An Affair of the Heart

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

There's no explaining a fascination with walleye. Granted they make A-1 table fare, but the fish usually inhabit deep water where we can't see them, and they are notoriously fickle. Should you hook one, it won't jump, and a walleye's fight, while not exactly dogged, could not be described as spectacular. And yet, without making a splash, so to speak, walleye have captured the hearts of anglers from coast to coast. Missouri, being smack in the middle, has its eye on becoming a walleye destination - a kind of Niagara Falls, where anglers can honeymoon with their beloved.

The best sign for the future of walleye in Missouri may not be in our numerous reservoirs or the strings of rivers that plait the state, but on the wall of the office of Jerry Conley, director of the Conservation Department.

Jerry makes no bones about the walleye being his favorite fish, and he's got an "almost" 14-pounder on his wall to prove it. He claims - the mount suffices as evidence - that he caught the fish from a lake in southern Idaho. He adds - without further proof but with a pretty convincing story - that he and his group caught several more big ones on a windy day, and lost one at the boat that was about the same size.

It only takes one great day to learn to love walleye and, maybe in part because Jerry had his great fishing day, the Conservation Department is now in the thick of "The Walleye Initiative."

That title stumbles a little over the tongue, but you'll learn to like it, because it means that the Conservation Department is working to establish more walleyes in more waters in Missouri. The chances of our having plenty of great walleye days are increasing.

The walleye initiative began in 1998 when, after a great deal of evaluation to pinpoint the Missouri lakes and rivers that would best support the fish, the Conservation Department began stocking walleyes in large numbers. During 1998, they put more than 2.1 million walleye fingerlings (fish about the size of a finger) into Missouri waters.

This initial stocking rate is meant to jump-start the walleye initiative. The actual average of fingerlings stocked from 1998 to 2004 will be more in the neighborhood of 1.2 million. This lower figure still represents about a 50 percent increase from the average number of walleye fingerlings stocked between 1990 and 1996 and

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