Walleye stocking: Is it working?
A walleye stocking effort that started as a five-year plan for the Viking Sportsmen in Alexandria in 2007 has extended beyond that with no intentions of stopping.
Those walleye-stocking efforts are in their seventh year now with the Viking Sportsmen, the DNR, many other outdoor clubs, lake associations and other organizations putting more than $50,000 worth of fingerlings into 16 area lakes in 2013.
That’s more than 150,000 fingerlings. Gene Sullivan, a co-chairman along with Chuck Bokinskie on the fish-stocking committee, said the Viking Sportsmen put $5,000 toward that effort with more than $45,000 donated from lake associations and other donations from organizations in the area.
“It was a lot of work to begin with,” Sullivan said of getting people to donate to the stocking effort. “Now they end up calling me or they call Chuck and say, ‘Yeah, we got money raised and we want to stock fish again this fall.”
The hope of these stocking efforts has always been that it will lead to more fish being caught on area lakes. Bokinskie, Sullivan and Viking Sportsmen president Steve Henry say it has, based on their own experiences and hearing from other anglers.
“It’s probably less than a quarter of the people who live on the lakes that fish them semi-seriously,” Henry said. “But the feedback is that those people are doing better. Fishing has definitely improved.”
“I’ve had one fellow, he’s a good fisherman and this was actually in the fall of 2012,” Hendry added. “He said he goes to Canada every year and he said he has never, wherever he has fished, had walleye fishing like [he had here], size and numbers. Now that’s just one person, but the reports are pretty consistent that yes, it’s definitely improved.”
Glenwood Area Fisheries Supervisor Dean Beck says exactly how successful stocking efforts are on any lake depends a lot on habitat and the ecosystem of the lake.
“The best indication comes from our netting on the Alexandria Chain of Lakes,” Beck said. “The last surveys we did [in 2012], our walleye catches were elevated. There’s some cloudiness in that. Certainly, I think the pre-stocking has had an increase, but at the same time, both bass and northern pike numbers have declined. So there is probably more fish and then survival is probably better than it had been under higher pike densities and bass densities.”
The Viking Sportsmen have help put a lot of fingerings into lakes on the chain. According to the numbers they tracked over the course of six years of stocking from 2007 through 2012, 15,434 pounds of fish were put into the Chain of Lakes. A total 5,700 pounds were put into Lake Carlos and 4,590 pounds were put into Lake L’Homme Dieu during that time. That’s the most of any of the 27 lakes they have stocked.
Beck called the timing of these stocking efforts in Douglas County very good in that it has coincided with those lowering pike and bass populations on some lakes. Those are two of the greatest predators to young walleyes. He said the best walleye numbers they are getting are coming from many of the bigger lakes in the area.
“Lakes like Miltona, Osakis, where we have some level of natural reproduction,” Beck said. “That really drives those systems. Where we’ve probably had the most impact have been the medium-sized, clear-water lakes that typically have a lot of bass and northerns in them…in a sense, on certain lakes, I would suggest that we’ve seen improvements. On others, where there’s overriding factors or other habitat or ecological issues there that tend to suppress things, it’s not that evident.”
Bokinskie points to Lake Latoka, a lake he lives on, as an example of how the stocking efforts have impacted some of those smaller lakes.
“Part of the reason I talk about Latoka so much is Latoka was pretty much void [of walleyes],” he said. “It had 25-inch males and 30-inch females. There was nothing else in there until we started putting fish in there six years ago.”
In total, the Viking Sportsmen have helped put more than 37,500 pounds of walleye fingerlings into area lakes since the stocking started. It’s an effort they are confident is paying off and one they plan on continuing as they try to do their part to make Alexandria a destination for walleye fishermen in Minnesota.
“This was a five-year plan to begin with,” Sullivan said. “We made a five-year commitment towards it. Then we carried it on now for seven years, and I don’t anticipate that changing.”
(Numbers are from 2007 through 2012)
LAKES AND TOTAL POUNDS – L’Homme Dieu – 4,590; Carlos – 5,700; Darling – 2,874; Victoria – 680; Geneva – 1,590; Latoka – 1,630; Miltona – 1,340; Ida – 2,180; Lobster – 1,860; Andrew – 740; Mary – 952; Big Chippewa – 810; Cowdry – 954; Jesse – 490; Oscar – 200; Reno – 300; Turtle – 100; Louise – 100; Union – 100; Irene – 400; Maple – 2,100; Freeborn – 535; Moses – 617; Aaron – 613; Whiskey – 160; Brophy – 200; Devils Lake – 300