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DNR starts annual egg collection to support fish stocking operation

Steelhead trout

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is starting spring work on maintaining the state’s fish population.

The DNR saysit expects to collect about 30 million eggs from walleye in the Muskegon River in the coming weeks. The state also collects eggs from steelhead on the Little Manistee River.

Ed Eisch is the DNR’s fish production program manager. He says egg collection supports the state’s fish stocking operations.

“Because some situations, you might have such things as lack of appropriate spawning habitat that keep fish from being able to reproduce naturally and provide a totally self-sustaining fishery,” he says.

There are lots of reasons why Michigan’s fish might not be able to find a natural place to spawn. Eisch says one culprit is the state’s sandy soil, which often runs off into rivers to create a less-than-ideal situation for fish looking to spawn.

Beaver dams can also block spawning habitat, according to Eisch. And then there are the man-made barriers: dams and poorly designed road crossings that fish can’t navigate.

Michigan has been stocking its lakes and rivers with extra fish for decades now.

Eisch says the cold spring meant that work is getting underway a little late this year.

“We’re probably running a little later than normal,” Eisch says. “I don’t expect that to have any impact on the timing of either the walleye or the steelhead egg-take operations though.”

The DNR estimates its hatcheries produce tens of millions of extra fish each year.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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