Geneva Lake Walleyes, Walworth Co.
By Mike Jackson I feel buoyed by a number of angling organizations that dig in and do the necessary stuff to aid the various wings of the Department of Natural Resources agencies.
DNR biologists can't always deliver the goods, because the bosses at the top levels often appear more concerned about being good bureaucrats in front of state lawmakers. It's true here in Illinois as well in Madison, Wis.
Clubs such as Walleyes Unlimited, Salmon Unlimited, the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance and all the state and local muskie groups and bass clubs, as well as Walleyes For Tomorrow, deserve more than a casual attaboy and a pat on the back.
These are true volunteers, angling heroes who typify what volunteerism used to be like 50 years ago.
I tip my hat to guys such as Schaumburg angler Ken Abraham and his cohorts for
supporting a relatively new effort to restore the once-glorious Geneva Lake walleye factory.
Many of you already know that hunting smallmouth bass is my number one pursuit, especially on the Fox and DuPage rivers, and that hard-fighting northern pike grabs the second spot closely followed by cannibalistic, jumbo Canadian lake trout. Largemouth bass falls into the cracks somewhere in there.
When it comes to walleyes, I enjoy catching them for a Canadian or northern Minnesota shore lunch. It's the heavier walleyes that get my attention, and some lakes with less pressure than other popular spots such as Geneva haven't offered many jumbo fish in recent years.
So when Abraham contacted me this spring and filled me in on the efforts of an aggressive new group known as Walleyes for Tomorrow (http://walleyesfortomorrowwalworth.org), my
interest was piqued because private groups often come to the forefront to save the day.
Sources once told me that natural walleye reproduction on Geneva Lake is a rarity.
Enter the Walleye Wagon, a re-built trailer now designed to serve as a hatchery station for walleyes. And all of the activity with these fish is done by volunteer help.
Walleyes For Tomorrow Inc, based in Fond Du Lac, Wis., is a non-profit fisheries conservation organization of dedicated anglers who have a passion for walleye fishing. The group is in its 21st year.
The Walworth County Chapter of Walleyes For Tomorrow was formed in January 2012. There are 15 chapters in Wisconsin, all set up to help further the existence of excellent walleye fishing.
I believe it would be nice if we had an Illinois chapter.
As I said, the organization took a small trailer and converted it to a portable laboratory/hatchery, all staffed by trained volunteers.
This is a more efficient way to reproduce fish, but the drawback is that it's not free. Labor, materials, equipment, shelter and land are all required to raise hatchlings. Transportation of young fish to release sites is necessary and can be costly. Fishing license fees, taxes, donations and fund raising are common sources of revenue used to support fish hatchery operations.
In some cases, state agencies such as the DNR own and regulate all fish hatchery operations. Other states purchase fish from private or out-of-state hatcheries to stock lakes. Some do a combination of all three. The bottom line is that states oversee and regulate the fish stocking of the lakes throughout their regions.
Private organizations that are qualified to stock fish must meet stringent standards.
Walleyes For Tomorrow is one such organization supporting Walleye populations on Geneva Lake.
So what's all this hoopla about?
I previously noted that Geneva Lake, like many others in the Midwest, suffered from extreme fishing pressure and little natural replenishment.
According to Ken Abraham, the Walworth County WFT chapter managed to plant 1.8 million walleye fry in to the lake last year. This year's WFT hatchery production and planting is almost 4 million.
If the surviving young fish do well, we can expect a decent crop of catchable walleyes in years to come.