A Letter from Captain Kevin Ellman

Captain Kevin Ellman with kids from WFT kid's education program

Dear Walleye for Tomorrow members:

On July 15, 2023, Oconto Wisconsin hosted a local fishing tournament named Escape Realty Walleye Invitational.  This tournament also includes a Youth/Family Education Moment which was a collaboration between myself Captain Kevin Ellman and my son Captain Jason Ellman – owner of Northern Water Excursions.   I conducted a session in which I shared and demonstrated boat and water safety, education on invasive species along with some fishing tips and insights to our young participants.  This year we had 24 children engaged in our presentation and I have included a number of pictures to share the success of our day!

Due to the generosity of our sponsors like Walleyes for Tomorrow, we were able to both educate and provide fishing poles to a very excited and engaged group of young anglers!

I wanted to take a moment and thank the Walleyes for Tomorrow organization not only for providing outstanding products but also for their ongoing investment in our children and our future anglers of tomorrow.  Your donations and sponsorship over the years have made a difference in the communities we live and fish in!

 It is my intent to continue to bring the joy of fishing to our young anglers in the upcoming years and am hopeful that the Walleyes for Tomorrow organization will continue to support and contribute items to share in recognition of our commitment to our fishing future! 

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Captain Kevin Ellman

Fishing Platforms

This is a fishing platform the Winnebagoland Conservation Alliance started installing in Lakeside Park in FDL about 10 years ago.  It has been copied in several locations around the state with good results and use.  This one is on Big Green Lake.  Just installed a week ago or so.

Upper Fox River Walleye Sonic Tagging Study is Underway!

A new walleye sonic tagging study is underway on the upper Fox River to evaluate adult walleye movement and habitat use on the system including Lake Puckaway and Buffalo Lake. The upper Fox River walleye spawning run has become less predictable in recent years. Fishways have also been installed to improve fish passage including at Eureka in 1993 and more recently in Princeton and Montello. Many of the historical walleye spawning marshes are located downstream of Princeton on the upper Fox River, but walleye should now have access to upstream reaches with the recent Princeton and Montello fishways. Therefore, it is important to evaluate if walleye movement and habitat use has changed on the upper Fox River. The study will help guide management and habitat restoration efforts on the on the upper Fox River and will also compliment sonic tagging studies being conducted on the Lake Winnebago System.

Department staff and volunteers conducted electrofishing surveys on Lake Puckaway and the upstream river area on October 13th and 26th. There were 16 adult walleye tagged with internal sonic tags on Lake Puckaway that included 8 males ranging 14.7-19.0 inches and 8 females ranging 20.5-25.4 inches. As part of this study, the upper Fox River acoustic receiver network now covers from the mouth of the upper Fox River at Lake Butte des Morts upstream to Portage. Sonic tagged fish that swim by the acoustic receivers (about a ¼ mile read range or line of sight) will be detected with a fish ID, date, and time stamp. Sonic tagging efforts are planned to continue on the upper Fox River area in 2023. This study is currently being funded by the Department, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, and Walleyes for Tomorrow. We hope to expand the project with more partners as the project continues.

All sonic tagged fish are also marked with an orange loop tag near the dorsal fin that reads, RESEARCH REWARD. Anglers that happen to catch a sonic tagged fish are asked to record the tag number information and approximate length, take a picture with the fish and close up of the both sides of loop tag showing the number, and report their catch. If the fish is released please leave the loop tag intact. If the fish is harvested please contact the DNR, the internal sonic tags have a 3 year battery life and may be able to be reused. Anglers that report the catch or harvest of a loop tagged fish and have proper confirmation (the physical loop tag or picture with fish and verifiable loop tag number) will receive a $100 reward (reward expires Dec. 31, 2025). To report tags and catch information, anglers can email the information to DNRWINNEBAGOSYSTEMTAGRETURNS@wisconsin.gov, call 920-303-5429, or mail to the Oshkosh DNR office (625 East County Road Y, Oshkosh WI 54901).

Green Bay Value Study

This is the study WFT paid for in 2018 to document the value of Sport Fishing on Green Bay.  We did this in anticipation of the commercial fishing growth in Green Bay.

WFT representatives attended 2 meetings, one in Sturgeon Bay and one in Green Bay in 2018.  Both meetings disturbed us greatly, thus the study.

The DNR has never really referenced the study. Meredith Penthorn at DNR and she said she would post it on the DNR website to make it a public document.

In an effort to better understand angling in the Bay of Green Bay watershed and how this identity impacts the state economy, the authors worked with Walleyes for Tomorrow and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Since the WDNR continually examines the catch of anglers through a long-standing creel survey design that is used to estimate fishing pressure and success, the data collection effort for this study piggy-backed upon this creel survey design by distributing a survey packet to recreational anglers intercepted at boat launches and shore fishing areas.

Diets of Larval Walleyes in Northern Wisconsin Lakes

Nathan Jaksha1, Daniel Isermann2, & Daniel Dembkowski1

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point1, USGS-Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit2


  • Walleye are an important species in Wisconsin that support both recreational hook-and-line and tribal spear fisheries.
  • Walleye recruitment has declined in some lakes that previously supported natural recruitment yet has remained stable in other lakes.
  • Recent studies suggest that a recruitment bottleneck may be occurring at or before the larval stage in lakes exhibiting declines in natural recruitment.
  • Reasons for the contrasting trends in recruitment among populations are unclear, as are mechanisms underlying the recruitment bottleneck in lakes with declining recruitment.
  • Differences in prey availability among lakes with different recruitment histories could contribute to the observed trends in recruitment.
  • Assessment of larval walleye diets from lakes with different recruitment histories could provide important insight to the role of prey resources in explaining trends in walleye recruitment in Wisconsin lakes.
Photo of an adult walleye sampled by the Wisconsin DNR


Describe diet composition of larval walleyes in northern Wisconsin lakes displaying two different recruitment histories: sustained natural recruitment (S-NR) and declining natural recruitment (D-NR).

Methods – Sampling

  • Larval  walleye sampling occurred during 2016 & 2017 on 13 lakes
    • Five of these lakes were resampled in 2018
  • Sampling started mid-May each year
    • Continued at 7-10 d intervals until early June
    • Surface temps = 11-16˚C
  • Larval walleyes were collected using a 1,000-µm mesh conical ichthyoplankton net.
    • Towed at surface (5 min) at both nearshore (within 100-m) & offshore locations (≥100-m) at night
  • Percid larvae identified to species using dichotomous keys
    • Random subset selected for genetic verification of visual species identification using PCR techniques

Methods – Diets

  • Gut contents of each fish were removed and diets were quantified using mean percent composition by number of individual diet items.
  • Zooplankton items classified to order for adult copepods and genus for cladocerans
  • Larval fish encountered in diets identified genetically using qPCR techniques
Magnified image of a zooplankton (Daphnia spp.) diet item
Magnified image of a larval Walleye

Results – All Lakes

  • Larval walleye collected from 6 S-NR lakes and 4 D-NR lakes (diets summarized in Table 1).
  • Guts were removed from 115 larval walleyes (mean TL = 11.4 mm; range = 6.4 –22.0 mm).
  • 27% of diets (31 of 115) were empty
  • 37% of diets (42 of 115) contained larval yellow perch
  • 16% of diets (18 of 115) contained zooplankton
Table 1. Mean percent composition by number and counts of prey items observed in larval walleye diets from all lakes combined.
Diet Item% CompositionCount
Daphnia spp.15.041
Calanoid Copepods1.83
Cyclopoid Copepods5.816
Bosmina spp.0.53
Larval Fish63.349

Results – S-NR vs. D-NR Lakes

  • S-NR Lakes = 86 larval walleye (diets summarized in Table 2)
    • Larval walleye mean length = 11.3 mm (range = 6.5 -22.0 mm)
    • 38 % of diets (33 of 86) were empty
    • 31% of diets (27 of 86) contained larval yellow perch
    • 20% of diets (17 of 86) contained zooplankton
  • D-NR Lakes = 29 larval walleye (diets summarized in Table 2)
    • Larval walleye mean length = 12.4 mm (range = 7.8 -21.0 mm)
    • 28% of diets (8 of 29) were empty
    • 52% of diets (15 of 29) contained larval yellow perch
    • 3% of diets (1of 29) contained zooplankton
Table 2. Mean percent composition by number and counts of prey items observed in larval walleye diets from S-NR and D-NR lakes.
Recruitment History:S-NR LakesD-NR Lakes
Diet Item% CompositionCount% CompositionCount
Daphnia spp.19.1404.81
Calanoid Copepods2.530.00
Cyclopoid Copepods8.1160.00
Bosmina spp.0.730.00
Larval Fish60.13471.415


  • Larval yellow perch were the dominant prey item for larval walleyes in lakes exhibiting both sustained and declining natural recruitment.
    • Extent of piscivorymuch greater than previously assumed
  • In general, larval walleyes in S-NR lakes consumed a greater diversity of prey items and more zooplankton than larval walleyes in D-NR lakes.
  • Further statistical analyses required to determine if diets and prey availability differed between S-NR & D-NR lakes.


  • This study was funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources through the Fisheries Analysis Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
  • Jason Gostiaux
  • Walleyes for Tomorrow: Research Fellowship

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Input to Increase Access to Refuge System Lands

As part of its ongoing effort to increase public access on federal lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced (news release attached) it is seeking the public’s assistance to develop a list of its managed lands that would benefit from new or increased access routes. 

On March 12, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47, the Dingell Act), which directs the Service and other federal land management agencies to develop a priority list of lands that have significantly restricted or no public access where that access could be improved. The public is encouraged to identify national wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries and other lands managed by the Service that meet the complete criteria. 

Comments will be accepted over a 30-day comment period from February 10-March 11, 2020. 

Some of the criteria for nominated lands include: public lands must be managed by the Service and 640 contiguous acres; have significantly restricted or no public access; and be open under federal or state law to hunting, fishing, or use of the land for other public recreational purposes. 

For additional information and a full list of required criteria for consideration as specified by the Dingell Act, visit: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/realty/Public-Access-Nominations.html

Commenters are encouraged to review the required criteria and include additional information as to why the parcel should be on the Service’s priority list. Once the comment period closes the Service will evaluate the nominations to determine which lands meet the requirements and considerations specified by the Dingell Act.

Flexible Classification of Wisconsin Lakes for Improved Fisheries Conservation and Management

Successful fisheries management practices developed for one ecosystem can often be used in similar ecosystems. We developed a flexible lake classification framework in collaboration with ~100 fisheries biologists for improved fisheries conservation management in Wisconsin, USA. In total, 5,950 lakes were classified into 15 lake classes using a two tiered approach. In tier-one, lakes were clustered into “simple” and “complex” sportfish assemblages. In tier-two, lakes were further clustered using accumulated degree days, water clarity, and special cases. We focus on temperature and clarity because these factors often drive fisheries change over time — thus a lake’s class can change over time. Lake class assignments were refined through a vetting process where fisheries biologists with expert knowledge provided feedback. Relative abundance, size-structure, and growth rates of fishes varied significantly across classes. Biologists are encouraged to utilize class interquartile ranges in fisheries metrics to make
improved fisheries assessments. We highlight hard-won lessons from our effort including: (1) the importance of co-developing classification frameworks alongside fisheries biologists; and (2) encouraging frameworks where lakes can shift classes and fisheries expectations over time due to factors like climate change and eutrophication.

Expanded Assessment of Recruitment Bottlenecks for Age-0 Walleye Sander Vitreus in Northern Wisconsin – Thesis

A Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree
College of Natural Resources UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Many northern Wisconsin lakes that historically supported naturally-recruiting walleye Sander vitreus populations have shown declines in recruitment over the last 10-15 years. Previous research conducted on four northern Wisconsin lakes suggested a recruitment bottleneck was occurring before mid-July in lakes with declining walleye natural recruitment. Effective management of walleye populations involves understanding these recruitment bottlenecks, as potential management solutions may vary in relation to when and why this recruitment failure is occurring. To further assess these recruitment bottlenecks, I expanded on the previous assessment to determine if: 1) timing of a recruitment bottleneck for age-0 walleyes was consistent among lakes with declining
recruitment; 2) abiotic and biotic metrics differed between lakes with declining (D-NR) and sustained (S-NR) walleye recruitment, with a specific focus on the abundance of edible zooplankton and 3) catch-per-effort (CPE) of larval and post-larval walleyes can be used to predict the presence, absence, and relative strength of walleye year-classes indexed by standard fall electrofishing conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.