Last week a group consisting of members of Walleyes for Tomorrow (WFT), the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) got a first-hand look at the walleye population on Lake Minocqua.

And a hands-on look as well. As part of a snap shot population survey, a crew from WFT netted walleye in 11 different locations on the lake. They then transported the netted fish in a holding tank to a boat manned by GLIFWC biologists. There, all adult walleye were fin clipped, measured, and had a spine sample taken from them before being released.  

After the netting, the GLIFWC crew went on electrofish recapture runs at night and from those catches they could gauge the proportion of fish that were marked during the netting process and therefore make an overall population estimate.

The population goal of the rehabilitation project, which began in 2015 and has included intensive stocking, habitat improvement, and a no harvest agreement between WFT, GLIFWC, the Lac du Flambeau Band, and the WDNR, is to see three adult walleye per acre on Lake Minocqua and Lake Kawaguesaga and two adult walleye per acre on Lake Tomahawk.

While the totals from the four days of netting and electrofishing are still being calculated, Mike Vogelsang, North District fisheries supervisor for the Wisconsin DNR, who was along with the WFT crew, said at first glance the numbers looked good.

“The overall catch in the nets was resectable,” he said. “Though it’s too premature to say what that translates to in population levels.”

Besides the overall number of walleyes caught, what was most promising to Vogelsang was the survival rate of stocked fish.

“One big thing that particularly struck me was the variety of sizes present in the nets,” he said. “It’s obvious that several of the past stockings were successful, which isn’t always the case with stocking.” 

Walleye weren’t the only fish in the nets that gave an encouraging sign.

“The abundance of two to five inch perch in the nets was a sign that there is plenty of forage available,” Vogelsang said.

This spring’s survey was meant as a snap shot of the walleye population. Another, more comprehensive, survey will be conducted next year by the DNR. That survey will encompass the entire Minocqua chain of lakes and include all fish species. As of now, there is no set date for the walleye harvest ban to be lifted on the chain.  

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or outdoors@lakelandtimes.com.