GOSHEN — Flipping and flopping into the water, about 3,250 new fish splashed into the Elkhart River on Monday as part of a project to restore the population of a native species that has dwindled.
Members of the Elkhart River Restoration Association have restocked the river in two spots with walleye, a freshwater fish that has become scarce in local waterways over the past few years.
“Our hope is to reestablish their population in the river and show the public that we’re committed to restoring the river,” said Daragh Deegan, an aquatic biologist on the ERRA’s board.
Deegan was among a small group of people Monday morning to welcome a truck that traveled overnight from a hatchery in Wisconsin to deliver the walleye. About 1,100 fish were released into the river at Violett Cemetery, and another 2,150 fish were let loose into the water downstream of the the dam at Goshen Dam Pond.
The walleye were raised at Gollon Bait and Fish Farm in southwest Wisconsin in the spring, Deegan said. The fish that were set free into the river were six to eight inches in length. In the past, Deegan said, the water had been stocked with smaller fish.
“That doesn’t work nearly as well as putting the big fish in the water just because the survival rate of the small ones isn’t as good,” he said. “They get eaten by other fish or they perish just because they’re so small.”
The ERRA paid about $2 for each of the fish and accepts donations for the restocking project online at www.elkhartriverrestorationassociation.org. The group hopes to replenish the walleye population in the Elkhart River every two years.