NORTH WEBSTER — A decline in the number of adult muskies at Lake Webster in Kosciusko County has DNR biologists worried about a potential shortage of eggs to use in the state’s muskie stocking program.
Traditionally, Lake Webster is where biologists have caught adult female muskies to harvest eggs for Fawn River State Fish Hatchery in Orland.
“We need 15 to 20 ripe female muskies each spring to get enough eggs for hatching,” said Tom Meyer, assistant manager at Fawn River. “From these eggs we are able to produce about 15,000 muskie fingerlings to stock 13 waters throughout the state.”
Last spring at Lake Webster, the DNR caught only 11 females that were “ripe” with eggs. To supplement the egg supply, biologists set traps in nearby James Lake, where six more female muskies were caught and provided additional eggs.
If necessary, the DNR will return to James Lake again this year, Meyer said.
What caused the muskie decline at Lake Webster? Meyer isn’t sure but said steps have been taken to rebuild the population, and they seem to be working. Anglers are reporting catching more young muskies.
“We increased the amount of time that muskie fingerlings are fed minnows before stocking,” Meyer said. “We also started a study to see if stocking muskies in the spring, when more natural food is available, can increase their survival.”
To deal with the potential shortage of muskie eggs, hatcheries may be able to adjust operations to prevent a drop in the number of fingerlings available to stock.
Lake Webster provided some of the best muskie fishing in the Midwest a decade ago.
“We’d like to restore its reputation,” he said. “Our stocking program and muskie fishermen depend on it.”