Until the 2000s, walleye on the Minocqua Chain did fairly well according to DNR Treaty Fisheries Team Supervisor John Kubisiak.
“Around 2000 we started seeing some declines in our recruitment, our young fish coming up on the chain,” said Kubisiak.
Surveys through the early 2000s showed plenty of older walleye throughout the chain, but not much in terms of young and growing fish.
Over the last decade, the DNR has tried different tactics to restart natural reproduction in the lakes.
Bass minimum length limits were removed. For a while, there was an 18-inch minimum on walleye.
The DNR has been stocking Tomahawk Lake for decades. It then started stocking in Kawaguesaga and Minocqua Lakes and has kept that up for the last 10 years.
More partner groups joined in to try and find a solution. This led to several habitat improvement projects over the last five years.
Eventually, the DNR implemented a rule change that stopped all walleye harvest on the chain.
“We’ve had no harvest out there starting in 2015,” said Kubisiak.
While DNR surveys have found improvements to the population, there still isn’t the natural reproduction needed to sustain the walleye population.
They’re also not seeing as many males in the population. Right now, there’s about a 4 to 1 female to male ratio on the chain.
“I can tell you what the sex ratio is in adult populations that have strong natural reproduction is typically about three males per female,” said Kubisiak.
The DNR is proposing a rule change that would keep catch and release regulations on the for another fives years. After that, there would be an 18-inch minimum, but fish 22 to 28 inches may not be kept and a daily bag limit of one.
Gregg Walker is with the Minocqua chapter for Walleyes for Tomorrow. He spoke in favor of the extended regulations during Monday’s public hearing on the issue.
“We have to give it more time. I feel very strongly that, and I know Walleyes for Tomorrow our group, a lot of our partners, lot of people we spoke to, once we explained to them that this is what we were seeing, the vast majority of them were for keeping it closed for the full ten years to see if we can get natural reproduction,” said Walker.
Walker and one other person spoke in favor of the proposed rule change at the public hearing.
No one spoke against it.
The rule change will go before the Natural Resources Board next month.
People can also give public comment on the issue at that time.