Milking fish — a Guest Post by Bob

Editor’s Note: Wisconsin is not just the dairy capital of the world, it is also one of the best sources for walleye. None of that happens by accident. I think Wisconsin should also be known as the hard work capital of the universe, and the ingenuity capital of the world.

Today’s guest blog is by our friend Bob Salm, not coincidentally, a retired dairy farmer, who recently spent the week milking walleye on Shawano Lake. “Milking” the walleye is a process of extracting the eggs from the female, fertilizing them, and then transporting them to a fish hatchery, where they are raised and then released into the lake. Here is Bob’s account:

Monday morning was our eighth and last day for milking walleyes. The weather conditions were not favorable.

It hailed twice, downpoured and the wind blew like crazy. We ended up moving everything into my garage, which kind of slowed things down a little. We were hoping to get at least 7 million eggs this year, but it’s been much slower.
A lot of days most of the fish were hard and not ready to spawn, so we put them back in the lake. The water temp is at 45 degrees and needs to get to about 50 for the walleyes to start to spawning. We had 6 million last year, but I don’t know if we’ll make 5 million this year.
One ounce of spawn is approximately 4,000 eggs. On the bigger females, we use three to four milkers to fertilize the eggs. Once the eggs hit the lake water, you only have 45 seconds to fertilize, or they’re dead. All the eggs go to the hatchery in Cecil for about four weeks and then they’re released into Shawano Lake. The lake is mapped for the best spots for plankton, food, and that’s where they release them. The goal or hope is that 1/2 percent will make it.

The end of your lessens for today.

Editor’s footnote: Maybe you, like me, thought pan fried walleye just appeared on your plate as a matter of course, thanks to the excellent fishing this state offers. I just think it’s important to note that so often Wisconsin’s real resource — its cheerful and very knowledgable volunteers — are the ones who protect and develop the natural resources we often take for granted. Many thanks to Bob, for the informative post, to the rest of the Walleyes for Tomorrow volunteers, and to all of the other hunters and fishermen (and women) who take seriously their responsibility to respect the land and the lakes we love.

You may remember Bob from this previous post.
Here’s an action shot of the walleye milking process. No fish was hurt in this extraction. But, you do have to know what you are doing. (Photo courtesy Bob Salm)
Bob said, “It’s kind of hard to see the size of the fish in the tank, but that one milker must be 27 to 28 inches long, and his belly is almost as big as mine.” A sense of humor if a key component in a good Wisconsin dairy or fish farmer.

3 thoughts on “Milking fish — a Guest Post by Bob

  1. We did it!!! We’re around that 6 million mark. If I were counting, I could give you a closer count, but I’d be hatched long before the eggs are.

  2. I Love to fish that was interesting . In fact tomorrow is the first day of trout season. Also it’s time to plant your garlic i sent you if you didn’t already. Have a Blessed Easter NICK

    1. Thank you Nick! I will plant the garlic this weekend for sure. I have kept it cool and dry. Any tips you have for this next step would be greatly appreciated. Do I have to do anything special to keep the rabbits away?

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