DNR Walleye Stocking Birch Lake 2018

In October 2017, it came to the attention of the board that the DNR walleye stocking in Birch Lake for 2018 and going forward would be at lower levels than previous years.  The Board requested a meeting with the DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor to discuss this important topic. On December 27th, six Birch Lake Association (BLA) Board Members and two business BLA members met with the DNR for an hour and a half. There were two DNR representatives from the Division of Fish and Wildlife in attendance, Doug Schultz – Area Supervisor-Fisheries and Bill Evarts – NR Fisheries Specialist.

BLA members expressed concern that a decrease in the volume of stocking would hurt the quality of walleye fishing in Birch Lake. We voiced our personal concerns as well as those of membership. The Board members relayed how important the walleye fishing in Birch Lake is to us personally as well as to the Association members we represent. The business members explained how critical quality walleye fishing was to their own businesses and to the broader business environment in the entire Hackensack area.  

The DNR representatives listened closely to our concerns and assured us that their first priority was to maintain the quality of Birch Lake’s fishery, and to try to improve it. They shared with us a 5 page data analysis of Birch Lake, and walked us through the information. The report can be found on our website at: www.mybirchlake.org.

A brief summary of the study:  The DNR significantly increased the amount of stocking done in Birch Lake, and many other Minnesota lakes in 2001. They conducted a state-wide survey of lakes in 2016 to evaluate the impact of the increased stocking. For Birch Lake, they concluded that the 15 years of increased stocking had not resulted in an increase in the population of walleye in the lake. This information can be found on the 4th page of the DNR data package, in the lower graph titled “Year Class Catch Rate (Age 1-6)”. The graph illustrates the netting survey results (GN CPUE = gill net catch per unit of effort) from 1985 to 2012. It shows an average of 0.4 walleye per net between 1987 and 2000, and the same average of 0.4 walleye per net from 2001 – 2012.

We had a very good discussion regarding the results and possible reasons for the stagnant walleye population, Doug Schultz offered several important observations. He suggested that a sharp decline in the perch population and an increase in the population of smaller northern pike has had a detrimental effect on the walleye population.  Fewer perch for food causes the increasingly abundant northern pike to feed on walleye as an alternative, which reduces the fingerling walleye population. This information can be seen on the 5th page of the data package titled “Species Trends and Interactions”. You can also find historical netting data in the Lakefinder section of the DNR website at: Fisheries Lake Surveys Birch

What can you do:  Here are some actions we can take to improve the walleye fishing on Birch Lake, and look for more details on these suggestions in the near future on our website:

·         First, increase natural lakeshore to boost the perch population.  To increase the perch population, BLA members need to maintain and increase perch spawning habitat. Perch need vertical structure to drape their eggs. This is natural shoreline that includes downed trees, bull rushes and cat tails.

·         Second, to reduce the population of smaller northern pike fishermen should take out northern pike that are smaller than 25” in length, while returning larger northern pike to the lake. This will relieve the pressure on smaller walleye as food and allow more walleye fingerling to grow to mature adults.

The DNR will continue to evaluate Birch Lake fishery and are scheduled to conduct a netting survey in August 2018.  The Birch Lake Association Board will continue to closely monitor the situation and relay any important developments as they arise. The DNR Fisheries has an open door policy and welcomes members to ask questions or join them to observe netting or stocking activities. The BLA Board will continue to work closely with the DNR to represent the interests of our lake and our members.  

A special thank you to Rick Zaske for raising this issue and for his continued involvement with the DNR representing BLA!!