Wisconsin, Natural Resources, Dept. of
Public Input Sought as Wisconsin DNR, Michigan DNR, Chippewa Bands Ready Walleye Rehabilitation Effort for Lac Vieux Desert
Weekly News, - March 21, 2017
Published by the Central Office of the Wisconsin DNR
Original Date
  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake

Weekly News Published - March 21, 2017 by the Central Office of the Wisconsin DNR

Public input sought as Wisconsin DNR, Michigan DNR, Chippewa bands ready walleye rehabilitation effort for Lac Vieux Desert

Contact(s): Steve Gilbert, DNR Woodruff area fisheries supervisor, 715- 356-5211 ext. 229,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Five-year effort aims to address Lac Vieux Desert walleye decline

LAND O' LAKES, Wis. -- Two public meetings, set for April 4 and 6, are being held in Vilas County to gather public input on a multi-agency plan to address declining walleye numbers in Lac Vieux Desert.

The 4,300 acre flowage, which straddles the Wisconsin-Michigan border near Land O'Lakes in northeastern Vilas County, has experienced a dramatic decline in walleye abundance and recruitment over the past decade. Steve Gilbert, Woodruff area fisheries supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said little natural reproduction has occurred in the last 10 years, leaving adult walleye densities at the lowest level since recent record keeping began in 1990.

The population of adult walleye in Lac Vieux Desert Lake averaged 2.1 fish per acre in survey work conducted through 2012. The most recent survey conducted in 2016 found only 0.54 adult fish per acre. The decline corresponds with the prolonged period of low or no walleye recruitment in this popular fishing destination.

"Historically, the lake has been able to produce young-of-year walleye through natural reproduction, but for some reason, there has been little to no recruitment of young fish starting in 2005 and continuing to the present," Gilbert said. "Working with Michigan DNR, the Lac Vieux Desert Band, Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, we have developed a draft plan with a goal to restore natural reproduction and increase the density of adult walleye to at least 2.5 fish per acre."

Although the cause of the decline is not certain, the inter-agency working group intends to use available tools in a multi-faceted approach to reverse the trend. Public input will be sought to help inform the effort, Gilbert said.

Key elements of the plan include:

Reducing recreational angler harvest in Wisconsin and Michigan waters by establishing rules for a uniform 18 inch minimum size limit and three fish daily bag starting in 2018 and running through at least 2022. This change from the current five-bag, 15 inch daily bag limit will protect walleye for several years after they mature and are part of the spawning population.

Halting open water spearing from 2018 through 2022. The Lac Vieux Desert Band and the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa, in coordination with other bands with treaty reserved fishing rights in Lac Vieux Desert, will not authorize open-water spearing or netting of walleye.

Additional stocking of extended growth walleye fingerlings as part of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative. The 6 to 8 inch fall fingerlings have shown increased survival rates in other lakes compared with smaller stocked fish. Following 2016 stocking in which Lac Vieux Desert received 51,754 extended growth walleye and 850,000 fry, DNR will stock Lac Vieux Desert Lake in even-numbered years at a rate of up to 15 fall fingerlings per acre - about 64,500 walleye. DNR plans to stock Lac Vieux Desert Lake with up to 15 fall fingerlings per acre again in 2018 and in alternate years thereafter, provided funding continues.

Increased monitoring with coordinated population assessments to enable state and tribal fisheries managers to monitor progress towards the mutually agreed upon rehabilitation goals. These annual efforts will provide data needed to collectively determine how the population should be managed in future years.

[Table of stocking from 1982 on could not be reproduced.]

Alternate year stocking of extended growth (6 to 8 inch) walleye fingerlings represents one facet of a draft plan to rehabilitate walleye populations in Lac Vieux Desert.

Alternate year stocking of extended growth (6 to 8 inch) walleye fingerlings represents one facet of a draft plan to rehabilitate walleye populations in Lac Vieux Desert.

Gilbert said the initiative also would include public outreach, education and enforcement efforts by state and tribal officials to ensure compliance with the rehabilitation plan's walleye harvest restrictions.

The public meetings will be held Tuesday, April 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the library of the Land O'Lakes Elementary School, 6485 Town Hall Road, Land O' Lakes, Wis., 54540; and Thursday, April 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the cafeteria of Phelps High School, 4451 Old School Rd, Phelps, Wis., 54554.