North Georgia is the southern range of walleye in North America, occurring naturally in some of the large rivers and lakes within the Tennessee Valley. Throughout the 1960s, walleyes were stocked in other North Georgia reservoirs; however, these early stocking efforts were largely unsuccessful in all but a few mountain lakes. Naturalized walleye populations supported a limited seasonal fishery for many years. During the 1990s, declining numbers of walleye coupled with the rapid expansion of illegally introduced blueback herring sparked a renewed interest in re-establishing the Georgia walleye stocking program. In 2002, a fledgling walleye stocking program was reborn in Georgia.
Producing walleye for stocking on a large-scale takes a lot of time, effort and space. The process begins in early March, when fisheries staff collect adult male and female walleye from several North Georgia lakes at just the right time when the eggs are ripe for spawning. The Go Fish Education Center is the state's producer of walleye fingerlings. Fertilized eggs incubate in large jars with gently flowing water for about ten days at which time they hatch. Newly hatched fry are stocked into small ponds to continue growing for about one month. If all goes well, nearly 600,000 fingerlings will be produced. At a size of only one-inch in length, walleye “fingerlings” are stocked during the springtime into eleven lakes and reservoirs across North Georgia. Stocking rates for small lakes typically range from 50 to 100 fish/acre. Stocking rates for large reservoirs range from 1 to 4 fish/acre. Biologist estimate that from 10% to 20% of the fingerlings stocked will survive to adulthood.
The walleye stocking program has created new and challenging opportunities for Georgia anglers. As a testimony to the success of this program, walleye has become a “bucket list” species for a growing number of folks. Another success story of the walleye program is a new state record catch. In February 2016, Wes Carlton caught a 14 lb 2 oz walleye from Lake Rabun, which broke the former record by nearly three pounds! Find out more about the catch and our walleye stocking program on our blog.
For more information about walleye fishing opportunities in Georgia, contact Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern at the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery (706-947-1507 or Anthony.Rabern@dnr.ga.gov).