It has been a fabulous year for us here at Waterville Fisheries.
Having had the opportunity to participate in the Explore Minnesota Governors Fishing Opener (GFO), right here in our area, was great. The open house at Waterville State Fish Hatchery, which was a formal part of the GFO events, was a great success. At the GFO, a highlight for us was providing and assisting all those kids carry nets of walleye fingerlings and stocking them in Fountain Lake, which was a great experience for everyone involved. Smiles everywhere and nobody got thumped by a net handle thankfully! We also learned kids may like turtles more than fish as it seems our interactive turtle display was more of a hit than the aquarium with the kiddos!
The hatchery just wrapped up a very successful fish production season last week, one for the record books in some regards. We produced northern pike fry for area lakes, walleye fry and fingerlings that were stocked throughout southern Minnesota, and had our most successful season ever in Musky production, raising over 12,000 fish that averaged 11.7 inches in length.
At the beginning of the year, we somewhat jokingly set out a very lofty goal of producing “12 at 12”, which was a referral to raising 12,000 musky fingerlings at 12-inch average. We nearly pulled it off! The musky we raised were stocked all over the state based on lake management plans. We are lucky to have Andrew and the crew running the hatchery here even with the many challenges we face with our aging facility.
We really have a lot going on here at Waterville Fisheries, we keep busy for you anglers that buy licenses that fund our work.
The Quality Bluegill Initiative, meanwhile, is a statewide program to improve bluegill angling. We have a few area lakes we are considering including in special regulations and a lot more will be forthcoming on that topic.
To that point, we have creel surveys that will begin Dec. 1 on a couple area lakes. In fact, it is likely we will have creel surveys for the next three years on area lakes, one of which is a follow-up to a survey conducted in 2016 prior to the zone pike regulations being implemented. The follow-up survey will help us assess if that regulation is working on several area lakes.
In regard to research, we have been collaborating with DNR Fisheries research staff on a project led by Dale Logsdon and Loren Miller, exploring walleye genetics and how various strains of walleye perform in Waterville Area Lakes. This project will be ongoing for several years and will provide some very critical data to us to assure we manage area lakes using the best options.
By my estimates we used nearly 4 miles of gill nets this summer for collecting fish from area lakes. The biggest fish we captured this summer was a 42-inch northern pike and just under 30-inch walleye.