DNR Wardens are heightening their presence on the Minocqua-Tomahawk chain of lakes this summer to enforce catch-and-release rules for walleye newly in place this year.  

As DNR Warden Dave Walz explains, a collaborative plan with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission calls for extra monitoring to ensure no fish are taken.  

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

People have until June 30th to submit written comments to the state DNR on how walleye are being managed in northern Wisconsin’s ceded territory.  That includes feedback how specific lakes should be regulated.

A public hearing held Friday on the topic drew few participants, with just four members of the public attending.  

Hearings on Walleye Three-Bag Limit

Jun 12, 2015

A series of public hearings around the state, including one in Minocqua today, have been gathering input on an emergency rule concerning walleye. The emergency rule, instated this year, gives a 3-bag limit for walleye within the Ceded Territory.


The state Natural Resources Board has implemented  a plan supporting a five year catch-and-release only walleye fishery on the Minocqua and Tomahawk chain of lakes. The plan was brought forward by Northwoods angling groups, community leaders and Chippewa tribal leaders with support from DNR as part of a plan to restore natural walleye reproduction. The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa  agreed not to harvest these lakes during the rehabilitation plan.


The Minocqua and Tomahawk Chain of Lakes are likely to have a catch-and-release only season for five years under a proposal going to the Natural Resources Board next month. But as part of the same proposal, all waters in the Ceded Territories in Wisconsin would have a standard three-walleye daily bag limit.

DNR spokesperson Joe Hennessy says bad walleye reproduction in the last couple of years has also led to the change on the Oneida county chains. He says the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have also agreed not to harvest on those waters during the five years.

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board has again laid the groundwork for giving more flexibility to the DNR, when it set bag limits for walleye later this spring.

The agency adjusts harvest regulations on northern lakes in the ceded territory, after the state’s Chippewa tribes declare how many fish they plan to harvest. 

As Fisheries Management Section Chief Steve Hewett explains, a scope statement passed Wednesday means DNR could later decide to use size limits or season restrictions to help control angler walleye harvest.    

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

Researchers at the Wisconsin DNR are looking for answers as to why walleye populations are declining in the state.

DNR Research Scientist Gretchen Hansen says adult walleye numbers are declining statewide by an average of two percent per year. 

“So there’s a lot of variability.  So in some lakes, populations are going up, but in the majority of lakes populations are going down.  And a lot of that is driven by failed recruitment, so failed reproduction.” 

Oakley Originals-Flickr

14 of 21 lakes named yesterday receiving higher daily walleye bag limits are in Oneida, Vilas and Price counties.

The DNR announced changes Monday increasing daily limits from one to two on 21 lakes. May 28, Governor Walker approved an emergency rule adopted by the Natural Resources Board allowing the increases.

A few more lakes could still see higher bag limits for walleye. 

The state Natural Resources Board has approved an emergency rule that gives the DNR slightly more leeway in adjusting bag limits for nontribal anglers. 

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Heading into the second weekend of fishing season, conditions look slightly more favorable than they did for the opener.

Mel’s Trading Post Owner Mitch Mode says more and more lakes are opening up.    

“Well things are looking better, we’ve had some warm weather this week, we’ve had some rain.  Rain certainly helps break up the ice.  Warm weather starts to drive the water temperature up, and everything comes around water temperature.”

That temperature affects fish spawning cycles, and that affects what fish do and where they can be found. 

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish hatcheries in Mole Lake and Lac du Flambeau will be getting money from the DNR to raise larger walleye fingerlings.  It's part of a round of grants to nine hatcheries statewide totaling $2 million.


  The Wisconsin DNR wants to stock lakes with bigger walleye fingerlings, because they have higher survival rates.  This round of grant money will pay for infrastructure like ponds and tanks….that will allow hatcheries to raise more of those 6 to 8 inch fingerlings.

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

The state Natural Resources Board has authorized the DNR to take emergency steps to protect Wisconsin’s fish supply.  The move comes after Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes declared they’ll reserve a record number of walleye in the spearing season.

Wisconsin’s six Chippewa tribes plan to spear up to 63,000 walleye this spring - five thousand more than last year.  As Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission spokesperson Sue Erickson explains, typically tribal members only take about half of what is declared.  

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

While the next several days outdoors are all about things white tail, the DNR recently said the first year of the Walleye Initiative has been a success.

After the legislature came up with more funding to improve state fish hatcheries and programs earlier this year, the DNR announced the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, aimed at stocking larger fingerlings in state waters.

The DNR's fisheries director Mike Staggs talks with Ken Krall:

The larger fingerlings are in the 6 to 8 inch range, which biologists say gives  the young walleyes a better chance to grow to maturity.

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

The DNR is looking for public input on walleye stocking.  State officials are holding a meeting in Rhinelander next week.   

It’s one of a series of meetings where the DNR is hoping for feedback on its walleye management goals.  Steve Hewett from the DNR’s fisheries program says it’s also a chance to talk with the public about which lakes are stocked and why. 

Eric Engbretson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

A changing climate could bring one piece of good news for walleye fishermen. 

A study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison says increasing temperatures in Lake Superior will expand habitat for fish that thrive in slightly warmer water, like walleye, Chinook salmon and lean lake trout.  Researcher Jim Kitchell says that means populations of certain fish in Lake Superior could increase in coming years.