A DNR walleye monitoring crew member measures a walleye before releasing it. Because walleye monitoring on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes has been disrupted by COVID-19, the DNR seeks public input on next steps to protect the walleye population. Photo credit: Wisconsin DNR

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public input on a proposal to extend the walleye catch-and-release regulations on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes in Oneida County.

Each spring, the DNR conducts critical population estimates to determine if population goals have met their target as defined by a collaborative management plan developed by the DNR and a local stakeholder group. Last April, the DNR extended the walleye catch-and-release only season on the Minocqua Chain to reestablish its natural walleye populations. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the DNR did not conduct walleye population estimates on Lake Tomahawk, the chain’s largest lake.

“The DNR did not conduct crucial walleye population estimates on Lake Tomahawk last spring, which would have provided data on whether the walleye fishery is responding to the management plan,” said Mike Vogelsang, DNR North District Fisheries Supervisor. “While local fishing reports have been good, we simply don’t have the data to accurately assess if we’ve hit the two adult walleye per acre mark in Lake Tomahawk.”

As a result, the Minocqua Chain stakeholder group is seeking public input on a proposal to implement another year of catch-and-release regulations for anglers and tribal members. The stakeholder group includes representatives from the DNR’s fisheries and law enforcement staff, Walleyes For Tomorrow, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Lac du Flambeau tribal representatives, Minocqua/Kawaguesaga/Lake Tomahawk Lake Association and Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company. The DNR is asking the public to complete the 2020 Minocqua Chain Walleye Fishery Stakeholder Survey by Monday, Nov. 30.

Depending on the survey results and approval from the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, this proposal would extend the walleye catch-and-release season on the Minocqua Chain to May 7, 2022, allowing the DNR to conduct its planned survey to estimate the walleye population in the spring of 2021.

“The stakeholder group has been closely following the progress of the chain’s walleye fishery in response to annually stocking extended growth walleye and having a no-harvest regulation in place,” Vogelsang said. “The stakeholder group is actively seeking public input to determine the best way forward.”

Find more information on the proposed plan and the most recent population survey results on the DNR’s Minocqua Chain of Lakes fisheries webpage.