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BLACKJACK

Walleye Spawning in Red Lake??

47 posts in this topic

Was up fishing over the weekend and heard an interesting theory from an old-timer that has lived in that area all of his life. He says that the reason for the walleye decline was not the Indians netting but because of the decline in quality walleye spawning areas caused by of all things - beaver dams! The beaver dams block a lot of the creeks and ditches that the walleyes go up to spawn, and with the low fur prices, nobody traps them anymore. He said that before the walleyes disapeared, he was catching walleyes in the middle of summer with spawn in them because they didn't enough spawning areas.

What do you people think, especially the biologists that follow this forum?

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Well, it's an interesting theory, but . . .

I don't think beaver dams can be blamed for the collapse of the walleye population on URL. If the rivers are impassable the walleyes can easily spawn on shallow gravel bars off-shore. Red has quite a bit of good gravel and sand bottoms, with good wave action to oxygenate the eggs. As far as catching walleyes with spawn in them in the middle of summer, that is more than likely the next year's spawn beginning to develop - I'm pretty certain they won't hold their spawn because the river is blocked off.

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I agree with Lowe! Most people associate Northern pike and walleye with spawning in input or tributary streams. Systems that have input streams are utilized by walleye because the substrate and oxygen levels are usually what they're looking for to ensure high survival rates for their eggs.

Streams not only provide an excellent resource for the oxygen demands of walleye eggs, but they also maintain their temperature levels more consistently that the shallow, littoral areas of lakes where many walleyes spawn.

The main reason (naturally) that there's year class variability in Red Lake is due to environmental factors such as water temp, high winds, predation, etc. Red Lake is a shallow water basin and envoronmental factors play a major role in walleye success.

Beaver dams do reduce walleye migrations and spawning in some lakes. In this case due to the nature of Red Lake and the likelyhood that most of the walleye spawn in the lake, I would say beaver dams are not responsible for population declines. In lakes that have no natural spawing grounds the probability of this happening is much greater.

If the proposed walleye opener remains 2005 for Upper Red Lake I will see ya all on the water. Remember, if you want to maintain the quality of this fishery, release those walleyes between 3-7 pounds!

There will be a slot limit imposed, but things change and I may be wrong with the information I have now. I personally believe we should have managed the lake for crappies, but that is a whole different subject!

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I am a trapper, and I agree with Lowe and Alaskander. In this case, there are plenty of spawning opportunities regardless of how many beaver dams there are.

I have witnessed this problem in smaller lakes, however.

I also agree that it would have been more beneficial to have managed Red for crappies. The walleyes will be back in full force soon enough.

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Thanks for the input guys.

Alaskander, you tended to support the beaver notion by your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs by saying that streams are good walleye habitat and environmental factors (on Red that means wind) affect walleye spawning success. Any wind approaching 20 mph is going to scour the opposite shore. Combine that with changes in wind direction and a good portion of the lake shore will get pounded/scoured before the eggs hatch. Mmmm, maybe if they could go up a nice stream bed... No wait, theres a dam blocking it... Oh well, its all theoretical.

Two of you also mentioned that it might have been more beneficial to manage Red for crappies. Just think if umteen million crappie fry would have been dumped into the lake instead of the walleye fry!!! Then which fish would have been dominant? And the best thing about crappies is that there is no commercial market for them, hence no incentive to run nets day after day. When was the last time you saw crappie fillets for sale in the grocery store?

The DNR tends to manage for what they think people want - king walleye - rather than looking at the big picture, both biologically AND POLITICALLY. Crappies would have worked, in fact it could have been maintained as world-class, where restocking the walleyes is a crap shoot, theres no guarantee that they won't be netted back to nothing.

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So BlackJack you said you were out on the lake last weekend, any luck fishing? Are the crappies starting to bite. I'm planning on coming up this Friday, Good luck on opener.

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Blackjack, I've had that or a similar conversations with other locals. It was more along the lines of what changes or things that are different "now a days".
It has been my experience that it is never or rarely one thing that wrecks something. (other than us humans smile.gif ). When we first move up here it was quite the event when a trapper caught more than a couple of beaver. The numbers just weren't there. The creeks for the most part were gravel/sandy bottomed. Now they are mucky and muddy. Also the water table was higher then. Years ago you could dig a hole about one foot deep and by the end of the day it had seeped alot of water. Now I've dug down 6 feet and the soil is bone dry. I guess my point is wouldn't lower, muddier/silty and warmer water provide less than ideal spawning conditions?? I guess I now have a question: Does photo period play into walleye spawning?? I mean does the lenght or amount of daylight come into play??? Or is it just water temp.???Also do walleye have to return to the same spawning area??
I'm not try to start anything or doubting our resident biologists. I'm just curious and like to think/type out loud. -nunzio

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BlackJack...Your right about the wind causing damage to spawning grounds! Wind or current is needed to keep bottom substrate clean. Walleye eggs are adhesive and need clean bottom substrate. Wind action in shallow basin spawning areas provides oxygenated water and keeps sediment and other fine deposits off the eggs. Too much wind can rip the eggs from the bottom and allow currents to carry them off where they will be covered by organic material, silt, or eaten by predators.

Nunzio...Your absolutely correct! A muddy silty bottom means that deposition is happening due to a lack of wind action. These areas absorb sunlight and heat up very quick. Terrible spawning habitat for walleyes! That is why (Centrarchids)-Bass, and sunfish dig a redd or depression through the silty layer into a course bottom substrate. The reason fish like crappies and bass fan their nests is to keep silt and organic material from landing on their eggs and depriving them of oxygen.

Photoperiodism and temperatures both play roles in spawning decisions made by fish. Daylenth plays more of a physiological role in gonad development where as temperature is more of an environmental cue to the fish. Rainfall and other biotic and abiotic factors affect temperature and cause increases or decreases almost inmmediately in lakes and rivers. One of the problems we have in MN is that fish that are ripe and ready to spawn might prolong or even cancel their spawing efforts and re-absorb their own eggs! I've seen this a lot over the years and the biggest reason for this is water temperatures never quite get to where they need to be and the fish decides not to spawn that season. Coldfronts and cold rain with lack of sunlight are mostly responsible for this phenomenon. Pike can sense a .5 degree difference in surface temperatures and they will stop spawning. That means that one cloud in the sky could delay spawning by hours, hypothetically!

The role of dissolved gases, solute concentration in rain water, soil contributions, aquatic vegetation, and algal metabolites in inducing spawning of freshwater fishes is poorly understood and all of these could play a role in walleye spawning. The topic has always fascinated me and as sportfishermen and biologists we can never learn too much! I still believe figuring out fish is easier than women! I tried and failed with the second one.

Do walleyes return to the same spot to spawn each year? Much like the way salmon home into their natal streams, walleyes tend to spawn where their parents spawned or where they were born. Walleyes most likely do not use special homing abilities like salmon, but it is likely that they can pick-up scents from the water and as juveniles they usually spend time in the area where they were spawned. Fish can also remember those areas when it comes time to spawn when they are reproductively mature. Mature fish remember specific lake locations even on large bodies of water like we remember our own names! I've been doing research on salmon for the last 3 years and I still find it impressive that a chinook salmon can go from South East Alaska over to Japan and then back up the Yukon River 2,200 miles right to the same redd they were born. Awesome!

The second week in April is typically when we see the spawning run -- but again, there are no absolutes. For example, the walleyes on Devils Lake tend to spawn when the water temperature reaches 40 degrees and in other systems like Lake Vermilion they spawn when it is 46-50. There really are no absolutes when it comes to mother nature or fish spawning times.

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I was always told that only about 10% of the walleyes spawn in the rivers in red lake and the other 90% spawn on gravel bars of the drop-offs......Just curious on your opinion on that alaskander.

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Bieganebaitco...Ten percent of course is a rough estimate! I've heard up to 25%, but no one really knows. It is possible that 10% of the total spawning population goes into the Tamarac River to spawn? I really don't know what the numbers are and I am not sure there's been any studies done. It seems logical that the majority of fish stay in the lake to spawn, there's so much littoral area in the lake and so much water less than 5 feet that it makes sense to me.
Here's the number for the Bemidji office if you want to call them.

Bemidji - 2114 Bemidji Avenue, 56601, (218) 755-2974

I e-mailed Chris Kavanaugh, area fisheries supervisor in Grand Rapids to see if he has any data on this.

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Alaskander, forgive me for being ignorant, but would you please tell me how to determine the sex of a fish without cutting them open (specifically in regards to crappies, walleyes, bass, and northerns)

Also, I am going on a salmon charter on Lake Michigan June 24th and 25th. Do you think that will be to early for Chinook Salmon.

I'll thank you in advance for your reply.

By the way, I think your responses have been both interesting and ejukashunal.

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Thanks for the response alaskaguy....Your posts are very informative......Keep up the good work!!!

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Analyzer...because most of our native and non-native sport fish do not go into distinct breeding colors it makes sexing them difficult on a visual basis. Trout, char, and salmon are reasonably easy to sex visually due to physical characterictics and morphological difference between each other.

The way I sex fish like walleye, crappie, pike and bass is to feel there bellies and try and determine if I am feeling a full belly, or developing spawn. In males of differing species I am assuming that the smaller sized fish without bulging bellies are males. This is the best way I know to sex fish without cutting them open.

Male crappies in the spring often go into breeding color and turn very dark, this is a great way to tell what they are. In any species early season just feel the fish and see if any milt or eggs come out of the fish, if it is a gravid (full of eggs) female, then eggs should come out. Males will often release a little milt.

The trouble identifying these species is after they spawn. Then your assuming sex mostly by size.

You can see how theory plays a huge role in estimating sex. Chances are if you catch a pike, walleye or bass over 5 pounds it is going to be a female. Females usually grow larger because they need the extra body mass to carry and develop eggs. Some people look at the scaleless area around the anal opening and think they can accurately judge, but this is not scientifically accurate and is about as accurate as chance.

There is no real accurate way to judge sex while your angling. The best advice I can give is to look at all the fish you keep for consumption and this will give you a better idea when your on the water.

Late June is a great time for salmon on the great lakes! Open water fishing is usually best in the Spring and Summer. Chinook spend their life in the open lake in water usually less than 100 feet deep, preying on alewife and smelt. The best fishing is early morning or late evening starting in June and running through to September when they usually spawn. When the spawning run begins they will move into the harbors and tributaries, this is when shore anglers do quite well.

Hope I could help! Visual sexing is a tricky one. A lot of times on fishing shows you'll see the star of the show comment on the sex of the fish and chances are they have no idea! In Minnesota I have guessed 7-8 pound walleyes as being female and they were males. That is one thing I like about salmon, the males develop kypes or hooked jaws which signify their sex. Stream trout do this also.

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Thank you Alaskander, I appreciate your time. That question has bothered me for years, but I never ran into someone who could give me a straight answer.

Now if I can find someone to show me how to filet the "Y" out of a northern, I'll be all set smile.gif

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WOW, Fish need the perfect condition's in order to spawn.
I think I married a fish. smile.gif

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I hope so then you can say you caught one.

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halad, hehehehehehehehehe. smile.gif
Alaskander70, Great job, thanks for all the info.

------------------
Waskish Minnow Station
218-647-8652

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Captain Morgan Tester...Thank you for the acknowledging my presence. I sure wish I could be chasing them crappies around with you guys this summer!

Hey! The next time I am back I am going to through the scuba gear on and start gathering lures from the cribs!!! In the next couple of years, there's going to be a fortune in Rapalas and jig-heads on those things. We could put new split rings and trebles on the lures and sell them at discount. Or barter for capt Morgan!

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No doubt my hat's off to the alasklander for these great post's and to the rest of you all. I'd like to hear people's and alaska guys thought's on photoperiod, the full moon, and whether {weather}? Fish {wally's}must have spawned by that full moon end of April?

Most interested....Fisky

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Alasknader, great posts! Its always nice to have more info on the quarry that we pursue and nature in general.

Surface Tension, I agree with you! If its not too close to mealtime, if its not too early or too late, if the phase of the moon isn't just right, 'spawning' just doesn't happen!!!

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alaskander70,
You're easy to notice. You and Lowe are two of the faint rays of intelligence around here. smile.gif I had to ask littleitaly how to spell "intelligence", that's a real bad sign. grin.gif

------------------
Waskish Minnow Station
218-647-8652

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Alaskander-Lowe;

Back to the crappie thing, I've heard that it is difficult to catch crappies in a gill net. Any truth to this?

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HEHEHE She put up a heII of a battle too, and still does. smile.gif Before I got married I did a lot of Catch & Release. Used to fish many different BODIES of water. grin.gif Its smooth sailing after you find all the rock pile's on your favorite lake. But once in a while you hit a stump.

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Alaskalander and Lowe thanks for the info.
You could right a book and call it.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Spawning But Were Afraid To Ask.

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