Are walleyes of Red Lake recovering?

Field Editor

Waskish, Minn. In recent months, Outdoor News staffers have
heard numerous reports of anglers landing lots of walleyes while
fishing for crappies on Upper Red Lake.

“Many average anglers at my seminars and elsewhere have been
telling me they’re catching walleyes up there,” says Terry Tuma of
Outdoor News. “One angler said he caught 15 walleyes over two
pounds in 15 casts.”

Calls to resorts on the lake reveal more of the same.

“They’ve been catching lots of walleyes in various sizes,” says
Joanie Barthel at Rogers Resort. “I’m assuming people are releasing
them.”

Don Hudec, at Hudec’s Resort, says anglers who use spinners or
similar walleye gear when fishing for crappies or targeting
northerns are catching walleyes up to 24 inches.

“In a day of northern fishing, anglers may catch 10 to 20
walleyes,” Hudec says. “We’ve got a good, healthy population coming
back.”

However, DNR regional fish manager Henry Drewes says the reports
of anglers catching numerous walleyes are unverifiable by either
himself or the local conservation officer.

“I haven’t heard of anybody catching lots of walleyes,” Drewes
says.

He says anglers may land three or four walleyes during an
outing, mostly 10-inch fish from the DNR’s well-publicized 1999
stocking and perhaps a few that are 15 to 19 inches long.

Upper and Lower Red Lakes were closed to walleye harvest about
two years ago through an agreement between the state and the Red
Lake Ojibwe Band. Biologists say the population crashed due to
over-fishing by tribal netters and state anglers. The 1999 stocking
was the first step in an agreed-upon walleye recovery plan. The
walleye fishing closure is expected to last eight to 10 years.
Another 31.5 million walleye fry were stocked this spring.

Drewes said the DNR is monitoring the success of stocking and
walleye natural reproduction with annual surveys on the lake. He
says the lake contains “modest at best” year-classes from 1996 and
97, and a good 1999 year-class, of which 86 percent was derived
from stocking.

He said that five to eight year-classes are needed to support a
fishery, which means it will be years before biologists consider
re-opening the lake to fishing.

“We are in the early phase of a recovering population,” Drewes
said. “We’re on track, but it may not be as fast as people
like.”

In the meantime, anglers are flocking to Upper Red Lake to catch
large and abundant crappies, and northern pike. The lake is one of
the few remaining in the state where anglers have reasonable
expectations of catching pike over 10 pounds.

In order to prevent over-fishing due to the state’s liberal pike
bag limit, local businesses are promoting a voluntary pike release
program. Hudec says they are trying to encourage the release of
pike in the 12- to 18-pound range by issuing successful pike
anglers who release their fish a hat, pin, and certificate, as well
as the opportunity to get a graphite replica of their fish for half
price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *