Wisconsin DNR Seeks Input from Anglers for Future of Spotted Musky

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Anglers have an opportunity to help shape the future of spotted musky in Green Bay and Lake Michigan: a Dec. 2 meeting in Green Bay offers them a chance to review and comment on the draft management plan developed through public input over the last year.


spotted musky
Stocking is key to restoring spotted musky to Green Bay; that process starts with collecting eggs and milt. Click on the photo for an audio slideshow.
WDNR Photo

The meeting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium at the Brown County Central Library, 515 Pine St., Green Bay.

"The re-establishment of musky has been very successful. We?ve created a world-class musky fishery and brought a previously decimated species back to Green Bay," says David Rowe, the Department of Natural Resources fish biologist who led the planning process.

"We've worked with anglers over the past year on management of the fishery, and we think this draft plan reflects that desire. Now we want to hear again from anglers to confirm what they think."


Last February, interested anglers attended a public meeting to hear about the status of the restoration program and to share their thoughts about the effort. Five goals for the musky population were established by consensus with DNR fisheries staff and participating stakeholders, Rowe says.

Those five goals are:

  • Sustain the sport fishery and trophy potential of fishery.
  • Re-establish a naturally reproducing population.
  • Establish a viable population with sufficient genetic diversity.
  • Reduce hooking and handling mortalities and increase compliance with regulations.
  • Restore/rehabilitate habitat in Green Bay to support ecosystem functions.

Rowe says the draft management plan identifies fisheries objectives, strategies and management recommendations to achieve the previously established goals for the fishery.


Spotted musky, also known as Great Lakes strain musky, disappeared from Green Bay and Lake Michigan by the 1930s, the result of water pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and other factors that took their toll, Rowe says.

DNR, in cooperation with several local musky clubs and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, launched efforts in 1989 to reintroduce the Great Lakes strain muskellunge to the Green Bay waters of Lake Michigan. The need to re-establish a native inshore predator fish species had been identified in several planning efforts including the Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and the Lower Green Bay Remedial Action Plan.

At the time, DNR fish biologists drafted a three-phase plan to re-establish a self-sustaining population of muskellunge in Green Bay. That plan called for DNR to identify an appropriate egg source, collect eggs, and successfully hatch, rear and stock fish; establish an inland lake broodstock population; and develop a self-sustaining population in Green Bay.

The first phase has been very successful; fish were first stocked into Green Bay in 1989 and later into the Winnebago system, which is in the same basin. The fish have grown very fast in the favorable conditions of those large waters and are now accounting for a large proportion of the trophy muskies caught in Wisconsin. The contribution of big fish from Lakes Michigan and Superior to the Muskies Inc. registry has increased from 2 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2009.

The second phase, establishing broodstock, has had mixed success because of troubles bringing in fish from areas that still have Great Lakes strain fish. Money and disease concerns with the fish have hampered the process.

The third phase of that original management plan, developing a self-sustaining population, is still unfolding. To date, there has been no significant natural reproduction of muskellunge documented in Green Bay or the Lower Fox River, Rowe says. However, in 2008, two young of the year muskellunge were collected from the Lower Menominee River and in 2009 young of the year muskellunge were captured in both the Lower Menominee River and in Sawyer Harbor, Sturgeon Bay. Tissue samples have confirmed these individuals are genetically consistent with Great Lakes spotted muskellunge, confirming this as the first evidences of natural reproduction, he says.

"We're encouraged by these first signs of natural reproduction and hope that the updated management plan can help us achieve the goal of building a self-sustaining population as well as reaching the other goals," he says.

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