By Louie Stout
Fall walleye stockings in Pine and Stone lakes the past three years appear to be delivering positive results.
Indiana has stocked the two lakes “off and on” since 1990. However, the DNR and private groups have been consistently stocking larger fall fish in the connected lakes since 2021 with improved results.
Stocking numbers have been 4,926 in 2021, 6,172 in 2022 and 3,610 in 2023. While those numbers seem low, studies have shown that you get better results with low numbers of larger fish than you do with high numbers of tiny fish.
The fall fish sizes range from 4.8 to 6.2 inches when they go into the lake.
District fisheries biologist Tom Bacula conducted a survey there last fall and was pleased with the preliminary results.
“We found several year-one (2022) walleyes last fall and they looked good,” he said. “There’s a good chance anglers will begin seeing legal-size fish from the 2021 stocking this season.”
He was primarily assessing survival of walleyes stocked in 2022, but several fish from the 2021 stocking also appeared in the survey. His crew also encountered a few walleyes up to 17 inches that likely were survivors from earlier stockings.
Local groups as well as the DNR have been stocking fall walleyes since 2020, so there are legal-size fish in both lakes.
While most of the stocking effort has come from private groups, Indiana has experimented with raising its own fall walleye fingerlings at the Fawn River Hatchery to complement local efforts since 2021.
Historically, Indiana has held hatchery-raised fish for a shorter period of time and stocked them at a much smaller size and in greater numbers. It’s far less expensive and time consuming, but produces limited results.
Bacula said it has been a learn-as-you-go process at Fawn River but it’s showing promise.
“Getting the fish to a bigger size at the hatchery requires holding them longer and feeding them minnows, which is far more expensive than stocking at a smaller size and feeding them pellets,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to evaluating the program once we get six or seven years under our belts. That’s when we should see these early stockings getting into the mid-20 inch size range.”