Outdoors: Change for the better
Biologists make strides in stocking walleyes.
Biologists seem to be getting a better handle on what it takes to produce even better fishing.
Historically, Indiana has thrown a lot of tiny walleyes in the lakes, then kept its fingers crossed that they would survive. Some did. Most didn’t.
But a more pointed approach with plants of bigger yearlings stocked at smaller numbers in June and the fall is beginning to yield interesting results.
We’ve seen that on the St. Joseph River, where fall walleyes measuring 6-to-8 inches appear to be doing much better than the tiny fry or the 2-to-3 inch “June” fingerlings that go into some lakes during the summer. The bigger fish, despite lower stocking numbers, are making it through the winter and suffering less predation from other gamefish already in the lakes.
The problem is cost. Presently, Hoosier hatcheries can’t meet the requirements for the larger “fall” fingerlings because of their temperamental requirements of space, food and water temperature. That means they must be purchased from private hatcheries.
However, not every lake is the same, and some still respond well with smaller, less expensive June fingerlings or tiny fry, the latter of which is stocked in larger amounts.
Because of the success with fall walleyes, experiments are underway to maximize Hoosier hatcheries to increase production, but frankly, modern-day facilities are needed.
On the other hand, the larger fish are yielding much better results and lend a bright future for improving walleye fishing in northern Indiana.
Here’s an overview of biologists’ opinions regarding some of the better lakes in this region and how they are being stocked
Northeastern biologist Tom Bacula oversees Lake of the Woods at Bremen, Lake Maxinkuckee at Plymouth, and Bass Lake near Knox.
He rates all three as good walleye lakes in their own ways.
Lake of the Woods may be showing the most promise. It previously was stocked with 100 June fingerlings (2-3 inches) per acre, but a reduction to 50 per acre has actually helped the lake.
“The past couple of years, our surveys have looked pretty good,” he said. “The lake has a lot of nice 15- to 17-inch walleyes and I think it’s one of the best lakes to fish.”
The bass population is below average because of marginal habitat but the lake sets up well for walleyes, Bacula said.
White bass, stocked illegally there a few years ago, compete with walleyes and have hampered growth. However, concentrated efforts by locals to remove them have helped. Reducing the number of mouths feeding on tiny forage has given survivors a better chance to grow.
Maxinkuckee: Walleyes have long been stocked in Maxinkuckee, but the results have been inconsistent for a lake with great habitat and size (1,800 acres).