West Central Tribune Article – Southern Minnesota waters hold very good populations of walleye

West Central Tribune Article
By Tom Cherveny
May 12, 2022

Prairie Gold: Southern Minnesota waters hold very good populations of walleye
There are plenty of walleye to be found in the waters of southern Minnesota. Advances in genetic “fingerprinting” are allowing fisheries managers to go local and stock the walleye strains best adapted for these waters.

WILLMAR — For many walleye anglers, the compass always points north to destinations from Mille Lacs to Lake of the Woods.

Staying close to home in the Spicer and Willmar area, or venturing south to counties not on the walleye maps for most people — like Murray or even Lincoln — can be rewarded with great walleye fishing too.

“There’s gold on the prairie, walleye that is,” said Jack Lauer, regional fisheries supervisor in New Ulm with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

There are many bodies of water in southern Minnesota that hold very good populations of walleye, and the probability for success on them is good, he said.

There’s no better time than now to pursue walleye in southern Minnesota. These lakes have already warmed up and the spawn is done, explained Lauer. “The walleyes are on the prowl, they’re moving (and) they’re hungry,” he said.

The area served by the Spicer fisheries crew led by Dave Coahran and Brad Carlson is home to some of the best walleye fishing opportunities in the southern portion of the state. Green, Diamond and Koronis lakes are among some of the best known. Big Kandiyohi Lake made the list of the DNR’s top picks for success this year.

That list includes a number of surprises. Lauer suggests that those willing to explore southern destinations not on the usual walleye maps try Dead Coon Lake in Lincoln County and Currant Lake in Murray County. Both are loaded with prairie gold.

A look at the list of top picks for this year in the southern region, and the rest of the state, can be found on the DNR’s Regional Fishing Outlooks web page at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/outlooks.html.

Good Genes Matter
Good walleye fishing in southern Minnesota is the real thing. Southern Minnesota waters are home to native walleye populations that have thrived in these waters for centuries.

Yet for over a century, we have oftentimes been relying on “outsourcing” to stock walleye in the lakes. In many cases, the walleye being stocked into southern waters to augment walleye populations were taken from northern waters.

Work by fish geneticist Dr. Loren Miller with the University of Minnesota and DNR is helping fisheries managers do better by keeping it local. He identified eight distinct genetic strains of walleye in Minnesota, each associated with different watersheds.

Lauer said that research by Miller helped “fingerprint” the different strains of walleye and showed that the walleye from northern Minnesota were not persisting and adapting well in many of the southern Minnesota lakes.

The ability to identify the walleye genetics showed that the native southern strains of walleye usually outperformed their northern cousins in southern lakes.

Two walleye strains are important in southern Minnesota, according to Lauer. One is known as the “Spicer” or North Fork of the Crow River strain. The other is the Lower Mississippi River strain.

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