Indiana’s muskie stocking program is off to a good start this year after DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife biologists collected a record-matching 1.9 million eggs from adult female muskies at Lake Webster.
The eggs were fertilized with milt from male muskies and will be used to produce approximately 24,000 fingerlings for stocking 15 Indiana lakes and reservoirs.
Warm temperatures forced biologists to start the egg-taking operation two weeks early.
“We normally begin trapping muskies in Lake Webster around April 1, when the water temperature is 40 degrees,” said Jed Pearson, DNR fisheries biologist. “This year we had 60-degree water temperatures in mid-March.”
To capture adult muskies, biologists set large fish traps at nine locations from March 20 through March 26. They caught 143 muskies, including 69 female muskies.
Although most of the muskies were 36 to 40 inches long, the largest measured 45.5 inches.
The number of eggs taken this spring matches a record set in 2011.
Muskie eggs are hatched at the East Fork State Fish Hatchery in southwest Indiana. After hatching, the fry and small fingerlings are fed pellet-food and minnows before stocking in the fall.
Muskies, a large predatory fish, were native in Indiana only in small tributaries of the Ohio River. The DNR, in response to angler interest, began stocking muskies in various waters, including Lake Webster, in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, muskie eggs and fry were obtained from out-of-state sources.
Since the late 1990s, Lake Webster has served as Indiana’s brood stock for muskie eggs. All muskies now stocked in the state originate from adults captured at the lake.
Although biologists think some muskies may be spawning directly in Lake Webster, the DNR continues to stock about 3,800 fingerlings each fall to maintain the muskie population there.
“Due to natural conditions and the vulnerability of small muskies to other fish predators, Indiana anglers would have few opportunities to fish for muskies without the stocking program,” Pearson said.