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Fish hatcheries busy during cold winter months


WILD ROSE, Wis. (WSAU) -- It may be cold outside, but that’s not stopping one of Wisconsin’s biggest continuing conservation programs. The state’s fish hatcheries are raising fish to stock into lakes, rivers, and streams year around.

John Komassa is with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. He says hatcheries run year around to provide a safe, predator-free area to raise the new fish. “We’ve got cool water species, which would include species like walleye, northern pike, and musky. Then we’ve got what we call cold water hatcheries as well, and those hatcheries primarily raise trout and salmon, and some of the trout are stocked inland, and a lot of our fish, trout and salmon, are stocked into Lake Michigan.”

The DNR operates egg collection facilities on three Lake Michigan tributaries. They are at Strawberry Creek in southern Door County, the Besadny Anadromous Facility on the Kewaunee River, and the Root River Steelhead Facility in Racine County. Komassa says when the time is right, they capture the fish before they spawn. “We rely on the fishes instincts to swim upstream. We capture those fish in the facility, then we have staff on site there that spawn the fish, remove the eggs, and fertilize them with the males, and then the hatchery crews take those fertilized eggs back to the hatchery.”

Komassa says the DNR’s recently expanded mega-hatchery in Wild Rose stays busy, even in the dead of winter, because they raise both cool water and cold water species. “That station is equipped to do both, so they’ve got a number of ponds that they raise walleyes, muskies, and pike in during the warmer months, and this time of the year, they’re primarily loaded with the cold water species. They’ve got cohos on board ready to be stocked out in the springtime, and they’re currently raising Seeforellen brown trout, a Wild Rose brown trout, and chinook salmon, all destined for Lake Michigan.”

Komassa says the state’s hatcheries do not get very involved in raising panfish, but some private hatcheries raise some varieties. He says most bodies of water have plenty of them. “We don’t do a whole lot as far as the hatchery system is concerned for panfish, but our rules and regulations definitely benefit them, and try to keep those populations in check.”

Hatcheries are also preparing inland trout that will be stocked out in the spring before the fishing season. DNR hatcheries also have about 1,200 yearling Wisconsin River strain lake sturgeon at Wild Rose that will be stocked in the spring.

(Listen to our interview with John Komassa on our website, here.)