Fall test-netting by Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials on Leech Lake show that the walleye population remains strong, according to a DNR news release. According to the results, the walleye catch rates remain above the long-term average for the sixth consecutive year.
“September gill nets showed good numbers of both juvenile and adult walleye,” said Matt Ward, large lake specialist in Walker. “It is encouraging to have a balanced walleye population within and outside the protected slot limit of 18 and 26 inches.”
Strong 2010 and 2011 year-classes are present, and the DNR expects these year-classes will start providing harvest opportunities this coming winter. Additionally, 35 percent of walleye sampled were within the 18- to 26-inch protected slot limit, which will provide anglers the opportunity to catch a large fish.
The number of young-of-the-year walleye (those hatched during the spring of 2012) sampled with both trawling and electrofishing were above the long-term average for each gear type. The average size for this year-class was good, at 6.1 inches during the mid-September electrofishing assessment. Larger sizes in the fall usually translate to higher winter survival, fisheries officials say.
Other game fish species targeted with test nets include yellow perch and northern pike. Yellow perch abundance declined for the fifth consecutive year, while northern pike abundance continues to remain stable. The primary species of nongame fish assessed with the test nets is cisco. Despite a minor cisco summer kill caused by warm temperatures in 2012, fall test netting indicated adequate numbers of cisco continue to be present.
Lake-wide, walleye counts in DNR test nets averaged 9.42 walleye per net lift, which was similar to results from the past four years and was above the long-term average of 7.7 walleye per net lift. Walleye numbers indicate that management actions implemented under the 2011-2015 Management Plan are succeeding. Key elements of the plan include special fishing regulations, walleye fry stocking, cormorant management and an increased emphasis on aquatic habitat protection.