DNR scrambling to stock walleyes
Glenwood, Minn. — When it’s all said and done, lakes in the state will receive about 150,000 pounds of walleyes this fall. But getting to that number won’t be an easy process.
“It was pretty bleak early on and we didn’t have high hopes for harvest this season because of the lack of winterkill last winter,” said Neil Vanderbosch, who coordinates the state’s walleye-stocking program. “It’s looking better now than it was two weeks ago. We’re getting pounds, but it’s a lot of bigger fish. The fingerling-sized fish that we like are hard to come by.”
Officials hoped to stock about 140,000 pounds of fingerlings, which are the equivalent of about 20 fish per pound. But they’ll wind up stocking more pounds than planned because so many of the ponds have bigger fish in them than they like to see.
Take the 30 or so ponds in the Glenwood area, for example.
Pond harvest is at about 70 percent, at a time of year when Dean Beck, the area fisheries supervisor there, would like nets to be nearly ready to pull out.
“It’s just a lack of fish; we’re sticking in there for everything we can get,” he said. “We just don’t see much for true young-of-the-year fingerlings. What we’re harvesting are 1-, 2-, and sometimes 3-year-old walleyes that had carried over in the ponds through the mild winter.”
In the Glenwood area, a lack of winterkill last winter allowed walleyes in the ponds to survive and grow to larger sizes. That, combined with a hot summer that caused summerkill of the fry stocked last spring, has made for a tough go.
“We’ll get our poundage quota, but the numbers of fish stocked will be proportionally lower,” Beck said.
Summerkill didn’t occur everywhere.
In the three drainable ponds at the Waterville hatchery, for example, Fisheries staffers removed about 1,500 pounds of walleyes this fall. While those ponds can receive infusions of water during the summer, that only occurs to replace water lost due to evaporation.
Both walleyes and muskies did surprisingly well during the summer, said TJ DeBates, the area fisheries supervisor in Waterville.
“Our pond harvest wasn’t as good as it could have been if we would have had a little more winterkill,” he said. “But it was actually a pretty good year in terms of our walleye production here at the hatchery.”
Pond harvest will last until the ponds freeze over – likely two or three more weeks, Vanderbosch said.
In addition to walleyes in the state ponds, the DNR also is buying fish from private growers. The agency will buy about 51,000 pounds of walleyes this fall, at a cost of about $18 a pound.
Most of those fish will go into waters in the northeastern part of the state.