Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s aquatic biologists and volunteers spent 18 days in March collecting more than 132 million eggs during the 2022 walleye spawn that will be used to create great fishing opportunities for Coloradans.
Each spring, our biologists and volunteers head out at dawn, usually in freezing temperatures, to Front Range reservoirs and spend weeks capturing thousands of walleye and spawning them. This year, the eggs were collected from reservoirs at Lake Pueblo State Park and Cherry Creek State Park.
“Our team of aquatic biologists, other staff, and volunteers were able to collect the eggs we needed in only 18 days,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Assistant Aquatic Section Manager Josh Nehring.“ Anglers ought to be thrilled because it’s going to mean great fishing in the coming years in Colorado.”
Teams strip the popular gamefish, one slippery walleye after another, of their milt and roe (sperm and eggs) as the fish wriggle furiously in the biologists’ cold, wet hands.
The eggs are fertilized in a boathouse at Lake Pueblo and on a floating barge at Cherry Creek Reservoir. The fertilized eggs – often millions a day – are sent to CPW hatcheries at Pueblo and Wray where they are hatched and nurtured until the fry and fingerlings are ready to be stocked in waters across Colorado.
Why does CPW go to all the effort?
Because anglers love walleye for the valiant fight they put up on the end of a line and for the way they taste at the end of a fork.
The walleye eggs also are valuable as CPW’s hatchery staff trade them to other states in exchange for desirable gamefish otherwise unavailable in Colorado.
The annual effort has gone on since 1988 at Lake Pueblo. CPW aquatic biologists, other staff and volunteers spend hours each day alongside the biologists untangling dozens of nets – each longer than a football field – deployed each afternoon and left overnight in the lakes for the next morning’s catch.
2022 Walleye Spawn Facts
18 days of spawning 7 days a week (March 14 – March 30).
Collected 132,374,000 eggs in 2022 from 1,813 female walleye.
- 89,430,000 Walleye
- 40,381,000 Saugeye
- 2,563,000 Triploid Walleye – sterile walleye created by a precise technique of pressurizing the just fertilized eggs to 10,000 psi
- Spawned fish at Cherry Creek and Pueblo State Parks
- Normally, Cherry Creek would start earlier but due to late season ice could not start until March 23. Pueblo started spawning on March 14.
- Over two full weeks of spawning 7 days a week, rain or shine.
- Between the two operations we have over 30 people assisting each day
A Team Effort
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Staff worked with 10 – 15 volunteers each day to set, pull, pick, clean and organize, and reset 31, 6’ x 400’ gill nets every day (total of over 27 miles of nets set over the course of the spawn). A successful spawn takes a dedicated team and staff from around the agency stepped up to make this year a big success.
- All Area aquatic biologists from Southeast and Northeast Region (13 individuals)
- Some Area aquatic biologists from Southwest and Northwest Region
- Hatchery staff – Pueblo, Wray, Rifle
- Area staff from Area 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 14
- Park staff help from Cherry Creek, Lake Pueblo, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, and Cheyenne Mountain State Parks
- Budgeting staff
- Terrestrial biologists
- Volunteer Coordinator
- Water Section (River Watch)
Trades with other states for other warm water fish (catfish, wiper)
- 4 million eggs to Oklahoma
- 4.5 million eggs to Texas
- 10 million eggs to Nebraska (Colorado gets 10 million late spawn eggs back)
Travis Duncan is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. Travis has lived in Colorado for nearly 20 years and loves the outdoors.