Department of Fish and Wildlife
Native walleye stocked in Kentucky River; part of ambitious restoration project
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Native walleye have returned to the Kentucky
River after a decades-long absence.
Fisheries employees with the Kentucky Department
of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocked more than 25,000 native southern strain
walleye in the three forks of the Kentucky River above Lock and Dam 14 near
Beattyville. The walleye, measuring 2-3 inches, went into the river last month.
to think that maybe 50 years from now, we may have revived our native walleye
populations,” said Dave Dreves, assistant
director over fisheries research at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “One
day, anglers might be catching a state record walleye. I think that’s entirely
Kentucky’s current state record is a
21-pound, 8-ounce walleye caught by angler Abe Black out of Lake Cumberland in
1958. The world record walleye is a 25-pound fish caught in Tennessee’s Old
Hickory Lake in 1960.
Intense fishing pressure, poor water conditions,
sedimentation and the flooding of spawning shoals as rivers were dammed
combined to nearly wipe out the native walleyes. In their place, Kentucky Fish
and Wildlife began stocking a northern strain of walleye better suited for
The discovery of a remnant population of native
walleye in 1995 triggered an effort to restore the natives throughout their
former range. Since restocking began in 2002, native walleye have been stocked
in the Rockcastle River, Wood Creek Lake, Barren River, Levisa Fork, the
Cumberland River above Cumberland Falls,, Martins Fork Lake, Drakes Creek and
this year, the Kentucky River.
Despite the difficulty of raising this strain of
walleye, employees of the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery managed to produce 150,000
fingerlings from just three female broodfish this year. More broodfish could
not be obtained from the wild due to heavy rains that made finding the
egg-laden female walleyes difficult.
Once established, the southern strain of walleye
tend to grow larger and faster than their northern counterparts. Researchers
are optimistic that restoration of these native fish to their former range is
broodfish weighing 8 pounds out of the Barren River,” Dreves noted. “We think
water conditions have improved to the point where native walleye can make a