WDNR Fish Surveys

By Judy Nugent - November 1, 2006
Every year the Wisconsin DNR completes a series of fish surveys. They use both nets and electroshocking to catch the fish and keep track of the health of Lake Michigan. The species on the agenda for this spring are yellow perch, Steelhead, Lake Trout, and walleye, making this a very busy time for the DNR.

The yellow perch surveys started already at the end of last year. Since the 1980's, perch populations have declined more than 90% and the DNR has been searching for answers. Wind and wave action along will low food availability and increased predation are blamed for this decline.

In mid February the DNR finished their mesh netting of Yellow Perch. They had hoped to be done earlier, but difficult weather hampered their efforts. Now they have finished their five lifts, and the results are promising. According to Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan Southeast Region fisheries supervisor, they had a respectable catch of around 600 perch. By comparison, in the last two years, the results of winter lifts yielded less than 100 fish.

In March the DNR will survey the size and numbers of Steelhead returning up the Root River. Each year the WDNR stocks 500,000 into various tributaries to Lake Michigan. The biologists at the Root River weir will monitor all three strains of Steelhead. The Skamania strain started to enter the stream last fall, the Chamber Creek strain will swim up in early March, and the Gannaka strain will come in a few weeks after that. The peak of the migration should be around April 1 depending on snow melt and rain events.

In April the DNR will be conducting Lake Trout lifts looking for scars left by lamprey. These scaring rates help the DNR to estimate the population of adult lamprey and determine if harsher methods need to be applied to keep the lamprey numbers low.

Also in April, the DNR hopes to conduct fish surveys on the MIlwaukke River for walleye/ Weather and water temperature will determine when the electroshocking takes place. Stocked fish are recognized by a fin clip or injected plastic marker. The DNR has been stocking 10,000 walleye each year since 1995 into the river. The current draft plan is for this stocking to continue for the next five years.

All of these activities will keep the DNR busy until summer. Hopefully after all the data has been compiled, the DNR will find a healthy lake full of fish for us to enjoy.

Author Judy Nugent
Judy Nugent
Judy Nugent has been writing for several years. Her work can be found in Wisconsin Outdoor News, Wisconsin Outdoor Journal, Wisconsin Sportsman, Midwest Outdoors, Fly Fisherman Magazine and Snowshoe Magazine among others. She is also on the TV show OUTDOOR WISCONSIN. Judy has experience in radio with the show Great American Outdoor Trails where she does a weekly segment called Women on the Trail.