The Rock River used to be one of the best Walleye rivers in America. Then they built dams and factories and sewer plants and soon the Walleyes thinned to almost nothing. Well that’s one story. Since then they have stocked pools over and over and the Walleye soon disappear again. I always figured it was the same reasons, dams, pollution, hydro generators that severely change water levels but I am starting to think otherwise. There is plenty of other fish that do survive, so why don’t the Walleye?
Could it be fishing pressure? There are people who fish the dam areas and about every Walleye that moves in quickly gets caught and kept. Catfishermen use shad for bait, a favorite meal for Walleye too and you can bet hardly any of these fish make it back into the river. But I don’t think it’s the fishing pressure either.
I have become convinced it must be other fish that are eating the smaller Walleye. Last year we had plenty of fingerlings from recent stockings and all have disappeared. I am catching nothing under 14″, they are seem to be gone. Then last week a client caught a Northern Pike that must have weighed close to 20 pounds. A fish this size could easily eat good sized walleye. I have caught plenty of smaller Pike this year, 5-10 pounds. These fish definitely eat a lot of the smaller Walleye and they could eat several fingerlings every day.
Pike aren’t the only fish that feed on Walleye, this river has plenty of large Catfish that could also eat good sized Walleye and several fingerlings each day. There must be thousands of Gar in each pole. Since this river has a lit of trees and brush piles in all the holes, gar can easily blend in and Walleye love the deep holes and would swim right by Gar and be snatched up.
One problem with these Walleye eaters is that there are no predators other than fisherman who release most their Gar, Pike and big Catfish.
So whats to be done? I think I am the only fisherman around that throws back everything I catch. It seems no one can let a Walleye go back, no matter how important it is to the future. What can be done with Gar, no one likes them, even the vultures don’t like them because of their thick skin boney bodies. There are so many that killing a few won’t put a dent into the population. Maybe a bounty? I think they do more damage than the Asian carp as far as Walleye populations are concerned.