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Stocking fish means avoiding winterkill

The DNR annually stocks local lakes with walleye and a few bodies of water with rainbow trout and muskie. The goal is to grow larger fish like this 24" walleye, a prime natural producer of additional walleye. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Park Rapids area fish stocking for 2009 is complete, offering anglers additional opportunities to be successful on the water in the future.

Fish like walleye, muskie and trout are raised in local rearing ponds for stocking Minnesota's lakes, but the process has many variables, one of which is climate.

Park Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor Doug Kingsley commented this week on the changing situation. "We've been having difficult times with our ponds in the last decade or more. Many of the problems seem to be related to mild winters or abnormal weather patterns.

We aren't able to harvest all the walleye from any of our ponds, some always manage to evade our trap nets. In normal winters most of our ponds would winterkill and those 'carryover' walleye or any undesirable fish would die from lack of oxygen."

"In recent years we are not seeing winterkill situations as frequently as we used to," says Kingsley.

"That's detrimental because either carryover walleye or other fish will prey on the walleye fry when they are stocked in the pond again, or they will compete with the newly stocked walleye fry. In either case, survival, growth and/or condition of the new walleye fry will be poor.

Even last winter, which seemed a little closer to normal, it appears we didn't see any winterkill in any of our rearing ponds. In other cases, water levels in some of our ponds have been low. That can result in high temperatures or low oxygen and summer fish kills. If these symptoms are an indication of climate change, we may be in for a lot more in the future."

Walleye fingerlings:

"We had a walleye fingerling stocking quota of 6,400 pounds for 15 lakes in the Park Rapids Fish Management Area," Kingsley said.

"We had a terrible year for production from natural walleye rearing ponds in our area, so most of the fingerlings came from other areas (Bemidji, Glenwood, Ortonville and Brainerd).

"In addition, we received 1,253 pounds of walleye fingerlings from a private contractor that were stocked in Fish Hook Lake. That contract had already been arranged prior to the fall harvest."

Muskellunge fingerlings:

"We had a pretty good year of production from our drainable muskie rearing ponds. We produced just under 5,000 (4,965) muskie fingerlings," says Kingsley.

"The DNR only stocks Big Mantrap in the Park Rapids area with muskies. We stock Big Mantrap in even numbered years, so this was not a stocking year for that lake. The muskies that we raised went to stock Little Wolf and Plantagenet in the Bemidji Management Area, Vermillion in the Tower Mgmt. Area, the Mississippi River in the Brainerd Mgmt. Area, and Pleasant Lake in the East Metro Mgmt. Area," Kingsley added.

"This was a year that we took eggs from muskies at Leech Lake in order to maintain genetic diversity in our brood stock lakes, so a portion of the muskie fingerlings we raised were stocked back into Leech."