Tagging Study Helps Answer, Where's Walleye?

DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) Hundreds of anglers casting for a trophy walleye spawning in the Fox River had some company Monday.

A DNR tagging project is revealing surprising data about where walleye go after they spawn.

Using a boat equipped for electro-shocking below the De Pere dam, it doesn't take long for DNR fish biologists to reaffirm the Bay of Green Bay and its tributaries represent a world-class walleye fishery.

"We've seen fish around 33 inches, 12-14 pounds, they're very big," says DNR Fisheries Biologist Steve Hogler.

The netted walleyes are placed in a holding tank where biologists then remove them individually to measure them, remove a spine sample for aging, and determine their sex.

The fish are also tagged.

"And we're trying to determine where these fish go after spawning, that's always been a question I get is where do these fish go in summertime, the answer was, well somewhere out in Green Bay where the water temperatures are appropriate and the forages, this way we're actually determining where they go," says Hogler.

The results from the spring study, first started in 2012, have led to surprising results.

Historically, it was believed that walleye in the bay did not move far from their home river after spawning and rarely intermixed with other walleye populations in the bay.

But after five years of tagging, the walleye have blown that theory out of the water.

"They travel pretty rapidly, we may get a fish here one day and within a week or two it's in northern Green Bay, so they move very fast," says Hogler.

Up to 100 miles potentially, in just a few weeks.

Hogler says with an abundant food supply and vastly improved water quality, the walleye fishery is healthier than ever.

"And here not only do they catch some very big fish, they catch a lot of fish, so it's the combination of numbers and size that draws anglers here from all over the state and country," says Hogler.