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April 5, 2011

EAU CLAIRE - The state Department of Natural Resources is proposing to stock cisco - a species of forage fish common to northern Wisconsin lakes - into Jackson County's Lake Wazee in an effort to improve sport fish populations.

The lake lies in the excavated pit that was once the Jackson County Iron Mine. Mining operations closed in 1983, and the lake gradually filled with water till it matched surrounding groundwater elevation. There is no lake outlet or inlet.

The spring-fed, 154-acre lake, with a maximum depth of 355 feet, is part of the Lake Wazee Recreation Area. Jackson County prohibits motors on Lake Wazee to protect its pristine water quality and to enhance a quiet, outdoors experience. The county park features public camping, year-round trails, lake swimming, scuba diving and fishing.

The lake is oligotrophic, which means it lacks nutrients and plant life but is high in dissolved oxygen. It currently supports a mix of cold water and warm water species, including brown and rainbow trout (cold) and smallmouth bass and walleye (warm) as a result of DNR fish stocking.

Current practice is to manage the lake as a put-grow-and-take fishery with regulations specific to Wazee. Studies show that sport fish in Lake Wazee have below average growth rates because food is scarce. The DNR proposes to collect several hundred cisco from a Vilas County lake with similar water quality and chemistry and introduce them to Lake Wazee.

Cisco survival will be monitored. If the stocking is successful it will establish a long-term, self-sustaining population of forage fish, which will in turn support larger populations of faster-growing game fish.

The stocking plan is supported by the Jackson County Forests and Parks Committee and the Jackson County Wildlife Club, partners in managing the Lake Wazee Recreation Area.

If inadvertently introduced to surrounding lakes or streams cisco would not survive due to their specific coldwater lake habitat requirements.

"There is no other body of water in Jackson County where they would have any chance of surviving," said Pete Segerson, the DNR's fisheries field team leader at Black River Falls.

If the project is approved, cisco would be netted out of the northern lake in October when fisheries biologists would expect to get a good mix of male and female fish. Some larger cisco, 9 to 10 inches long, will be in the mix. These fish will be less vulnerable to predation.

The plan will take a few years to prove out. Biologists will sample the lake three to four years after stocking to determine if the cisco are surviving and reproducing.

The proposed action is not anticipated to result in significant adverse environmental effects. DNR staff have made a preliminary determination that an environmental impact statement will not be required. Copies of the environmental assessment that led to the DNR's preliminary determination can be obtained by contacting Pete Segerson at Wisconsin DNR, 910 Hwy 54 East, Black River Falls, WI 54615, or at 715-284-1447, or by email at

Public comments, written or oral, on the environmental assessment are welcome. The deadline for public comments is 4:30 p.m. April 30.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pete Segerson, fisheries field team leader, Black River Falls, 715-284-1447 or Ed Culhane, DNR communications, Eau Claire, 715-839-3715

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 05, 2011

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