Spring of 2018 will be an exceptionally busy time for Wisconsin DNR fishery management and hatchery workers on Teal and Lost Land lakes. Lake residents can expect to see lots of activity that might otherwise cause concern; but most likely it will be our dedicated natural resource professionals doing their job on behalf of the fishing public.
Shortly after ice-out, WDNR’s Hayward Fish Team led by biologist Max Wolter will be setting and running large-framed fyke nets in Teal and Lost Land lakes in a scheduled quadrennial survey to monitor the status of walleye and northern pike populations. Expect to see ~6 nets in each lake, fished overnight and run for 2-3 consecutive days until Max obtains the data needed to characterize the current status (relative abundance and size distribution) of these important sport fish. One end of each net will be staked to the shoreline, and a “lead” will extend perpendicular to shore to depths of 5-8 feet where fish will be funneled into a “pot” to await processing (measure and release). The deep end of each net will be marked by a large WDNR buoy. If you see anyone other than a WDNR crew manipulating or extracting fish from a net (usually done mid-morning to mid-afternoon), please contact WDNR’s violation hotline at 1-800-847-9367 to report the activity immediately. And please navigate carefully around these shallowly set nets.
WDNR does not plan any nighttime electrofishing work in early spring shortly after ice-out. If you see a boat (or boats) with a bright, bow-mounted light working slowly along the shoreline after dark when walleyes are staged in the shallows to spawn, it will be Native American spearfishers from either the Bad River (Teal) or LCO (Lost Land) bands of Lake Superior Ojibwe, exercising their rights to harvest a quota-limited number of fish by this method annually. Ghost Lake water is too dark to spear effectively.
A week or two later as water temperatures approach and exceed 50F, WDNR’s crew from the Thompson Hatchery in Spooner will spend 1-2 weeks running numerous fyke nets in Teal and Lost Land in order to collect and fertilize eggs of adult muskellunge. Eggs will be fertilized on site and transported daily to Spooner for incubation and hatching. The fingerlings will be reared to 10-12 inches for stocking throughout northwestern Wisconsin in September.
Teal and Lost Land are special because our near-shore habitats and fish communities are conducive to natural reproduction and recruitment (survival to first birthday) of muskellunge. No hatchery stockings are needed or desired here. Decades of broodstock collection from lakes with natural reproduction reveal no adverse impact associated with taking eggs (from females) and milt (from males) from a small proportion of the total adult population in these hatchery egg-take operations. The primary limitation to recruitment always comes long after hatching when juvenile muskellunge must “run the gauntlet” past hungry largemouth bass, northern pike, and even their parents. Yes, they are cannibals. Regardless of the number hatched, only a few lucky muskellunge ever survive to adulthood.
While the Thompson Hatchery crew focuses on fertilizing muskellunge eggs, Max Wolter plans to tag and collect information from adult muskellunge, including growth rate data from previously tagged fish. He also hopes to obtain meaningful data from these mid-spring fyke nets on notoriously difficult-to-sample species such as black crappie and yellow perch. Max believes this 1- to 2-week period will be a particularly opportune time for volunteer involvement. As Fisheries Program Leader for QLIA, I will coordinate volunteer assistance with spring fishery operations, so call me at 715-462-4485 if you are interested in participating. Be prepared for a long day of hard work in unpredictable weather!
As water temperature rises from the upper 50s into the low 60s (usually mid May), WDNR’s Hayward Fish Team will conduct nighttime electrofishing surveys in Teal and Lost Land lakes. (Because of its smaller size, Ghost Lake is on a longer rotation for these baseline fishery monitoring surveys.) On at least two nights (one on each lake), starting at dusk, expect to see an 18-foot flat-bottomed “shocker boat” with long booms projecting off the bow (suspending metal electrodes) and lots of lights moving slowly along the shorelines where Max and crew will collect literally hundreds of temporarily stunned fish to be measured, recorded, and released. Primary target species for assessment during these surveys will be largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, natural hybrids between bluegill and pumpkinseed, suckers, troutperch, and juvenile walleyes and muskies.