UW researchers studying decrease in walleye in Northwoods lakesSubmitted: 08/27/2019
Rose McBride
Rose McBride

UW researchers studying decrease in walleye in Northwoods lakes
NORTHWOODS - People come to the Northwoods for our beautiful lakes, often full of fish waiting to be caught. 

But one popular species is not as abundant as it used to be. 

The UW Center for Limnology is conducting an experiment to find out what is happening to the walleye in our lakes. 

"It's a whodunit, who murdered the baby walleyes," said UW free-range scientist Steve Carpenter.

Carpenter found that right after walleye eggs hatched, the lakes were full of the fish, but that later changed. 

"At the beginning of winter we have hardly any," said Carpenter.
Carpenter and other UW researchers set out to discover why populations of walleye have been decreasing in recent years. 

"We realized we need to do experimental studies of some of the ideas to see if they pan out," said Carpenter. 

Now in its second year, their study tests if removing potential predators to young walleye will help revitalize the species.
The types of fish researchers are looking for are warm water fish so they do most of their capture near the shore where the water is warmer.

"We set a trap or a net during the day and the next day we go retrieve it, empty it and reset it," said Associate Research Specialist Aly Andersen.

Andersen helps collect data for this experiment.

There are three types of traps that researchers use to collect pan fish and bass to take them out of the water. 

"A day it ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 [fish] with some days more, some days less," said Andersen. 

As the winters get shorter and the lakes get warmer, more of these warm water fish are appearing in lakes, potentially threatening the walleye. 

The research team will collect data for a few more years before coming to any conclusions, then any data will go to the DNR.

"I'd say we are reaching a point that we need to decide whether walleye this iconic fish is going to continue to be a part of our experience in the lakes here," said Carpenter. 

The lake that the researchers are looking at is McDermott Lake in Iron County because it is a small lake with a once large population of walleye. 

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