MINOCQUA, Wis. (WXPR) - The first stocking resulting from the state initiative to raise larger walleyes for Northwoods lakes began Thursday morning in Woodruff and Minocqua.
DNR crews were cornering then netting out the 8 inch fish from a rearing pond at the Art Oehmcke Hatchery in Woodruff.
It's part of an $10 million dollar state-funded effort to expand production at DNR state fish hatcheries. Production should increase five times to over 500,000 fingerlings by 2016.
DNR Northern Region Fish Supervisor Steve Avelallemant says the fish were put in the rearing ponds this spring and are about double the size of a natural-raised walleye the same age. “They're averaging around 7 inches which is bigger than their natural counterparts so they're nice fish. This is the time of the year when they've reached their growth potential and water temperatures are cool enough to safely transfer them to the lakes. It's harvest time!"
Sports groups have expressed concerns about the walleye population. Avelallemant says the natural walleye have predators aplenty and less food, so they are smaller. He says it's all about survivability to adult size. “These larger fish will maybe survive 10 to 15 times better than the smaller fish. That's pretty well known....the issue is there's only a finite number of the bigger fish. We can raise a lot of the small ones, but just so many of the bigger ones." The first fingerlings went to nearby Lake Minocqua. He says over the winter the DNR will be talking to the public about where the larger fingerlings should be stocked.