The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), along with its northern Wisconsin interest partners, are expecting to move forward with a proposal to the Wisconsin Natural ReĀ­sources Board (NRB) that will extend the no-harvest time frame on walleye on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes for another year.

Since 2015, the nearly 5,000-acre fishery which includes Tomahawk, Mid, Minocqua and Kawaguesaga lakes, has been under a no-harvest rule put in place by the DNR in cooperation with Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Lac du Flambeau tribe, Wisconsin Valley Improvement Co. and the area Walleyes For Tomorrow (WFT) chapter in hopes that overall population estimates would increase.

Officials with the DNR and the GLIFWC shared data showing that though an increase in population has occurred, it has yet to meet the goals set five years ago, in particular with natural recruitment.

“Since the early 2000’s there has been little if any natural recruitment of walleye on the Minocqua chain,” said DNR Fisheries Biologist Lawrence Esslinger. “Why, we can’t really say, but we think it’s obviously important enough to continue looking into while the population continues to grow.”

Each of the groups were represented at a public hearing held last Wednesday night in Woodruff, and each of them spoke to the importance of seeing the project through to achieve the long-term goals set when they met in 2013.

DNR District Fisheries Advisor Mike Vogelsang, who moderated the meeting that included about 60 members of the public, said the Minocqua Chain has seen a general decline in walleyes per acre since the 1990’s. And while there is no “smoking gun” that has led the department to diagnose the problem, attempts by a number of interested parties have started to gain ground.

“Since 2015 this has been a really good project,” said Vogelsang. 

Gregg Walker, spokesperson for WFT, spoke in detail about the monetary value of the restoration project that has been targeted at pushing the Minocqua Chain back to a sustainable walleye fishery. The group itself has donated upwards of $150,000 to increase spawning grounds, help with gathering recruitment data, increase enforcement and also stock the fishery in hopes that a natural reproducing class of fish would show up on survey data.

“We think it is very important to shut (the fishery) down for one more year, if not more,” said Walker. “I would ask you to be patient. It takes time. A little more time might give us some more answers.”

Officials will collect public opinion on the extension of the no-harvest through Nov. 6.