DE PERE - An effort continued Thursday by DNR fisheries biologists to try to rebuild a struggling musky population in the Fox River.
The goal was to collect data on the fish, and spawn them to increase numbers.
"Muskies are tremendous game fish. They're probably the trophy fish of Green Bay," said DNR fisheries biologist Steve Hogler.
Motoring along the Fox River in De Pere, DNR fisheries biologists stopped at a fyke net. It's designed to capture muskies.
The men wrestled several fish, one at a time, into a smaller net and then into a tank of water.
Then it was one more stop at another site, where additional muskies were picked up.
But, the real work begins at the Fox Point Boat Launch in De Pere.
It involves measuring the feisty fish, weighing each one, checking for a tag, and collecting a genetic sample.
Tissue and blood samples are also taken to test for any parasites or bacteria.
"The health checks are important because we take these eggs back to the state hatcheries where we raise the fish, and we want to make sure that they're not increasing the risk of a disease coming to the hatchery," said DNR fish health specialist Sue Marcquenski.
Another part of this process, perhaps one of the most important, involves spawning.
"Unfortunately, we are not seeing a very high level of natural reproduction at this point so we have to stock to maintain the population," said Hogler.
Eggs from the females and milt from the males are carefully collected.
Then they're mixed together to start the process of creating new life.
The fertilized eggs will go to a DNR facility in Kewaunee.
"We'll incubate the eggs for around 10 days before they hatch, once they hatch they'll move to our fry holding tank, we'll raise them about a month before we'll then transfer them to the pond," said DNR fisheries technician Matthew McLean.
By fall, the muskies will have grown as big as eight to 12 inches at the DNR's Kewaunee facility. Fisheries biologists will then use them to stock the Fox River and other sites around Northeast Wisconsin.
"Last year we did about 7,500. This year, we're looking to increase that to closer to 10,000," McLean said.
Once all of the data is collected on each fish, and the spawning is complete, off the muskies go, back into their habitat.
DNR officials say the musky restoration project began in 1989.
That's when fisheries biologists and the public decided the reintroduction of a top predator would be good for Green Bay.
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