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Western Minnesota walleye populations get a boost

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Natural reproduction, combined with an occasional stocking boost by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), has turned west-central Minnesota into one of the best walleye fishing areas in the country.

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"For years, lakes such as Traverse, Lac qui Parle, Big Stone, and Oliver have provided good catches of walleye, and anglers have come from far and wide to fish them," according to Norm Haukos, DNR area fisheries manager at Ortonville.

While many of the walleye come from natural reproduction, "which can be very good at times when the weather cooperates," Haukos said, poor weather conditions or marginal spawning habitat can limit natural reproduction. "Under these conditions the DNR will give "Mother Nature" a boost by stocking walleye."

DNR Fisheries biologists routinely sample lakes and streams to determine the status of fish populations, including the condition and abundance of walleye, forage availability, and habitat conditions. The data collected is used to determine stocking plans. Depending on conditions, newly hatched walleye fry (1?4 inch long), walleye frylings (1 inch long), walleye fingerlings (5 inches long), or adult walleye may be stocked.

Spring walleye stocking in the Ortonville Fisheries Area was recently completed with walleye fry stocked in Artichoke, Big Stone, John, Long, Marsh, Oliver, Perch, and Steep Bank lakes. South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks reared and stocked the fry into Big Stone Lake, a border water.

Fingerling and adult walleye were stocked into Botkers, Hendricks, Long Tom, and Oliver (West) Lakes. These fish were grown in local rearing ponds. Approximately 35 ponds are stocked each spring with walleye fry that are later harvested for stocking as frylings, fingerlings, or adults. Under good conditions the fry will be approximately 5 inches long after one summer.

Several of the rearing ponds will be harvested in June to collect frylings for stocking into Lac qui Parle Lake, Haukos said. "This will be the initial use of frylings to supplement the lake's walleye population. The frylings will provide a more cost-effective method than stocking larger fingerlings. Unlike Big Stone and Traverse Lakes, fry stocking has not been very successful at Lac qui Parle Lake, and given its large size a cost-effective fingerling stocking strategy is desired."

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