Let’s see, snowed yesterday, more forecast for later this week, it is below freezing, ice just melted, it is cloudy, the wind is blowing, and the calendar says first week in April. Yep, must be time for the walleye spawn!
Our Nebraska Game & Parks Commission fisheries crews will be hitting the water starting this week to collect the walleye eggs needed for stocking walleyes around the state this year. Here are the details:
Walleye egg collections begin April 2
LINCOLN, Neb. – Fisheries staff at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission again this spring will capture spawning walleyes to collect eggs to meet stocking requests.
Sherman Reservoir, Merritt Reservoir and Lake McConaughy have again been selected locations for this operation. The collection goal to meet 2018 walleye stocking requests is approximately 88 million eggs (700 quarts).
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 will begin the night of April 2. Anglers and boaters are asked to avoid Nebraska Game and Parks boats and nets.
Depending on the collection results at Sherman, crews will begin collections at Merritt on or before April 7 and at McConaughy during the week of April 16.
The netting of walleyes will continue until the egg quota has been met. Gill netting along the dam at night will capture female walleyes, while an electroshocking boat will collect males. Spawning operations will take place on the lake during the mornings and fertilized eggs will be transferred to Nebraska state fish hatcheries for hatching. All adult walleye are released back into the lake.
“With the cooler spring Nebraska is seeing this year, the collection lakes will be cooler as the netting starts,” said Jim Gleim, fish production manager for Game and Parks. “This may slow down the spawn initially and the spawning crews may be out a bit longer this year.”
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.
Nebraska Game and Parks this year is scheduled to stock nearly 31.6 million walleye, ranging in size from fry to 8-inch advanced fingerlings, into public water bodies across the state.
You all know that I do not get out and do field work all the time anymore, but I usually get out at least a night or two to help with the walleye egg collections. I am pretty sure I have “squeezed walleyes” every year since I started working for this outfit 30 years ago. I imagine I have handled thousands of walleyes as have all of our personnel helping with walleye egg collections. It is a right of spring, something we look forward to each year. Oh sure, there have been a lot of cold, miserable nights, some in the ice and snow, and that ain’t too much fun, but I love seeing all those adult walleyes!
That picture was a few years back, it was one of the biggest walleyes I have ever seen, a 13-pounder from Harlan County Reservoir. We collected a quarter million eggs from that one fish! Unlike the fish population sampling we do where we are trying to capture a representative sample of all sizes of fish, when we are collecting walleyes for egg collections, we are targeting adult fish, some of the biggest fish in a population. I can tell you from collecting spawning walleyes over the years, I have seen hundreds, maybe thousands of 8- and maybe 9-pound walleyes, but anything larger than that is a rare fish. Honest-to-goodness 10-pound walleyes are few and far between, and I can count on one hand the number of walleyes I have seen as large as that 13-pounder from Harlan years ago. Those are special fish and it is really cool to get to see, and even handle some of them, wet and cold as it may be.