Local efforts help walleye, economy

Not too long ago, the walleye population in the Bays de Noc was in trouble. Due to illegal poaching and other factors, the number of walleyes inhabiting the bays was declining. That was bad news. Anglers who fished for walleye in those waters – billed as one of the best walleye fisheries in the world – were taking notice of their reduced catches. On a larger scale, the local economy was on the verge of taking a severe blow as well. Walleye are an important part of the local economy. They stimulate tourism – ranging from the casual angler to the national professional fishing tournaments that visit the bays each year. They spend money at area hotels and motels, restaurants, and a host of other businesses.

Walleye numbers were down and there was justified concern.

Happily, that has begun to turn around thanks, in part, to the efforts of the Walleye Restoration Project. The Walleye Restoration Project is a wide-ranging group that includes the Hannahville Indian Community, the Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen, Inc., Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau, Delta County Chamber of Commerce, Delta County Economic Development Alliance and area businesses and individuals. Over the past four years, they have worked together to help restore walleye numbers in the bays. In fact, the group’s latest effort came Wednesday when 5,000 6 to 9-inch walleye were released in Little Bay de Noc.

The results are impressive. Walleye numbers in the bays showed a decline for 2004 through 2010. Over the past years, though, there has been an increase in walleye numbers each year. This is no accident. This is a direct result, in part, to the walleye plantings and other efforts of the Walleye Restoration Project.

It’s not only the walleye that getting a boost, but the local economy as well. Just last week, the area hosted the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship. The community and fishery received praise from both tournament participants and organizers alike. That’s great advertising for the community and the Bays de Noc.

The Walleye Restoration Project deserves credit for watching out for both the Bays de Noc and the economic well-being of the area. The future of both are tied together.