- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - In a matter of two hours, Michigan Department of Natural Resources workers caught more fish than most avid fishermen can hope to catch in a lifetime.

Four DNR employees netted more than 100,000 fledgling walleye from a man-made pond on Jackson prison grounds Wednesday morning and then again about 100,000 1.5-inch walleye on Thursday. The state workers will stock the St. Joseph River with the fish, which are expected to grow up to nine inches by the fall.

Using an aluminum outboard rowboat, two holding tanks and two heavy-duty pickup trucks, Ed Pearce, Matt Smith, Grant Raasakka and Sarah Carlson transported the walleye to the river Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s why we have 4x4s,” Carlson told the Jackson Citizen Patriot ( http://bit.ly/1FF6Gbq ) as a pickup backed the rowboat into the lake, rear tires in the water and not a two-track or road in sight.

An annual event since the early 1980s, the Plainwell-branch of the DNR stocks the St. Joseph River and Portage Lake with the fish after harvesting them from the 19.5 million gallon pond next to the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility.

“If the DNR didn’t there wouldn’t be any walleye in the inland lakes in Michigan,” Smith said as he filled the holding tanks with table salt. “The fish get pretty frightened in here, this helps keep their metabolism down.”

Ten months out of the year, the pond - locked between the prison to the south and a gun range to the north - is simply a field, but the field connects to the Grand River via a pipe system the DNR uses to flood the area every April.

The DNR stocks the pond with about 500,000 “fries” no bigger than a mosquito, or baby walleye, in late April, Pearce said. “They’re growing about a millimeter a day at this point,” he said.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said the partnership comes at no cost to either organization.

“It’s just two state departments helping each other out,” he said.

___

Information from: Jackson Citizen Patriot, http://www.mlive.com/jackson

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