DNR Collecting Walleye Eggs on the Muskegon River this Spring

Michigan DNR fisheries staff electrofishing on the Muskegon River below Croton Dam.

In the past few weeks, Muskegon River anglers may have noticed Michigan Department of Natural Resources personnel collecting walleye eggs below Croton Dam in Newaygo County.

Electrofishing boat crews began collecting operations starting around the week of March 27 and concluding by April 14. The date these collections begin each year depends on water temperatures, the presence of ripe fish and other factors. Five days of electrofishing have been planned, with four of those being egg-take days.

“This adult population consists of mostly stocked fish,” said Ed Pearce, DNR fisheries technician supervisor who coordinates the egg take. “The Muskegon River has the largest run of walleye in the Lake Michigan watershed south of Green Bay.”
Electrofish sampling usually begins at Croton Dam each day at about 8:30 a.m. and proceeds downstream to the Pine Street access site. If more eggs are needed, additional collections may occur downstream to the Thornapple Street access site.
Anglers who wish to avoid the walleye collection activities in the spring have been advised to fish downstream of the Pine Street access site. The DNR has asked everyone to use caution when fishing near the electrofishing boats, and anyone wading will be asked to exit the water when a boat approaches and during electrofishing work.

The DNR plans to collect approximately 32 million walleye eggs from the Muskegon River this year, which will result in fry (fish that have just hatched) for transfer to rearing ponds and direct fry plants throughout the Lower Peninsula. Walleye fry transferred to ponds will be raised to fingerling size (approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches) and stocked in late spring or early summer in lakes and rivers throughout the Lower Peninsula. Lake Michigan and many inland lake walleye populations in the Lower Peninsula depend on the fingerlings produced from Muskegon River eggs.

According to DNR fisheries biologist, Mark Tonello, these results predict a bright future for the watershed.

“A thriving walleye population such as we find in the Muskegon River is an indicator of a relatively healthy river system and a very gratifying outcome for those of us in the DNR Fisheries division.”

“We offer thanks to our partners at the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) who have provided solid planning and execution to help us achieve our mutual goals. MRWA has been instrumental in developing a number of current projects, including several critical dam removal efforts in various stages of completion. We look forward to an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship with the MRWA and other partners for the continued improvement of the Muskegon River watershed and its incredible fish populations.”

The size of the walleye-spawning run in the Muskegon River is about 40,000 to 50,000 fish each year. DNR crews strip milt (sperm) and eggs from approximately 545 adult fish, which will be returned to the river – except for 60, which will be sent to Michigan State University for fish health testing.

Michigan DNR fisheries staff collect eggs from a female walleye below Croton Dam.

Learn more about how the DNR manages Michigan’s fisheries at Michigan.gov/Fishing.
Contact: Ed Pearce, 231-357-4052 or Sierra Williams, 517-230-8788