Native Strain Walleye Management Efforts in Kentucky

Historically, many Kentucky rivers had native walleye populations with fish that grew to impressive sizes and supported popular sport fisheries. Due in part to reservoir constructions and a variety of other factors, these populations gradually declined. By the 1970s, the huge spring walleye runs in these rivers had disappeared, so the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) began stocking walleye from northern origins in some of these same rivers and the new reservoirs. In 1995, after learning of anglers still catching large walleye in the Rockcastle River, KDFWR biologists collected eight walleye from this Cumberland River drainage tributary. The fish were later confirmed as a different genetic strain than walleye that had been stocked by the KDFWR around the state. The fish from this population would thus serve as broodstock for a native walleye restoration program in the state. The Rockcastle River walleye population has since been the focus of a KDFWR research project that included supplemental stocking, radio telemetry, and routine monitoring with electrofishing. Desiring a population of native strain that would be physically isolated from stocked northern strains, native walleye fingerlings were stocked in the upper Barren River above Barren River Lake in 2007. The restoration also expanded to the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River above Fishtrap Lake in 2010. Early after the discovery of the native strain walleye, stockings of northern strain walleye were discontinued in the Upper Cumberland River and Upper Kentucky River drainages in the hopes that one day these areas could be repopulated with native strain fish. A native strain walleye management plan will be developed in the near future.

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