Walleyes and Minnesota lakes go together like the Minnesota State Fair and food on a stick. To preserve that proud heritage, plans are now in the works for a new fundraiser, Kraus-Anderson Walleyes on Ice (KAWOI). The first annual live-release ice fishing tournament is scheduled for February 11, 2017 on Lake Minnetonka in Spring Park, Minnesota.
KAWOI Chair Aaron Groshong details the event, which is produced through the support of the Kraus-Anderson Community Foundation.
AARON GROSHONG: KAWOI is a competitive, live-release ice fishing tournament raising funds to increase sustainable walleye populations in local lakes. The annual event looks to become one of Minnesota’s premiere ice fishing tournaments. Funded through sponsorship payments and entry fees, KAWOI will provide an opportunity to raise money for charity and give back to the Twin Cities community.
Q: Who is the charity partner?
AARON GROSHONG: KAWOI’s beneficiary is the Westonka Walleye Program, a non-profit organization that is 100% funded from private donations. Its mission is to sustain and improve the harvestable walleye fishery on Lake Minnetonka and other Twin Cities lakes. With approval from the Minnesota DNR, and with private donations, the organization is stocking 8″- 13″ walleye in Lake Minnetonka.
Q: Why have you chosen Lake Minnetonka for the stocking effort?
AARON GROSHONG: The Westonka Walleye Program was founded as a community solution to the problem of walleyes not naturally reproducing from shoreline development and invasive species.
Q: Why is this an important cause to you? How did you get involved/inspired to work on this?
AARON GROSHONG: I watched an episode of Minnesota Bound, a Ron Schara Production, when I was trying to conceptualize the event. I thought, “aha!” that is a great program. After speaking with the beneficiary I knew they simply wanted to better Minnesota lakes. The overall goal of KAWOI is to setup Lake Minnetonka for natural reproduction and restore it to pristine condition. But we also share the mutual goal of assisting many more Minnesota lakes in the same manner. In short, if we can rebuild Minnetonka we can rebuild any lake.
Q: What are the event’s goals?
AARON GROSHONG: In its first 3 years, the Westonka Walleye Program has stocked nearly 30,000 walleye in Lake Minnetonka. The KAWOI’s goal is to raise $40,000, which would result in stocking 20,000 walleyes!
Q: Talk about the Westonka Walleye Program’s approach to stocking efforts.
AARON GROSHONG: The program stocks larger walleyes between 8″-13″ because a larger walleye has a higher probability of reaching a harvestable size. It is estimated that 80% of DNR’s stocked (2″-6″) walleye are consumed by predator fish, while less than 10% of (8″-13″) walleye are consumed by predators. It is a lot more expensive to stock this larger size fish, about $2 per fish, but they will have a better chance of surviving. Meaning, a fish you want to catch and eat while giving anglers a better chance of catching them!
Q: How important is restocking to maintaining our walleye population?
A lack of natural reproduction is a problem. It is estimated that as little as 5% of Lake Minnetonka’s walleye come from natural reproduction. Very few lakes in MN are naturally sustaining walleye fisheries. This is the result of damage to habitat by shoreline development and invasive species, the walleye is struggling to maintain in this ecosystem.
Q: How can readers do more to help?
To learn more about Westonka Walleye Program, check out their website
Q: Any parting thoughts?
AARON GROSHONG: Fishing and fishing with family is as Minnesotan as it gets. Leaving the lakes of Minnesota in a better place than what we found them is what this is all about. This is going to be a success!