Wonderful Whitefish Walleye

Walleye spawning on the Whitefish chain

The Whitefish Chain offers a variety of amazing opportunities to explore.  The beauty of the area makes it suitable for just about anything you like to do around the lake, any time of the year.  Springtime however, is a special time as it offers you the perfect opportunity to pursue Minnesota’s most sought after fish, the walleye.

Prime Walleye Habitat

The Whitefish Chain consists of a series of 15 lakes that span nearly 10 miles from east to west. The east side of the chain ends in Crosslake, where the Pine River exits toward the Mississippi River through the Pine River dam. The West side of the chain is where the Pine River flows into the Lower Whitefish basin, which happens to be an amazing location for walleye to spawn.

Walleye Conservation Efforts

Sustainable Stocking Programs

The walleye population in the Whitefish Chain is consistently healthy with diverse structure throughout the 14,000 acres of clean water. Natural reproduction throughout the chain produces excellent populations of the marble-eyed fish. In fact, the Minnesota DNR partakes in the capture and stripping of reproducing walleye to harvest and fertilize millions of eggs from Whitefish walleyes each year. These eggs are hatched in Brainerd and used to stock fry and fingerlings in numerous lakes, including the Whitefish Chain. Each year, 5 million fry are added back into the system and every other year, fingerlings are also stocked. That is a lot of walleye being added back into the chain to support such a healthy population. The program is designed to help the walleyes in highly-pressured fishing lakes to recover and maintain healthy walleye populations in various year classes to keep a natural balance and allow anglers to take fish. The number of eggs that are harvested each year is dependent on the predetermined quota, which plans for the stocking of several lakes throughout the central region of Minnesota.

Spawning Rituals and Egg Harvesting

The walleye’s annual spawning rituals are based on two factors; photoperiodism, which is a response to the length of daylight, along with water temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. When these conditions are met, some of the breeding walleye from the chain are instinctively drawn upstream each spring in search of shallow gravel areas to deposit as many as 50,000 eggs each. The Minnesota DNR constructs a fence across the Pine River to guide these migrating walleyes into large nets to harvest some of their precious cargo. The nets are submerged across the bottom of the river and are surrounded by a dock system, allowing room for the fish to swim freely when inside and leave plenty of room to operate the nets. Each morning, the nets are gathered and the walleye are separated from the other fish and occasional turtle that have also found their way into the nets. Once the other fish are removed, the walleye are brought up onto the dock where the females and males are stripped and the seeds are mixed in a bowl and then agitated for around 30 seconds. Once this step is complete, the fertilized eggs are then mixed with a slurry of bentonite clay to keep them from sticking together. The eggs are then transported to the hatchery in Brainerd to incubate for 26 days before hatching. Soon they will be going back into lakes across central Minnesota. One of the best parts of this program is that you can come and see it for yourself. MN DNR Fisheries – Walleye egg collecting site

Springtime Walleye Fishing

Springtime walleye fishing across the Whitefish Chain is excellent, with plenty of places to fish and enjoy the beauty of WALA country. The walleyes are hungry and recuperating from the spawn, so these cool water spring days can be some of the best fishing of the year. The walleye fishing season begins in Mid-May and runs through the end of February. Visit whitefish.org for nearly 50 lodging opportunities and bring your boat, your family, your buddies, and come and pursue some of these Wonderful Whitefish Walleyes.