Implementing harvest regulations to eliminate or substantially reduce (≥90%) the exploitation of Walleyes Sander vitreus in recreational fisheries may increase population size structure, but these measures also could reduce angler effort because many Walleye anglers are harvest oriented. We analyzed data collected during 1995–2015 to determine whether Walleye population and fishery metrics in Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, changed after a minimum TL limit of 71 cm with a one-fish daily bag limit was implemented in 2003. This change eliminated the legal harvest of Walleyes after several decades during which annual exploitation averaged 34%. We detected a significant increase in the loge density of adult females after the regulation change, but the loge density of all adults and adult males did not differ between periods. Mean TL of adult males was significantly greater after the regulation change, but the mean TL of females and the proportional size distribution of preferred-length fish (≥51 cm TL) were similar between periods. Sex-specific mean TLs at age 5 did not differ between periods. Loge density of age-0 Walleyes did not change after 2003, but variation in age-0 density was lower. Total angler effort and the effort for anglers targeting Walleyes were significantly lower (35% and 60% declines, respectively) after the regulation change, whereas catch rates for both angler categories did not differ between periods. Our results suggest that implementing highly restrictive regulations that greatly reduce or eliminate legal harvest will not always increase angler catch rates and population size structure. Highly restrictive regulations may also deter anglers from using a fishery when many other fisheries are available. Our findings are useful for fishery managers who may work with anglers holding the belief that lower exploitation is a potential remedy for low Walleye size structure, even when density and growth suggest that there is limited potential for improvement.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Walleye population and fishery responses after elimination of legal harvest on Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin|
|Series title||North American Journal of Fisheries Management|
|Publisher||Taylor & Francis|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|
|Other Geospatial||Escanaba Lake|