Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Atlantic salmon stocking advised for Big Green

Green Lake, Wis. — A freshwater salmon sought by some anglers for its fight and “catchability” is being considered for introduction into Wisconsin waters through an effort involving Green Lake-area fishermen and the DNR.

The landlocked Atlantic salmon previously has been introduced to inland lakes in Maine and Michigan, and a 4-year initiative to stock the fish in Big Green Lake is being proposed by the Green Lake Cold-water Fish Advisory Committee. The proposal has been reviewed by DNR’s Fish Management Board and will now move forward for public comment, with an informational meeting and hearing set for Sept. 9 in Green Lake.

David Bartz, local DNR fisheries biologist assisting with the evaluation efforts, said the Green Lake group’s proposal to stock the fish holds strong appeal for some anglers, but the initiative requires careful consideration to ensure no harm would come to the area’s already healthy fishery, including the lake’s native cisco population. To that end, the DNR has prepared a draft environmental impact statement and is inviting public comment on the idea.

“We appreciate the ideas and leadership of the Green Lake Cold-water Fishery Advisory Committee on this initiative,” Bartz said. “Citizens are encouraged to attend the public meeting and hearing.”

Citizens also may submit written comments.

Steve Siders, a member of the Green Lake advisory committee, said his group has been looking at the Atlantic salmon as a way to add another dimension to the area’s sport fishery.

“The landlocked Atlantic salmon has a reputation as an exciting catch, frequently breaking the surface when hooked,” Siders said. “With its cold, deeper waters and population of forage fish, Big Green Lake is a destination fishery that could provide a good habitat match.”

Under the proposed stocking project, juvenile landlocked Atlantic salmon would be “scatter-planted” in several spots on Big Green. Those fish, which would be certified as disease-free under DNR and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection rules, would not be expected to reproduce much, if at all, but some natural reproduction has been seen in Michigan.

Unlike coho and chinook salmon that die after spawning, the landlocked Atlantic salmon live 10 to 14 years. They eat mayfly nymphs, small bluegills, perch, and minnows, as well as ciscoes. Depending on the availability of forage, they typically reach 17 to 18 inches and weigh 2 to 4 pounds within two to three years. The current world record, a 26-pound, 12-ounce female, was released about three years ago in Torch Lake near Traverse City, Mich.

Bartz said the salmon could compete with brown trout, so current brown trout-stocking efforts would be suspended during the 4-year trial. Under state fishing regs, the Atlantic salmon would be treated as “other trout,” with a 14-inch size limit and a daily bag of three.

If the project goes forward, adjustments in size, bag limits, and other regulations could be seen in the future, based on stocking and monitoring results. The introduction would not affect fishing regulations for existing fish.

“We look forward to the public’s feedback,” Bartz said. “We will be reviewing these comments and making a decision in October.”

Following completion of the environmental impact statement review, the Green Lake committee would apply for a stocking permit and any other necessary approvals.

All permits and approvals would be obtained prior to stocking.

A copy of DNR’s draft EIS for introduction of the landlocked Atlantic salmon can be found on the DNR website. Copies also may be obtained from the DNR’s Wautoma office by calling (920) 787-4686.

A public meeting, followed by a hearing, will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. in Studio A of the Green Lake Town Square in Green Lake.

Public comments on the draft EIS, oral and written, are welcome at the public meeting or may be submitted to Bartz by mail or email no later than 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 22.

Send to david.bartz@wisconsin.gov or mail to: 427 E. Tower Drive, Suite 100, Wautoma, WI, 54982-6927.

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