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Illinois walleye anglers and fisheries biologists teaming up for 2024 Midwest Walleye Challenge

Press Release - Thursday, January 25, 2024

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois anglers who chase walleye, sauger or saugeye are invited to participate in the virtual Midwest Walleye Challenge in 2024. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has teamed up with other states, provinces, and developers and researchers at Anglers Atlas to launch this year's competition.

Information gathered through the competition will assist Illinois in providing anglers with important data and add to biologists' knowledge of various waterbodies.

"Competitions like this are incredibly valuable to our understanding of the Illinois fishery," said Kevin Irons, assistant chief of the IDNR fisheries division. "And not to worry, anglers - we'll never know the exact location of your favorite secret fishing spot. Our biologists will only see information about the water body."

The Midwest Walleye Challenge uses the mobile app MyCatch to record the length of each fish caught. Anglers take a picture of the fish on a measuring device using the app, and once the fish is reviewed by the catch team and meets the rules, it appears on a live leaderboard where anglers can see who is in the lead.

Anglers can go online to view the rules and sign up to participate.

"We're excited to bring this new Walleye tournament format to other states across the Midwest and into Canada,"
said Sean Simmons, founder and president of MyCatch. "We have shown this novel approach to fisheries management can work in Iowa, and now we want to see if it will work in other locations as well."

There are two categories of participant: a $25 entry fee category for which cash prizes and non-cash prizes will be awarded, and a free category for which anglers can compete for non-cash prizes. Anglers may notice some unusual prize categories, as the award structure is designed to address the data requirements of fisheries biologists. This includes:
  • "Tough luck" prizes for those who don't catch anything. This is important data, as it allows biologists to know about locations with zero catches.
  • "Most waterbodies fished" prizes to help collect data on as wide of a range of walleye fisheries as possible.
  • As with most tournaments, there also are prizes for longest fish caught.
  • Finally, there is a range of random-draw prizes so that anyone who catches a walleye has a chance at winning a prize regardless of its size. This provides anglers an incentive to report all walleye caught and helps ensure a representative sampling of the walleye fishery.

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