High numbers of walleye in Ocean Lake

Lander – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department manages Ocean Lake for walleye fishing by stocking approximately 320,000 fingerlings (2 to 3 inches) annually. Fall 2020 netting operations showed excellent survival of walleyes stocked in recent years, as netting obtained a catch rate more than three times higher than any other catch rate since 2008 (Figure 1). Length and age data showed a very high number of age-1 (9 to 11 inches) walleyes, which composed 75% of the total catch (Figures 2 and 3). Taking into account the high number of age-1 fish, good numbers of 12 to 18-inch walleyes were also captured from successful 2015 – 2018 stocking events. Unfortunately, yellow perch numbers were low. The low yellow perch numbers are likely influenced by the current high number of walleyes, which feed on yellow perch.

Fisheries Biologist Paul Gerrity says “Overall, the fall netting indicated high numbers of walleyes will be available to ice anglers; however, catching yellow perch will likely be difficult at Ocean Lake this winter. Most of the walleyes will be smaller than some anglers prefer to keep. However, anglers should keep in mind that the high number of small walleyes that exist now are promising for the future of walleye fishing at the Lake. Most of the 9 to 11-inch walleyes this year will grow to 12 to 13 inches by fall 2021, and 14 to 16 inches by fall 2022.”

Another notable result from 2020 netting was the absence of northern pike. Two northern pike have been captured by Ocean Lake anglers (one in June 2014 and another in November 2015), and another large dead adult was observed floating in the lake by an angler in June 2019. The presence of northern pike causes concern that an undesirable top predator could affect the fishery and possibly spread within the Wind River/Bighorn basin. The absence of northern pike in all Game and Fish Ocean Lake netting operations indicates density is currently low and natural reproduction has likely not occurred, if northern pike are still present in the lake. However, continued monitoring will be necessary to determine if a northern pike population establishes in Ocean Lake. Anglers are reminded that any northern pike captured must be immediately killed and not released alive. Additionally, fisheries biologists would appreciate anglers reporting any northern pike captured in Ocean Lake to the Game and Fish Lander Regional Office at 307-332-2688.