On a recent bone chilling April morning I had a chance to go out with the Department of Natural Resources crew on one of the spring fish surveys. There are actually a number of ways to do this but today we were working with what are called "Fike Nets". They look like this:
This kind of survey is done in the spring for a reason. Most of the high value game fish are spawning this time of year. That puts them in predicatable places. And makes them a bit stupid. These nets are basically just big cages. They are set up with some straight nets that lead into them. Being preoccupied with biological urges the fish just blunder on into a simple trap that most of them would not go near any other time of year. Mating behaviour.....stupid across all species I guess.
Here's the boat.
Soon we were emptying the Fike Nets into the onboard holding tank and busily at work measuring and counting.
This cute little fella is an immature muskie. This is the premier game fish in these waters so the crew was happy to meet up with him again. I say again because when they scanned him it was discovered that he had a "chip" in him, placed last year when he was stocked from the hatchery. Oh, they did not greet him by number but they were pleased to see he survived.
Other critters also end up in the nets. Here is a rather self important little crayfish.
Next up, a Mud Minnow. This is actually a very large specimen of this diminutive fish. Perhaps it would be a state record if taken on hook and line. That is if you had the time to pursue such small fry. And could persuade them to bite on a hook...
Ah but there were some much bigger fish as well. Here I am holding a rather substantial Walleyed Pike.
As I mentioned, all the fish got counted. Most got measured. But how do you deal with this situation?
The crew was disappointed to have no adult muskies tallied but when the last Fike Net came up there were two of them. Big bruisers...but on this lake still not legal keepers. These were a bit short of the fifty inch length required. Still, the larger of these two was probably around forty pounds!
The scanner was deployed....and indicated that these fish had not been tagged. That was soon attended to.
And it is off to the chilly depths. Happy Spawning. Be smart. If possible.