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Minnesota DNR plans to change walleye stocking strategies

Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

Sometimes, less walleye stocking is better than too much walleye stocking, at least when it comes to fingerlings, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials say.

After evaluating the stocking of walleye fingerlings on 254 lakes in the state's Accelerated Walleye Program, the agency has announced it will cease stocking fingerlings on 44 lakes and change fingerling stocking densities or frequency on 95 other lakes. Fingerling stocking will continue at current rates on 115 other lakes.

"With fish stocking, sometimes less is more," said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. "Our review found that 70 percent of the 254 lakes saw no improvement in walleye numbers -- some even had declines in walleye -- after we massively increased stocking in them. That tells us we need to be more efficient in how we stock fingerlings."

The Accelerated Walleye Program began in the 1990s.

The DNR does two kinds of walleye stocking. One is with fry, which are just-hatched fish. The other is with fingerlings, which are raised through the summer and stocked in the fall. About two-thirds of the walleye stocking done in Minnesota is with fry, DNR officials say. The other third is with fingerlings.

About 85 percent of the walleyes caught in Minnesota lakes are naturally produced, not stocked, Pereira said.

Overall in Minnesota, anglers catch most walleye from waters where the fish reproduce naturally -- in about 260 larger walleye lakes and in large rivers, fisheries officials say. Because of stocking, walleye can be found in an additional 1,300 Minnesota lakes spread throughout the state.

The review found:

-- On 70 lakes, fingerling stocking at high densities should continue.

-- On 45 lakes, fingerling stocking will continue at high densities until evaluations can be completed.

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