The Minnesota DNR has canceled its planned 2020 egg take for walleye, northern pike, muskie and steelhead due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Every spring the DNR collects female fish that are ready to release their eggs and then raises the eggs in hatcheries, returning the female fish to their lake.
The young fish are then released either as fry or fingerlings to stock Minnesota lakes with low or no natural reproduction of those specific species, to maintain fish populations and continue to provide angling opportunities.
But as the DNR explains, collecting eggs and sperm from spawning fish is a "labor intensive effort that requires teams of 6-8 people working in close proximity," and with the state currently dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, there's no way it can be carried out while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
However, this DNR thinks that missing a year of replenishment won't have too much of a long-term impact on fish stocks.
"Fish populations naturally are made up of fish hatched in different years, so a missing or weak year class is not uncommon,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the DNR.
"In fact, in lakes with natural reproduction, a strong year class often follows a weak year class, so not stocking for one year might actually benefit the following year’s stocked fry."
Minnesota joins South Dakota, Michigan and Indiana in suspending its egg take operations, but the DNR says that because of the mild winter, there should be "good numbers" of walleye in its natural rearing ponds in southern Minnesota that weren't taken last fall, which will help replace some of the fingerlings for this year's fishing season.