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GLIN==> News Release - Baitfish Research Results

                          NRRI and MN SEA GRANT
                               NEWS RELEASE

Date: August 17, 1999							              Contact:	Brenda Maas, NRRI
For Immediate Release									            (218) 720-4300

                Baitfish Demand Prompts Research, Results

Collaborative research between baitfish dealers and scientists at the University
of Minnesota Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and the 
University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program could alter the baitfish industry 
across the state. Researchers from NRRI, Sea Grant and the Agricultural 
Utilization Research Institute (AURI) are looking at the technical and economic 
feasibility of spawning and raising hornyhead chubs (locally known as redtails) 
in both indoor and outdoor aquaculture facilities. To date, the project has 
shown outstanding success.

NRRI/Sea Grant aquatic biologist Paul Tucker raised wild-caught redtails 
from fingerlings to marketable size in one year compared to the minimum 
three years required in a natural setting. Using pelleted feed in an indoor 
aquaculture system, Tucker was able to grow 95 percent of the fish to a 
marketable size by the 1999 Minnesota walleye opener. 

"In addition, the redtails raised at NRRI appeared heavier per length than 
those harvested from natural streams" noted Tucker. Baitfish retailers 
confirmed this observation. "They were very impressed with the fish's 
uniform size plus its robust and healthy appearance," he said.

In a second portion of the project, Tucker combined his knowledge of 
baitfish biology with the hands-on experience of AURI's Todd Sisson. They 
secured AURI funding for systems components to help Barry Thoele of 
Lincoln Bait in Staples, John Reynolds of Midwest Fish and Crayfish in 
Merrifield and a third proprietary baitfish dealer to set up artificial stream 
systems. All three cooperators and Tucker then simulated natural stream 
environments in their systems to encourage the redtails to spawn and hatch. 
Eggs were successfully hatched this summer and fry are growing  at all four 

Jeff Gunderson, associate director of Sea Grant, pointed out that although 
the program has been successful, it doesn't mean that commercially hatching 
and raising redtails is economically feasible. "The next phase of the project is
designed to look at just that," said Gunderson. "The MTI-funded research 
will examine profitability given different aquaculture costs and market prices. 
Research will also continue on refining production techniques and addressing 
concerns specifically related to managing the fish in commercial settings." 

Currently, bait shops are supplied by wholesalers who harvest redtails from 
natural streams. However, increased demand for redtails in recent years and 
loss of spawning habitat has put pressure both on the redtail populations 
and on other bait species. Researchers hope that what they learn about 
spawning and raising redtails in commercial settings will ease the stress on 
natural streams while providing an economic aquaculture opportunity. 

All baitfish sold in Minnesota must be raised or harvested in Minnesota to 
avoid introducing exotic species into the state’s lakes and streams. According 
to the winter 1999 issue of "Fish & Wildlife Today," published by the 
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, anglers spend $50 million 
annually on baitfish in Minnesota. Redtails are favored by anglers and 
walleyes alike. As the fishing season progresses, redtails become even more 
popular and prices rise, sometimes topping eight dollars per dozen.

This project has been funded by Minnesota Technology, Inc. Minnesota Sea 
Grant and AURI  with research conducted at NRRI's aquaculture laboratory 
and the three industry collaborator’s facilities. Aquaculture in Minnesota is a 
quiet but growing industry which links tourism, recreation and the state's 
natural resources to rural communities and businesses. 


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