Work underway to increase Wisconsin's walleye population - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Work underway to increase Wisconsin's walleye population

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - An area fish hatchery is stepping up its production in a big way. Its part of a plan to increase the amount of walleye found in Wisconsin's waters. The initiative calls for state hatcheries to produce 400,000 extra walleye by 2016.

"We're hoping to get about 275,000 out of the facility this year," said Neal Rosenberg, Gov. Thompson State Fish Hatchery Supervisor.

Walleye are known to be a hard fish to catch, but it's the thrill of the chase that drives anglers to lakes and rivers. That's why work is being done at a state fish hatchery in Spooner to make landing the big one a little bit easier.

"Well a lot of times the survival rates aren't that good in the wild. That's why these fish are going into lakes. We don't have natural reproduction going on or you need to supplement it," Rosenberg said.

When they leave the hatchery the walleye are six to eight inches long. Using a one-of-a-kind loading system

The hatchery can clear a one acre pond in just three hours. From there, the fingerlings as they're called, are loaded up and shipped out.

"Close to probably 17 counties that we're stocking walleye in. They get handled less, fish aren't stressed as much," added Rosenberg.

One load in particular is headed for Hayward, where more than 5,000 of the fish will eventually swim for the first time in the wild.

In two years this extended-growth walleye will be a keeper. That's none too soon for the tourism industry and tons of anglers here in the Northwoods.

"What this is actually going to do of course is make us be able to compete with Minnesota and Canada. Thing is, you don't have to drive as far, and you can still get good fishing in Northern Wisconsin," said Jim Onarheim, Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau President.

Prudence Ross owns a lodge in Hayward, and says business is better when the walleye are biting.

"The first choice when they do these polls around here of both residents and tourists is that walleye is our most important fish. So we must be known as a good lake," explained Ross.

Walleye from the hatchery in Spooner will soon be swimming in waters throughout northwest Wisconsin. More than 6,000 are headed for Otter Lake in Chippewa County, another 1,000 will be swimming in Cornell Lake.

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