Green Bay must rely on muskie spawning

Peshtigo, Wis ’Äì If the number of Great Lakes muskies is going
to continue to grow in Green Bay and the Fox River, the fish are
going to have to do most of the heavy lifting on their own ’Äì at
least for the time being.

Hatchery capacity is limited because of the Wild Rose
hatchery’Äôs renovation, and Canadian fingerling sources are
blocked, at least for now, because of VHS concerns, according to
Mike Donofrio, DNR fisheries supervisor at Peshtigo.

’ÄúWith the Wild Rose renovation, we can’Äôt collect (eggs and
milt) and raise fish right now,’Äù Donofrio said. ’ÄúWe are working
on importing fish from Canada right now, but because of federal
rules, we’Äôre not allowed to do that. The Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources will set nets and collect eggs, raise fish, and
they will be prepared to ship them this fall. We just hope, by that
time, to have the rules cleared up.’Äù

Muskellunge are on the VHS list of susceptible species, so the
USDA’Äôs Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service must give the
DNR a waiver before it can import fingerlings from Ontario.

’ÄúLast year the adults and fingerlings were tested and were
clean, but because there was no protocol, (APHIS) wouldn’Äôt let us
bring them in,’Äù Donofrio said.

The Ontario fish were to be netted out of Georgian Bay on Lake
Ontario.

In the meantime, Donofrio hopes local fisheries crews will find
evidence of natural reproduction among the adult fish already in
the Green Bay/Fox River system.

’ÄúWe haven’Äôt documented any significant recruitment, but
we’Äôve noticed that the fish are pairing. (Finding signs of
natural recruitment) is one of the items we’Äôre proposing as far
as management activities. We’Äôll be doing some spotlighting (this
spring)’Äàto document sites of muskie spawning, then we’Äôll go
back and do some seining this summer to see if we can pick up some
fingerlings,’Äù he said.

Also because of VHS concerns, DNR’Äàfisheries crew members kept
an eye out this spring for dead fish on the Fox River

’ÄúWe will continue looking for dead fish to see if we can spot
any losses related to VHS,’Äù Donofrio said. ’ÄúThe good news is
that our ’Äòdead fish surveys’Äô go back 20 years to when the Fox
River had low dissolved oxygen. That’Äôs proving to be to our
benefit to have that data base; we can compare dead fish now to
then at each index station.

’ÄúIf there is an outbreak of a viral disease, you’Äôre going to
see more significant numbers (of dead fish than have been noted in
the past).’Äù

The Green Bay spotted muskie program continues to draw interest
from fishermen. Some groups are pushing for a 54-inch size limit;
others want to see more stocking. The DNR’Äàhosted a meeting in
early April to discuss its three objectives in the spotted muskie
management plan. Since that meeting, the DNR placed its
presentation on its Web site to help answer questions regarding the
program.

’ÄúOver the years, the need to re-establish a native inshore
predator fish species has been part of planning efforts including
the Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and the
Lower Green Bay Remedial Action Plan,’Äù Donofrio said.

DNR’Äàbiologists drafted a three-phase plan to re-establish a
self-sustaining population of muskies in Green Bay: identify an egg
source, obtain eggs, and successfully hatch, rear, and stock fish;
establish an inland lake brood stock population; and develop a
self-sustaining population in the bay.

In cooperation with the Michigan DNR, eggs were gathered during
Phase 1 from the Indian Spread Chain, a Lake Huron tributary system
in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

’ÄúThe eggs were brought to the Wild Rose hatchery between 1989
and 1993. In 1997, additional spawn was collected from Lake St.
Clair to increase the genetic diversity of the population,’Äù
Donofrio said.

To accomplish Phase 2, fingerlings were stocked into Long Lake
in Waushara County between 1989 and 1992. From 1995 through 2001,
Long Lake was the main brood source for the reintroduction effort.
Since 2002, muskie eggs have been collected from the Fox River and
hatched at Wild Rose.

’ÄúFisheries staff are now focusing their collection efforts on
getting additional fingerlings from other Great Lakes sources.
These fingerlings will be stocked in new inland brood stock
lakes,’Äù’ÄàDonofrio said.

Phase 3 is an ongoing study by DNR fisheries staff using data
gathered during the fall of 2007 to document any recruitment from
natural reproduction of muskellunge in the system.

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