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Local hatcheries are key to trout fishing in Minnesota

Fri, Sep 5th, 2003
Posted in Features

Editors note: The Minnesota DNR, in consultation with interested parties, have put together a ten-year plan for improving trout fishing in southeastern Minnesota. This includes increasing the numbers of trophy size trout by improving habitat and implementing new fishing regulations (see accompanying story). The plan includes specific guidelines for the use of hatchery-raised trout. The Journal asked Janette Dragvold to look at the Lanesboro and Peterson hatcheries, which have been a part of the local scene since the 1920s.

An increasingly common sight along the Root River and its tributary branches are people standing on the banks or in the water with a fishing pole in their han ds. Whether they want a fish fry for supper, a huge fish to add to their trophy collection, or are just part of the catch and release program, they all have one main goal in commonto catch fish. And in Southeastern Minnesota, trout are the main draw for anglers. While fishing is an important part of Minnesota culture, it is necessary to make sure that the fish arent over harvested. Thats where the State Fish Hatcheries come into play. Of the five State Hatcheries in Minnesota that raise cold water species, three of them are located in the Southeastern corner of the state. Crystal Springs State Fish Hatchery in Winona County raises lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout and splake (which are a cross between lake trout and brook trout). The Peterson State Fish Hatchery raises lake trout for in-land lakes and splake. The Lanesboro State Fish Hatchery raises brown trout and rainbow trout. Cold water fish species need cold, well oxygenated, pollution-free water to live. The only reason were located here is because of the spring water, says Lee Peterson of the Peterson Hatchery. Both the Lanesboro and Peterson Hatcheries have been producing fish for quite a few years. Lanesboro started in 1925 on the site of an old grist mill, while Peterson began as a privately owned operation 1940, but was purchased by the state in 1988. Both of the facilities operating procedures are fairly similar, but there are a few differences because of the types of fish that they raise. Breeding and fish productionIn both hatcheries the fish are randomly picked out for breeding. However, every two years, members from the Peterson Hatchery have to go up north to capture wild adults to use as future brood stock. All of the fish eggs are fertilized by hand. In about four weeks the eggs will become eyed which means that the eyes of the baby fish can be seen. The eyed eggs go through different processes to separate the live eggs from the dead eggs. Usually only about 10%-15% of the eggs die. After the fish hatch they are called sac fry because they still have a yolk sac attached which feeds them for about three weeks. After their sac is used up the fish begin to swim around and are known as swim-up fry. When they reach this stage they need to start being fed. They are fed small amounts of fish feed consisting of fish meal protein, vegetable fat, vitamins, and minerals. As with most animals, the smaller the fish the more often it will need to eat, so they are fed 12-16 times per day by hand. Later on, they are fed mechanically over a 12 hour time period, but the larger they get the less frequently they are fed. Fish eight months to two years old are fed four to five times per day while brood stock are fed two to three times per day. Unlike most animals however, fish are very efficient when it comes to converting food to flesh. When the fish outgrow their holding tank half of them are moved to a different container to prevent overcrowding. You have to be careful that you dont overcrowd your fish or run them with too little water, says Ed Stork of the Lanesboro State Fish Hatchery. Disease prevention Having a large number of fish in one area makes the prevention of disease very important. To minimize the possibility of diseases, fish holding areas are cleaned frequently. Fingerling tanks are cleaned every day, seven days per week. Intermediate fish rearing containers are cleaned two to three times per week and the large fish raceways are cleaned once a week. The waste is run through a system similar to the slurry used on large dairy farms. Another way to help prevent disease is by insisting that all the employees use iodine to disinfect themselves before working in the indoor tank areas. If a disease does occur the fish are sent to the pathology lab to find out what the problem is and how it may be treated. When the fish are ready to be transported, they are loaded into a specially prepared tank truck. The water in the tank contains an anti-foaming agent, salt, and pure gaseous oxygen, which is administered into the water through oxygen diffuser stones. Electric agitators mix the oxygen and water while air scoops carry off carbon dioxide. With the tanks prepared in this way, it is possible for the trout to survive in the tank for 12 hours or more. This is necessary because a large majority of the fish are taken up to the northern part of the state. To keep track of fish populations in Southeastern Minnesota, streams are inventoried by using fish electro-shockers which momentarily stun the fish. This makes it easier for fishery workers to collect data such as lengths, weights, take scale samples and mark fish for various research purposes, such as monitoring their survival rate in the wild. An essential part of having a successful fish hatchery is the water quality. Since Southeastern Minnesota is full of sink holes and very porous rock it is important for the area fish hatcheries to know where their water comes from in case of accidental pollution. The area is in the process of mapping the ground water so that if a problem does occur, the hatcheries will be able to divert the contaminated water around the facility instead of through it to decrease fish casualties. All of these precautions wont help the hatcheries and their fish if the public doesnt do their part to ensure good water quality. We live in a very fragile and sensitive environment here in Southeastern Minnesota, says Stork. The health of our overall streams is ultimately dependent upon every individual that lives here. The quality of your trout fisheries is only going to be as good as your water quality. Both hatcheries have been doing well with their trout programs. Populating the different lakes and streams has been very successful. As of March 1st of this year the DNR has added more streams to its list of available fishing areas. More changes to the fishing rules and regulations are being discussed, but these are not clear and probably wont be implemented until 2005. Hatchery ToursFor people that are interested in learning more about the local fish hatcheries, visitors are always welcome. The Lanesboro State Fish Hatchery is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They offer guided and self-guided tours and also have an easy access fishing trail along Duschee Creek for novice fishermen, the elderly and the handicapped. The Peterson State Fish Hatchery is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Because they are still preparing their visitors area there are no self-guided tours but guided tours are available. They hope to have everything completed by this fall. Since fishing is a very popular sport in our state it is important that there are plenty of fish to keep a good environmental balance. The ultimate goal would be for all the fish populations to be able to be completely self-dependent. Until that time comes, the Lanesboro and Peterson State Fish Hatcheries will keep striving to produce a healthy and abundant supply of trout for Minnesotas many lakes and streams.Janette Dragvold can be reached at news@fillmorecountyjournal.com

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