/ Articles / Natural Reaction: Natural walleye reproduction on the Minocqua chain a mystery

Natural Reaction: Natural walleye reproduction on the Minocqua chain a mystery

September 06, 2019 by Jacob Friede

There are many questions concerning the walleye on the Minocqua chain, but a big one was answered recently when a Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) report came out detailing the results of this past spring’s snap shot survey of the walleye population on Lake Minocqua and Lake Kawaguesaga.

And it was clear. The walleye are coming back.

The report indicated the walleye population on Lake Minocqua quadrupled and on Kawaguesaga it doubled since 2015, the first year of the no harvest regulation.

So if that trend has continued on Lake Tomahawk, it’s safe to say the chain is fertile.

But that leads to the big question that has not been answered. If there are plenty of walleye in the lakes, why has natural reproduction not been observed?

It’s a confusing matter, given the fact that the adult female are laying eggs and those eggs are being fertilized by the males and fry are being hatched. 

“It’s obvious fish are going through the motions of spawning because we had success with GLIFWC’s fyke netting this spring. So they’re definitely up on the shallow rocks actively spawning and of course getting captured in our nets,” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries supervisor Mike Vogelsang said.

What happens to the fry after they hatch though is the mystery. At some point in the summer they simply disappear,  and there is no definitive answer why.

But there are some strong theories.  

“It may be the fish community itself at this point in time,” Vogelsang said. “I know there’s a lot of bass out there. Particularly largemouth. There’s a lot of smaller panfish. A lot of mouths to feed.  So that may also be an impediment toward natural reproduction.”

Another reason may be the lack of males on the chain. According to the survey there were more females than males on the spawning grounds. On good, naturally reproducing lakes it is the other way around, because males tend to wait and hang out on the spawning grounds longer than the females who lay eggs and then leave. Males are therefore more frequently observed.

So there’s a possibility not enough eggs are getting fertilized.

“There just may not be enough males to get the job done,’’ Vogelsang said.

Whatever the reason for the lack of natural reproduction, if it’s going to happen on the Minocqua chain it’s most likely going to be soon.

“I’m still optimistic. I just think that if it is going to happen we should really see it in the next two or three years,” Vogelsang said. “Because again, the adults are there.

And at least that is a start. How long that progress will get to continue to build momentum is up in the air.

There is a push to keep the Minocqua chain closed for another year and I say why not. The lake will never be as fertile as it is right now and where that leads is worth waiting to find out.

Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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