Public’s thoughts on Lake Michigan fish plan sought

Madison — State fisheries biologists are revising the long-term fisheries management plan for Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters and invite the public to provide input during a second round of review. The new plan will guide Lake Michigan  management the next 10 years.

“We listened to what the public said during an initial input session and incorporated some of those ideas along with our own thoughts in this draft plan,” said Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor. “Now, it’s time to see whether we are on track with the expectations and desires of the public. We’re planning a second round of meetings in early August … for (more) input.”

All of the meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and are set for:

• Monday, Aug. 4, Green Bay – DNR office, 2984 Shawano Ave.;
• Tuesday, Aug. 5, Cleveland – Lakeshore Technical College, 1290 North Ave.;
• Thursday, Aug. 7, Milwaukee – UW-Milwaukee GLRF-SFS, 600 E. Greenfield Ave.;
• Thursday, Aug. 7, Peshtigo – DNR Peshtigo office, 101 N. Ogden Road.

The DNR manages Lake Michigan in partnership with other state, federal, and tribal agencies and in consultation with the public. The draft 2015-2024 Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan focuses on five areas or visions for the future:

• A balanced, healthy ecosystem focusing on protecting habitat while minimizing the effects of invasive species;
• A multi-species sport fishery that includes sustaining a salmon and trout mix that supports sport harvests. Other elements include improvements to the statewide fish hatchery system that produces fish for Lake Michigan and enhanced near-shore fishing;
• A viable commercial fishery with a plan centered on maintaining the current number of commercial fishing licenses at 80 while adjusting harvest limits to sustain key commercial species such as lake whitefish, yellow perch, round whitefish, rainbow smelt and bloater chubs;
• Use of science-based principles, recognizing the ongoing need for staff training, the ability to use evolving tools and modeling technologies, inter-jurisdictional cooperation and the involvement of trained scientists and the public;
• Effective internal and external communication to maintain an open exchange of information among the public, elected officials, fisheries managers, and other states.

“Over the last 10-year planning cycle, we have made good progress and accomplished much of what we set out to do in our previous plan,” Eggold said. “We’ve managed chinook salmon to fuel a decade of fantastic fishing. Supplies of trout and salmon for stocking have been enhanced following renovation of the Wild Rose hatchery while sturgeon and muskie stocking also has improved. In addition, we’ve removed some barriers to fish passage and constructed a natural fish passage on the Milwaukee River.”

However, over the past decade Lake Michigan has undergone major changes and is less productive due to the proliferation of quagga mussels. These small mussels remove large quantities of plankton as they filter water, short-circuiting the food chain and leaving less for prey fish to eat while impacting some important fish species, such as yellow perch.

Beyond the difficulties caused by invasive species, another challenge is the need to maintain, update, and operate the state’s fish production system, including renovating the Kettle Moraine Springs hatchery in Sheboygan County, which produces all of the steelhead rainbow trout for Lake Michigan.

“Given the challenges and opportunities before us, input from anglers is critical in developing a plan that keeps Lake Michigan healthy,” he said.

The draft plan and summary is posted on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov. Search for “Lake Michigan plan.” In addition to providing comments at the meetings, written comments may be submitted by email: DNRLakeMichiganPlan@Wisconsin.gov, or mailed to: Brad Eggold, DNR, Great Lakes Water Institute, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 53204.

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