What do Santa Rosa Lake, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the popular television show, Dirty Jobs, have in common? The answer: Fish Squeezing!
In the early hours of April 12, Mike Rowe, star of Dirty Jobs, and his crew, assembled at the boat launching area of Santa Rosa Lake for a fun-filled day of fish squeezing.
The walleye are not able to spawn naturally because of the type of water in the lake, so the employees of Game and Fish are there to help.
Every spring, Game and Fish personnel capture walleye in large traps and nets. They then squeeze them to express their eggs into large enamel pans. All fish caught during the filming of Dirty Jobs were females, but males are needed to accomplish the mission.
“Male walleye are smaller than females and are captured by electro-fishing at night, or when they enter a Merwin Trap,” said Marty Frentzel, chief of public information and outreach, New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish.
After male fish are captured and squeezed, the milt, or sperm, is mixed together with the eggs, which are sticky. In the wild, the eggs stick to weeds and rocks in order for fertilization to take place. In the manmade venture, all the material is washed and added to bentonite clay. The eggs are fertilized in 60 seconds.
For the 2011 season, Game and Fish took in more than 10 million eggs. The fertilized eggs are transported to the Rock Lake Fish Hatchery in Santa Rosa, where they continue to grow.
“The fertilized eggs are kept for six to seven days, then they are released into the lakes,” said Roddy Gallegos, assistant chief of fish over hatcheries, Dept. of Game and Fish. “We release the fish to 10 to12 lakes, including Santa Rosa, Stubblefield and Clayton Lakes,” he said. The episode will air later this summer.