskies were stocked last spring in a group of 1,500 fingerlings that were tagged before release. They averaged 12 inches long when stocked and are already 20 inches long.
“Based on this, anglers should have more muskies to catch in the coming years and egg-taking for us should get a little easier,” Pearson said.
— Indiana DNR