Hatchery makes winter delivery
It was a bitter winter morning. Temperatures hovered at 25 degrees and winds ruffled gray waters at the Leavenworth County State Fishing Lake.
But to Steve Collins, a tall, burly man who operates a fish hatchery in Dent, Minn., and who was delivering a load of 1,000 walleye to the lake, the weather was balmy.
Dressed in insulated coveralls, and lined rubber gloves, Dent said he'd left at home the woolen mittens his 86-year-old mother still knits for him. It was cold in Kansas, but not that cold.
Collins said the mercury has been dropping in his home state.
"Yesterday in Minnesota we had temperatures of 14 below zero," Collins said, adding that the wind chill had been 25 below. "We have a foot of ice on the lakes it's just sturdy enough to drive on now."
But at the 160-acre lake five miles northwest of Tonganoxie, the waves flowed like water in a tub. The 39-degree water was just right for the introduction of 6- to 8-inch walleye, Collins said. It's always safer to transport and transfer fish when the water's 50 degrees or cooler, he added.
Charlie Wallace, owner of Wallace Fish Farm, Allen, Kan., met Collins in Tonganoxie to pick up a load of walleye, fat minnows and yellow perch for delivery to ponds in eastern Kansas.
But before Wallace put the fish in his 250-gallon tanks, which he had filled with well water the day before, he stopped at B&J Apple Market and added about 20 bags of ice to the tanks. Otherwise, the water would have posed too much of a temperature change for the fish, Wallace said.
At the lake, Collins used a net to move the walleyes to a bucket. More-or-less dormant from the cold temperatures, the fish were nearly motionless during the transferal.
Then, Wallace, wearing hip boots, and Richard Sanders, who is a fisheries biologist for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, released the fish into the state lake.
Normally, Sanders said, the state uses Kansas-bred walleye and will release about 8,000 fingerling walleye each spring.
"But this year the supply was down in our hatcheries, so we had to go out and purchase them," Sanders said.
With the fingerlings, Sanders said, the state tries to add enough so there will be about 50 walleye per acre. With the larger ones, such as released last week, the state originally had planned to release about five walleye per acre, but ended up with more.
The larger fish have a higher survival rate than the fingerlings, Sanders said.
Even though the walleye will be catchable fish by next summer, Sanders said they won't be "keepers." Walleye must measure 15 inches before fishermen are allowed to keep them. But Collins said that won't take long and maybe by next fall they'll be that large.
Sanders said he's been hearing good reports concerning the number of fish in the lake.
"We renovated the lake in 1994," he said. "It's been one of the best small lakes for fishing in the state ever since we opened it again in 1997."