Hatchery fingerlings await their fate
Written by Green Bay Press-Gazette   
Monday, 04 June 2007 01:40

Close to 150,000 chinook salmon fingerlings awaiting release from Sturgeon Bay's Strawberry Creek are "holding their own" so far, according to Paul Peeters, lakeshore fish team supervisor of the Department of Natural Resources office in Sturgeon Bay.

The fingerlings are undergoing a physiological process known as smolting, during which they obtain the silvery color of an adult and are fully imprinted on the water in which they were stocked. The fish would have been released, but a state stocking hold that took effect May 16 has frozen their fate.

"It's time," said Peeters. "We're starting to get a few jumpouts, but (a dozen dead ones picked up Friday) is not a significant number."

DNR fisheries supervisor Mike Staggs of Madison said the reason for the freeze is some brood stock walleyes, sauger and northern pike from lakes Winnebago and Puckaway were spawned before the state knew viral hemorrhagic septicemia was in the system.

Eggs from those fish were taken to the Wild Rose, Lake Mills and Kettle Moraine state fish hatcheries, potentially infecting other species.

Testing on brood stock fish was done, and all were negative except for a batch of saugers that came back untestable from contamination of ovarian fluid. The DNR is testing various fish species in the hatcheries and hopes to catch and test the tiny saugers in a rearing pond soon.

"It's Murphy's Law, I guess," Staggs said. "The sauger came out of Lake Winnebago, which is kind of ground zero (for inland VHS cases). We're going to test some of the production fish as soon as we can catch a sample."

With the clock ticking, Staggs said the decision on what to do with the Strawberry Creek chinooks — and hundreds of thousands of other fry, fingerlings and yearlings in the three hatcheries — could be finalized any day.

Staggs said DNR fisheries personnel are working with DNR secretary Scott Hassett's office and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to come up with a recommendation for stocking this year.

"It's going to be a well-reviewed decision," Staggs said.

"We definitely don't want to risk the spread of VHS, but we don't want to stupidly waste fish, either."
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