Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Stocking on tap for Red in May ’03

Editor

Waskish, Minn. The effort to jump-start the walleye fishery on
Red Lake will continue in 2003 with the third walleye fry stocking
of the lake in five years.

Representatives of the joint Red Lake recovery team unanimously
agreed last Wednesday to move forward with the stocking after
reviewing walleye abundance data from 2002 summer seining and fall
gill nets on the lake.

The stocking, which should occur in early to mid-May, will be of
similar size to the previous two stockings on Upper Red in 1999 and
2001, according to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager for the
Minnesota DNR in Bemidji.

The interagency effort will stock 40 million walleye fry on the
lake’s 70,000 littoral acres shallow regions of the lake across the
108,000-acre basin of upper Red Lake.

“That sounds like a lot but on a per acre basis, that’s not a
high density stocking,” Drewes said. “It breaks down to roughly 600
fry per littoral acre.”

Representatives from the Minnesota DNR, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Minnesota, and
the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs unanimously agreed to the
effort last week.

Drewes said that the summer seining showed few young-of-the-year
walleyes in the lake in 2002 and the fall gill netting produced
relatively few sexually mature females from the 1999 year-class.
The technical committee representatives agreed that, given that
data, a good 2003 natural year-class of walleyes was unlikely,
necessitating a third round of stocking.

The original recovery plan for Red Lake included up to five
walleye stocking efforts over a 10-year period. The DNR considers
the stocking effort on Red a short-term “accelerant,” Drewes said,
to jump-start the lake’s strong natural reproductive capacity as it
recovers from decades of overharvest from tribal gill netting and
sport anglers.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion that we will or won’t stock
again beyond 2003,” Drewes said. “That decision will be based on
those same parameters that we used to implement this (2003)
decision.”

Drewes noted that the interagency committee, which meets twice a
year, chose not to stock in 2002 because of the presence of a huge
year-class of walleyes from stocking in 2001.

“When you have a real successful year-class, it can suppress the
following year’s, so we didn’t want back-to-back stocking,” he
said. “If the 2001 stocking had not taken, then we would have
looked harder at stocking in 2002.”

Most fisheries managers in committee agree that the first, best
chance for the 1999 year-class to begin pulling off its own
successful spawn will be in 2004, and “definitely in 2005.” The
success of those spawns could also affect whether future stocking
efforts occur, Drewes said.

All stocked fish are immersed in oxytetracycline prior to
release so that fisheries biologists can track their abundance in
future years. The chemical leaves an imprint on the ear stones of
the walleyes that DNR researchers can track and examine from fish
caught in test nets.

Past tracking results included 1999 when 85 percent of the
walleyes checked were from the state’s spring stocking. That
percentage dropped slightly in 2001, suggesting that the complete
protection of walleyes on the big lake was allowing some natural
reproductive walleye success in addition to the joint stocking
effort.

“We were pleased in 2001 that a quarter of the fish we saw were
naturally reproduced fish,” he said.

Drewes said the participants at the meeting also agreed that the
Red Lake recovery has been progressing very well.

“Everybody is extremely pleased with the progress that we’re
making. We all agree that we’re farther along than we thought we
would be just three years after signing that agreement,” Drewes
said.

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