Walleye Stocking Program
Walleyes are one of the most sought-after sportfish in Alberta. However, Alberta has relatively few waterbodies that support walleyes, and the province’s cool climate results in a slow growth rate. As a result, walleyes require special management considerations to ensure sustainable populations can be maintained for future generations.
Walleye stocking is one management tool that can provide additional angling opportunities.
Why Stock Walleyes?
Stocking walleyes in Alberta is not new. From the 1980s to the early 2000’s, Alberta used walleye stocking to re-establish collapsed or extirpated (locally extinct) populations, and create new self-sustaining populations in lakes and reservoirs with the goal of providing sustainable angling opportunities. In other very specific cases, such as in Wabamun Lake, stocking was used in 2010 to 2014 to re-establish the walleye population following extirpation. Between 2006 and 2011, extensive stocking was also used in Lac La Biche for fishery restoration. Alberta has also attempted to use walleye stocking to enhance existing native populations; however, natural recruitment is more often successful in combination with conservation measures, since natural populations of walleye are able to produce enough small fish to replace themselves most of the time, provided habitat is not limited and harvest is carefully managed.
Starting in 2021, walleye stocking will re-commence across numerous waterbodies in Alberta with a focused goal of providing additional harvest opportunities. Stockings are waterbody specific: some are intended to supplement existing populations that are unable to produce enough young fish, while others are intended to try to create put-grow-take walleye fisheries similar to many stocked trout fisheries.
How does Walleye Stocking Occur?
Unlike trout stocking, a brood stock of walleye is not available. Instead, in the spring, a spawn camp is set up on a lake that contains a sustainable walleye population.
Adult walleyes are collected in live traps, and after the eggs and milt are collected, the fish are returned safely back to the lake. One location that has successfully support a spawn camp in the past is Lac Ste. Anne.
Walleyes lay approximately 50,000 eggs each! As an example, if the Walleye Stocking Program is targeting 5 million eggs, then eggs need to be collected from approximately 100 mature female walleyes. There are approximately 20,000 mature walleyes in Lac Ste. Anne, so the number of fish needed to conduct a spawn camp is relatively small compared to the total population, meaning the walleye population in Lac Ste. Anne is not affected by this egg collection.
The fertilized eggs are transported to the Cold Lake Fish Hatchery for hatching and rearing. Walleyes can be stocked as fry or fingerlings (ranging from the size of an eyelash to 15 cm). Due to their voracious nature, if left in rearing tanks or ponds in a hatchery, walleyes will eat each other. This behavior results in reduced survival at the hatchery, and fewer fry to be stocked.
Where are Walleyes Stocked?
When considering which lakes and reservoirs to stock, fisheries staff use standard fisheries protocols, such as Fall Index Netting, to determine the size, age, and amount of fish living in a lake and reservoir. Significant considerations including, genetic integrity of Walleye populations, and the risk of transferring invasive species and diseases are given to the current fish community and aquatic ecosystem before stocking walleye. Disease testing of Walleye from Lac Ste. Anne will be undertaken prior to stocking Walleye in Alberta waterbodies in 2021.
Stocking walleyes into Southern Alberta lakes and reservoirs can offer the potential to create more harvest opportunities of walleyes, although there is always uncertainty with regard to success. Since reservoirs are largely managed for agricultural irrigation, fluctuating water levels can impact the success of a walleye population as fluctuating water levels often negatively affect food production.
The number of walleye stocked per waterbody is calculated based on the size of a given waterbody, how many fish it can support, and how many walleye survive within the hatchery. Survival rates in the hatchery highly variable, and are impacted by egg quality, water quality and predation.
In 2021, the following waterbodies are proposed to be stocked with walleyes:
- Burnstick Lake
- Chin Lakes
- Forty Mile Coulee Reservoir
- Lac Bellevue
- Little Bow Lake Reservoir
- McGregor Reservoir
- Milk River Ridge Reservoir
- Stafford Reservoir
- Sylvan Lake
- Travers Reservoir
If successful, walleyes will likely reach a catchable size in 4 to 5 years. Water temperatures and food availability impact growth rates – walleyes in southern Alberta tend to grow faster than walleyes in northern parts of the province. Success is not guaranteed and will depend upon many factors including egg quality, water quality, predation and availability of food. Fisheries Management is committed to review this program to support its success.
Harvest opportunities for walleye from the stocking program, if successful, may be available 4 to 5 years after stocking. New harvest opportunities will be communicated through the annual Sportfishing Regulations:
Updated: May 10, 2021