Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Nebraska walleye population gets boost with annual ‘eggs-travaganza’

Walleye egg-collecting is a big deal in Minnesota – the land of walleyes. But the egg-collecting effort, as shown here on the Whitefish Chain in north-central Minnesota several years ago, is in a holding pattern because of the weather. Not so in Nebraska, where walleye egg-collecting started April 2. (Photo by Brian Peterson)

In Minnesota, it’s a sign that the open-water fishing season is around the corner.

This year, that might be an especially tight corner.

No such worries in Nebraska.

Walleye egg-collecting is a rite of spring at a number of premier walleye fisheries across Minnesota – a premier walleye-fishing destination. It typically starts soon after ice-out, around the time of the spawn, usually wrapping up a few weeks before the state fishing opener, held annually the second Saturday in May.

But with continued winter weather across the state into April, on top of thick ice on many fisheries showing no signs of diminishing, this prelude to the opener remains up in the (cold) air in Minnesota.

But in a Nebraska, an underrated if not unknown walleye-fishing destination, it’s business as usual. Even with a colder spring by Nebraska standards, walleye egg-collecting kicked off without a hitch Monday, April 2. Sherman Reservoir, Merritt Reservoir and Lake McConaughy were again selected as walleye egg-collection locations, according to a news release from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Gill netting at night along the dam will capture female walleyes, while an electroshocking boat will collect males, the release said, adding that collecting efforts will take place during the mornings and fertilized eggs will be transferred to Nebraska state fish hatcheries for hatching. All adult walleyes are released back into the waterways, the release said.

As of April 1, a designated area along the dam at Sherman is closed to bank anglers and boats following sunset; the collection at Sherman started the night of April 2, according to the NGPC. Anglers and boaters are asked to avoid Nebraska Game and Parks boats and nets, the NGPC said in the release. It added that, depending on collection results at Sherman, crews will begin collections at Merritt on or before April 7 and at McConaughy during the week of April 16. Netting will continue until the egg quota has been met, the NGPC said.

Crews should finish work at Sherman by April 6, at Merritt by April 13, and at McConaughy by April 18, depending on netting success and weather, the release said.

The collection goal, so as to meet 2018 walleye stocking requests, is approximately 88 million eggs (700 quarts), and the NGPC is scheduled to stock nearly 31.6 million walleye, ranging in size from fry to 8-inch advanced fingerlings, into public waters across the state.

Two years ago in Minnesota, the DNR collected 4,500 quarts of walleye eggs at 10 operations throughout the state, resulting in 360 million fry for stocking. That year, egg collecting wrapped up April 29 – 15 days before the opener.

That could be considerably later this year, for an opener that comes two days earlier than in 2016. Nebraska, also experiencing a cool spring, has no official opener – or walleye closure: Hook-and-line fishing for walleyes and most other species is allowed year-round throughout the state, except as noted/posted.

“With the cooler spring Nebraska is seeing this year, the collection lakes will be cooler as the netting starts,” Jim Gleim, fish production manager for Game and Parks, said in the release. “This may slow down the spawn initially and the spawning crews may be out a bit longer this year.”

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