Fall stocking well underway during third year of Wisconsin Walleye Initiative
Courtesy of WDNR
Fall walleye stocking is well underway as part of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, with some 355,000 of the 6 to 8 inch extended growth walleye now distributed primarily in northern lakes.
Dave Giehtbrock, fisheries culture section chief for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said plans are on track to distribute 760,000 fish this year, eclipsing last year’s stocking record of 720,000 extended growth walleye. To date, 68 of 128 state waters have received the large fingerlings, with the scheduled deliveries now progressing to lakes in southern Wisconsin.
“The stocking continues to go extremely well this year, with most of the fish measuring in at more than 7 inches,” Giehtbrock said. “These larger fish have an increased chance of survival and we are already seeing positive results from the previous two years of increased stocking. Depending on local conditions and forage availability, fish from the first year class of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative should be approaching legal size limits in most waters in the next two years – a real win for Wisconsin anglers.”
An important part of the story in 2015 has been the growing contribution of private and tribal fish farms to the pool of fish available for stocking. During the first year of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, private and tribal fish farms contributed just under 22,000 fish. That number rose to nearly 213,000 fish in 2014 and should be even higher this year, Giehtbrock said.
In addition to fostering growth in the private aquaculture industry, the stocking also represents a win for the broader economy. Wisconsin remains one of the top three fishing destinations in the U.S. with resident and nonresident anglers generating an economic impact of nearly $2.3 billion per year, according to the American Sportfishing Association.
“Walleye remain a top objective for many recreational anglers and a large part of the tourism industry in the state is driven by anglers pursuing walleye,” said Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director. “The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative is part of our overall management strategy to help restore reproducing populations in lakes that formerly supported native populations and improve the numbers in lakes that need regular stocking to maintain good fisheries.”
While stocking the larger, extended growth fingerlings makes sense in some lakes, this year’s stocking schedule also calls for distribution of 1.4 million small fingerlings and 15.2 million fry. Giehtbrock said DNR’s fisheries biologists develop stocking plans for the different sized fish based on specific lake conditions; in some lakes the fry and smaller fingerlings perform very well and are more cost effective than the larger fish.
In 2013, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature approved the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative with $8.2 million for state hatchery infrastructure improvements, $1.3 million additional funding for annual state hatchery operating costs, along with a one-time allotment of $2 million for private sector and tribal infrastructure improvements and $500,000 for the annual purchase of extended growth walleye from non-DNR hatcheries. Funding totaling $500,000 was approved earlier this year to continue the effort for 2015 and 2016.
During the first three years of the initiative through 2015, some 255 lakes will be stocked with more than 1.5 million extended growth walleye. Prior to 2013, the state produced about 40,000 extended growth fingerlings per year.