Fish and Aquatic Life
The Lower Big Rib River is classified as a warm water sport fishery. The river is currently stocked with muskies from Marathon City downstream to Lake Wausau. Other gamefish species commonly found in the river include walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass. A mercury advisory for the consumption of walleye exists between Rib Falls and Lake Wausau. Limiting factors of habitat include nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, lack of fish cover and poor flow regimes. Sources of these problems have been identified as cropland erosion, streambank erosion, urban runoff, and point source discharges. Upstream of the town of Rib Falls, the Big Rib River appears to be undergoing long-term bank erosion resulting from natural processes. Bar development is apparently the result of major rain episodes rather than historic deposition. Resource specialists the falls of Rib Falls have served as a natural barrier to the effects of past in-stream mining by preventing head cutting. Historic in-stream nonmetallic mining operations have had a negative impact on the river downstream of Rib Falls.
The Upper Big Rib River has an excellent fishery. Classified as a Class I, II, and III trout stream, it also contains Class A musky waters, and small mouth bass and walleye fisheries. Biotic index sampling conducted in 1978 indicated excellent water quality.
As noted above, sand and gravel excavations affect the Big Rib River (Upper). Fish stranding has occurred in isolated excavations adjacent to the river. Sediment may be entering the stream as a result of gravel washing.
Author Linnea Rock
The Lower Big Rib River is classified as a warm water game fishery. STORET water quality data indicates levels of nitrite-nitrate nitrogen as high as 3.6-4.1 ppm. A Department of Justice letter to the DNR in 1977 indicated 34.4 miles of the Rib River was pocketed with 20 excavation sites.
Author Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin
Big Rib River has been sampled during the past 10 years and evaluated for general water condition by collecting samples for nutrients, the presence of fish and insects/larvae, and the quality of the habitat during a 10-year period prior to 2018. Overall the lake is in good condition for Aquatic Life, Recreation, and Public Health and Welfare (fish consumption and related). Specific locations along the river are in poor health for Aquatic Life and Public Health and Welfare (fish consumption and related) and are considered impaired.
Author Linnea Rock
Big Rib River was recently evaluated during the ten-year period of 2007 through 2016 for results that were reported to the USEPA for the 2018 Clean Water Act condition report. Of Big Rib River’s 10 segments, three are considered impaired, or in “poor” condition for “designated uses” which include the quality of fish and aquatic life, recreational use, and public health and welfare (fish consumption and related). Pollutants or problems encountered during sampling (“impairments”) were determined based on water quality standards outlined in Wisconsin 2018 Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM). Assessment results show water conditions that are potentially harmful for Aquatic Life use due to values for Total Phosphorus and Mercury that fall into the range expected for an aquatic community in poor health, therefore this river is listed as impaired.
Big Rib River [Mouth to Highway 107 at Marathon City (mile 0-11.84)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show Total Phosphorus levels potentially harmful for Aquatic Life use. This segment of the river was added to the impaired waters list in 1998 for Public Health and Welfare Restrictions due to levels of Mercury. No listing change is needed for this already impaired water.
Big Rib River [Highway 107 at Marathon City to Pine Creek (mile 11.84-17.42)]: Assessment results from the most current available data show this segment of the river is in good condition for Aquatic Life and Public Health and Welfare uses.
Big Rib River [Pine Creek to Einert Creek (mile 17.42-22.53)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show Total Phosphorus and Index of Biotic Integrity levels appropriate for Aquatic Life use. This segment is not considered impaired.
Big Rib River [Einert Creek to near Felbaum Rd (mile 22.53-28.47)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show Total Phosphorus and Index of Biotic Integrity levels appropriate for Aquatic Life use. This segment is not considered impaired.
Big Rib River [Near Felbaum Rd to the Marathon-Lincoln county line (mile 28.47-32.79)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show Total Phosphorus levels appropriate for Aquatic Life use. This segment is not considered impaired.
Big Rib River [Marathon-Lincoln county line to Lincoln-Taylor county line (mile 32.79-35.19)]: Assessment results from the most current available data show this segment of the river is in good condition for Aquatic Life and Public Health and Welfare uses.
Big Rib River [Lincoln-Taylor county line to Lemke Drive (mile 35.19-40.54)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show Total Phosphorus levels appropriate for Aquatic Life use. This segment is not considered impaired.
Big Rib River [Lemke Drive to CTH M (mile 40.54-44.8)]: Assessment results from the most current available data show this segment of the river is in good condition for Aquatic Life and Public Health and Welfare uses.
Big Rib River [CTH M to CTH C (mile 44.8-49.91)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show impairment to Aquatic Life use due to levels of Total Phosphorus. Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) data assessed during the 2018 listing cycle did not indicate impairment. Based on the most updated information, this water was proposed for the impaired waters list.
Big Rib River [CTH C to headwaters (mile 49.91-55.13)]: Assessment results during the 2018 listing cycle show impairment to Aquatic Life use due to levels of Total Phosphorus. Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) data was not available for assessment. Based on the most updated information, this water was proposed for the impaired waters list.
Author Linnea Rock
Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available. Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Category 3. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 613055. AU: 12486.
Nine Key Element Plan
Lower Big Rib River PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The Lower Big Rib River Priority Watershed Project plan assesses the nonpoint sources of pollution in the Lower Big Rib River Watershed and guides the implementation of nonpoint source control measures. These control measures are needed to meet specific water resource objectives for Lower Big Rib River and its tributaries. The purpose of this project is to reduce the amount of pollutants originating from nonpoint sources that reach surface water and groundwater within the Lower Big Rib River Priority Watershed Project area.
Monitor Fish Tissue
Confirm FCA 1451800 name Big Rib River TMDL ID 44 Start Mile 0 End Mile 13.52
Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable
Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.
Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.
Grants and Management Projects
|WBIC||Official Waterbody Name||Station ID||Station Name||Earliest Fieldwork Date||Latest Fieldwork Date||View Station||View Data|
|1451800||Big Rib River||10035477||Big Rib River - Area of Open Water||Map||Data|
|1451800||Big Rib River||10031976||Big Rib River at Lemke Road||11/16/2010||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
|1451800||Big Rib River||613055||Big Rib River at Hwy 64||5/1/1979||10/9/2020||Map||Data|
Big Rib River is located in the Upper Rib River watershed which is 197.07 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (51.60%), wetland (26.90%) and a mix of agricultural (13.60%) and other uses (7.90%). This watershed has stream miles, lake acres and 17,127.41 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked Low for runoff impacts on streams, Low for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.