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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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© Tom Nelson

December 2006

Great Lakes musky reintroduction

A top fish predator receives support.

Colette Charbonneau

There is something amiss in the waters of Green Bay and its tributaries – and it isn't just PCB contamination. The fish community is unbalanced – few fish, few species of top predators, little prey, but plenty of exotic species. Top fish predators are an important part of a fish community that keep the underwater world in balance.

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The Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council has financially supported stocking Great Lakes spotted musky to help bring these large native predators back into the Green Bay watershed. Partners in the project included several musky clubs in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The NRDAR provides $300,000 to expand programs to reintroduce native spotted muskellunge, including expanding the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery production of fall fingerling and yearling spotted muskellunge from 4,000 to 10,000 fish. The fund also covers increased feed costs at the hatchery for 15 years.

"The DNR had success with limited stocking programs in 2002 when support from the trustee council provided a major expansion in 2003," says George Boronow, DNR's Lower Fox River and Upper Green Bay basins supervisor. "The DNR was able to more than double its production of these important fish."

In spring 2003, spotted musky eggs were collected and fertilized from wild donor populations. The fertilized eggs were then transported to the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery where the eggs hatched and the young muskies were raised to a "finger-size" for stocking. The major cost of raising the young fish to an appropriate size goes toward food.

"We had an extremely successful year producing approximately 40,000 small spotted muskies; 10,000 fish over our goal," explains Steve Fajfer, supervisor at DNR's Wild Rose hatchery.

The young spotted muskies were released last fall into the Lower Fox River, Little Lake Butte des Morts, Peshtigo River, Menominee River, near Sturgeon Bay and Little Sturgeon Bay, and in Lake Winnebago. As these predators grow, they will become loners. They will lurk in the aquatic weeds, dart out, capture their prey and begin to balance the community of fish in the waters of Green Bay. The fish stocked by this project should start reproducing and further building the fishery population in the next three to five years. The fishing is excellent now, and should get only better.

Colette Charbonneau is restoration coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Green Bay. For further information on NRDAR projects, contact Colette Charbonneau, (920) 866-1726.