Annual fish egg take under way

RIVERDALE – They arrived in coolers carefully measured by the quart, millions of them.

The Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery recently took delivery of 216.5 quarts of northern pike eggs, numbering an estimated 11 million. This year proved to be a very good one for fisheries biologists participating in northern pike spawning.

“They came in a hurry this year,” said Jerry Tishmack, Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. “About half of them came from Beaver Bay on Lake Oahe and the other half from Rice Lake down in Emmons County.”

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department hopes to stock out 1.2 million pike this spring. Not all of the pike eggs harvested will hatch; the average is about 50 percent. With 11 million eggs to start with, reaching the goal of 1.2 million fry to be stocked should be an easy one.

“We’ve got about 6 million eyed eggs, which would be fry that are right now on the jar batteries,” said Tishmack this past Tuesday.

The small pike, still attached to their yolk sacs which are vital to their survival, were scheduled to be stocked into lined outdoor rearing ponds at the Garrison Hatchery this past Wednesday.

“With the liners in the ponds, they are clean enough to where the pike will just lay on the bottom for about 10 days before their yolk sac is absorbed and they can actually swim up and look for food,” said Tishmack.

The first quarts of walleye eggs arrived at the hatchery this past week, the first of many.

“We’re looking at about 460 quarts that we’re going to need, which comes to around 60 million eggs,” said Tishmack. “It’ll be another big year. The state request is for 11 million once again.”

Tishmack estimates the pike will be ready for stocking into state lakes and river near the end of May. If all goes as anticipated, walleye fry should be ready for stocking in late June.

“It depends upon the weather and how the food source comes on in the outdoor ponds,” said Tishmack. “Typically we’ll start harvesting walleye fry about the 20th or 25th of June.”

Some of the newly hatched northern pike and walleye fry will be transported to the Valley City National Fish Hatchery, where they will be closer to their final destinations.