Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

Kentucky Has Some Walleye, Too - Including A Few Native Fish
May 2, 2004

Release from:
Gary Garth

Walleye are members of the perch family. They are generally considered to be a northern species but are widely distributed from the Northwest Territory's Great Bear Lake to the Ohio River drainage and beyond.

Walleye are native to Kentucky, but state fish and wildlife officials know of only one watershed - the Rockcastle River - still harboring a self-sustaining population of the native fish. Lake Erie-strain walleye are stocked in Lake Cumberland, Laurel River Lake, Nolin River Lake, Paintsville Lake, Carr Creek Lake, Martins Fork Lake, the north, south and middle forks of the Kentucky River, the upper Cumberland River, Russell Fork Creek and the upper Green River.

Walleye stocked in Wood Creek Lake are native-strain fish. Don't worry about telling the difference. You can't.

"The fish that are in the Rockcastle are the native strain," said Dave Dreves, a researcher for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "There is a native-strain walleye that used to be in Kentucky, a river-strain fish. But when the lakes were impounded, it wasn't good spawning habitat for river walleye. But the only way you can tell the difference between a Lake Erie-strain walleye and a river-strain fish is genetically."

Biologists are early in a telemetry study of Rockcastle walleye; 45 fish have been equipped with tracking radios, and Dreves said the plan is to implant tracking gear in 15 more.

"The goal of our study is to find out if the native strain and the Erie strain intermingle, especially during the spawn," he said.

They should determine if native-strain walleye in the Rockcastle venture below an area known as the Narrows, a Class III and IV rapids.

"So far every walleye we've put a transmitter in has been a native strain," Dreves said. "What we'll really find is how many of these fish go below the Narrows."