WV Wildlife: Walleye Fry Release

WVDNR fisheries biologist, Aaron Yeager, inspects a bag full of newly-hatched native walleye. (WCHS/WVAH)

The Gauley River is perfect for Walleye.

This clean, cool water with a cobble bottom makes it an ideal place for our native walleye--fish that got their start here millions of years ago--to thrive.

These natives, though, aren't the only ones here. A Great Lakes strain of walleye was stocked here years ago, but DNR biologists today want our native strain to become the dominant type.

"Had we known there was a difference in walleye strains, we may have never stocked Great Lakes fish in here. These are pure natives. I mean they have evolved for this type of setting, so if there's a walleye that's going to do well--these are the walleye that are going to do well here", said WVDNR fisheries biologist, Aaron Yeager.

To tip the scales in favor of these natives, fisheries biologists first have to catch some. After this, they mix the female eggs with the males milt; nature can do this in flowing water, but the success rate of manually doing this is much higher. Afterwards, the fish are then quickly released back into their natural environment, so it's a win-win.

"Sixteen days from spawn to hatch for these particular fry. Roughly 10,000 I would say today in this little batch", said Yeager.

Native walleye are already here, but this hard work should increase their populations. It won't be easy for the little guys at first, though. In this large body of water, it's survival of the fittest.

"As soon as they're let free, they're going to have to fend for themselves. The idea of releasing these fish up river from the reservoir is that-- that's where they would hatch naturally, and there's no way to mimic mother nature really in our hatchery system better than what we can do here", said Yeager.

The future for walleye in this state--particularly our native fish--is looking good. Yeager is excited for that future.

"We've got high hopes for turning Summersville into our major brood stock source for the state, and if we can do that--and be able to reuse and spawn fish multiple times--we can achieve going native".

  • To visit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources homepage, just click here.

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