Tagging Walleye on the Maumee...

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It's 34 degrees and snowing a blizzard on the banks of the Maumee--the river just across the street from my house. But Christ the Word member (and marine biologist) Chris VanderGoot is out on the river as I write leading a team of Ohio DNR biologists in their annual survey of of the Maumee River's walleye population.

Image_00004_3The DNR sends out two flat-bottomed boats (with jet propelled outboards--standard props frequently hit the bottom) to track the walleye population of this popular walleye fishing river each spring during the walleye run. Each boat is equipped with a generator attached to two vertical poles in the bow from which long electrical leads dangle. Once the shore crew is set to scan and tag walleye, the poles are lowered, the radiating electrodes dip into the water, an onboard generator is started and fish trapped in the 5000 watt electrical field float stunned to the surface where workers on the boat stand equipped with nets to catch and drop them into live wells.

Ben, Isaiah and I (together with Fred Walls and his grandchildren, Sam, Summer and Madelyn) went out to watch the tagging operation earlier this evening. We had a grand time watching Chris and the other members of the DNR set up their operation and then start catching and tagging fish.

Image_00003_3 Two barrels of fish can be seen--the one in the foreground holding fish fresh from the river, the one in the background containing scanned and tagged fish.

Tags are rice-grain-sized RFID chips injected hypodermically. The yellow circle at bottom is an RFID scanner. Though RFID tags are fairly new, each evening nets 10-20 walleye containing tags from previous years.

State employees also ask fishermen if they may scan their fish as they leave the river during the walleye run. Their purpose is to track age, size and location of fish over time.

Image_00001 Chris--an intimidatingly-sized 6'3" Dutchman--at the trough in which fish are placed belly-up for injection of tags.

Light comes from pole-mounted worklights connected to a generator behind the Suburban. Inside the Suburban is a man running a laptop connected to the RFID wand. Previously tagged fish have length and location recorded. Newly tagged fish are measured and recorded before release back into the river (a hefty fling of the stunned fish riverward).

Fishermen must end their fishing at sundown when the tagging operation begins. As they exited the river many stopped to ask if they could have a stunned fish to slip onto their empty creels.

DNR workers unfortunate enough to make contact with charged river water near the shock boats have been knocked unconscious according to Chris.


Chris holding a male walleye just prior to injecting the tag.

If anyone from CTW is interested in seeing Chris and the DNR crew in action you'll probably find them at work again tomorrow night. Go to the parking lot at the base of Fort Meigs in Perrysburg and look for lots of lights and people--and several boats out on the water.