A group of "fishermen" had a pretty good haul Wednesday morning. About 45,000 walleye and bass fingerlings were caught when Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist drained a couple of ponds at the hatchery to transfer the fish to several state lakes.
Every year biologists at all the state lakes take samples to determine fish populations. Lakes are judged on a scale from one to 100 in a priority system.
If a certain species is low, the KDWPT hatchery is notified and replacement fish are delivered the state lakes as needed, said KDWPT Biologist Brett Houdyshell.
Other KDWPT hatcheries at Meade, Farlington and Milford also take part in restocking state lakes.
The hatchery has dozens of ponds that hold several species. To collect the fish, a screened gate in a corner of the pond is opened and 800,000 gallons of water flows out of the pond and into the Ninnescah River that runs on the north side of the hatchery.
The fish are gathered in a concrete pen at the bottom of the pond. Hatchery biologists use nets to retrieve the fish that are placed in five gallon white buckets where crawdads, tadpoles and other non-fish critters are sorted out. Then the fish are weighed and put into transport storage tanks in the backs of pickups for transport.
The fish were very small, only about two inches long and only 40 days old. Normally the fish can be transferred after 30 days but cold weather slowed their development. In spite their size, they are on their way to rebuilding populations at state lakes where their population counts were low, Houdyshell said.
The ponds are drained and fish collected in the morning because temperature affects the fish. They handle the transfer better in the cooler morning temperature and less likely to die.
On the Wednesday gathering, walleye and bass were collected. About 22,000 walleye were headed for Clark State Fishing Lake, Horse Thief Lake and Barber State Fishing Lake. Bass were sent to other lakes. All totaled, about 45,000 fish were taken out of the ponds in one morning. A total of nine ponds are dedicated to walleye and five to bass.
The number of fish in the ponds is lower than normal for this time of year. The unusually cold spring temperatures are not good for fish growth and all species in the ponds have suffered. A temperature drop to 39 degrees had quite an impact on the fish.
At that stage of development, the fish are still absorbing their yolk sack and have less body conditioning to handle the cold so they don't grow, Houdyshell said.
"All fish species were affected by the weather," Houdyshell said.
Once the ponds were empty, another type of fishing took place in the slick mud at the bottom of the pond.
Hundreds of small crawdads are exposed in the mud and they immediately drew the attention of hungry grackles that make a quick treat out of the crustaceans.
Also exposed on the bottom of the pond were frogs, turtles and some very big tadpoles.
Once the ponds are empty, the biologists will use a fish toxin in the pond to make sure all the species that had been in the pond are dead before new fish are added to the pond.
If the previous species are not killed, they will become predator fish for the new fish in the pond.