ST. PAUL, Minn. – The coronavirus pandemic is halting Minnesota’s efforts to restock the fish population.
The state’s Department of Nature Resources (DNR) is cancelling its 2020 egg take operations for walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, and steelhead because it cannot be done safely under social distancing guidelines. The DNR says collecting from spawning fish in the wild takes teams of six to eight people working close together and they could not come up with a way to do that and have the collectors remain six feet apart.
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“Fish populations naturally are made up of fish hatched in different years, so a missing or weak year class is not uncommon,” says Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the DNR. “In fact, in lakes with natural reproduction, a strong year class often follows a weak year class, so not stocking for one year might actually benefit the following year’s stocked fry.”
This cancellation also means walleye eggs and fry will not be available for the DNR’s cooperative fish management programs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Nation. The DNR will also not be able to fulfill requests from private sector hatcheries to purchase eggs and fry in 2020.
Minnesota joins other Midwest states like South Dakota, Michigan and Indiana in suspending egg take operations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serves has also canceled all planned lake sturgeon production for 2020.