Invasive fish creating obstacles on Wisconsin’s Fox River

An invasive fish called the round goby is wreaking havoc on a stretch of Wisconsin water. (Wisconsin DNR photo)

APPLETON, Wis. — Boaters traveling from Green Bay to Lake Winnebago are facing obstacles because of an invasive fish called the round goby.

Most of the 16 locks that run between De Pere and Appleton on the Fox River are open, but two of them will remain closed this season, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The Rapide Croche lock hasn’t reopened since it was closed to block a different invasive species found in 1988.

The Menasha lock has been closed since the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ordered it closed in 2015, when the goby was found in Little Lake Buttes Des Morts. The lake feeds into the Fox River flowing into Lake Michigan.

Natural Resources Department fishery supervisor Kendall Kampke said the Menasha lock closure is “unfortunate” because, it’s one of the busiest locks due to Lake Winnebago being an Appleton-area destination.

“Those boats were using the Menasha lock on a regular basis,” Kampke said.

Kampke said the fish could eventually infect 17 percent of the state’s inland waters if it gets further into the Lake Winnebago system.

Fox River Navigational Authority CEO Bob Stark said there is some good news for boaters this season, despite the invasive fish and closed locks. The authority oversees the locks.

“The locks in Little Chute have not been used in some 30 years, so they’ve been refurbished, and this will be the first time they’ve operated,” Stark said.

Stark said the authortiy is determined to find a way to get boats where they need to go.

“For the past year or longer we’ve actually done some engineering on an overland haul-over type of a system where boats could be trolleyed over past the lock,” Stark said. “That preliminary design has been completed.”

He said the authority is also looking at other alternatives, such as an electric barrier similar to what the Chicago Ship Canal uses to prevent big head carp from getting into Lake Michigan. He said putting carbon dioxide in the water is also an option.

The fish originates in Eurasia and is thought to have come to the United States in the ballast water of large ships as early as 1990.

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