DNR turns to public for comments on walleye initiative Submitted: 10/16/2013

Adam Fox
10 p.m. Anchor/Reporter

RHINELANDER - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held its second public comment meeting for a $13 million initiative to boost state walleye production, Wednesday night in Rhinelander.

The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative will spend $8.2 million for infrastructure improvements and $1.3 million each year for annual operating costs will be provided to expand production at DNR state fish hatcheries.

Production should increase from 60,000 to 120,000 large walleye fingerlings a year to well over 500,000 by 2016.

The goal of Wednesday's meeting was to hear opinions from residents, and also discuss options of where the fish will be stocked.

DNR Northern Fisheries Supervisor Steve Avelallemant says more than 80 percent of Wisconsin lakes have natural walleye production. Those lakes won't be targeted for stocking.

"We would not think about stocking where Mother Nature is already doing it because she beats us every time," Avelallemant said.

Over the decades, walleye populations have declined slightly. That's one of the reasons why the initiative was passed. But walleye popularity with anglers also played a factor.

"Walleye are the number one game fish both in terms of what anglers are seeking and in terms of fish that they harvest," Avelallemant said.

More than 35 percent of anglers go for walleye. According to the DNR 6.1 million days of fishing in Wisconsin are for walleye. That's 29 percent of all angling days.

But Avelallemant says overfishing is a lesser problem.

"It's a factor, but it's not really one of the driving ones," Avelallemant said.

The next steps with the initiative comes in January. The DNR will revise walleye stocking quotas statewide. They will also plan private and tribal walleye production.

The DNR will hold one more public comment meeting for the walleye initiative. It will be Wednesday, October 23 in Oconomowoc.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Oconomowoc High School Art Center, 641 East Forest St.

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