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Mercury Report

Mercury Pro Team member Tom Huynh

Two years ago, in the midst of a pandemic, Mercury Pro Team member Tom Huynh entered his first walleye tournament on a whim with friend and campground neighbor Nate Wolske.

While Huynh considers many traditional walleye methods to be monotonous, the competitive fire burned, and this Anglers Insight Marketing (AIM®) Weekend Walleye Series Minnesota Division event on Leech Lake represented an opportunity to try something new. Fast forward to 2022 and Huynh is now widely considered the hottest professional walleye angler in the sport. While Huynh’s success in such a short time frame is astounding, his journey to the sport’s summit is even more perplexing.

For starters, the 42-year-old grew up not in the heart of walleye country in North Dakota, Minnesota or Wisconsin, but in Charlotte, Arkansas, where his family operated a small cattle farm. As a child, he fished for catfish, panfish and an occasional bass. It was catching those bass that first piqued his interest.

“We did have little largemouth bass in our clay-colored farm ponds,” recalled Huynh. “I would walk the bank and work the edges with a Mepps® spinner. The older I got, the more I wanted to bass fish. It was more intriguing to me – working a bait instead of just sitting and waiting for a catfish to come to me. Growing up, we didn’t have much for TV, but the few channels we could get had fishing shows on weekend mornings, including bass tournaments.”

In 1999, after two years at Arkansas State, Huynh moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area on the North Dakota-Minnesota border to study computer information systems at Minnesota State University Moorhead. To help fund his education, he took a job in a nail salon. While Huynh finished college and earned his degree, he discovered a true talent with nail art. Today, Huynh owns and operates two Polished Nail Spa locations in Fargo, where he employs 27 nail technicians.

MDNR Report

Saginaw walleye

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the possession season for walleye will be open year-round on the lower Saginaw River in Bay and Saginaw counties from the mouth of the river, upstream to West Center Street (Douglas G. Schenk) Bridge

The same regulation is in effect on the Lake Huron waters of MH-4 (see page 20 of the 2022 fishing guide) including Saginaw Bay. The daily possession limit for walleye remains at eight walleye with a 13-inch minimum size limit on these same waters.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved this regulation Dec. 9, 2021, to increase fishing and harvest opportunities on the Saginaw Bay walleye population. Prior to this new regulation, the season used to close March 16 and reopen the last Saturday in April.

MDNR Report

DNR Biologists

Based on the 24 trawl tows and 16 gillnet lifts conducted in September by the Department’s R/V Tanner and Channel Cat, initial findings indicate few changes to the Saginaw Bay fishery.

Overall, a total of 24 different species were collected by trawling and 27 different species were collected by gillnetting, with no new species collected. 

Walleye abundance appears strong, and there are large year classes being documented from 2021 and 2022. Observations of a strong 2021-year class were supported by a large catch of juvenile walleye ranging in size from 10 to 12 inches. The evidence supporting the predicted strong 2019-year class will have to wait until all specimens can be aged in the laboratory this winter. Overall, the mean catch of larger walleye in gillnets (36.6/net) was slightly higher than the average (33.8/net) since 2003. The mean catch of young-of-year walleye in trawls was the highest since 2009, and second highest ever, indicating young walleye production remains very high.

MDNR Report

Lake Erie is one of the most popular fisheries in our state as it accounted, in 2021, for 14% of the total Great Lakes angling effort, 31% of the catch, a catch rate three times the other Great Lakes waters combined, and an angling intensity more than 54% that of the other Great Lakes waters in our state.

Fisheries surveys and other companion surveys are critical to maintaining this fishery, which Michigan shares with New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and the Canadian Province of Ontario.

The DNR does two surveys using the R/V Channel Cat to obtain information from Lake Erie’s complex fisheries community:

  • The first is a bottom trawl survey that examines the number of young-of-year walleye and yellow perch in Michigan waters of Lake Erie, contributing to interagency knowledge about reproduction for these two species. This survey, in its ninth year, also documents the relative abundance of forage fish species that live near the bottom.
  • The second survey is a gillnet survey that samples the abundance and age structure of yearling and older walleye in Michigan waters. These data drive the population models that are used to determine the total allowable catch and daily bag limits for walleye in this valuable water. This survey was conducted in October at four locations with two index stations (Stony Point and Luna Pier) that have been sampled every year for 45 years.

Walleye populations remain near the all-time high, with trawling indicating that recruitment continues to be very strong. The age-0 walleye catch rate in the bottom trawl (14 fish caught per 10-minute trawl tow) was comparable to the past two years, coming in above the nine-year average of 11 fish per 10-minute trawl tow. Walleye reproduction during the past seven years has been strong, with multiple large year classes beginning in 2015.