TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is gearing up to deliver anglers a new round of walleye this year through its breeding program.
KSNT News spoke with several members of the KDWP about the finer points of the department’s walleye breeding program and learn what anglers can expect of this prized sports fish in Kansas. This involved tagging along for the KDWP’s annual walleye egg collection efforts at Hillsdale Reservoir in Miami County.
Fisheries Region 2 supervisor Lucas Kowalewski with the KDWP gave a walkthrough of the egg collection process, a vital part of the KDWP’s walleye stocking program, alongside KDWP Secretary Brad Loveless. At Hillsdale, a group of KDWP biologists took to the water in the early morning hours of March 28 and used specially placed Fyke-Nets along the dam to capture walleye living beneath the waves.
The biologists were looking for male and female walleye, especially females carrying large quantities of eggs that could be fertilized. Walleye that was not fit for the breeding program, referred to as ‘green walleye,’ were returned to the water. The process also revealed more than a few large walleye that are sure to make for interesting catches later in the year for anglers at Hillsdale.
“One of the major reasons for walleye angling’s popularity is they make probably the best table fare of any fish caught in the Midwest, but people also like to chase them for trophy potential, and some people tend to like the methods used for catching walleye,” Kowalewski said.
Selected walleye were divided by sex into two containers on the boat as the crew inspected all nine nets. Once this was completed, the team headed off to the nearby Jayhawk Marina to fertilize the eggs.
This involved bringing out the females first. The biologists carefully coaxed the eggs out of the females into pans so that they could be mixed with sperm later from the males. The fish were then measured to get a better idea of the population’s size structure before being tossed back into the water. Water from the reservoir and clay were added to the pan before the eggs were placed in tubs to continue their growth for the next seven to eight days and later be taken to Milford Hatchery.
“One of the most exciting things about our job is understanding the natural resources and producing opportunities for people…whether it’s little kids or whether it’s people that are physically challenged to get to it,” Don George, KDPW fisheries biologist, said. “Make it an opportunity so everyone can enjoy it.”
Kowalewski said KDWP biologists spend around 10-14 days collecting eggs at three separate locations with the rearing of the fish to larger sizes taking place at hatcheries in the summer. Some of the walleye will be raised to a size of one to two inches in length, referred to as fingerlings, while others will be grown to around eight inches.
In total, 24 waterbodies in Kansas will be stocked with walleye. Saugeye, which is a hybrid of sauger and walleye, will also be stocked in 27 waterbodies, while sauger will be stocked in three, according to Kowalewski. These makeup only one section of the total fish stocking efforts that the KDWP undertakes on a yearly basis to keep sports fish populations up for Kansas anglers.
Kowalewski said the statewide goal for the walleye breeding program is 46.6 million eggs in 2023. The KDWP also has a goal of 32.8 million saugeye eggs and 1.7 million sauger eggs.
Walleye have a daily creel limit of five for the species or in combination with sauger and/or saugeye and can be caught year-round, according to the 2023 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary. The length limit is 15 inches for walleye. You can find more information on locations, length and creel limits for walleye and other fish species in Kansas by reading through the 2023 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary found below:
2023 Fishing Report by Matthew Self on Scribd