MADISON - A record 881,977 walleye were stocked in key Wisconsin waters this past year as state, private and tribal hatcheries continued to put Wisconsin Walleye Initiative funding to work for anglers, state fisheries officials said.
"We're very pleased that the investment made to hatcheries through the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative and the hard work of our fisheries crews and our partners are once again paying off for Wisconsin anglers," says Justine Hasz, fisheries director for the Department of Natural Resources.
The initiative, proposed by Gov. Scott Walker with the 2013-15 biennium budget and approved for continuation through the 2017-19 budget, has paid to upgrade state hatcheries and provided extra operating funds needed to keep fish on site longer and feed them minnows. The initiative also provided grants to upgrade three tribal hatcheries and six private facilities to meet the stocking demand statewide.
"We stocked a record number of fish again, meeting the need identified by fisheries biologists and we're poised to meet the needs long into the future for walleye stocking using public and private partnerships," says Dave Giehtbrock, DNR fisheries culture section chief.
Natural reproduction accounts for more than 80 percent of the walleye caught in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative is part of DNR's overall management strategy to help restore naturally reproducing populations of walleye in lakes that formerly supported naturally reproducing populations and improve walleye numbers in lakes that need regular stocking to maintain good fisheries.
While stocking the larger, extended growth fingerlings makes sense in some lakes, DNR also stocks about 1.4 million small fingerlings each year, and works with several cooperators to stock walleye fry into several bodies of water. DNR fisheries biologists develop stocking plans for the different sized fish based on specific lake conditions; in some lakes the smaller fish perform very well and are more cost effective than the larger fish.
In the last year before the launch of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, DNR stocked 142,121 extended growth walleye. Since the initiative began, DNR has stocked 455,307 large fingerlings in 2013, 719,670 fish in 2014, 760,969 fish stocked in 133 waters in 2015 and 797,815 in 2016.
Those totals include the contributions from tribal and private hatcheries. In 2017, 177,891 fish came from private and tribal hatcheries.
Walleye are a favorite quarry for Wisconsin anglers and boost the economy by driving expenditures for lodging, dining, retail purchases, guided trips and tournament participation among other things. 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.