Northside Enterprises of Black Creek, WI has recently been notified that it will receive almost $100,000 from the federal government (USDA) to evaluate certain high-technology methods for producing large, advanced growth walleye fingerlings for stocking and hybrid walleye for the dining table. Dan Gruendemann, owner of Northside, said “I’m confident that this Phase I feasibility project will have one or more successful outcomes, and our current plan is to conduct Phase II studies in the future to establish commercial profitability”.
The grant comes from the US Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and the Phase I project will be conducted collaboratively by Northside and the UW-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (UWSP-NADF). As Wisconsinites already know, walleye are one of the most popular sport fish in the state, and there is a sizable market for large (> 10″) fingerlings for stocking lakes and ponds. Walleye are also considered to be one of the best eating fish that grow in Wisconsin. A naturally found hybrid walleye, also sometimes called “saugeye”, is an extremely fast growing cross between female walleye and male sauger. This hybrid offers promise to bring this sought after fish to restaurants, markets and home kitchens.
For years, scientists and fish culturists from several agencies in Wisconsin and Iowa have been developing and improving technologies for raising purebred and hybrid walleye. In Wisconsin, studies in Jeff Malison’s lab were funded by the UW Sea Grant Program and the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center. Jeff collaborated with Bob Summerfelt and Joe Morris of Iowa State University, and with Alan Johnson of the Iowa DNR on these studies. Together, these scientists showed that 1) hybrid walleye grow much faster than purebreds, 2) hybrids taste virtually identical to purebreds, 3) walleye fry can be successfully raised in tanks using only pelleted foods, and 4) spawning of walleye can be advanced by at least two months in the spring using environmental and hormonal manipulations. More recently, the staff at the UWSP-NADF used funding from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Agriculture Development and Diversification Program to improve on these earlier studies, and has begun raising captive walleye and sauger brood fish to supply the eggs and milt to continue this research.
The studies conducted under this two-phase project have two targeted endpoints: 1) they will test the newest technologies for producing large purebred walleye fingerlings in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and ponds for autumn stocking, and 2) they will also use these technologies to produce hybrid walleye in RAS for the dinner table in a one-year time frame from egg to plate.
Jim Held, UW-Extension aquaculture specialist, has been working on purebred and hybrid walleye projects for over 15 years, and has a thorough understanding of the details of this SBIR project. For further information, Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-648-2902.