I know how to get your attention to read this blog post; take a look at this photo. . . .
Take a close look at that sign, see what it says? Yep, Milford Dam, Kansas. Kansas????!!!!!!! What in the world was I doing in Kansas? Must have been caught up in some tornado or something. Or, according to some anglers that I hear from, I finally gave in and headed down to Kansas because their fishing is way better than what we have in Nebraska. Yeah, sure, that is what I was doing in Kansas. Actually, I have spent some time fishing Milford. A few years ago I got to pre-fish and rub shoulders with some professional walleye anglers before a championship tournament the now-defunct Professional Walleye Trail hosted on Milford. Yes, I have a list of waters I would love to fish, some of them in other states. I have shared some of those adventures here on my blog, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2009/09/im-back/ .
But that was not the reason for my trip down to Kansas. Let me give you another clue. . . .
I was down to Kansas to pick up some fish and bring them back to Nebraska! Let me tell you how that came about. . . .
There is a bunch of fish-trading that goes on between the states. Again, I hear some anglers grumble about Nebraska sending some of its fish to other states, but in reality it makes perfect sense. The different states with their different resources have different efficiencies in producing fish. In Nebraska for example, our hatcheries have no problem producing walleyes, enough walleyes for all of our stocking needs plus some for trading to other states. States south of Nebraska can raise catfish a lot easier than we can so we usually get our catfish as fry from one of our southern neighbors, and then they are raised in ponds on our Nebraska hatcheries until they are large enough to stock. Likewise, states to the west of Nebraska can easily produce trout and continue to hold their own trout broodstock, so it is a lot easier for us to obtain our trout eggs from our western neighbors instead of dedicating a large chunk of our hatchery resources for holding trout brood stock.
Right now, there has been much concern about VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) in waters “back east”. Nebraska and Nebraska hatcheries are VHS-free and therefore some of the fish we can produce are in great demand in other states. In recent years tiger muskie produced in Nebraska have been very popular in some western states because they cannot get fish that are guaranteed to be VHS-free from other states. In return we get all the trout we need for stocking throughout Nebraska.
Anyway, that gives you an idea of all the “horse trading”/fish trading goes on between all the states every year. My purpose for going down to Kansas was to pick up some hybrid striped bass, wipers, that Kansas had produced for us. At this time we have very few striped bass in Nebraska waters, and cannot produce any of our own wipers. Those hard-fighting, open-water predator fish have become very popular with Nebraska anglers and we have several excellent wiper fisheries in Nebraska. We plan to stock approximately 170,000 wipers in Nebraska this year and last week we received a bunch of those fish from Kansas and Oklahoma.
The fish I picked up were “original cross” hybrid striped bass, female white bass X male striped bass. Those fish were spawned at the Milford hatchery and I picked up fry that had hatched just 4 days before.
The fish were counted into plastic bags and then oxygen was injected into each bag before it was sealed. The bags were placed in coolers for transport. There were 50,000 wiper fry in that bag, I counted every one of them to make sure we did not get shorted. No, not really. Seriously, fry can be counted using photo-electric counters or volumetric estimates are made. I would not guarantee that there were exactly 50,000 fry in each bag, but I would bet it was darned close.
I could not get a good photo of the fry inside the plastic bags, and I was not about to open one up for a better picture. You will have to take my word that all that dark gray “stuff” in the bottom of the bag were living, swimming wipers!
Here is my load of passengers for the drive north.
Hard to believe my little Chevy Equinox was hauling 300,001 living critters north to Nebraska–300,000 wipers and me.
I drove my live cargo from Milford Fish Hatchery in Kansas up to York, Nebraska where I met one of our hatchery personnel from North Platte. I handed the coolers off to him and he drove them back to our North Platte State Fish Hatchery where they were placed in hatchery ponds for rearing to larger size before stocking. (Let me insert one “personnel note” here, at York I met Gail Wolfe from our North Platte Hatchery. Gail is fixing to retire soon and this was probably the last time I will interact with him “on the job”. Enjoy your retirement “Wolfe Man”, you have earned it; has been a pleasure working with you)
I hope this blog post gives you an idea of some of the effort that goes into stocking fish in Nebraska waters; some of the effort that goes into the stewardship of our fisheries resources, the role fish stocking plays in that stewardship and some of the work our fisheries personnel does to accomplish that. Yes, trading some of our Nebraska fish to other states is done, but that trading enables us to accomplish a whole lot more.
By the way, in a couple, three years when you hear about all the eating-size walleyes being caught in Kansas, there is a good chance those fish are from Nebraska. (wink)
Oh, and one other thing, I did my best to keep all 300,000 of those wipers alive. Wipers have tremendous growth and trophy potential, so when you catch a small wiper, turn it loose so it has a chance to realize that potential. If you want to whack some fish for a meal of fresh fish, whack a bunch of white bass. Given a chance, each one of those tiny wiper fry can grow up to look like this. . . .