PESHTIGO, Wis. - Where do walleye go to grow and do they prefer their natal streams when it's time to spawn?
A major research effort by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Michigan DNR intends to learn more about walleye and their movements to aid in management of the sought-after species. Steve Hogler, DNR fisheries biologist, said the study has been underway since 2012 with fish now being tagged each spring in tributaries to Green Bay including the Oconto, Peshtigo, Fox and Menominee rivers.
"There are a lot of reasons why fisheries biologists tag fish, but for this work we want to determine movement after tagging and learn whether walleye tagged in a river return to same river in which they were tagged in subsequent years to spawn," Hogler said. "Historically it was believed that walleye in Green Bay did not move far from their home river and rarely intermixed with other walleye stocks in Green Bay."
However, more recent research from other walleye populations around the Great Lakes indicates that walleye populations show large movements and regularly mix with walleye from other portions of the same lake as well as walleye populations from adjoining lakes. Knowing whether walleye from Green Bay mix or not will help in the proper management of this important sport fish, Hogler said.
To date, the research project has involved tagging more than 6,100 fish and for the next few weeks DNR fisheries team members will continue working in the rivers tagging fish as the spawning run is underway. Walleye typically begin to reach sexual maturity at age 3 for males and age 4 for females.
One recent day, DNR fisheries team members tagged more than 200 walleye in less the two hours. They attribute the current strong runs of fish on the Green Bay tributaries to excellent year classes produced since 2007.
The walleye season on the Fox River, Green Bay and in large tributaries to Green Bay is open year round, but starting on March 7 bag limits were reduced to a one bag, 28-inch minimum size limit for walleye in the Fox River and a one bag, 15-inch minimum size for other open waters. With the start of the general fishing season on May 7 these size and bag limits revert back to the standard regulation of the three bag, no size limit for the Fox River and a five bag, 15-inch size limit for the other waters.
Anglers who catch a tagged walleye (or any tagged fish) are encouraged to note:
In addition, anglers are asked to provide contact information including name, address and phone or email so DNR can send a letter to the angler with the original tagging information.
Older tags contain a DNR address to send the tag with the above information. On newer tags there is also a phone number to call with the above information. Anglers may choose either option.
If the fish is to be released, the biologists ask anglers to leave the tag in place to allow for tracking in future years. DNR would still welcome a contact with the number and information from the tag.
"We're grateful for the participation by anglers as some of the fish tagged in the initial years are reaching maturity and more likely to be caught," Hogler said. "We intend to continue the tagging work for another few years with data collection in the years that follow. We appreciate the continuing collaboration with our partners from UW-Stevens Point and the Michigan DNR."
To learn more about angling opportunities in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Fishing Wisconsin." Results from past years of tagging, are available on the Lake Michigan Fisheries page of the website. " Look under Lake Michigan Assessments for the most recent Green Bay Walleye tagging report.