WORTHINGTON — Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Windom Fisheries Supervisor Ryan Doorenbos and one of his staff members were in rural Worthington Tuesday afternoon to release more than 7,500 pre-spawn perch (378 pounds worth) into Lake Ocheda. The fish were divided among each of the three basins, with stocking done on the far east side of the east basin, Sportsmen’s Park on the middle basin and Pickerel Park on the west basin.
Doorenbos said the hope is the perch — which came from a DNR rearing pond near Ortonville — will successfully spawn in the lake. Spawning typically occurs around this time, with the eggs hatching after about 10 to 14 days, he noted.
Perch are considered predator fish that will feed on carp eggs and work to keep carp populations under control in Lake Ocheda. The lake has been on the state's impaired waters list for more than a decade for its poor water quality and lack of vegetation.
While perch typically spawn in emergent or submergent vegetation — both of which are lacking in Lake Ocheda — Doorenbos said they aren’t too picky and may emit their eggs on branches in the lake, large rocks and cattails.
Plans are to also stock northern pike fry in Lake Ocheda in the near future.
“The Waterville hatchery did some spawning of northern pike and they have eggs at the hatchery,” Doorenbos said. “We’re waiting for them to hatch, and they’ll give us a call when it’s time to pick them up.
“We’re planning to stock about 100,000 in Lake Ocheda, spread out in the three basins,” he added, noting that these will be swim-up fry — tiny fish that will begin feeding on zooplankton and other food sources in the lake once they are released.
Doorenbos said based on experience, the success of northern pike fry stocking can be “hit or miss," and indicated the DNR has a couple of northern pike rearing ponds where the predator fish are raised to fingerling size. If needed, some of them may be stocked in Lake Ocheda as well.
“The whole idea is to try to get some teeth in the water to eat fathead minnows and some of the junk (fish) eventually),” he added.
While there have been significant amounts of dead fish floating ashore on Lake Ocheda’s three basins as a result of a planned wintertime drawdown to promote a fish kill, there is evidence that some of the carp did survive the winter. Doorenbos said that’s not unusual.
“I think I’ve seen one complete kill of carp in my area,” Doorenbos noted of his years with the fisheries office. “My hope is these large bodies of (roughfish) were minimized so they don’t constantly stir up the bottom of the lake and stir up sediment.
“Hopefully we see improvement in water quality and aquatic vegetation, and that will lead to water clarity,” he added.