Walleye appear to be on a long-term decline in Green Lake, a clear and deep lake that has long been regarded as this region’s premiere destination for catching them.
The words of warning about the future of walleye fishing on Green Lake come from two professionals who know this subject only too well.
In the May edition of the Green Lake Breeze newsletter, Dave Coahran, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Spicer, quotes professional boxer Mike Tyson in saying “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’’ He goes on to explain that the infestation of zebra mussels is the punch in the mouth for Green Lake, but added there have been plenty of body blows to this point as well. Consider:
- Natural reproduction of walleyes and the survival of fingerlings are poor. Predation on young walleye and the growing amount of dead plant material smothering their rocky spawning areas are the apparent causes.
- Yellow perch numbers are poor. They serve as forage for the predator fish. A healthy perch population also reduces the predation of walleye fry by panfish.
- Eurasian watermilfoil continues to expand its range, despite aggressive control efforts.
- Summer kills of tullibee are becoming more frequent, believed to be a consequence of our warmer climate. Green Lake is one of the southernmost lakes in Minnesota to hold tullibee. They serve as a rich food source for walleye and northern pike.
- There is growing evidence that stocking the lake with a strain of walleye from the Pike River in northeastern Minnesota is not the best choice in terms of genetics. Coahran noted that walleyes native to southern Minnesota may have genetics that improve their success in these waters. The Spicer fisheries crew has collected walleye eggs from Diamond Lake this year, which has a very good population of walleye with the desired genetic strain. They are being raised for stocking in Green Lake in place of the Pike River strain.
It’s important to realize that these words of warning come despite lots of hard work to maintain Green Lake’s status as a premier walleye fishing destination. The DNR is continuing a very aggressive stocking campaign, and will even ramp it up a notch. Along with stocking what’s hoped to be a better strain of walleye in the lake, the DNR plans to increase the amount of larger fingerlings stocked. It’s hoped the larger fingerlings will be less susceptible to predation.Dick Sternberg, a retired fisheries biologist, offers his own warning as well in a report completed for the Green Lake Fishery Project and Green Lake Property Owners Association. He said he had been reluctant in the previous year to say walleye were in decline, but now offers this assessment: “It now appears that the ecological balance of Green Lake is shifting toward bass/panfish and away from walleye.’’
And yet, we do not know what lies ahead now that zebra mussels have delivered that punch to the mouth, Coahran pointed out. The invasive mussels filter out the microscopic phytoplankton that is the foundation for the food chain in the lake.
Pointing out that eventually somebody came along with the game plan to put down Mike Tyson, he expressed the hope that a Buster Douglas may be in the future for Green Lake to knock down its new nemesis.