Joe Fellegy recently interviewed Paul Radomski, A Q&A with Radomski author of new walleye book,” MN Outdoor News, December 2, 2022. The interview of DNR biologist Paul Radomski about his latest book “Walleye: A Beautiful Fish of the Dark,” confirms what PERM has been pointing out all along: the Mille Lacs fishery has a management problem.
Radomski certainly has the expertise for doing this analysis but he also involves many experts in his detailed discussions about the fishery and its management. (He brings up more questions than Joe Fellegy.) His book has extensive notes, bibliography, and index. It’s well worth reading by anyone who is concerned about the Mille Lacs fishery.
Don’t forget, DNR Commisioner Sarah Strommen is in charge of all natural resources in Minnesota. If you have questions about Mille Lacs management, contact, Sarah Strommen. (See link on PERM’s website.)
Read more below
Mille Lacs has a fisheries management problem, not a walleye population problem.
A Q&A with Radomski, author of new walleye book
By Joe Fellegy, MN Outdoor News, December 2, 2022
Joe Fellegy recently chatted with DNR biologist Paul Radomski about his new book, “Walleye: A Beautiful Fish of the Dark” and related matters.
Fellegy: The title of your book is, “Walleye: A Beautiful Fish of the Dark.” Walleyes are beautiful?
Radomski: Tell me who hasn’t pulled up walleye through ice holes and been amazed at their vitality and vividness. I see their beauty every time.
Walleye have functional beauty. They are colored to blend in. Even in one lake or stream the color might range from brassy yellow to olive-brown to gray-blue. This fish is armed and has an attitude.
Fellegy: Armed? What do you mean?
Radomski: A walleye has a dorsal fin with a dozen or more sharp spines. Walleye are covered with scales having small teeth at the posterior edges, creating a surface that’s rough to the touch. This is especially noticeable with big fish. And the bones supporting the gill covers are weapons. The one closest to a walleye’s mouth is serrated. The other one is equipped with a short spine.
Anglers and biologists know that a walleye has dagger-like teeth in a large mouth.
Fellegy: Your book’s last section covers the walleye fisheries of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin plus Mille Lacs and Red Lake(s) in Minnesota. What did you learn about Mille Lacs?
Radomski: The first thing I learned came from additional review of the Mille Lacs fisheries data, and from conversations with other biologists. It was clear that the Mille Lacs walleye population is not in a crisis. There is an abundance of large fish that is more than adequate to sustain the population.
Interestingly, fisheries management actions have shifted the walleye population to one with a larger proportion of older, larger-sized fish. I walk the reader through the biological consequences of such a shift.
Fellegy: And you learned much more about Mille Lacs walleyes and their management via your data study and chats with biologists?
Radomski: I came to understand that the lake and its food web have changed, likely reducing the walleye carrying capacity. Lakes are dynamic ecosystems that change frequently. Mille Lacs, like other large systems, has undergone some changes.
Fellegy: Would you comment on Mille Lacs fisheries co-management (Minnesota DNR plus eight Ojibwe tribal DNRs)?
Radomski: Mille Lacs has a fisheries management problem, not a walleye population problem. The management of Mille Lacs has struggled for many years because biologists and managers (state and tribal) could not agree on the condition of the walleye population.
I outline three common perspectives of the fishery, and I share my perspective. If fisheries managers and agency leaders can’t agree on something as basic as the population status, then setting the annual quota gets very complicated and troublesome.
Fellegy: Anything more about the Mille Lacs co-management system?
Radomski: One role of an agency’s fisheries biologist is to critique the agency’s actions, even if agency leaders grow weary of hearing such things. Honest evaluations of fisheries-management failures improve fisheries management.
However, with Mille Lacs, some involved people have not wanted to hear other perspectives. When they asked for independent reviews, it appeared that some heard what they wanted to hear and dismissed the rest. Yes, egos, hubris, and the avoidance of agency conflict has limited pragmatic adjustments, or improvements, to fisheries management.
Fellegy: You’re hinting at mismanagement of a major fishery. More on that?
Radomski: Agency representatives had little skin in the game, while families and communities suffered from low angler harvests due to unduly conservative quotas. From 2013 to 2022, more Mille Lacs walleyes died from natural causes than were harvested.
Catching and eating some of these fish is not anti-conservation. It is justified to advocate for a reasonable use of fish.
Fellegy: Your book is loaded with much information about walleyes. More about Mille Lacs?
Radomski: The Mille Lacs walleye fishery is the most interesting of all walleye fisheries. The lake’s data and studies will always be used to improve fisheries management elsewhere. I’m always open to informed opinions and new facts on Mille Lacs.
I’ve been wrong before, Joe, so if any of my perspectives are wrong I will correct my views. And thank you for your valuable contributions to the Mille Lacs chapter. I appreciate your insights about this wonderful walleye fishery. I enjoy walleye fishing on Mille Lacs, and it’s great to hear your stories about this great lake and its fish.
Fellegy: Any bottom-lines regarding your new walleye book?
Radomski: Regarding walleye facts, if you want to know about walleye density (fish per acre), how many little perch a 15-inch walleye eats in a day or so, the percentage of walleye that die from natural causes every year, and where stocking walleye is prudent and wise, the book covers these topics and much more.
Radomski is a fisheries biologist, a lake ecology scientist, and longtime angler. His new walleye book is published by the University of Minnesota Press, 2022. One may purchase the book at various online sites, including upress.umn.edu, amazon.com, and others.