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Monday, January 29 • 3:20pm - 3:40pm
SYMPOSIA-05: Walleye Habitat: Considerations for Successful Natural Reproduction and Stocking

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AUTHORS. Joshua Raabe, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point; Justin VanDeHey, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Douglas Zentner, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Timothy Cross, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT. Walleye Sander vitreus are one of the most targeted sportfish and an important top predator in many inland glacial lakes throughout north-central North America. Walleye populations in these lakes may have occurred naturally or were established by stocking, and their persistence is influenced by various factors including habitat, environmental conditions, harvest levels, species interactions, and stocking success. Managers have expressed concerns about recent declining walleye populations, including in lakes that previously contained self-sustaining natural reproduction despite efforts such as supplemental stocking and construction of artificial spawning reefs. Therefore, our goals are to synthesize the scientific literature to provide information on how inland lake habitat may influence successful natural reproduction and stocking efforts and to highlight remaining critical research questions. Modeling studies evaluating lake-wide factors (e.g., surface area, species composition) provide valuable information on the potential for successful recruitment from natural reproduction and stocking in a lake. Past and recent studies indicate many walleye spawn close to shore, in relatively shallow water, and predominately over gravel and cobble substrates. Unfortunately, these locations are vulnerable to shoreline alterations, but recent models and technological advances (e.g., side scan sonar, GIS) can improve the efficiency in identifying and protecting critical spawning habitat. However, there still is a need to connect the quality (e.g., egg hatching success) and quantity of spawning habitat with recruitment success and to determine if spawning habitat can be restored or enhanced. Based on quantitative evaluations, walleye stocking continues to shift towards large fingerlings over fry or small fingerlings, possibly due to survival bottlenecks (e.g., starvation, predation) during earlier life stages. Further evaluation of potential bottlenecks and large fingerling stocking success relative to lake-wide habitat and the habitat at release locations is necessary. Understanding lake habitat and limiting factors can help improve walleye recruitment through natural reproduction and when needed stocking.   

Monday January 29, 2018 3:20pm - 3:40pm CST