Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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WI: Fishing fine in ’10; how about ’11?

Madison – Wisconsin anglers can look forward to more great
fishing opportunities in 2011 as they turn the page on a
record-setting 2010, according ton DNR Bureau of Fisheries Director
Mike Staggs.

“We realize how important fishing is in Wisconsin, both as a
cultural activity and as a part of our economy,” Staggs said.
“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.”

That’s good news, since nearly half of Wisconsin adults say they
fish, according to Staggs. They catch 88 million fish annually,
based on the DNR’s 2006-07 survey. 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. The DNR’s fisheries program receives no state tax
dollars; it is supported by license sales and federal grants.

Ten signs of good fishing ahead

Here are the top 10 events/developments of 2010 that foreshadow
even better fishing 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 season. That
record is possible as a result of the DNR’s efforts to work with
citizens to manage sturgeon. Its estimated 2010 population of
15,800 females and 31,700 males in the adult spawning stock are
able to support a 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. 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 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 arises from factors
including the DNR’s habitat 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; increased precipitation resulting in better base flow in
some parts of the state; and protective rules and a strong
catch-and-release ethic among trout anglers.

• Wild Rose Fish Hatchery renovation complete. A “workhorse
hatchery” 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 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 fishermen. 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 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
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 muskie haul among the top three. Anglers have been
landing a growing number of big muskies. 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, but
it’s been a good index of the changes in the number of big fish
caught over time statewide, said Tim Simonson, co-leader of DNR’s
muskie committee. The Green Bay muskie 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, has also played into the growing numbers in
recent years, as has increased angler interest in the fishery.

• Wisconsin maintains a solid walleye fishery. More than a
quarter century after a U.S. federal court upheld Chippewa tribes’
fish-spearing claims on off-reservation waters in northern
Wisconsin, fish populations are stable and are able to accommodate
a sport harvest and tribal harvest. Within the Ceded Territory,
anglers have caught about 750,000 walleyes and harvested 250,000 of
them annually during the past five years, according to creel
surveys.

• Successful containment of VHS fish virus. 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 first was detected in the Great Lakes in 2005 and in
Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago system waters in 2007.
Wisconsin passed 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.

• 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 chinooks. That year, anglers caught an estimated total
of 431,143 chinooks, the most since angler surveys started in 1969.
The phenomenal fishing reflects a confluence of factors, including
the success of the DNR’s stocking program for Lake Michigan,
efforts by DNR fish management specialists to address fish health
problems in earlier years, and cleanup efforts that have improved
water quality in the lake.

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