|Where The Walleye Come From - By Les Oke (c) 2001
April 18th was a sunny cold day with a biting north wind. Volunteer members
of COFA (Conservationists of Frontenac-Addington) arrived at Northport on the Bay of
Quinte to gather Walleye eggs for their hatchery. These volunteers started their own
hatchery to raise Walleye for local lakes through the MNR Fisheries Improvement
Program. I recently volunteered to help out and the Trip to Northport was my first
introduction to the fish hatchery process. The trip was organized by Fred Perry of
the group and for many of the volunteers it's the high point of the hatchery process.
Walleye are obtained from commercial fisherman Kendall
Dewey on the bay by MNR Fisheries Technicians Steve Lawrence and Rick Topping. After the
MNR boat came in the volunteers of COFA Sprang into action transferring male and female
Walleye into separate aerated tanks. I could tell by The smooth flow of the work
that these guys knew their stuff. The females were gently milked of eggs And the males of
sperm into stainless steel containers. Steve Lawrence from the MNR oversaw the operation.
" The eggs have to be stirred gently with turkey feathers for an hour", he told
me as I started to stir.
The north wind was really biting into us at
this point and we could only guess what commercial fisherman Kendall Dewey was facing on
the open lake. Steve Lawrence said, "He's tough as nails. An old seagull that
subsists on coffee and cigarettes". My numb fingers seemed unimportant as I
contemplated all that he faced in earning a living. The volunteers who were busy all
around me voiced the same sentiments.
The compassion of these individuals was overwhelming. One of
the first female Walleye to be released after being milked of eggs was noticed floating on
its side moments later. COFA President Ron Pethick wasted no time in wading to his chest,
rescuing and reviving this most precious commodity. He spent 40 minutes at it until the
fish finally swam away. While Steve Lawrence and I looked on Steve said, " In the 20
years I've been overseeing the collection of Walleye eggs I've never seen a more dedicated
bunch of volunteers. There was some concern that maybe the Walleye wouldn't come into the
Bay this year. They stayed out in the deep water of Lake Ontario all winter".
There were three other groups there
collecting eggs as well. Floyd Deyo of Verona, MNR White Lake Fish hatchery staff, and a
new hatchery run by the Napanee Rod and Gun Club were all present. In all 6 million eggs
were collected by the volunteer groups and untold millions by White Lake staff. After
Floyd Deyo measured out everyone's eggs the volunteers of COFA put their 3.6 million eggs
in coolers and headed back to the hatchery. At the hatchery the eggs were transferred into
glass jars where water constantly circulates until they hatch. It takes 28 days and the
atmosphere in the hatchery is relatively sedate compared to our day at the Bay. "It's
like babysitting", said longtime volunteer George Hawley.
The fry were released the week of May 15. "Through the
MNR Program they can only be released into lakes without a current Walleye
population", said Ron Pethick. This means that new lakes are being stocked to
increase our fishing opportunities. All that you have to do is ask your local conservation
group where to fish or better yet get involved in the process. You'll learn a lot and
develop a better appreciation of the hard work that goes into rearing these fish.