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Monday, January 29 • 1:40pm - 2:00pm
WALLEYE: Recovery and Management of the Saginaw Bay Walleye Population

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AUTHORS. David G. Fielder, James P. Baker - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT. Saginaw Bay historically supported the second largest walleye fishery in the Great Lakes. It collapsed in the middle of the Twentieth Century due to a combination of habitat degradation, water quality declines, over harvest, and effects of invasive species. Recovery began with clean water legislation that addressed fundamental obstacles. Walleye fingerling stocking and investments in research lead to the return of a mostly hatchery supported recreational fishery. Commercial harvest was closed. It was not until Alewives collapsed in 2003, however, that Walleyes were released from their predacious and competitive effects. In the absence of Alewives, Walleye reproductive success soared, stocking was suspended (2006), and the population reached recovery targets in 2009. As the Walleye population has come to capacity of the bay, predation rates have become limiting on Yellow Perch and have reduced the overall prey base. Management of the recreational fishery was liberalized in 2016 as a response. Simultaneously, Walleye recruitment has slowed and appears to be a density related contraction that may be characteristic of newly recovered populations. Challenges now have transitioned from recovery to management for sustainability. Additional fisheries have been proposed. Still lacking are key prey fish pathways from the main basin of Lake Huron since the loss of alewives and the lack of Cisco recovery. Challenges and prospects for sustaining the Walleye population and fisheries at a recovered level are examined.

Monday January 29, 2018 1:40pm - 2:00pm CST