BLOOMINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be cutting back on the number of fingerling walleye it stocks, but maintain its commitment to stocking young fry. The decision comes in response to an analysis of the state’s accelerated walleye stock program over the past 12 years.
Walleye numbers were declining in the late 1990s when the public called for an accelerated stocking program. The accelerated program doubled the number of fingerlings being stocked. Walleye stocking now represents about 10 percent of the division’s budget. Walleye numbers have been flat in recent years.
“It doesn’t look like we really moved the needle with walleye stocking,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. He spoke Jan. 5 at the DNR’s annual Roundtable in Bloomington.
Of the 254 lakes in the accelerated walleye stocking program, 70 percent saw no improvement, Pereira said.
The state stocks walleye in 1,074 lakes and rivers, according to Pereira. Stocking makes walleye fishing possible in lakes in parts of the state where the fish may not otherwise be found, he said.
Up to 85 percent of the statewide walleye harvest is provided by the state’s largest lakes and a handful of others where walleyes naturally reproduce, he said.
Pereira said fingerling walleye cost nearly $1 each in the fall, when they are stocked. Fry are released in the spring and come at a cost of pennies to the fish.
The state stocked 110,000 pounds of fingerlings last year, with roughly 45,000 pounds of the total purchased from commercial operations at a cost of $840,000.
Pereira said the DNR plans to reduce the amount of fingerlings being stocked by about 25,000, or about a 20 percent decrease.