Wisconsin's Top 10 Fishing Stories of 2010
Wisconsin anglers can look forward to more great fishing opportunities in 2011 as anglers turn the page on a record-setting 2010, state fisheries officials say.
"We realize how critically important fishing is in Wisconsin both as a cultural activity and as a part of our economy," says Mike Staggs, Department of Natural Resources fisheries director. "We've worked hard to improve fishing in Wisconsin. Anglers enjoyed the results of that work in 2010, and should continue to see more of the same in 2011 and beyond."
Nearly half of Wisconsin adults say they fish, and they catch 88 million fish annually, based on DNR's 2006-7 statewide mail survey of anglers. Fishing generates $2.75 billion in economic impact in the state, supports more than 30,000 jobs, and provides $195 million in tax revenue for state and local governments. DNR's fisheries program receives no state tax dollars but is wholly supported by fishing license sales and federal grants.
Here are the top 10 events/developments of 2010 that foreshadow even better fishing opportunities in 2011 and beyond.
- State record lake sturgeon speared. Ron Grishaber of Appleton landed a 212.2 pound, 84.2-inch behemoth out of Lake Winnebago on opening day of the 2010 Lake Winnebago seasons. That new record is possible as a result of DNR's century-long efforts to work with citizens to manage sturgeon. Those efforts have nurtured the Lake Winnebago lake sturgeon population into the world's largest. Its estimated 2010 population of 15,800 females and 31,700 males in the adult spawning stock are able to support a unique spearing season even as the federal government has proposed listing five Atlantic sturgeon populations in other states as endangered. A record 12,423 people have bought spearing licenses for the 2011 spearing seasons on the Lake Winnebago system.
- World record brown trout pulled from Lake Michigan near Racine. The 41-pound, 8-ounce brown trout Roger Hellen of Franksville caught in Lake Michigan on July 16, 2010, set new state and world records (according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article; exit DNR). The fish, which genetic testing suggests is likely a seeforellen strain trout raised at a DNR hatchery, testifies to the importance of the state's stocking program to provide a fishery for trout and salmon in Lake Michigan, and to the cleaner water resulting from more protective state and federal standards for wastewater discharges and for runoff from farms, urban areas, construction sites and roads.
- Trout fishing opportunities grow with addition of 58 new trout waters. Anglers have more trout water than ever to fish as Wisconsin revised its official list of trout streams in 2010 based on monitoring results. Since 2002, the total number of trout streams has increased by 58 and the total number of trout miles has grown by 260 to 10,531 miles. The increased fishing opportunities arise from synergistic factors including DNR's trout habitat improvement work with partners; its program to stock trout from wild fish, increasing survival and natural reproduction in recovering streams; land use changes and farmers' improved conservation practices that have decreased erosion and runoff into streams; increased precipitation resulting in better base flow in some parts of the state; and more protective regulations and a strong catch and release ethic among trout anglers.
- Wild Rose Fish Hatchery is renovated, producing more and healthier fish. A workhorse hatchery of Wisconsin's stocking program has been fully renovated, with DNR staff raising their first northern pike and lake sturgeon for stocking in summer 2010 from the new cool-water facilities. New cold water facilities opened in 2008. Wild Rose produces the vast majority of trout and salmon for Lake Michigan; it produces lake sturgeon, northern pike and other cool-water species to help restore populations statewide, and the renovated hatchery has won a trio of national design awards, including for its visitor and education center.
- Recovery of lake trout in Lake Superior. Lake trout, one of the four signal species in Lake Superior, are showing strong signs of recovery in this largest and deepest of the Great Lakes, with Wisconsin waters boasting some of the strongest populations. That's good news for the overall health of the Lake Superior ecosystem and for anglers and commercial fishers. The recovery plan has been carried out in Wisconsin by the DNR, the Red Cliff tribe and the Bad River tribe, which collectively manage fisheries in state waters of Lake Superior, and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which carries out lamprey control in U.S. waters as the agent for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Protecting remnant populations of lake trout, stocking wild trout, preventing overfishing through protective regulations and controlling populations of the predatory sea lampreys are all keys to the recovery.
- Large-scale Mississippi River habitat projects improve fishing. Anglers can attest to the success of a federal/state effort to restore declining habitat along the Upper Mississippi River. The Environmental Management Program marks its 25th anniversary this year, with more than 50 large-scale habitat projects undertaken along the 1,200 mile long stretch of the river. Twenty-eight projects -- including five within the past decade and four specifically to benefit fisheries -- have restored more than 30,000 acres along Wisconsin's border. In 2010, work continued on the construction of island habitats in Pool 8, part of a five-phase Upper Mississippi River Environmental Management Program project (exit DNR) that was named one of the Seven Wonders of Engineering for 2002 by the Society of Professional Engineers. Planning started for sloughs on the Wisconsin side in Pool 9.
- Trophy musky haul among the top three. Anglers have been landing a growing number of big musky. In 2010, Muskies, Inc. members reported catching and releasing 72 muskies that were 48 inches or larger from Wisconsin waters. That ranks 2010 third for the number of 48-inch plus fish registered from Wisconsin waters. Top counties were Vilas, Oneida, Dane, Chippewa, Waukesha, Brown and Sawyer. The Muskies, Inc. registry is just one indicator -- there are many musky anglers that are not members and members who may not register their fish because they do not want people to see what they are catching and where -- but it's been a good index of the changes in the number of big fish caught over time statewide, says Tim Simonson, co-leader of DNR's musky committee. The Green Bay musky fishery, re-established through a generation of stocking on the bay, and more protective regulations, a growing catch and release ethic, and habitat protection, statewide, have also played into the growing numbers in recent years, as has increased angler interest in the fishery.
- Wisconsin maintains a solid walleye fishery that accommodates sport and tribal harvest. More than a quarter century after a U.S. federal court reaffirmed the Ojibwe's rights to spearfish off-reservation in northern Wisconsin, fish populations are intensively monitored, stable and able to accommodate a sport harvest and tribal harvest. Within the Ceded Territory, anglers have caught about 750,000 walleye and harvested 250,000 of them annually over the last five years, according to creel surveys.
- Successful containment of VHS fish virus so far and implementation of rules that will help protect against the next big (or microscopic) invader. Testing of fish in 2010 for VHS fish virus, which can be deadly to more than two dozen fish species, again found that the virus has not spread to new waters. VHS was first detected in the Great Lakes in 2005 and in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago system waters in 2007. Wisconsin passed protective rules aimed at prevent