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Hook and Hunting: Little Manistee River Weir Begins Steelhead Egg Take

Another sign that spring is here — steelhead egg taking started this week to help re-populate the Great Lakes.

The way fish naturally reproduce can’t keep up with the demand for steelhead, so the DNR is quickening the process.

The first step is happening this week at the Little Manistee River Weir where they’re fertilizing eggs.

"We’ve got females and males now that are ripe enough that we can actually take some eggs," says DNR Fisheries Technician Supervisor Joe Mickevich.

The snow is gone, birds are chirping and love is "sort of" in the water for steelhead trout.

It’s time again for the DNR to help along their mating process.

"We do this artificially and raise them in the hatchery. We have much more success in the hatchery than they have in the wild," says Mickevich.

The fish are caught in the weir and collected by a moving crate.

From there they’re sent down a slide.

That’s when the technicians need to be on their toes, because once the fish come down, they really have to be quick to decide which is male and which is female. Which is ripe and who’s not. Then it’s a quick process to make sure they get the eggs out as quick as possible

"We actually put a needle in their abdomen to push the eggs out and then we milk a little of the male’s milt and mix it around with water and salt solution and it fertilizes the egg," says Mickevich.

Once the eggs are mixed and fertilized, they’ll be distributed to one hatchery by Kalamazoo and another in the U.P., and by next year they’ll hatch and be swimming in the lakes.

"Out of the two state hatcheries were looking at about 2.8 million eggs for production," says Mickevich.

It might not be the most glamorous job, but the DNR says it’s the only way to keep up with demand.

"This is a great day for us. We’ve had a winter of us being in the shop and this is one of our first things we get out and do in the spring. So yea, we’re all excited to be down here," says Mickevich.