Musky are confused by the weather, and
so is the DNR
"It makes no sense."
BJ Bauer, fisheries specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, releases shows a vile of ovarian fluid collected from a female Muskie netted on Rebecca Lake in western Hennepin County near Independence during an annual egg and sperm gathering for stocking April 6, 2012. The fluid will be tested for diseases. (Pioneer Press: Dave Orrick) at all," Vanderbosch said. At the same time, "green" females, whose eggs aren't yet developed, are being netted.
Vanderbosch is guardedly optimistic that the DNR won't come up short when the season is over. The agency will gather enough eggs to raise enough fish in hatcheries to stock enough fry and fingerlings to supply anglers with enough fish to be caught in a few years. Most Minnesota lakes are stocked by natural reproduction of game fish, but many lakes popular among anglers are stocked with hatchery-raised fish, a process funded by fishing license sales. "We'll get our eggs, eventually," Vanderbosch said. "But a lot of the guys are getting tired."
Crews that collect fish and eggs are a combination of DNR staff and volunteers who spend a lot of time waist-deep in water, up to their necks in fish slime and even slurping semen on occasion. (The process for extracting milt, or sperm, from a male muskie involves inserting a tube into an orifice and sucking to create a siphon, much like the old-school way of pulling gas out of a fuel tank.) Because the process involves netting quantities of prized game fish and keeping them penned up overnight, many egg-gathering locations are staffed 24 hours to prevent thievery.
The DNR's egg-gathering program has backup plans, and Vanderbosch said he expects that the backup Muskie lake - Elk Lake near Lake Itasca - likely will have to be tapped.
The sporadic spawning season might lead to a low year for fish that hatch naturally, because early males might tire and leave the area before females drop their eggs. But Dirk Peterson, chief of the DNR's Fisheries Division, said fishermen need not necessarily worry. By the time the fish are grown, they might be plentiful. "Sometimes low natural reproduction can result in lower competition, which can lead to a healthy year class," Peterson said.