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Fall walleye recruitment surveys

Recently, the Department of Natural Resources Tribal Coordination Unit completed nine fall walleye recruitment surveys on lakes from the central Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula.  Two of the Upper Peninsula surveys, on Brevoort Lake (Mackinac County) and Indian Lake (Schoolcraft County), were a collaborative effort with the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Other lakes surveyed included Black Lake (Cheboygan County), Coldwater Lake (Isabella County), Lake Bellaire (Antrim County), Long Lake (Cheboygan County), Mullett Lake (Cheboygan County), North Manistique Lake (Luce County), and Portage Lake (Manistee County).

The surveys, which occurred between mid-September and mid-October 2021, allow natural resource agencies to evaluate walleye that were either produced naturally or stocked in 2021 (commonly referred to as young-of-year). Crews surveyed the shallow areas near the shoreline of these lakes at night with electrofishing boats, which place an electric current into the water that temporarily stuns fish and allows them to be collected.

Walleye catch rates were variable between lakes, which is expected during these types of surveys.  Walleye of various ages were captured in every lake surveyed, but no young-of-year walleye were caught in Lake Bellaire or Portage Lake.  Indian Lake had the highest total catch with 168 walleye captured, as well as a surprise 42-inch lake sturgeon, which was safely released.  In the remaining lakes, young-of-year walleye catch ranged from 1 – 43.  Most of the lakes surveyed in 2021 will be surveyed again in September and October 2022.

“Assessing young-of-year walleye in both stocked and non-stocked lakes can affect decisions about future walleye research and stocking efforts,” said Emily Martin, a fisheries biologist with the DNR’s Tribal Coordination Unit. In addition, determining if the majority of walleye in a lake are produced naturally or come from stocking is also important when monitoring lakes identified in the 2007 Inland Consent Decree as “Walleye Lake Systems.” These surveys help agencies better understand walleye populations, which will help guide harvest management.

If you have questions or would like more information about these surveys, please contact Emily Martin.