Muskies Get a Menu Change as Part of Hatchery Experiment 6-19-2013

Artificial feed early on aims to reduce costs, boost fish production

WILD ROSE, Wis. – Some muskies are getting a new menu at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery as part of an experiment aimed at saving money while boosting production of the state fish.

Starting this spring, Wild Rose staff are raising muskies two different ways, says Steve Fajfer, hatchery superintendent.

Musky fry
Some young muskies at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery, like this one here, will eat manufactured fish food in an experiment aimed at cutting the costs of raising the fish.
WDNR Photo

One group of muskies are being raised in the ponds and fed the traditional diet of zooplankton and minnows. A second group of muskies are being fed manufactured fish food for the first part of their stay at Wild Rose, and minnows for the remaining 60 days before they are stocked into Wisconsin waters.

“Feeding the muskies manufactured food is cheaper than collecting or buying minnows and there is no risk of parasites or diseases that can come in with minnows,” Fajfer says.

Having the muskies eat minnows at the end will increase their growth and coloration and will get them used to what they will be eating once they are stocked into lakes, Fajfer says.

Before the fish are transferred to their new homes, DNR staff will mark them with a fin clip to tell the two groups apart in coming years. State researchers and managers in subsequent years will survey the lakes where the muskies are stocked to assess the survival rates of both groups of muskies, Fajfer says.

Mike Staggs, DNR’s fisheries director, says that the experiment is made possible by the recent renovation of the hatchery and its increased capacity to raise fish on manufactured food. “We estimate we can save 15 to 30 percent of the cost of raising musky by starting them on artificial feed, but we need to see whether the fish grow to an acceptable size and survive after stocking before we adopt this as standard practice at all hatcheries.”

Raising a musky to stockable size — 10 to 12 inches or what’s known as “large finglering” size – is estimated to cost $10 to $11 a fish, recent DNR estimates show. That includes food, labor, hatchery overhead and the cost of retiring debt from hatchery construction and renovation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Fajfer, 920-622-3527 ext. 201 or Dave Giehtbrock, 608-266-8229

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