Muskegon River anglers should be on the lookout for Michigan Department of Natural Resources personnel collecting walleye eggs below Croton Dam this spring. Electrofishing boats will be on the water this week, starting Thursday, March 25, and work should conclude by April 16. People who want to avoid the walleye collection activities should fish downstream.
The DNR asks the public to use caution when fishing near the electrofishing boats. Anyone wading nearby when boats approach will be asked to exit the water to ensure everyone’s safety.
To maintain effective social distancing and allow fisheries staff to safely, efficiently college eggs, the DNR also asks people not to gather at egg collection sites.
“The annual Muskegon River egg take is a critical operation for statewide walleye management,” said Jim Dexter, DNR Fisheries Division chief. “We’re planning to collect about 32 million walleye eggs during this effort.”
That collective egg take will result in fry (fish that have just hatched) for transfer to rearing ponds and direct fry plants throughout the Lower Peninsula. Walleye fry transferred to ponds will be raised to fingerling size (approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches) and stocked in late spring or early summer in lakes and rivers throughout the state.
Lake Michigan and many inland lake walleye populations in the Lower Peninsula depend on the fingerlings produced from Muskegon River eggs. The size of the walleye spawning run in the Muskegon River is about 40,000 to 50,000 fish each year. DNR crews will strip milt (sperm) and eggs from approximately 500 adult fish, which will be returned to the river – except for 60, which will be sent to Michigan State University for fish health testing.
“This adult population consists of mostly stocked fish,” said Ed Pearce, DNR fisheries technician supervisor who coordinates the egg take. “The Muskegon River has the largest run of walleye in the Lake Michigan watershed south of Green Bay.”
Three to four days of fish collections are planned this spring. The date those collections will begin depends on water temperatures and the presence of ripe fish. This schedule can change daily for many reasons, but it is anticipated most work will be completed from the last week of March through the second week of April.
Walleye collection usually begins at Croton Dam each day about 8:30 a.m. and proceeds downstream to the Pine Street access Site. If more eggs are needed, additional collections may occur downstream to the Thornapple Street access site.