Michigan DNR Will Continue Limited Walleye Production in 2009

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Michigan DNR Will Continue Limited Walleye Production in 2009The Department of Natural Resources will continue limited production of walleye fry for the 2009 season as a precaution against spreading viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) into inland waters, fisheries officials announced today.

“We still don’t have all the information we’d like on VHS,” said Gary Whelan, DNR fish production manager. “We’d rather be cautious than risk being a vector for spreading this disease.”

VHS has been found in various parts of the Great Lakes and connecting waterways, which is where the best walleye broodstock sources are located.

Fisheries staffers will take eggs and milt from walleyes in the Muskegon River and Little Bay de Noc. The Saginaw Bay/Tittabawassee strain will not be used again this year. Only the Thompson State Fish Hatchery will be used to incubate eggs as it maintains a separate facility that will prevent the spread of potential VHS into steelhead-rearing facilities should infection occur. In addition, fisheries staffers will evaluate the feasibility of rearing additional walleye at private and tribal facilities.

Walleye egg-take will be spaced out over several weeks to maximize production, which will still be limited to six million fry if the outside facilities are not used. Fry spend only three to five days at the hatchery before being transferred to off-site rearing ponds which require a large amount of DNR effort. Many external walleye rearing ponds exist throughout the state, but only those that are non-drainable will be used for rearing in 2009.

Currently, there is no proven method for disinfecting walleye eggs. All adult brood stock will be tested for VHS, as will samples of walleye fry and fingerlings before they are stocked. Fingerlings will be stocked only in inland lakes in 2009 that have no inlets or outlets or into lakes with direct connections to the Great Lakes. No fingerlings will be stocked in the Lake Superior watershed. Thus, the program will be the same as was used in 2008, but is much expanded from 2007 when DNR did not raise any walleye statewide.

“If we can develop an effective method of disinfecting walleye eggs, we can increase production in the future,” Whelan said. “In the meantime, we’d prefer to err on the side of caution rather than risk spreading VHS to new waters.”

For more detailed information on this subject, the public should visit the Fisheries Division section of the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.