WILD ROSE - There's a change on the menu for certain fish at the DNR's Wild Rose Fish Hatchery.
Thousands of fingerling muskies are now eating a diet of artificial food. Biologists say it's an experiment.
In a darkened room at the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery, thousands of fingerling muskies are growing up fast.
"They're very spooky and sensitive to bright lights and movements. So we try and quarantine them off to the side," said Richard Klett, cool water hatchery foreman.
This cool water facility is part of $27 million in improvements to the fish hatchery.
"This is the first year of a three year study, to raise musky two different ways. One on a dry diet, and one on minnows and suckers like they would normally do," said Steve Fajfer, hatchery fish production supervisor.
A new mixture of fish meal, vitamins and even squid oil is released to the two0month-old fingerlings about every 5-10 minutes.
"They're about 2-3 inches right now, and once they reach that size, they become a little bit less cannibalistic. They're easier to handle, they're a bit less delicate," said Klett.
The experimental meal may also help the hatchery's bottom line. Right now, it costs about $9 a pound to feed those fingerlings minnows. The pellets are only about 35 cents a pound.
"We think we can save up to a third of the cost of each musky. Raise a musky and save one third of the cost by raising on pellets," said Fajfer.
The fish are sorted and separated by size. The fish will join thousands of minnow-raised muskies in an outdoor pond in about a month.
Fajfer says each musky will leave the hatchery with a clipped fin, indicating whether it was fed on minnows or pellets. Biologists say the pellets are healthier, but there are still questions about the future.
"What we don't know is the long-term survival of the fish," said Fajfer.
By the end of September or early October the muskies will be almost a foot long.
The DNR hopes to stock about 12,000 of the fish into waters of Central Wisconsin.
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