The four- to six-year lag
Walleye stocking reports from last year or the year before don't indicate fishing success on a lake this year. That's because it takes several growing seasons (summers) for the tiny walleyes stocked each spring or fall to reach catchable size (1 pound, or about 14 inches).
Time from stocking to reach 1 pound
Year when catchable size
What do stocking numbers mean?
Most lakes that are stocked receive an average of 1,000 fry or 1 pound of fingerlings per littoral acre (a surface acre that is less than 15 feet deep). To come up with specific stocking levels and rates, fisheries managers consider a wide range of factors. These include walleye growth rate, survival, and mortality; lake type, forage base, and amount of natural reproduction; and public demand for stocking. Regardless of the amount or frequency of walleyes stocked on specific lakes, DNR fisheries managers are working to improve fishing whenever possible.
Common questions about walleye stocking
Q. Why are fry stocked sometimes and fingerlings at other times?
A. It's more cost effective to stock fry (tiny mosquito-sized walleyes) than fingerlings (4- to 6-inch long walleyes), so the DNR stocks fry whenever possible. Sometimes a fisheries manager will stock fry in the spring and then check back in the fall to see what proportion survived to reach fingerling size. If not enough did, then supplemental fingerlings may be stocked that fall.
Q: Why are some lakes stocked with more walleyes than other lakes?
A: Bigger lakes get more fish than smaller lakes. On average, the DNR stocks roughly 1,000 fry or 1 pound of fingerlings per littoral acre of lake. That pound per acre ratio can vary however, depending on factors such as the amount of prey available and lake productivity. For example, lakes that have lots of yellow perch generally can support more walleye stocking than lakes that don't.
Q: Why does the DNR stock lakes every other year rather than yearly?
A: A generation of walleyes stocked or hatched one year (called a year class) will eat much of the food needed by the next walleye year class. This phenomenon is called year class suppression. To prevent this from happening to stocked walleyes, fisheries managers usually don't stock two years in a row and instead stock every other year or every third year.
Q: Why are some lakes stocked and some not?
A: Lakes that have good walleye spawning habitat, typically clean, wind-swept northern lakes, need little or no stocking. These lakes already produce as many fish as they can naturally grow. Stocking these lakes can actually create stunted walleyes, because too many fish end up chasing a limited amount of food. Lakes that have poor walleye spawning habitat but can still support walleyes (mainly lakes south of I-94) tend to be better candidates for stocking.
Some lakes aren't stocked with walleyes because they are better suited for natural bass and panfish populations. These medium to large lakes often have many bays and broad shallows. Where angler harvest pressure from anglers justifies the cost, such as on Lake Minnetonka, they are stocked to compensate for limited natural walleye reproduction. But stocking too many walleyes can hurt bass and panfish populations because the stocked fish can outcompete existing fish for food.