Minnesota Fish-Stocking Efforts Suffer in 2020

by Jon D. B.

Minnesota state’s fish-stocking efforts are among many conservation efforts impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the DNR reports.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources egg-taking efforts were hit hard by 2020. The number of fish entering lakes from DNR officials were greatly impacted throughout the year. As a result, anglers in the state may notice considerably less catches headed into 2021.

“The DNR’s stocking efforts typically rely heavily on collecting eggs in the spring from fish that then hatch at locations around the state,” Post Bulletin reports via the DNR. The fry that freshly hatch from these eggs then stock rearing ponds. From there, they grow into “fingerling size” weans before their release into Minnesota’s waters.

“This ended up being a productive year for fish stocking even as COVID-19 changed how we performed our work,” DNR central region fisheries manager Brian Nerbonne said in a release. ‘Productive,’ however, is a gray term in this instance. While hatchling numbers are down considerably, “our staff were able to find creative ways to stock fish in Minnesota waters,” Nerbonne states.

According to the report, no egg collection took place this past spring in the state. This means no fry went into rearing ponds, or subsequent fisheries. In comparison, The Glenwood DNR reared 22.9 million fry for local waterways.

COVID Halted Minnesota Fish-Stocking Efforts Entirely

“Collecting walleye eggs from spawning fish requires teams of six to eight people working closely together,” Post Bulletin notes. Naturally, this posed a huge health risk during the age of social distancing. As such, the entire, vital operation had to be halted.

Affected species include: walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, steelhead, bass, panfish, and pike.

There is a silver lining, however, DNR staff believes this pause will, ultimately, yield “little long-term impact on the state’s best walleye lakes that have some level of natural reproduction.”

“If you think about most lakes in general, there’s environmental variables that create strong year classes or poor year classes across a geographic area,” Glenwood DNR fisheries supervisor Bill McKibbin tells PB. “This is no different for our major walleye waters than a poor year class. We actually had some pretty good natural reproduction on a lot of lakes in our area.”

As for areas Minnesotans need to be wary of, McKibbin adds that any fisheries maintained by eggs & their subsequent fry will be hit the hardest. Most of the affected locales are small bodies of water where locals fish bass, panfish, and pike.

Thankfully, local waters will receive a boost this year. 2021 will see “make-up” fish-stocking efforts from Glenwood DNR. How big of a “make-up” can anglers expect? A whopping 6.2 million.

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[Sourced: Post Bulletin]