This fall the Chippewa Flowage will be stocked with a lot of exceptionally large muskellunge fingerlings. The fingerlings were reared at the Governor Thompson Fish Hatchery in Spooner and were stocked into the Chippewa Flowage on October 10th. The eggs used to rear these fish were collected from the Chippewa Flowage in April of 2016.
Approximately 7,500 total muskellunge were stocked at several locations around the Chippewa Flowage. This is the largest number of muskellunge stocked into the flowage since 2001 when 7,600 were stocked. What makes this stocking unique is the size of the fish stocked. These fingerlings had an average length of just over 13 inches, making them, on average, the largest muskellunge ever stocked into the Chippewa Flowage. Many of these fish were even over 15 inches.
In the past, the average muskellunge stocking length in the Chip was typically between 9 and 11 inches. On paper, the difference between an 11 inch fingerling and a 13 inch fingerling may not seem like much, but in real life the difference has been huge. Between 11 and 13 inches, muskellunge fingerings nearly double their body weight, which makes the larger fingerlings less vulnerable to predation and gives them more fat reserves going into winter. Not surprisingly, results from tagged fish stocked into the flowage in previous years have shown that fingerings over 12 inches have vastly higher survival than those under 12 inches.
The goal of growing larger fingerlings was made possible by a generous donation from the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Inc. who purchased additional high-quality forage minnows. Having the extra food allowed these fish to be kept in the ponds longer so they had more time to grow. This partnership is a great example of conservation-minded citizens working with the DNR to solve problems and improve fishing. Most of the fingerlings that were a part of this stocking were implanted with small tags that will allow DNR biologists to track them throughout their life. There are many groups and individuals that deserve credit for making this happen. The Hayward Chapter of Muskies Inc. made the donation to buy extra food for these fish. Al McElroy, Al Hoeft, Mike Persson, Patrick Delaney, Ted Mathews, Larry Damman, and Joe Weiss volunteered their time to help tag muskies. Lastly, the staff at Governor Thompson fish hatchery should be applauded for all the incredible work they do to rear these fish in tough conditions year in and year out.
Max Wolter- WDNR