Indiana Walleye

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Walleye Fishing in the Hoosier State

A product of fish management and angler support

 

Gary Hudson, Fisheries Supervisor

Tri-Lakes Fisheries Station

5570 North Fish Hatchery Road

Columbia City, Indiana  46725

e-mail: ghudson@dnr.state.in.us

 

Introduction

Although walleye are thought to be native to Indiana, distribution was limited.  One of the earliest recorded stockings was made in 1891, and during the 1930's, 15 to 20 million fry were stocked annually.  Modern day management began with the resumption of walleye stocking in 1970.  Today, Indiana’s fisheries section annually stocks 12 impoundments, six natural lakes and two rivers with walleye or hybrid walleye

(Table 1).  Total acres stocked with walleye or hybrid walleye is 34,171.

    Natural reproduction is very limited and contributes little to walleye fishing in the state.  Fisheries biologists have focused on providing fishing opportunities for this popular fish throughout the state, increasing sizes and numbers of walleye caught and improving angler satisfaction with walleye fishing

Indiana’s walleye record (14 lbs 4 oz) was set in the 70s and it is shared by two anglers.  One of the record-setters came from the Kankakee River; the other from the Tippecanoe River.

Large Walleye Fingerling Research

When it comes to stocking fish, bigger is usually better.  However, production costs  must be weighed against angling benefits.

In 2001, Crooked Lake (Steuben Co.), Winona Lake (Kosciusko Co.) and Sylvan Lake (Noble Co.) were stocked with 6-8 inch long walleye.  Stocking density was 20 per acre at Sylvan and Winona lakes and 10 per acre at Crooked.  Plans are to stock these lakes three consecutive years to see if the large fingerlings provide fishing where small fingerlings failed.

Fry are usually stocked at 2,000-3,000 per acre and the 1½ inch long fingerlings at 100/acre.  For comparative purposes, four fry can be produced for a penny and it cost a little over six cents to produce one 1½ inch fingerling.  Each 6-8 inch walleye cost $1.45.

   The large fingerlings required for this research have been purchased from a private hatchery as Indiana currently does not have the rearing ponds needed to grow walleye for the entire summer and still meet other fish production goals.

Sampling will be conducted annually to evaluate each of the three experimental stockings.

 Prior to 2001, all walleye fishing provided by the DFW has been done with multiple-year stockings of fry or 1½ inch long fingerlings. There have been some waters where biologists felt that fishable walleye populations would have developed if larger fingerlings had been stocked.  This hypothesis is what led to the “large fingerling” walleye research.

 

Anglers responding to a statewide survey listed walleye #1 when asked,

“Which species of fish do you want the Division of Fish and Wildlife to stock?”

Sauger Introductions

 

Biologists are also working to establish self sustaining sauger populations in the East and West Forks of the White River.  Sauger are popular members of the perch family of fishes, along with walleye, yellow perch and many species of darters.  They are native to some of Indiana’s larger rivers.

The E.F. White River was stocked with sauger fingerlings six consecutive years,  1995-2000. 

Following the devastating fish kill on the W.F. White River in 1999, the first of three planned sauger stockings was completed in June 2002.  Some sampling has already been done and more is scheduled to evaluate these stockings.  Again, the goal is to restore naturally reproducing sauger populations in two rivers.

Walleye Size Limit

The fisheries section proposed a 14-inch minimum length limit for walleye at three public meetings in March 1996.  Anglers had been asking for a size limit and no one opposed the proposal.  Justification for the size limit included:

 1.  Walleye have greater growth potential than was being realized at most stocked waters.

 2.  Walleye fishing in Indiana is hatchery dependent.  It is too costly to stock fish and have them harvested during their first and second summer when they have the capability to live longer and grow larger.  

 3.  Nearly 50% of the respondents to the 1994 Statewide Angler Survey supported or strongly supported a minimum length limit for walleye.  Only 15% opposed a size limit and 17% were neutral. 

     The proposed 14-inch minimum length limit for walleye went into effect in August 1996 and it applies to all waters except the St. Joseph River (St. Joseph & Elkhart Counties) and Ohio River.

There is a 15-inch minimum length limit on walleye in Indiana’s portion of the St. Joseph River to be consistent with Michigan’s 15 inch size limit.  The St. Joseph River originates in Michigan, flows through parts of Indiana, and then returns to Michigan.  One size limit throughout the course of the river makes it easier for anglers to understand and comply with.

The walleye size limit has now been in place for six growing seasons and biologists are starting to compare population structure (numbers, sizes, weights and growth rates) before and after size limit implementation.


Indiana’s daily bag limit is six for any combination of walleye, sauger or saugeye. 

There is no closed season for walleye, sauger or saugeye.

Hatchery Production and Stocking Strategies

    Eggs for Indiana’s walleye program are taken from mature fish collected each April at Brookville Reservoir.  The goal is 40 million “green” eggs.  These eggs will provide about 22 million walleye fry, 1.2 million 1½ inch walleye fingerlings and 40,000 hybrid walleye fingerlings.  Walleye stocking densities at lakes are 2,000-3,000 fry/acre or 100 fingerlings/acre.  Hybrid walleye and river walleye stocking densities are 50 fingerlings per acre.

Hatchery Manager Dan Jessup checks walleye eggs at Cikana State Fish Hatchery

Due to concerns about fish genetics, walleye for stocking the St. Joseph River are obtained from Michigan as the St. Joseph River originates in Michigan, then flows south into Indiana before entering Michigan again.

 



 

 

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