Hope everybody has their buck by the time they read this report. I’m not quite sure what to do or where to fish in these last two weeks. The River is giving up both good walleye catches and now decent perch catches this last week. But something is happening on the bay that is outstanding. The walleye trolling bite has been off the charts these last 2 weeks. And the average size of the walleyes being caught is also like nothing most of us seen all summer. Waters anywhere from 9 to 19 feet are giving up these nice walleyes. Stickbaits, from #14 Husky Jerks to Thunderstick Jrs. are the cranks of choice by many. I’ve been doing very well myself on Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows cranks. I’ve included some recent pictures of my last 2 trips, and encourage anybody wanting to get in on this good fishing to get a hold of me for a two man charter. I’m also including an E-mail response from my DNR buddy about the recent September Trawl result on the Bay. This preliminary report bodes very well for our fishery for the next few years. But remember, this report is still preliminary.
Wrote my fish biologist buddy an E-mail asking a question and requesting the trawl results for this year. That question and his reply below.
Been knocking the heck out of the walleyes on the river lately, both day and night. Attached is a picture of a small 5 incher I pulled out of the stomach of a 6 pounder from last night. I’ve also recently seen perch fishermen pulling up one juvenile walleye after the other on the river using small minnows, as the river is gorged with small shiners and shad. This whole scenario got me thinking about something. What is the science and thought processes for doing the Fish data Trawls in September on the Bay. Wouldn’t a big amount of these juveniles that you base your spring spawn data and findings on, be in the river and out of Trawls way (so to speak). And please let me know what the Trawl result and findings were for this September on the Bay (if you have them). Thank’s Dave. Dan.
I’m glad to hear the fishing is keeping up. The thought process is that in the late summer or early fall, that year’s production of juveniles (young-of-the-year or what we sometimes call age-0s) would not be large enough to catch. If we trawled in the summer or spring, they would just be fry or small fingerlings. By September, they are catchable. What you and others are mostly seeing and getting in the river are yearlings or age-2s. We see a lot of those in the trawls too and in our gill nets. Yes there are lots in the river but there are still lots in the bay too. We don’t have to be able to access all the fish during a survey, just sample consistently in the same place and the differences we see from year to year should represent genuine change (trends). Also I suspect the concentration of fish in the river may be greater in October than early September when we do our survey.
And yes we have our preliminary findings for this past years hatch. The good news is that our September trawling catch rate of YOY or age-0 walleyes and the spring hatch year class of 2009 was yet another new record!. Huge numbers form all over the bay. Bigger numbers than any time we have surveyed (since 1971) and even bigger than the huge 2003 year class. This bodes very well for the continued high level of walleyes in the bay. The bad news is that the 2008 year class was much smaller (measured this year as yearlings), but we knew that. The bay now seems to be establishing strong and weaker year classes of walleye in an alternating fashion. This is a sign that the population is nearing capacity and “density-dependent” feedback mechanisms are beginning to kick in and regulate the population size.
This was fully expected and is not necessarily a bad sign. This is typical of most walleye populations, but most populations only pull off a strong walleye year class say every few years surrounded by two or three weaker ones. Saginaw Bay seems to only endure one weaker one and then its right back to very strong ones. This walleye population continues to impress.
We have yet to do all our aging of our specimens and then I’ll know more about how growth rates are trending. I.e. we have more to learn from last months collections but this is our initial observations. Things are not perfect on the bay, our perch are still not surviving well and that population/fishery is at the lowest levels we have ever measured. Perch are important to the bay, I suspect that they drive fishing pressure (effort) as much or more than walleye even do.
Our initial observations are that the bay’s prey base is holding up nicely. Despite the expansion of the walleye population, the abundance of prey has not declined appreciably (in abundance but it has changed in composition).
We have some new research planned for the bay including a statistical catch at age model that will help us understand the dynamics of the walleye population. We have some other ideas in the planning stage but are not funded yet. I’ll let you know more about them if they get the nod.
Always be safe, fish smart and tight lines.