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Prospects good for walleye opener

ESCANABA — Walleye season opens today and the local walleye fishery is looking good for 2020.

Fisheries Unit Manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Escanaba Customer Service Center Darren Kramer compared the start of the area’s walleye season to the opening of Michigan’s firearm deer season.

“For walleye anglers, this is kind of their Nov. 15,” he said.

The walleye season is set to continue through March 15, 2021.

Kramer said he expects local involvement in walleye fishing to be strong for opening day.

“We’re hoping that the weather’s going to be nice so anglers can get out,” he said.

Fortunately, people fishing in the area can expect to find a sizable population of walleye.

“We expect a pretty good walleye fishery out there for our anglers to harvest,” Kramer said.

He noted walleye catch rates and angler harvest numbers (the latter referring to the number of legal walleyes anglers catch and keep) have both been trending upwards in recent years.

One factor that has played an important role in this increase locally has been a walleye stocking program. The DNR collaborates with Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen, Inc. and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians on this program.

“(That) has certainly contributed fish to the fishery,” Kramer said.

Through this program, Kramer said walleye are added to Little Bay de Noc on an annual basis.

“Stocking is done usually about mid-summer or so,” he said.

While natural reproduction rates for walleye vary from year to year, Kramer said this has also contributed to the growth of the fishery.

Kramer noted cool weather conditions in the area this spring may have influenced the spots where anglers will be most successful.

“Some of the walleye spawned a little bit later than typical years,” he said.

Because of this, more walleye will likely be found in shallow waters and at the northern end of the bay.

Boat launches in Escanaba and Gladstone are expected to be open today, and work to prepare these facilities has been ongoing.

“The parks and rec division crews have been working to get the skid piers installed,” Kramer said.

Work on installing the skid piers started later than normal due to COVID-19-related work restrictions. Because of this, Kramer said these piers may or may not be in place at all of the local boat launches today.

Kramer noted the area’s northern pike season starts today, as well.

“There is a very nice northern pike fishery out in the bay right now,” he said, noting catch rates for these fish have also been increasing.

For more information on fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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