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Tuesday, January 30 • 8:20am - 8:40am
WALLEYE & PERCH: Population Dynamics, Sport and Commercial Harvest and Management of St. Louis River Walleye (1981-2015)

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AUTHORS. Kirk Olson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Paul Piszczek, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Joel Hoffman, US Environmental Protection Agency; Deserae Hendrickson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Terry Margenau, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT. The St. Louis River supports the largest self-sustaining Walleye population in the Lake Superior Basin. Since 1981, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Fond du Lac Band Resource Management Division have jointly monitored the Walleye fishery through a combination of population and harvest surveys. The most recent comprehensive evaluations of the fishery incorporating both population demographics and sport and commercial harvest were completed separately by the Wisconsin DNR and the Minnesota DNR in 1991 and 1992, respectively. To evaluate the status of the St. Louis River Walleye fishery, we analyzed Walleye population demographics and sport and commercial harvest of Walleye from 1981-2015. Consistent with previous findings using angler tag returns, C and N stable isotope ratios from 141 adult Walleye collected in 2014 indicated that >90% of the population was migratory, utilizing nearshore waters of western Lake Superior. Five population estimates conducted between 1981 and 2015 revealed that the adult Walleye population was considerable (mean = 74,015 adult fish) and had declined between 2003 and 2015. Recent declines in recruitment, like those documented in other Wisconsin and Minnesota populations, may be responsible for the reduced abundance. Based on mandatory commercial harvest reporting and five sport angler creel surveys, harvest was primarily driven by sport anglers (mean = 24,059 fish), while commercial harvest was lower, highly sporadic (range = 50 – 2,567 fish) and potentially included fish from other populations. Based on our estimate of adult production in 2015, sport yield exceeded MSY by 2%. Though harvest was considerable, total mortality, spawning age distributions and growth did not exhibit signs of overfishing. Our results highlight the need for continued population and harvest monitoring and research determining the composition of commercial harvest in Lake Superior and factors limiting recruitment.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 8:20am - 8:40am CST