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How to Make Baby Walleye: All About the Forest Preserves’ Walleye Propagation Program

Walleye fingerlings in a bucket
Walleye fingerlings bred by the Forest Preserves Fisheries division.

With more than 40 fishing sites located throughout the Forest Preserves of Cook County, anglers of all ages can enjoy dropping a line from a boat or setting up a spot along the shoreline to catch a variety of game fish. One of the most popular game fish available to Forest Preserves’ waters is walleye.

For more than 20 years, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Fisheries division has been conducting its Walleye Propagation Program. Modeled after a similar program that the IDNR conducts annually, the FPCC has been breeding walleye with the help of the IDNR since 1996. In 2008, the FPCC built an in-house rearing pond and temporary hatchery system, allowing fisheries biologists to run the program on their own.

During the walleye’s natural spawning season, Fisheries biologists head out to begin collecting adult walleye to harvest eggs and milt. After fertilization, biologists monitor as the eggs hatch into walleye fry, which is a newly hatched fish that can be as tiny as one-fourth of an inch. The fry are then transferred to a rearing pond where they can grow into fingerlings, or baby fish that have grown to 2 to 3 inches. After about 8 weeks, the fingerlings are removed from the rearing pond and stocked into the designated walleye fishing lakes where they live out their lives.

Interested in learning more? Check out this story from WTTW’s Chicago Tonight: