DNR Biologist Provide Best Walleye Fishing Guide Available For Lake Monroe

Results of radio tracking project show Monroe walleye haunts and habits

By Don Jordan


(Editor's Note: Beginning today, Don Jordan will return to writing his regular, weekly column, Inside Outdoors. The column will be published on this website, http://donjordanoutdoors.com, every Sunday morning. If you read Don's newspaper column every Sunday morning for 35 years or more, here it is again, only it comes to you free on this website. No newspaper subscription fee required!)

The Lake Monroe Walleye Radio Tracking Study

Anglers who regularly fish Lake Monroe have a DNR walleye fishing guide unparalleled in Indiana fisheries history in results of a radio tracking project that followed radio-implanted walleye in 2008 and 2009.

The project was operated by the Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources's Div. of Fish & Wildlife in 2008. In that program, fisheries biologist,Sandra Clrk-Kolaks and assistants implanted tiny radio transmitters in 38 Monroe walleye. They subsequently tracked the movement of these fish through spring, summer and fall, marked their depth and location and produced a major report on the project last in 2009. The report's official title is "Distribution and Movement of Walleye (Sanders vitreus) In Monroe Reservoir, Indiana 2008 and 2009."

One reason ths radio tracking experiment was done was to stimulate more anglers to go after walleye at Lake Monroe. In the eyes of DNR biologists, walleye are underfished at Monroe, and since the DNR has spent the last 20 years stocking them there, they would like to see more anglers targeting walleye.
And, if there were ever a report that whet's a walleye fisherman's appetite, this is it. Just reading through a few of the highlights for the first made me want to go fishing in February. Here are a few goodies:

•Spawning site fidelity was documented in Saddle Creek and ther spawniong locations between the two years." This finding hints at if not proves that hatchery walleye stocked in Monroe are at least trying to reproduce naturally. It has long been thought that stocked walleye would not reproduce in the "wild."

•Site fidelity was documented in summer and autumn locations for individuals (tagged fish)." Tracked walleye stayed in and around the same locations all summer and in the autumn but moved longer distances during the spring spawning period.

•Tagged walleye were found to move extensive distances across the lake and individuals used the entire lake during all periods of the year." The big surprise is that so many walleye use the upper basin (above or east) of the Ind. 446 causeway. A couple of the radio-tagged walley were found as far upstream as Pine Grove and Crooked Creek.

Because the fisheries biologists sat up a website that anglers used in 2009 to follow Monroe walleyes, there was excellent feed-back from those anglers which provided more data for this research.

"Based on walleye movement data and personal communication with anglers, walleye seem most susceptible to harvest during the spawn and autumn periods. During the spawn period, walleye are making long migrations and are in areas where both bank fishing (dam) and boat fishing are possible," wrote Clark-Kolak. In general, walleye spawn from March 1 through April 30.

This research report is literally chockfull of such tidbits. Here are a few I picked out to emphasize:

• Walleyes prefer water temperatures from 15 to 18 degrees Celsius (59 to 64 degrees F) and avoid water over 25 degrees C (77 degreesF).

•After the spawn, the fish moved to the "backs of coves and into creek channels" and movement was much reduced all summer.

•Summertime 24-hour tracking of some fish showed that they moved from out of timbered coves into the deeper water at night to feed.

• The walleye collected and released averaged 17 inches long, and the range was from 14 to 27 inches.

•During high water, many walleye, especially females during spawning time, were flushed from the reservoir into the tailwater where bank anglers caught a fair number of fish. Once the fish left the tailwater, they were never recorded again, and no radio-tagged fish showed up below the Williams Dam. Those fish may run upstream to the Monroe dam if they survived.

Some of the most valuable and exciting data in the report are the various location maps included. Those map tell anglers exactly which spots where walleye congregate, and which spots attract the most fish, when and even at what depth. Here are a couple of highlights from the mapping:

•Spawning condition walleye turned up at the Fairfax boat ramp, Hardin Ridge and anywhere there was rip rap shoreline. Walleye tagged in Saddle Creek in 2008 showed up there again in 2009.

•The shallower waters around Fairfax Point were fish attractors all year, and many fish hung out in flodded timber on the point during high water.

•Boy Scout Bay and Sugar Creek are both areas where walleye frequented at more than one time of the year, and the east bank of Moore's Creek also attracted numerous walleye.

The DNR's web site page for this information begins at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3280.htm and the actual report, including all maps, can be downloaded in .pdf format at: Lake Monroe Walleye Tracking Report.


©Copyright 2010. Donald Lee Jordan

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