Collecting eggs by net
Nets, not baskets, were used during Tuesday’s egg collection activities at Marlette Lake. But it still takes about two dozen hands to gather a million eggs.
Nestled on the ridge of the Sierra Nevada above Carson City, the clear mountain lake is a near perfect habitat for fish farming.
The Nevada Division of Wildlife keeps its brood stock of rainbow trout and a special Tahoe strain of rainbow trout in the lake. During May and the first few weeks of June, when fish are spawning, the division collects eggs and sperm to resupply its hatcheries.
The eggs are taken to the Mason Valley Hatchery near Yerington where they stay until the grow to become fish 8 to 10 inches long and are planted in streams and lakes throughout Northwestern Nevada.
Kim Toulouse, volunteer coordinator for the wildlife division, said it’s cheaper in a wild setting to raise the fish and they are healthier.
“We use volunteers to help us do the job,” Toulouse said. “We do not have enough personnel to take eggs from fish and set up and maintain the station.”
Two volunteers work each day for about a month grading and sorting fish from nets into holding pens. On egg-take days, four to six volunteers and five to six paid staff members collect the eggs.
Collecting the eggs is called milking. Volunteers run their hands down the length of the fish’s belly and the eggs squirt out. They are placed in a bowl, then sperm is collected from the males and used to fertilize the eggs.
This year they aim to collect more than 900,000 eggs. Between 600 and 800 eggs are collected from each female.
The fish have a 65 percent to 70 percent survival rate in the hatchery versus a 10 percent survival rate in the wild, according to fisheries biologist Dave Sangor.
Sangor was also collecting fin and liver samples to use in testing the genetic variability of the fish population. He said the greater the variability the healthier the population.
Toulouse said the wildlife division uses volunteers in all aspects of its work except law enforcement.
He said volunteers are used to help capture and move elk and to lead interpretive tours among other things.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” he said.
YOU CAN HELP
Call volunteer coordinator Kim Toulouse at 688-1893 or visit the Nevada Division of Wildlife on the Internet at: http://www.nevadadivisionofwildlife.org