Wisconsin Walleye Initiative underway to improve walleye fishing
LAKE MILLS – Good news for walleye anglers: state fish hatcheries have finished stocking the first of two waves of walleye to go out this year and the number of fish stocked far surpassed original estimates, state fisheries officials say.
Four state fish hatcheries equipped to grow “coolwater” fish such as walleye and musky sent more than 2.3 million walleye out the door earlier this summer, 560,000 fish more than originally expected.
These fish were 1 to 3 inches long when they were transferred into their new homes. They are the “small fingerlings” that DNR has traditionally stocked the most of because growing the fish to the “large fingerling” size of 4 to 7 inches would cost significantly more and exceed hatchery capacity, according to Mike Staggs, DNR fisheries director.
This year is different. In September and October, DNR will be stocking hundreds of thousands of the large fingerlings, made possible by the recently passed state budget that provided DNR more money to produce and procure larger size walleye for stocking.
Normally, DNR would stock 3 to 4 million smaller walleye and 60,000 to 70,000 of the larger fingerling walleye. But the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative allows DNR to hold back more fish instead of stocking them at the smaller size, and give them extra growing time. As a result, DNR will be stocking more than 400,000 larger fingerling walleye this fall and will be planning to produce and stock even more in coming years.
“The fantastic walleye production our hatcheries had so far has not only allowed us to stock more lakes with small fingerlings, but is now giving us a chance to stock as many large fingerlings as we can this fall,” Staggs says.
The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative developed by DNR and Gov. Scott Walker aims to improve walleye populations statewide by producing more larger walleye for stocking in waters where it can improve walleye fishing.
“We’d like to thank Governor Walker for supporting this Initiative,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “Stocking plays an important role in maintaining our state’s walleye populations, and we think this initiative will help improve walleye fishing in Wisconsin.”
Research shows the best walleye fisheries are universally self-sustaining through natural reproduction and produce populations two to three times higher than those waters stocked even at the highest levels.
But stocking more of the larger fish is also the quickest way to increase walleye populations on the broadest scale. Recent research in northern Wisconsin lakes shows that the larger stocked fish survive better.
Stagg says the DNR is mobilizing to put the Walleye Initiative funding, available July 1, to work. Production of the larger walleye fingerlings at state hatcheries has increased, and DNR is drafting the rules and contracts that will allow the agency to buy walleye from private fish farms and provide competitive grants to build the capacity of tribal, municipal and private hatcheries to produce larger walleye for stocking as well, he says.