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State fish hatchery trying new method of raising muskellunge fingerlings


WILD ROSE, Wis. (WSAU) - There's a new menu for muskellunge fry at the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery.

Department of Natural Resources officials are looking at new ways to feed the growing muskies, in order to reduce costs. Under the current methods, musky fry are fed on a completely live diet of zooplankton and minnow until they are big enough to release. That's a problem, according to hatchery manager Steve Fejfer. "The price of very small minnows is about 7 to 8 times what it might cost you to buy minnows in the bait store."

The new plan would feed those musky fry manufactured food pellets, much the way that trout and other fish are being fed at the hatchery. Fejfer says the big issue is getting the muskies ready for their first winter. "If we can get over that first hump and still maintain good growth and survival in the long term, we feel we can save the state money and produce more muskies on the same budget."

Current prices to raise a musky fry to large fingerling stage is about 10 to 11 dollars a fish. That's including the costs of running the hatchery, paying for salary and actual food costs for the fish. The artificial feed could reduce that by 15 to 30 percent.

The hatchery is raising muskies on both methods, and will start tagging them differently when they enter their destination lakes. The study will take three years before it could possibly be rolled out statewide. Fejfer says he's hopeful. "I would expect to see a variation from lake to lake, and I expect to see similar survival on each lake, but only time and effort will tell."