To many Vermonters, there are few activities more enjoyable than catching a big walleye from Lake Champlain or hooking a colorful brook trout on a small stream in the mountains. In order to ensure that these opportunities will be available for future generations of Vermonters, the Fish & Wildlife Department is working to promote the state’s native fish species, from captive breeding programs to enhancing aquatic habitat.
During the month of April, department staff captured 20 pairs of mature walleyes from the Missisquoi River to use in a captive breeding program. The fish were brought to the hatchery where the male’s milt was combined with the female’s eggs, producing an incredible 3.8 million fertilized eggs. When these walleye have grown to fingerling size, they will be released back into the river in an effort to boost the naturally breeding population.
“Our long-term goal is to have self-sustaining fish populations,” said Adam Miller, fish culture operations manager. “To get there, we’ll have to ensure that we have enough fish and sufficient spawning habitat to reproduce naturally in the wild.”
To conserve fish habitat, Fish & Wildlife biologists work to protect water quality and preserve natural shoreline buffers. They ensure that hydroelectric dams and road culverts allow fish passage, and work to keep aquatic nuisance species out of Vermont’s waterways. Over the past five years, the department has protected over 130 miles of river and lake shoreline.
“When you catch a wild walleye, lake trout or brookie you have living proof that the water they came from has suitable habitat for all of the life-stages of that species,” said Fish &Wildlife Department fisheries division director Eric Palmer. “It is like holding an intact ecosystem in your hand.”
Vermont’s anglers have been instrumental in the effort to restore native fish and their habitat. “We couldn’t do this work without the tremendous support of Vermont’s angling community, particularly the Lake Champlain Walleye Association,” said Miller. “They volunteer their time, raise large numbers of walleye, and donate equipment. This is yet another example of anglers leading the way in the effort to conserve and restore fish in Vermont.”
To learn more about Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s fish habitat restoration efforts, go to http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/fisheries_habitat.cfm.