Your shore lunch for summer of 2025 just arrived in Lac Bellevue.

The walleye stocking program of Cold Lake Fish Hatchery, which had been dormant since 2014, is putting fish into Alberta lakes again. 

Lac Bellevue, south of St. Paul, is one of 10 lakes identified by biologists as a candidate for walleye stocking for 2021. Last Tuesday, hatchery staff delivered 55,320 tiny walleye fry to the lake. 

And “tiny” is the word. “The size of your eyelash is a good way to describe them,” said hatchery manager Craig Copeland. “They’re four millimetres in length.”

The hatchery was built in the 1980s specifically to develop walleye populations in Alberta Lakes, but the program was stopped in 2014. It was supposed to start up again last year, but Covid-19 put the relaunch on hold.

“Back in the 80s and 90s, we raised a lot of walleye and stocked millions and millions and millions of fry and fingerlings throughout Alberta,” Copeland said. 

The eggs are collected from a “spawn camp” on Lac Ste Anne north of Edmonton, and incubated at the Cold Lake hatchery. Some of the newly-hatched fry are stocked into lakes, while others go into nearby ponds to grow into 12-centimetre fingerlings before being gathered and distributed to lakes across the province.

One such pond is Crawford Pond near the Grand Centre Golf Club in the M.D. of Bonnyville.  Hatchery staff released 460,000 fry into the pond last week, where they will feed on plankton and eventually on tiny but plentiful freshwater shrimp.

“Crawford Pond is ideal because it’s loaded with shrimp, and the walleye love eating the shrimp,” Copeland said.

 “If everything is good—food’s good, temperature in the pond is good—the walleye will grow a millimetre a day,” he said. “And so if we put them in at four millimetres at the end of May, by October 1 they should be about 120 millimetres or 12 centimetres.”

Walleye are a prized sport fish, not least for their flavour. The return of the stocking program is good news for anglers and tourism operators, but the payoff won’t be for a while yet.

“I think the anglers are pretty excited about it,” Copeland said. “It’ll probably take about four years for the walleye to sort of get to size where people want to catch and keep them.

“We just need to have patience and see if it’s successful.”

A hatchery crew set out on the choppy waters of Crawford Pond last week with half a million walleye fry. Below: This tiny fish (can you see it?) will grow five inches by fall. JEFF GAYE