I spent a few days out of the office recently; might as well tell you about it. . . .
Spring is a busy time for fisheries workers. Once the ice is gone, one species after another starts spawning. We have a variety of crews busy collecting eggs for producing fish to stock, then there is sampling that needs to be done, some tagging projects, etc., etc. In the spring it is “all hands on deck”.
Pretty much every year of my career I have been on one Nebraska reservoir or another helping collect walleye eggs. That is an annual spring tradition for many of us. Unfortunately, the stinkin’ pandemic altered staffing and logistics the past couple of years. As a result, this year was the first in three years that I was able to get back in the field and help with walleye egg collections. I have to say it was refreshing to get out of the office, great to again work with a bunch of our great Fisheries staff, and to actually get my hands on fish! In short, it was nice to be a fisheries biologist again!
Our crews had finished collecting walleye eggs at Sherman Reservoir about a week ago. I “shipped out” to Merritt to help with the effort there. We were right in the middle of active spawning activity and collected all the walleye eggs needed in just four days! A few more walleye eggs may be collected from McConaughy in another week. It is a good idea to spread the collections out over time and from different reservoirs so all of our walleye eggs are not in one basket. (pun intended) Like pretty much every year, we have had no problem collecting enough walleye eggs to fill all of our stocking requests (that would be a total of over 900 quarts of walleye eggs).
I am not going to review the whole process. If you wish, check out this blog post for details, Walleye Spawn 2019. I am also told we have some new video on the whole walleye egg collection operation coming soon, “stay tuned”.
I spent one net helping collect fish with the “night crew” on Merritt. We had a great evening!
Collecting male walleyes is never a problem, we had all we wanted in a short time electrofishing.
Then, we had a record night collecting females. By 1:00 in the morning we had 400 female walleyes in the cribs (OK, the precise number was 398, a couple slipped away). Let’s just say there were livewells full of female walleyes all night long.
In fact, we caught so many fish, I jumped in and took a swim when we got done (another story for another time, wink).
Here is a photo of the night netting crew. Oh yes, at Merritt we see a few muskies too.
We are doing some work with the muskies too, some tagging that will give us information on Nebraska muskies that we have never had before. Again, I am just going to tease you with that–another topic for another blog post some time.
After a few short hours of sleep, I was back out to the reservoir the next morning for the actual collection of the walleye eggs.
Here is some of the morning “egg squeezing” crew with a representative selection of the female walleyes collected:
In short order, we had hatching jars full of walleye eggs!
That is why we were able to complete that work in such a short amount of time!
This work goes on every spring. The walleyes are doing their thing about April 1 no matter the weather. That means our crews work night and day, regardless of conditions until we collect all the eggs needed to meet every walleye stocking request. It is cold, wet, and at times, tiring work. But, we love what we do, and we love the end product! It is our pleasure!