Bad River Fish Hatchery releases walleye, perch

By Sara Nemec
Odanah, Wisconsin (AP) July 2011

The hatchery record is releasing 560,000 walleye fingerlings into local waters and the employees at the Bad River Fish Hatchery think they’ll beat it this year.

“Next year people should be catching 12-inch fish around this time,” said Tim Wilson, fisheries specialist at the Bad River Fish Hatchery.

For the past three decades, the Bad River Natural Resources Department has supported local fish populations by stocking tribal waters with walleye fry and fingerlings, fish between 1.5 and 2 inches long, raised in the Bad River Fish Hatchery. The hatchery also raises yellow perch, a practice they started six years ago. The majority of the catch is released into the Bad and Kakagon rivers, while some of the perch is let into Chequamegon Bay.

In the last few weeks, the hatchery has released 480,000 45-day-old walleye fingerlings, at an average size of 1.75 inches, into the two rivers, clearing out three of their four walleye ponds. Today, the hatchery will catch and release the final fingerlings in the culmination of their walleye hatching season.

Hatchery employees also released about 49,000 perch, at an average of 1.5 inches, into the rivers and the bay. However, most of the perch won’t be released until August, when the perch are 2.5 to 3 inches long.

In the spring, the hatchery collected 17 million walleye and 720,000 perch eggs and incubated them. The adult fish were released unharmed after giving up their eggs. This season, the eggs incubated for 27 days, 10 days longer than usual because of the unseasonably cold temperatures.

An estimated 23 percent of the walleye hatched successfully and 3 million fry were released in May. The rest grew up in the ponds.  

While all the hatchery’s fish are released into tribal waters, fishermen around the area also benefit from its work, since many of the fish swim from the rivers into Lake Superior.

“If we didn’t put in fish, the pickings would probably be pretty slim,” said Ed Eloso, fish technician and farmer at the hatchery. “It wouldn’t look good.”

A 20-year hatchery veteran, Eloso said that walleye are culturally significant to the tribe, which has relied on the fish as a food source and still does today.

Wilson said that the hatchery started raising perch to support a native mussel species in the area.