West Shore Green Bay Northern Pike Habitat Project


The northern pike (Esox lucius) is Wisconsin’s second largest predator fish and is an important part of the Green Bay ecosystem and fish community. Northern pike have become scarce in Green Bay due to wetland habitat losses of as high as 70% (Bosley, 1978) due to a combination of human and non-human factors (Rost, 1996). In addition, fish encounter passage obstacles when leaving Green Bay to find spawning marshes or when fry migrate back to Green Bay. Small perennial and intermittent streams (including roadside and agricultural ditches) on the western shore of Green Bay provide high quality fish spawning and rearing habitat for northern pike (Rost 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996). These streams and pooled wetlands provide very productive habitat for other fish species as well as aquatic organisms. Reproduction in these wetlands is likely a principle source of recruitment for fish populations in Green Bay. In 1998-99, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) conducted a habitat assessment in the Suamico and Little Suamico Rivers watershed basins. Physical, chemical, and biological data were collected. Areas were identified for protection/restoration of northern pike spawning and rearing habitat. Study results revealed that the major impediments were excessive algae from eutrophication along with stream flashiness (extremely rapid increases and then decreases in stream discharge following rain events). In another study on lower Green Bay, the scarcity of top predator species, such as northern pike, was recognized as a significant problem in the Green Bay ecosystem . It is estimated that over 70% of the spawning habitat for northern pike has been lost. Since lost habitat also provided plankton to downstream communities, the Green Bay ecosystem continues to be out of balance.


This project seeks to establish riparian buffers and restore/enhance wetland areas along intermittent and perennial streams along Green Bay’s West Shore that have high potential for spawning and rearing areas for northern pike. These activities are consistent with the goals of the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and the Great Lakes regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes. The Lower Green Bay Remedial Action Plan, written for the Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern (AOC), sites the scarcity of predator fish species in Green Bay as a significant issue and contributes to the Bay’s impaired uses for “degraded fish and wildlife populations”. Although delisting targets have yet to be set for this AOC, the goals of this project are to continue restoration efforts in satisfying those targets once they are set. This project also meets the goals of the Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan 2003-2013..


Since both spawning and plankton producing areas for northern pike require small ephemeral streams and associated wetlands, there is tremendous opportunity to significantly improve the Green Bay ecosystem by preserving and/or restoring the remaining intermittent and perennial stream/wetland networks in upstream watersheds. Stabilization and protection of these areas will reduce sedimentation and nutrient delivery, decrease mortality rates of fish species within the stream segment by reducing flashiness, enhance reproduction of northern pike by providing vegetation for egg-laying, reconnecting fragmented natural riparian areas, and increasing stream base flows. Our intent to protect and restore northern pike spawning and rearing habitat is based upon literature reviews and DNR survey efforts. The need to protect and restore habitat at sites located over a broad geographic area, including sites considerable distance inland from the shoreline of Green Bay, is based upon several factors including those detailed below.

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Habitat Restoration - Instream
Continue the work on habitat restoration for Northern Pike through buffer installations, removal of barriers and critical area plantings along tributaries in Brown and Oconto Counties.
Continue the work on habitat restoration for Northern Pike through buffer installations, removal of barriers and critical area plantings along tributaries in Brown and Oconto Counties.
Monitor Fish Community
As part of this project, Northern Pike fry trapping will be conducted to evaluate relative reproductive success of Northern Pike spawning along the West Shore of Green Bay project area and in particular site specific restoration projects implemented within the project area. During the period from late April through June 1st each year, traps designed to capture YOY northern pike will be placed at various locations within the Suamico/ Little Suamico River Watershed. Traps will be set by placing one or more traps into the waterway with the openings pointed upstream, to capture YOY northern pike as they emigrate downstream. They will be held in place by two to four stakes, which will be driven into the bottom of the stream and then nailed to the trap. The dimensions of the traps are approximately 3 ft. x 2 ft. x 1½ ft. and are enclosed with 2mm mesh. Multiple traps will be nailed together using strips of wood in order to ensure greater stream coverage. Most traps will set near road crossings to make trap checking more accessible and less time consuming but will be strategically placed in order to assess a variety of habits such as roadside ditches, streams and restored wetlands. Special emphasis will be placed on monitoring past restoration projects installed from 2008-2010. Trap data will help assess numerous factors which are critical to Northern Pike spawning, including vegetation for eggs to adhere to, stable water levels, and suitable water temperatures.
Grant Awarded
Restore habitat in Green Bay area for northern pike