Pandemic putting hold on some DNR spring activities

The spring walleye egg and milt collection would be underway on Lake Elizabeth in southern Minnesota , but the Department of Natural Resources is determining whether to go ahead with it this year due to the pandemic. DNR wildlife staff and many other organizations will not be conducting prescribed burns on conservation lands.

The DNR's fisheries crew in Spicer would be starting the spring take of walleye eggs and milt for the hatchery, but the DNR has not determined whether it will go forward this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical distancing guidelines for workers. West Central Tribune file photo by Tom Cherveny

SPICER — Lake Elizabeth in southern Kandiyohi County is ice free, and the walleye are moving to their spawning habitat.

And in most years, the Spicer fisheries crew with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would soon be bouncing in boats on the waves above them, hoisting in nets with their catch of walleye to take eggs and milt for the hatchery in New London.

Not this year, at least at this point. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources central office is in the process of determining whether to go forward with the spring take of walleye eggs and milt for the hatchery, according to Kim Pleticha, assistant communications director for the Minnesota DNR in St. Paul. She said the governor’s stay at home order allows few exceptions. “We are carefully trying to determine what work can safely continue under the governor’s order,” she told the Tribune in an email in reference to the spring egg take.

The Spicer fisheries staff, and their counterparts in the wildlife division, are largely restricted to working at home.

The walleye spawning season is just beginning. The local crew usually begins its egg and milt collection on Lake Elizabeth, and then moves to Diamond, Rice and Koronis as those lakes open up and their waters warm. There is still time for the collection to be undertaken if the DNR decides to move ahead.


Fry produced at the hatchery are stocked in lakes in the area and southern Minnesota to boost walleye fishing. If the spawn take does not occur, walleye fishing on lakes where there is limited or no natural reproduction will take a hit.

There are decisions already made on some work that will not be undertaken by DNR staff. The DNR’s wildlife division will not be conducting prescribed burning this spring in order to ensure adequate resources are available for wildfire suppression, according to Pleticha. The decision also reflects a desire to reduce the amount of smoke going into the air at a time when more Minnesotans may be experiencing respiratory issues than in a usual spring, she added.

She said a number of other private agencies, private and nonprofit organizations and landowners have suspended prescribed burn activities this spring as well.

Some work is going forward, but at a slower pace due to the coronavirus. DNR parks and trails staff are working to install docks at public water accesses and in state parks. Getting the docks installed will take longer this spring due to the work challenges associated with social distancing requirements.

Fishing seasons will open as usual. The DNR is urging people to fish close to home, in keeping with the spirit of the governor’s order, added Pleticha.

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