TOMAHAWK — More needs to be done to ensure proper oversight of the Wisconsin walleye population, Michael Arrowood, chairman of Walleyes of Tomorrow, told the state Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection during their meeting July 20 in Tomahawk.
Arrowood, of Fond du Lac, said the Manitowish Waters WFT Chapter last August received a stocking permit from the state Department of Natural Resources to stock the Manitowish chain of lakes, which consists of about 4,000 surface acres, with 10 extended-growth walleye per acre; the permit stipulated that the stocked walleye be of the northern Wisconsin (Upper Mississippi River) genetic strain.
The group contracted with the Silver Moon Springs Hatchery in Elton, paying them more than $63,600 for 43,000 walleye that, it turned out, were not of the northern Wisconsin strain originally agreed upon and vouched for. WFT also shelled out $3,780 to have genetic testing done on 140 samples.
Silver Moon Springs didn’t know that WFT genetically tests fish when they stock them, he said, and researchers with the Wisconsin Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit at UW-Stevens Point found that these fish were not from Wisconsin but instead originated from Minnesota’s Lake Vermilion strain of Hudson Bay Drainage fish. Silver Moon Springs had purchased the walleye from Klug’s Fish Farm in Garfield, Minn. Owner Stewart Klug told the DNR that the walleye were raised from separate brood stock on his property and were of the appropriate stock. Last fall, more than 35,400 walleye were stocked in the Manitowish chain.
Arrowood said the owner of Silver Moon lied both to the DNR and to WFT: “This put one hell of a strain on our relationship with the DNR,” he said. “They really have no control over where these fish come from” and can’t tell a fish farm what it can or can’t do. Fish are moved “willy-nilly” all over the state but are not well tested, and this could result in serious disease issues.
“We don’t think that there’s enough disease oversight, if you will,” Arrowood said. “It’s not gonna go away; we’re not gonna go away. We’re gonna make an issue of this because it shouldn’t happen.”
Arrowood said he brought the issue to the board as the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, not the DNR, licenses commercial fish hatcheries in Wisconsin. He said WFT has hired an attorney and planned to bring the issue before the DNR Board and the state Legislature.
“We believe we were defrauded,” he said.
Arrowood said WFT, a project-oriented organization focused on increasing the state walleye numbers, has been in existence since 1991 and has raised and spent some $3 million on habitat projects statewide.