The “Walleye Wagon” Portable Fish Hatchery

It’s “hatch Time 2017”

The eggs are popping earlier then the doctors, scientist and engineers said they were going to….260 temperature units when its supposed to be over 300….just like having a premature baby? I guess?

Whatever it’s all hands on deck now. Please sign up for the “walleye fry watch” all this week April 24th-30th as its game on.

Also we are doing a Sponsor Appreciation lunch on April 30th from 2 pm – 4 pm. Come for a beverage and a burger and thank the people who have been busting their tails to get more walleye in Pewaukee lake!!



Its “Wally Wagon time 2017” folks. Time to prep the nets, do some shinning and determine when the Walleyes will be cooperating and give us a chance to fill the portable hatchery with eggs.

The wagon is set, pumps are being installed, most nets have been inspected and holes stitched shut, some final set up of jars and filters need to be done and tested.

A early test net was run on Monday and 3 small males were caught Tuesday and as usual and as expected the young males are ready to go. We pulled the nets utill Saturday April 1st when it looks like the temps will be going up. We do not want to be running nets early and harassing the fish before the time is right. So anybody wanting to be involved it looks like Sunday; APRIL 1st, 2017 may be when the walleyes start spawning at least in the east end. But we don’t set the schedule, they do, so it may even be a week later. We will try to update people on the website, email and on facebook so everyone can be involved.

Lets get another couple million walleye fry into the lake in 2017!!



Hatchery is full as of the end of the day April 20th, 2016.

Waukesha Freeman stopped in yesterday and here is the article – Wally wagon stocking Pewaukee article

Don’t be shy, stop down for a beverage and check out this great undertaking.

Spring is here, and that means the walleyes are in to spawn…well, sometimes weather, water temps and other factors make us wonder exactly when is that exact time. This is what we face every year, when do we get the nets in so we can catch what little spawning walleyes we have left to re-populate our lake. Without the natural reproduction, getting the walleye population back is solely on the WDNR’s back for stocking or….we get a bunch of crazy fishing finatic’s that have great respect for conservation practices and the fisheries to bust their asses to “make it happen” themselves….

We are starting slow but we had about a jar and a half or 140 ounces of eggs on April 6th, 2016. The next day we had only 1 female ready to give her eggs and 6 more that were green. We measured and returned them without harm or stress to the lake in hopes that they will return in  a few days. The executive decision was to open the nets and let the fish run free until Saturday night or Sunday to avoid “harassing any fish” if they are not ready to cooperate.

We expect to be in full swing next week as it warms up…here’s some photos from the past few days.

rooster with a big green female

rooster with a big green female





Jims first jars of 2016

Jims first jars of 2016








Cono measuring fish

Cono measuring fish

Frank milking 04062016

Frank checking a potentially green female

Netting 04062016

removing muskies

04042016 Nets Jim Bob Dakota

Test net crew enjoying the weather – Jim, Bob and Dakota

04062016 bucket of eyes 04062016 milt Mike 04062016 Tom with nice female giving eggs 04062016 fyke net check 04062016 net checking 04072016 measuring 04042016 Nets Jim Bob Dakota 04062016 net checking crew 04072016 Rooster with green female Frank milking 04062016 Netting 04062016
























































04072016 rough weather net crew

Rough weather crew – Buddy Bo, Cono, Shawn, Keith, Tom and Rooster….”die hards”

removing muskies 04062016

Releasing ski’s

Frank with spawned out female 04062016 net crew 04072016





















Walleye Wagon hits the papers again. GREAT ARTICLE  by Paul Smith of the Milwaukee Sentinel/JS Online:

Pewaukee Fishing Club Trying to keep Pewaukee stocked with Walleyes

It’s that time of year again folks….the nets were set and the walleyes were caught and brought back to milk the eggs and fertilize them so we could pack the portable fish hatchery with hopes of another successful release. We managed to get 113 males and 119 females which resulted in approximately 7, 060,000 eggs in the 12 jars. The Walleye Wagon will be cranking out baby walleyes through the first week in May. If you wanna see this incredible effort you will need to show up next week as it will be all over in another week or so.


Hatchery eggs 04192015


Walleyes in Tank

Walleyes in Tank



5 Million walleye eggs in hatchery jars

Measuring ounces of eggs


station #10 set up for WFT

Pump testing prior to operation


Ron Gaudes fixing pump

Ron Gaudes cleaning the pump in the rain

Tom pump cleaning

Clogged pumps, I can’t wait…












This photo is early April where a few kids were catching fish off smokies pier and Mr. Sankey kindly let them know they had to release the undersized game fish. These were the fruit of our efforts last year. The one on the left definetly is smaller than what the WDNR released ast fall!



Here’s a little summary of last year so you can think about timing:

Date first nets were set: 4/18/2014

Number of nets set: 4

Date last net was pulled: 4/23/2014

Total net nights: 5

Date first eggs were placed in hatchery: 4/19/2014

Date last eggs were placed in hatchery: 4/23/2014

Total estimated eggs in hatchery: 845 o.z.

Date first fry were released: May 12th, 2014

Accumulated TU’s on the date of the first hatch: 321

Estimated hatch  (success rate) : 95%

Date last fry were released: 5/13/2014

Estimated number of fry released: 3-4 Million

Accumulated TU’s date of last release: 354

Total days hatchery operation (first net set to last fry released): 26 days

Total number of fish caught: Males – 103  Females – 47

Total number of fish stripped: Males – 72  Females – 36

A job well done boys and girls….

Here’s a brief story of events and some photos of 2014:

The Walleye wagon hatched just over 4 million walleye fry and released them into Pewaukee Lake on Mothers Day May 11th, 2014 and the day after. How fitting! There were many smiling faces and high fives flying as the crew successfully dodged multiple thunderstorms and inclement weather to get the fry in the water safely. What a proud bunch of Mommy’s and Daddy’s we are as the Pewaukee Chapter pulls off another successful first year project!

The process took an insane amount of effort and teamwork to make this project happen. It starts with getting the knowledge and materials on site. We couldn’t have done it ourselves if we didn’t have Mike Arrowood (below photo purple shirt) the WFT Chairman of the boards experience and know how to make this happen. The coolers below contain the first 2+ million fry (future 30 inchers) on there way to the deep water.

Mothers day Walleye release crew

The crew above left to right is as follows: Jim Schmitz, Jeff “Rooster” Roos, John “Turk” Burke, Mike Arrowood, Tom Koepp, Jayden Schmitz, Jerrett Schmitz, Dakota Koepp and Scott Czechan. Mike Koepp is part of the crew and is taking the photo.

The long process starts with getting the final touches done in the walleye wagon and getting the pump system up and running.

The main pump set up

Jerry Berg works inside the pump crib to assure all zip ties hold the structure in place.

Tom Vieth and Mike Arrowood and DK and Jerrett







Tom Vieth and Jerret and Jayden Schmitz listen on as Mike Arrowood explains the process of adjusting flow and handling the walleye eggs.



The long process starts with utilization of fyke nets to capture walleyes.

WDNR fyke nets stretching out

Cleaning, stretching and drying of nets


Placing these nets in strategic locations and catching the spawning walleyes is the first critical step when the hatchery is set up and ready to go.

Walleyes were reviewed by searching the previous nights to verify they were ready to spawn in the typical known areas.






Walleyes in Tank

some Pewaukee pigs waiting to be stripped of eggs and released

Incidental Muskies and 1 Walleye in net

“Incidental catch” of Pewaukee muskies


While working hard to catch the walleyes we did encounter a few decent muskies, some nice size large mouth bass and even 2 very nice size soft shell turtles. All were obviously successfully released unharmed..


The Walleyes are brought back to the walleye wagon site and put into the holding tank awaiting egg processing.


Eggs are stripped from the female walleyes carefully. Milt is obtained from the male walleyes to fertilize the eggs.

The eggs are gently being squeezed from the ripe female walleyes as shown on the photo on the bottow left. Green walleyes are female walleyes not ready to release eggs. No eggs are forced out. Green walleyes are released to spawn on their own or we hope to recapture them in another day or two when they are ready. The milt is then squeezed from the male walleyes. See the bottom right photo.

Stripping walleye eggs

Tom and Mike Koepp carefully stripping eggs from a ripe female

Milt is added from the male walleyes

Walleye eggs with milt added










Stirring the mix

Kristine and Danielle Koepp stirring the fertilized walleye eggs


The egg and milt mixture is gently mixed and water is added to help the fertilization process. A Bentnite clay mixture is then added to help coat the individual fertilized eggs to avoid mass clumping of eggs.

Jim Schmitz stirring in bentonite clay mix

Jim Schmitz stirring in bentonite clay mix

Checking eggs for health

Tom measuring ounces of eggs to calculate numbers of future 30 inchers


All fertilized eggs are put into the flasks. The bentonite clay mix flows gently out of the system and the lake water being pumped from the lake flows smoothly through all the jars in the hatchery. Daily observations of flow, checking filters for debris, cleaning the pump in the lake and checking for clumping of eggs in the jars are a daily routine morning and night at minimum.



Scientist Bob E

Scientist Bob Eloranta


Our very own “Scientist Bob” Eloranta carefully adds a peroxide treatment to the jars of eggs to prevent clumping of unfertilized eggs with healthy eggs. Dead or unfertilized eggs are removed. Clumps are strained and put into a “hospital jar” to try to save the good eggs. The chapter seems to feel every egg that could have been lost is a “future 30 incher”.

DK and Jacob measuring fish n clipping fins

Dakota Koepp and Jacob Sklenar fin clipping and measuring fish before release

Every walleye is check for sex, measured and a fin clipped to indicate which fish were processed. This allows us to verify re-captures and is valuable data for years of analysis.

Walleye eye-up

Eggs at “eye-up”

Our eggs are reaching the “eye-up” stage of their lives. These eggs are approximately 2 weeks old. I’m forecasting that they will potentially be hatching by this Saturday May 10th, 2014. I’m basing this on the temperature units reaching around 300, anytime after 300 DTU’s they will be leaving the eggshells and swimming to our bins. This is going to be crazy as we have so many eggs within 2 days of each other. This means we will need “all hands on deck” to keep the water flowing and the filters clean so the eggs shells do not clog the filters and allow us to overflow the tanks and lose our fry.


Let “the hatch” begin


A night photo with a flashlight shows a photo of the eggs drifting in the gentle current of the flasks and one of the fry that has hatched in one of the first 3 jars collected.






Baby walleyes hatching

Another photo is taken of the jar and the start of the hatch during the day.

It didn’t take long after the temperature hit the 80 degree mark outside for the first time this spring.

When the outside air increases substantially and the west winds get the waves rolling, the water surface temperature rises quickly. As that rises the temperature units rise quickly and soon the fry were hatching like popcorn.


Walleye fry hatching

Walleyes hatching like popcorn popping!!


After the hatch the fry (called “swim up fry”) at this stage make their way up and out of the flask. They flow down the discharge to the fry tanks waiting for them outside of the walleye wagon.

Fry tank crew

The crew watching the tanks carefully the last 3 tanks have fry in them notice the screens in the tanks

The end tanks furthest in the background are receiving the first of the fry hatch. They will accommodate the first 670,000 fry that are in the first 3 flasks. They will enter the tank through the discharge pipe from the walleye wagon and pop up out of the center 2″ pvc pipe. After these 670,000 fill the first two fry tanks the flow from the walleye wagon will be capped off from those tanks and opened up to the next 2 tanks to accommodate the “day 2 hatch”. The filters are placed on the outlet pipes of the fry tanks to stop the fry from flowing out of the tanks. The fry initially appear to swim to the surface to get their first gulp of air to fill their swim bladders. We will then hold these fry until they can pass our “swim test” which is looking to make sure they can swim horizontally and they are consuming their yoke sacks.


Ron Gaudes fixing pump

Ron Gaudes having fun in the rain

Part of the worst job was keeping up with filter cleaning and pump cleaning during inclement weather. Below Ron Guades is soaking wet while installing an additional filter system on the in-take pump for the fry tank. Without continuous fresh cool water the fry will die.



The other big issue is the main hatchery pump being smashed into shore by the raging west winds during the rain storms. What started as 2 eight pound anchors quickly became 3 cider blocks and that still didn’t hold.

Tom swimming out the anchor and pump system

Tom going for a spring swim to drag pumps back out

We had to swim the larger blocks out to the deeper water to try to stabilize the pump system.

Keith on the filter changes

Keith Landers keeping an eye on things

Mike Koepp brought out the Ranger 620 and some real serious anchors that eventually locked the system in place for the duration.

Changing filters about every 15 minutes was standard during the Fridays brutal weather and wave action. Sediment clogged the filters, threatening the tanks of overtopping and spilling fry onto the ground. “It just ain’t gonna happen on my watch” says Keith Landers.



Below is Mike Arrowood observing the fry in a glass pitcher doing his “swim test” – get em’ in the water he says soon after his review.

Mike A doing swim test

Mike Arrowood and Jim Schmitz swim testing fry


So the coolers are loaded, notice most this hard work is done by the kids with strict orders from the dads on moms on site. Jody Schmitz is taking photo’s and barking orders in the back ground. Jarrett and Dakota Koepp are right on it. “lets get em’ in the lake before the storm”.

Dk loading coolers Jody in bckground

Dakota, Jayden, and Scott Czeshan Loading fry for release into the big lake


On our way between rainstorms we go!

Fry relaese on Mothers day 2104

The walleye release crew


So we venture out to get the fry in an area that is abundant with zoo plankton for the little fry to consume and grow. They are born predators and will be on a feeding binge for the next 10 years and more.





The release is done by hooking up a siphon hose and slowly siphoning the fry into the big lake.

Kristine siphoning out our babies

Kristine syphoning out baby walleyes for release into their new home


Turk releasing the fry by siphon

Turk taking his turn releasing a couple thousand walleyes









We owe a special thanks to the members who worked day and night watching the walleye eggs for countless hours and especially when the were in the hatching process. John “Cono” Covert was “the man” as he took the graveyard shift and assured the walleye fry were safe from clogging filters and pumps. Jim Schmitz, Keith Landers, Rooster, Bob Eloranta, Frank Yurchich, Ron Guades and Scott Czechan really stepped up to the plate daily to see this project through. Mike Koepp, Bob O’Neill, Turk, Jerry Berg, Kristine Koepp, Levi and Colton, Dakota Koepp, Jayden and Jerrett Schmits you guys rock! There are just too many to list and you know who you are anyway.

These guys worked in shifts to cover the 24 hour process. The real hard days were when the hatchery was full and hatching, the cleaning filters in rain storms, cleaning pumps, dragging anchors and resetting anchors during brutal conditions all the way up to distributing the fry into the lake during rainstorms and between lightening shows.

Thank you for stepping up to the plate and showing your dedication and support and making this project a success!

Congradulations to all.

Yours for a better fishery,

Tom Koepp -WFT Pewaukee Chapter Chairman

For more information on the Pewaukee Chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow and how to participate or become a member or Sponsor contact Tom Koepp – WFT Pewaukee Chapter Chairman at 414-333-9603 or by email at:











3 responses to “The “Walleye Wagon” Portable Fish Hatchery

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move « Behind the Willows

  2. Pingback: The Wally Wagon is fired up again – come check it out!! | PEWAUKEE WALLEYES

  3. I believe the public, especially the fishing public, would have great interest in your walleye wagon. I think you could raise a LOT of money if you displayed your walleye wagon at the Milwaukee Journal Sports Show and asked for donations. Just block off an aisle and let people walk through. People love nothing more than to see tangible and positive use of their donation dollars. I believe the Sports Show would welcome the exhibit as it explicitly fits their desired niche. You could likely get a very favorable rate.

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