10 fishing developments tee up great 2011 fishing in Wisconsin

MADISON – Wisconsin anglers can look forward to more great
fishing opportunities in 2011 as anglers turn the page on a
record-setting 2010, state fisheries officials say.

“We realize how critically important fishing is in Wisconsin
both as a cultural activity and as a part of our economy,” says
Mike Staggs, Department of Natural Resources fisheries director.
“We’ve worked hard to improve fishing in Wisconsin. Anglers enjoyed
the results of that work in 2010, and should continue to see more
of the same in 2011 and beyond.”

10 Signs of Good Fishing in 2011

Nearly half of Wisconsin adults say they fish, and they catch 88
million fish annually, based on DNR’s 2006-7 statewide mail survey
of anglers. Fishing generates $2.75 billion in economic impact in
the state, supports more than 30,000 jobs, and provides $195
million in tax revenue for state and local governments. DNR’s
fisheries program receives no state tax dollars but is wholly
supported by fishing license sales and federal grants.

Here are the top 10 events/developments of 2010 that
foreshadow even better fishing opportunities in 2011 and
beyond.

State record lake sturgeon speared. Ron
Grishaber of Appleton landed a 212.2 pound, 84.2-inch behemoth out
of Lake Winnebago on opening day of the 2010 Lake Winnebago
seasons. That new record is possible as a result of DNR’s
century-long efforts to work with citizens to manage sturgeon.
Those efforts have nurtured the Lake Winnebago lake sturgeon
population into the world’s largest. Its estimated 2010 population
of 15,800 females and 31,700 males in the adult spawning stock are
able to support a unique spearing season even as the federal
government has proposed listing five Atlantic sturgeon populations
in other states as endangered. A record 12,423 people have bought
spearing licenses for the 2011 spearing seasons on the Lake
Winnebago system.

World record brown trout pulled from Lake Michigan near
Racine
. The 41-pound, 8-ounce brown trout Roger Hellen of
Franksville caught in Lake Michigan on July 16, 2010, set new state
and world records (according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
article; exit DNR). The fish, which genetic testing suggests is
likely a seeforellen strain trout raised at a DNR hatchery,
testifies to the importance of the state’s stocking program to
provide a fishery for trout and salmon in Lake Michigan, and to the
cleaner water resulting from more protective state and federal
standards for wastewater discharges and for runoff from farms,
urban areas, construction sites and roads.

Trout fishing opportunities grow with addition of 58 new
trout waters.
Anglers have more trout water than ever to
fish as Wisconsin revised its official list of trout streams in
2010 based on monitoring results. Since 2002, the total number of
trout streams has increased by 58 and the total number of trout
miles has grown by 260 to 10,531 miles. The increased fishing
opportunities arise from synergistic factors including DNR’s trout
habitat improvement work with partners; its program to stock trout
from wild fish, increasing survival and natural reproduction in
recovering streams; land use changes and farmers’ improved
conservation practices that have decreased erosion and runoff into
streams; increased precipitation resulting in better base flow in
some parts of the state; and more protective regulations and a
strong catch and release ethic among trout anglers.

Wild Rose Fish Hatchery is renovated, producing more and
healthier fish.
A workhorse hatchery of Wisconsin’s
stocking program has been fully renovated, with DNR staff raising
their first northern pike and lake sturgeon for stocking in summer
2010 from the new cool-water facilities. New cold water facilities
opened in 2008. Wild Rose produces the vast majority of trout and
salmon for Lake Michigan; it produces lake sturgeon, northern pike
and other cool-water species to help restore populations statewide,
and the renovated hatchery has won a trio of national design
awards, including for its visitor and education center.

Recovery of lake trout in Lake Superior. Lake
trout, one of the four signal species in Lake Superior, are showing
strong signs of recovery in this largest and deepest of the Great
Lakes, with Wisconsin waters boasting some of the strongest
populations. That’s good news for the overall health of the Lake
Superior ecosystem and for anglers and commercial fishers. The
recovery plan has been carried out in Wisconsin by the DNR, the Red
Cliff tribe and the Bad River tribe, which collectively manage
fisheries in state waters of Lake Superior, and by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, which carries out lamprey control in U.S.
waters as the agent for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
Protecting remnant populations of lake trout, stocking wild trout,
preventing overfishing through protective regulations and
controlling populations of the predatory sea lampreys are all keys
to the recovery.

Large-scale Mississippi River habitat projects improve
fishing.
Anglers can attest to the success of a
federal/state effort to restore declining habitat along the Upper
Mississippi River. The Environmental Management Program marks its
25th anniversary this year, with more than 50 large-scale habitat
projects undertaken along the 1,200 mile long stretch of the river.
Twenty-eight projects — including five within the past decade and
four specifically to benefit fisheries — have restored more than
30,000 acres along Wisconsin’s border. In 2010, work continued on
the construction of island habitats in Pool 8, part of a five-phase
Upper Mississippi River Environmental Management Program project
(exit DNR) that was named one of the Seven Wonders of Engineering
for 2002 by the Society of Professional Engineers. Planning started
for sloughs on the Wisconsin side in Pool 9.

Trophy musky haul among the top three. Anglers
have been landing a growing number of big musky. In 2010, Muskies,
Inc. members reported catching and releasing 72 muskies that were
48 inches or larger from Wisconsin waters. That ranks 2010 third
for the number of 48-inch plus fish registered from Wisconsin
waters. Top counties were Vilas, Oneida, Dane, Chippewa, Waukesha,
Brown and Sawyer. The Muskies, Inc. registry is just one indicator
— there are many musky anglers that are not members and members
who may not register their fish because they do not want people to
see what they are catching and where — but it’s been a good index
of the changes in the number of big fish caught over time
statewide, says Tim Simonson, co-leader of DNR’s musky committee.
The Green Bay musky fishery, re-established through a generation of
stocking on the bay, and more protective regulations, a growing
catch and release ethic, and habitat protection, statewide, have
also played into the growing numbers in recent years, as has
increased angler interest in the fishery.

Wisconsin maintains a solid walleye fishery that
accommodates sport and tribal harvest.
More than a quarter
century after a U.S. federal court reaffirmed the Ojibwe’s rights
to spearfish off-reservation in northern Wisconsin, fish
populations are intensively monitored, stable and able to
accommodate a sport harvest and tribal harvest. Within the Ceded
Territory, anglers have caught about 750,000 walleye and harvested
250,000 of them annually over the last five years, according to
creel surveys.

Successful containment of VHS fish virus so far and
implementation of rules that will help protect against the next big
(or microscopic) invader.
Testing of fish in 2010 for VHS
fish virus, which can be deadly to more than two dozen fish
species, again found that the virus has not spread to new waters.
VHS was first detected in the Great Lakes in 2005 and in
Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago system waters in 2007.
Wisconsin passed protective rules aimed at preventing the spread of
VHS in 2007 and the virus has not spread beyond those waters where
it was first detected or assumed to be present. The rules, which
restrict the movement of water and live fish from one waterbody to
another, also prevent the spread of other fish diseases and
invasive species such as zebra mussels and spiny water fleas.

Chinook harvests hit record levels. Chinook
fishing in Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan was phenomenal
starting in 2003 and peaking in 2007 when anglers reeled in the
highest recorded harvest of chinook. That year, anglers caught an
estimated total of 431,143 chinook, the most since angler, or
“creel,” surveys started in 1969. The phenomenal fishing reflects a
confluence of factors including the success of DNR’s stocking
program for Lake Michigan, efforts by DNR fish management
specialists to address fish health problems in earlier years, and
clean up efforts that have improved water quality in the lake. The
fishing has cooled off some since the heyday as Wisconsin and other
states around the lake have reduced stocking to bring fish
populations more in line with the forage base. Angler harvest
levels are therefore likely to be somewhat lower than those earlier
in the past decade but average fish size should be better.

 

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