From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 8 - 10/21/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Brian King, Ben Farmer, Travis Trimble, and Joe Gillis of the Game & Fish spawn trout at Soda Lake last week.
Fish Spawning At Soda Lake
Game & Fish to collect up to 1 million brown and brook trout eggs.
by Jennifer Binning

The next several weeks will be busy ones for the Game and Fish in Pinedale. It is spawning season for the local brook and brown trout, which keeps the fisheries staff waist deep in chilly water, fish eggs and milt for the better part of a month on Soda Lake alone.

Ben Farmer and his crew of 5 start their day at 8 in the morning, donning neoprene chest waders and raincoats, in order to collect and fertilize an estimated 1 million brown trout and three-quarters of a million brook trout eggs.

During the spawning season, the trout are found near the shoreline, and Ben and his crew are able to enclose the fish within a net, where they are scooped into large metal submersible cages and sorted according to sex and species. Then the fun begins.

Two men stand in each cage with the fish as they net several fish and put them in a smaller basket where the fish are easier to catch. Two cages containing brook trout are placed side by side, males in one, females in the other. The men then each catch a female brookie and squeeze her abdomen, running their thumbs from gills to vent to expel her eggs into a waiting bowl. The fish is then released into the lake again, where she will dash into the deep water knowing she has done her duty to propagate the species for one more year.

Next it is the boys' turn. A male brookie is then caught and the area just in front of the vent is gently squeezed to extract some milt to fertilize the waiting bowl of eggs. He is then released back into the cool waters of Soda Lake until he is needed again next year.

Spawning a male brookie.
The eggs await the milt in a bowl without any water, in order to keep them from beginning to develop. Once the milt is added to the eggs, Ben and his crew gently add a small amount of water, and swirl the bowl around before adding the newly fertilized eggs to a larger container used for cleaning and removing old or damaged eggs.

Once the eggs are introduced to water, they begin to absorb it and the membranous shells become hard enough to allow the Game and Fish to ship the eggs to a hatchery in Dubois. Here the fertilized eggs will spend about 30 days, until they reach the "eyed" stage, this is when the eye of the embryonic fish is visible through the shell, and the eggs are durable enough to be transported. Some of the eyed eggs are returned to Wyoming waters. The rest are shipped throughout the United States to trade for other species that cannot be raised here naturally, such as bass and "splake"- a cross between a lake and brook trout.

According to Dave Money, a fish pathologist from the Wyoming Game and Fish lab in Cheyenne, the eggs from Soda Lake are in high demand nationwide. Mr. Money was collecting samples of eggs, milt, and fish from Soda Lake to check for any diseases the fish may be carrying.

Mr. Farmer and his crew expect to be at Soda Lake for another two weeks before they finish up and leave to go to Boulder Lake in November.

Photo credits:  Jennifer Binning, Jennifer Binning

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All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul