An important function of the Waterville facility every spring is to collect northern pike eggs, which are fertilized and hatched under controlled conditions, eventually to be stocked in area lakes.
However, low water levels and extreme heat last summer took a toll on northern pike populations in some lakes, including Lake Geneva in Freeborn County, where a good portion of the brood stock used for spring egg-striping operations are obtained, DeBates said.
“We really won’t know the extent of the die-off until we begin our netting operations,” he said.
What’s more, low water conditions could hamper efforts elsewhere to capture northern pike to be used for brood stock.
Some pike are caught in fish traps as they migrate into inlets and ditches to reach seasonal wetlands in which to spawn. However, water levels in many south-central Minnesota lakes are so low that there is little or no flow in or out.
And unless the current dry weather pattern changes dramatically in coming weeks, the adjacent seasonal wetlands that provide natural pike spawning habitat are likely to be bone-dry.
After two years of difficult conditions, ice fishermen are finding the winter of 2012-13 to their liking.
Two years ago, heavy snow made it difficult to get around on lakes.
Last year, during the winter that wasn’t, unusually warm temperatures created uncertain ice conditions that prompted many ice anglers to hand up the ice cleats early or stay home altogether.
This year, the hard water season got an early start with several cold snaps that created better ice conditions. The continued lack of snow has made it easy to get around on area lakes.
As a result, many more area anglers are hitting the ice this winter.
Annual fish house counts on area lakes made earlier this year by DNR Fisheries personnel revealed a dramatic increase from 2012.