Minocqua Chain Walleye
How the Department proposes to revitalize a walleye fishery.
The Minocqua Chain is a 5,929-acre chain of lakes in Oneida County. The Chain includes Kawaguesaga, Minocqua, Jerome, Mid, Tomahawk, Little Tomahawk and Mud lakes, along with the Minocqua and Tomahawk thoroughfares. The Minocqua Chain forms the headwaters of the Tomahawk River and is part of the Upper Wisconsin River watershed. Tomahawk (3,462 acres), Minocqua (1,339 acres) and Kawaguesaga (700 acres) are the largest lakes of the Chain and provide the majority of the Walleye spawning habitat.
The problem. - The adult walleye population and natural reproduction of the Minocqua Chain of Lakes in Oneida County has experienced a substantial decline since the early 1990s because of low recruitment of young fish into the population.
The solution. - Implement a cooperative rehabilitation project that seeks to restore healthy, self-sustaining walleye populations. (A density of at least three adult fish per acre in lakes Minocqua and Kawaguesaga, and at least 2 adult fish per acre in Lake Tomahawk).
Minocqua Chain project
A cooperative rehabilitation project that seeks to restore healthy, self-sustaining walleye populations.
Fisheries biologists use netting and electrofishing surveys to monitor fish populations. Adult Walleye surveys are performed during the spring of the year, when the fish are spawning. We mark the adult fish with fin clips and use the data to estimate the number of adult fish in each lake. Electrofishing surveys during the fall are used to measure recruitment, the number of young fish coming into the population. During the fall recruitment surveys, we look at the number of young-of-year Walleye (YOY, fish that were hatched last spring and have made it through their first summer) and age-1 Walleye (fish that have made it through 2 summers of life). Our catch of these small fish gives us a good index of how many young Walleye are coming up. Natural Walleye recruitment is often very hit-and miss, but one moderate to strong yearclass every few years is enough to sustain an adult population. If natural Walleye recruitment falls off, then biologists can stock fish from DNR hatcheries to maintain their numbers.
Given the lack of significant natural reproduction, the partners* have put forth a proposal to continue one more year of harvest closure for both Tribal spearers and state-licensed anglers. This would allow the Walleye population to continue to build as quickly as possible. Pending results of an online public survey, and if approved by the Natural Resources Board, this would potentially push back the opening of Walleye harvest on Minocqua Chain to May 7, 2022. If this plan is approved, then DNR plans to estimate the Walleye population on Tomahawk in spring of 2021, and comprehensive fisheries surveys and angler creel surveys in the year Minocqua Chain re-opens to harvest. The DNR is also planning to model different regulation options and make a recommendation about whether to implement an 18-inch minimum length limit or another appropriate regulation once harvest resumes.
*Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Headwaters Chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow, Lac du Flambeau Tribe and the Tribal Natural Resources Department, Mid Lake Management and Protection District, Minocqua/Kawaguesaga Lakes Protection Association Inc., Tomahawk Lake Association Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company.
We would like to get your input on the proposal to extend the harvest closure on the Minocqua Chain.