May 12, 2005

Every five years, large-frame trap nets make their way into Leech Lake.  The target of these traps is muskie, or more precisely, muskie egg and sperm.   Leech Lake muskie are at the heart of the DNR’s muskellunge stocking program.  Although Minnesota boasts more naturally reproducing muskie than any other state, only 40 lakes and rivers have naturally occurring muskie.  Thanks to stocking, now 80 lakes support a fishable population of muskie.  Through research, it was determined that muskies from Leech Lake provide the best growth and largest size.  Since getting eggs and sperm from Leech Lake is quite an undertaking, several small brood stock lakes around the state have been established.  These lakes are sampled more frequently.  And, once every five years, these brood stock lakes are given a new source of fish from Leech Lake to ensure they remain a vital source of muskie for future years.

Unlike the spawn take operations for walleye on other lakes, very few muskie are required from Leech Lake to obtain the desired quantity of eggs.  For most years, fewer than six females will provide sufficient eggs to stock the brood stock lakes.  In years when eggs are taken from Leech Lake, roughly 10 percent are returned to Leech Lake in the form of fingerlings.  This is a DNR policy to ensure that Leech Lake’s muskellunge population is not negatively impacted.