Something’s Fishy in Green Bay
BY RAMONA D. TURNER, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR AND
TRINA SOYK, MINNESOTA-WISCONSIN ECOLOGICAL SERVICES FIELD OFFICE
The muskellunge is a large freshwater fish native to North America and an exciting sportfish for many anglers in the Midwest. Muskies can be found in lakes and rivers all over the Great Lakes Region, into Canada, and the upper Mississippi River drainage. These days, Green Bay is seen by many as one of the finest muskie-producing bodies of water in North America. But it wasn’t like that just a few years ago.
The muskellunge population was decimated in Green Bay during the early to mid-1900s by habitat destruction, pollution and over-fishing. Muskies are an important part of a fish community, maintaining balance in the food web. Reestablishing this native top-predator is a goal identified for a number of conservation planning efforts.
Responding to the challenge, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with several local muskie clubs, initiated a Great Lakes muskellunge reintroduction program in the 1980s in the Green Bay waters of Lake Michigan. Biologists with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources drafted a three-phase plan to re-establish a self-sustaining population of muskellunge in Green Bay, which included identifying appropriate egg sources, obtaining eggs and successfully hatching, rearing and stocking fish.
For more than 17 years, the Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council has provided funding for stocking Great Lakes spotted muskie to help bring the native predators back in the Green Bay watershed. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program provided dollars to expand Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Wild Rose Fish Hatchery production of fall fingerling and yearling spotted muskellunge from 4,000 to 10,000 fish.
The young fingerling muskies were then released into the Lower Fox, Little Lake Butte des Morts, Peshtigo River, Menominee, Little Sturgeon Bay and Lake Winnebago rivers. Muskie populations are showing success, with some fish now measuring more than 50 inches long. Future plans to reintroduce and maintain healthy populations of muskie are ongoing and require support for hatcheries, rearing facilities and staff. Healthy muskie populations, an important top predator in Green Bay, will help restore a balanced fish community and provide increased opportunities for sport fishing.