The walleye is a popular gamefish in many areas of the country, but one that is often overlooked here in Virginia. DWR’s aquatics staff uses state of the art techniques to collect, grow, and stock walleye—here’s how we do it.
Every year, DWR collects adult walleye to use as broodstock. Broodstock are those fish that are captured, brought into a hatchery, spawned, and then returned to the water. The offspring of these broodstock support DWR’s walleye stocking program, which releases walleye fingerling into waterbodies throughout the state. The DWR walleye stocking program augments natural reproduction to make sure that anglers in Virginia enjoy abundant populations of this exciting and tasty gamefish!
This year, walleye broodstock collection began on February 27th in the Staunton River near Brookneal. Further collections were then made out of the Pigg River, South Holston Reservoir, Little Creek Reservoir, and the New River. As of March 16th, approximately 300 walleye have been collected, with the largest being an 11lb female that DGIF staff electroshocked out of the New River. Broodstock collection is almost complete and will continue on for another week or two.
At the hatcheries, broodstock walleye are held in large, circular tanks and are treated with a hormone that causes individuals to release eggs and milt. Eggs and milt are mixed together and are then placed into MacDonald jars. These jars ensure that just enough water is moving through the eggs to keep them from clumping as well as to keep them oxygenated. Shortly thereafter, the eggs hatch and the newly hatched fry are placed into aquariums, where they are kept for three days. After three days have gone by, walleye fry are placed into rearing ponds, where they will grow for approximately thirty days, become fingerlings, and then are released into the rivers, lakes, and reservoirs of Virginia. Right now, walleye fry are almost ready to be released into the rearing ponds at the Vic Thomas, King and Queen, and Buller Fish Cultural Stations.
After these walleye fingerlings are stocked, they will grow for three years before reaching legal size, which varies depending on body of water. Walleye can grow well beyond legal size – Virginia hosts some of the largest walleye available anywhere in the country, with individual fish regularly exceeding 10 lbs. Many of these trophy fish were born at one of our hatcheries, and this year’s crop, which will be stocked in May, is likely to produce many more memorable fish. We’ll explore some fishing tactics and strategies for catching walleye in an upcoming article!