It was a raw March night in the late 1970s as the Division of Fish and
Wildlife shocker boat skirted the east shore of Brookville Reservoir upstream
from the dam. There were three or four DFW fisheries biologists in the
boat and one very cold outdoor writer.
I, the shivering outdoor writer, had arrived at the DFW fisheries shack
at Brookville a little after dark and watched in awe as two 20-foot, flat-bottom
boats were hauled to a ramp on the east shore of the lake and made ready
This included rigging the electrodes that dangled from long poles projecting
from the bow of the boats, getting the nets and holding tanks ready, and
starting the generator motors.
For several years walleye fry (very young fish), and some fingerlings
from federal hatcheries had been stocked at Brookville and some other Hoosier
waters. Now the DFW was getting its feet wet in the walleye production
business. The DFW's walleye hatching/stocking program was on the launch
Without doing a lengthy--and probably fruitless--search for the column
I wrote about the experience, it would be next to impossible to recall
the number of fish the two crews collected that night. But the biologists
explained that they were taking both male and female walleyes--females
for eggs, males for milt (sperm) for fertilization.
Back at the fisheries shack, a truly delightful building with facilities
for both working and sleeping, the biologists would strip the eggs from
the female walleyes into shallow metal pans, fertilize them by stirring
in the milt with a turkey feather, and place them in glass jars with running
The next day, or soon thereafter, the jars of eggs would be transported
to other hatchery facilities where the eggs would hatch in less than two
Nobody knows how many walleye fry and fingerlings the DFW's walleye
hatching program have been stocked in Hoosier waters in the ensuing years.
But the value of the ongoing program is reflected in strings of very respectable
walleyes from such impoundments as Monroe and Brookville reservoirs in
the south-central part of the state, and such natural lakes as Bass Lake,
Lake Maxinkuckee, and Clear Lake in the north. But while these waters may
be called our best walleye fisheries they are by no means the only waters
that host old marble eyes. Kokomo Reservoir can be good.
Dan Jessup, who also serves as manager of the DFW's Cikana Hatchery
at Martinsville, rides herd on the DFW's walleye egg-gathering and hatching
program, says the walleye program usually nets about 40-million eggs per
year (late in March or early in April) and that a 60 percent success ratio
is about par for the program.
This translates into to 20 to 25-million walleye fry per year, with
some being raised to fingerling stage for stocking in special waters. Fry
of a fish species is the living organism soon after it is hatched. In reality,
it is an egg with tail and mouth.
Generally, some 10 to 15-million fry go back to Brookville, which must
be considered one of our most productive walleye waters.
It would not be practical to list all Hoosier waters where walleye may
be found. But for those who want to try their luck for this highly-prized
species, the 2004 "Indiana Fishing Guide," free at most bait and tackle
shops, shows many black dots in the "walleye" column of the "Where To Fish
In Indiana" feature. Not all of these walleye fisheries are the result
of the DFW's walleye program, but many of them are totally dependent on
it. Hoosier waters do not offer a lot of natural walleye reproduction,
although Jessup does not discount the possibility at Brookville.
Jessup says the walleye egg-gathering/hatching program has undergone
some refinements over the years, most notably the replacement of shocker
boats by gill nets, and plastic pans for the old metal pans.
But the walleye eggs still are squeezed gently into small pans and the
milt is stirred in with, of all things, a turkey feather . . . a wild turkey,
Incidentally, if you are thinking of wetting a line with walleye in
mind in the next few weeks, you would be hard pressed to find a better
bait/lure than a big, juicy live night crawler drifted close to the
bottom on a three hook harness with as little weight as possible (see March
2004 column on this website).
Click on thumbnail photo for enlarged view.
Jessup, Cikana Hatchery Manager, hatches walleye eggs in jars. (DFW
Photo by John Maxwell)