CHASSELL - With hopes they will survive, 1.5 million walleye were planted by the Copper Country Walleye Association in Portage Lake Monday, starting with a couple hundred thousand in Chassell Bay.
The fish, a quarter-inch in size, came from Thompson State Fish Hatchery in Manistique and the fish plant is an initiative put forth by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"We are a club of volunteers," said club president Ross Rinkinen. "We have 30 boxes of fish with some going to Bootjack and some going to Lake Linden."
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Volunteers from the Copper Country Walleye Association help load boxes, each containing 50,000 quarter-inch walleye, into Portage Lake Monday.
Each box was loaded with 50,000 tiny fish in 47-degree water. Monday, the 10 volunteers at the boat launch at Chassell Bay helped load boats with boxes to be taken across the lake. Some of the fish were taken to Torch Lake, the Bootjack shoreline and near the north side of the canal, Rinkinen said, in an effort to spread the fish around the lake.
"Last year, we helped the DNR plant 100,000 fry and a few thousand fingerlings," he said.
The water temperature, which was 50 degrees in Chassell, was tested so the fish can be eased into the new body of water for better survival.
"Take the bag out of the box and set it in the water for 10 minutes," said member Tom Rozich, during a release demonstration. "I would temper them for that long."
In waders, Rozich walked out a couple of feet into Chassell Bay where he floated a bag of fish in the water for 10 minutes before slowly releasing them and watching the fish scatter for a few minutes.
"We were formed in part to do this, to help bring the fishery back," Rinkinen said.
The organization hopes to see locals fishing again and see fishing grow as a tourist attraction in the local area.
"You have to try to figure out how to bring fishing back and stocking fish is the best method," he said.
For more information about the Copper Country Walleye Association, visit ccwalleye.com.