In Saginaw Bay, walleye release cut
Written by Detroit News   
Wednesday, 03 August 2005 12:00
Fisherman are expecting to take a walleye hit after the state cut back the number of the fish it released into Saginaw Bay this year by more than half.

The Department of Natural Resources released 400,000 fingerlings into the bay this summer, down from a record 2.16 million last year and 1.8 million in 2003. Officials were calling it the worst stocking year since 1988.

"It's definitely going to hurt the fishery," said Rod Marr of Breckenridge, president of the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club. "It depends a lot on how much natural reproduction we get."

Marr told The Saginaw News that fishing is strong in the bay now, with many people catching 14- to 16-inch walleye, from stocking done in 2003 and 2004. Those walleye will continue to grow, and many will be 18-20 inches by next year, he said.

But fishing may suffer in a few years, when the walleye that were lost this year would have been of legal catching size, or 15 inches, Marr said.

James P. Baker, DNR Fisheries Division supervisor, said the low numbers were mostly due to hot and cold spells earlier this year that caused algae in rearing ponds to decay, robbing the waters of oxygen and killing fish.

The rearing ponds are in Tawas City, Au Gres, Sugar Springs, Auburn, Kawkawlin, Fish Point and Genesee County and operated in conjunction with area walleye clubs.

"It's not unusual for us to lose one pond a year," he said. "What is unusual is when you lose multiple ponds."

However, natural walleye reproduction has taken off in the last couple of years. Most in the Saginaw Bay are 13 inches long and will likely be of legal size next year, he said.

"If we were going to have an event like this (a cut in the number released), this is a good time to have it," Baker said. "We have lots and lots of fish in the pipeline out there."

He said natural reproduction should continue to thrive as long as the number of alewives, which are known to feed on walleye fry, stay low.


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