WDNR Solicits Private Ramp Access on Teal to Stock Walleyes in Fall 2019

Teal Lake received a planned stocking of extended-growth (EG) walleyes (10/acre) from WDNR’s Thompson Hatchery in Spooner on September 21 and 22, 2017, thanks entirely to the facilitation of private access provided by Victoria Ross of Ross’ Teal Lake Rentals. Without a public boat ramp on Teal, WDNR finds it difficult to get delivery trucks close enough to the water to avoid stressing fish or stranding a vehicle in a sub-optimal spot. Rather than carrying numerous loads of fish in dipnets 50 feet before releasing them to the lake (as Victoria and I did in fall 2017), WDNR fish culturists would rather back down a solid slope where they can release the fish directly to the lake through large flexible conduit.

WDNR Sawyer County Fishery Biologist and the crew at Thompson Hatchery in Spooner are asking if any private landowner on Teal Lake has a private boat ramp they would be willing to allow WDNR to use when stocking the next batch of extended-growth walleyes in fall of 2019. Ideally such a site would have a solid entrance road, gentle slope to the water, solid base near the shoreline, and room to maneuver a truck with large dual rear wheels. If you have such a site and are willing to allow this biennial access to WDNR for fish stocking, please contact Dave Neuswanger at 715-462-4485 so arrangements can be made.

WDNR fish delivery truck in need of access to Teal Lake in fall 2019.

All fish species in the Quiet Lakes spawn naturally on a wide variety of suitable substrates along our well-managed (not over-developed) shorelines. Most species (smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, black crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, etc.) require no supplemental stocking in order to maintain adequate populations. Past concerns about predation and competition from introduced northern pike led to regular stockings of 10- to 12-inch muskellunge in Teal and Lost Land. But there is now sufficient evidence of natural reproduction and recruitment (survival to catchable size) of muskellunge, making it unnecessary for WDNR to stock muskies since fall of 2009 in Teal and fall of 2012 in Lost Land. Ghost Lake has always maintained adequate natural reproduction of muskellunge. Click on the PDF link below to see Quiet Lakes fish stocking history since 2000.

Fish Stockings in Teal, Lost Land, and Ghost lakes since 2000

WDNR is so confident in the quality of muskellunge populations in Teal and Lost Land that those lakes have been selected to serve once every three years as the source for young muskies raised at the Thompson Hatchery in Spooner. These lakes were chosen because muskellunge in Teal and Lost Land are capable of natural reproduction and possess the ability to grow at reasonable rates and survive to memorable size – traits desired in other northern Wisconsin waters where Teal/Lost Land progeny will be stocked.

This springtime hatchery operation involves stripping eggs from several female muskellunge and fertilizing the “batch” from each female with sperm-containing milt from two or three different males. This simulates the way in which spawning muskies behave (often two or three males attending one female) in order to maintain genetic diversity and thereby ensure the viability of future generations. All fish are returned to the water immediately after spawning, and fertilized eggs are transported back to Spooner for hatching and rearing of fingerlings to lengths of 10-12 inches before stocking in the fall. We are fortunate to have such a quality muskellunge fishery that no longer requires stocking and serves as the source of hatchery broodstock for other northern Wisconsin lakes.

WDNR technicians relieve a 51.0-inch, 40.9-pound female muskellunge of her eggs on April 20, 2006. She was released unharmed immediately after her donation. Her eggs were fertilized onsite, then taken to WDNR’s Thompson Hatchery in Spooner for incubation and hatching.

Here’s what it’s all about. Teal and Lost Land lakes harbor muskellunge populations with above-average numbers of bigger-than-average fish. A few Wisconsin lakes have more trophy-size fish over 50 inches, but far fewer fish overall. And a handful of area lakes have more fish but much smaller fish. Very few lakes anywhere have as many muskellunge approaching and exceeding 40 inches in length as Teal and Lost Land. These are premier musky fisheries.

A robust 33-inch musky caught and released on Lost Land Lake on July 23, 2017

Walleye is the most highly desired sport fish in the Quiet Lakes. Until the mid-2000s, natural reproduction and recruitment (survival to catchable size) was so high in Teal Lake that walleye stocking was not required to maintain a healthy population and thriving sport fishery. In Lost Land Lake, a growing population of largemouth bass (predators on and competitors with young walleye) made it necessary to stock large walleye fingerlings (6-8 inches) in the fall since the early 2000s. In 2010, WDNR surveys revealed a substantial increase in the largemouth bass population of Teal Lake as well. That prompted fishery biologists to begin stocking large fall walleye fingerlings in Teal Lake starting in 2011, based on evidence that survival to catchable size was higher for large walleye fingerlings than for fry or 2-inch fingerlings stocked elsewhere in lakes with abundant largemouth bass. In Ghost Lake, small spring fingerlings were replaced with large fall fingerlings starting in 2013 in hopes of boosting survival there as well.

In 2011 WDNR initiated a long-term evaluation of stocking large fall walleye fingerlings in odd-numbered years in all the Quiet Lakes unless and until survival of naturally produced fish makes stocking unnecessary. The experimental stocking densities are 10/acre for Teal Lake (10,244 fish per stocking event), 5/acre for Lost Land Lake (6,319 fish), and 10/acre for Ghost Lake (3,720 fish).

In late July of 2017 we learned that a shortage of minnows (food for young walleyes) at the hatchery in Spooner would make it necessary for WDNR staff to stock walleyes into Lost Land Lake sooner than planned (August) at an average length of only 3.5 inches. (Keeping fish at the hatchery would result in high losses due to starvation and cannibalism.) A follow-up electrofishing survey on September 19 revealed that few, if any, of these small, August-stocked fish had survived to the end of summer. Read the following post to learn how the Quiet Lakes Improvement Association responded to this challenge by partnering with Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin and the Quiet Lakes Tourism Association to purchase 6,544 large (6-8″) walleye fingerlings (5/acre) for stocking into Lost Land Lake on October 23, 2017, thereby maintaining momentum in our walleye restoration program and viability of WDNR’s long-term, multi-lake walleye stocking evaluation.

QLIA and Partners Stock Walleyes into Lost Land Lake in Fall 2017

On October 23, 2017 the Quiet Lakes Improvement Association was pleased to receive 6,544 large, healthy walleye fingerlings (5/acre) for stocking into Lost Land Lake. This event culminated a week of frantic arrangements prompted by the realization that 3.5-inch walleyes stocked by WDNR in August had all but disappeared by the time of WDNR’s electrofishing survey on September 19. (These fish had been stocked at a much smaller size and earlier date than planned due to supply-chain problems with feed minnows at WDNR’s hatchery in Spooner.) To maintain restoration momentum and keep Lost Land a valid study site for WDNR’s multi-lake stocking evaluation (6- to 8-inch fish every other fall at 5/acre), private partners pooled their resources and bought these expensive fish ($1.80 each) from a private source at a total cost of $11,779. Teal Lake had already received its planned stocking of extended-growth (EG) walleyes (10/acre) from WDNR on September 21 and 22, thanks in no small part to the facilitation of access and direct assistance provided by Victoria Ross of Ross’ Teal Lake Rentals.

WDNR’s Sawyer County Fishery Management Biologist Max Wolter was instrumental in securing WDNR Fisheries program approval and expediting issuance of the required permit for this private fish stocking on very short notice. In mid October, there was no guarantee that any significant number of EG walleyes would still be available from a reputable dealer with certified, disease-free fish. But Tim Gollon of Gollon Bait and Fish Farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin bent over backward to accommodate our last-minute request. Total project cost was stretching our Association’s budget to the limit, but offers of financial support from Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin ($2,500) and the Quiet Lakes Tourism Association ($1,500) on VERY short notice got us “over the hump” and made this emergency stocking possible. Visit our “Links” page under the “About” tab to learn more about these great organizations.

QLIA Website Photo Editor Bryan Neuswanger of Keenai Photography was on hand to chronicle the stocking event through the lens of his Nikon D5200 camera. The walleyes were released at WDNR’s public boat ramp located on a lot leased from the Township of Spider Lake on the west side of Landing Camp Bay.

QLIA Member Gary Meloy (left) looks on with QLIA President Dave Neuswanger (right) as the delivery truck from Gollon Bait and Fish Farm backs down the boat ramp at Lost Land Lake.
Mike Gollon measures 52F water temperature in the hauling tank, almost perfectly matching the 51F lake water measured by Dave Neuswanger.
Mike Gollon attaches 6″ flexible conduit to a gate valve prior to releasing a tankful of fish.
Photographer Bryan Neuswanger examines a typical, healthy specimen just prior to release from the tank truck. Most fish were on the high end of the 6- to 8-inch range.
Dave Neuswanger directs a flexible 6″ conduit flowing with well water (from Gollon’s hatchery) and EG walleye fingerlings en route to freedom.
Many walleyes exited the conduit backward… like salmon fighting to get upstream!
Freedom! For all you photography nerds, Bryan captured the fast action here by freezing it in time with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR2 lens at a shutter speed of 1/4000 second.
Cleanup time! All conduit, dipnets, and platforms were rinsed with Virkon disinfectant in order to reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species to and from other waters.
Dave was impressed with the prompt, courteous, conscientious professionalism of Gollon Bait and Fish Farm! Thanks Tim and Mike!
QLIA President Dave Neuswanger (left) receives a generous donation of $2,500 from Bob Schuster (right), Treasurer with Walleyes for Northwest Wisconsin. Many thanks to Bob, President Joe Gendrich, and everyone at WFNW for their swift response in our time of need!
QLIA President Dave Neuswanger (center) receives a generous, last-minute donation of $1,500 from George Brandt (left) and Dick Thieren (right) on behalf of the Quiet Lakes Tourism Association. Many thanks to the Association, and to these QLIA past-presidents for their previous and ongoing efforts to make Lost Land Lake a special place to fish!
Our ultimate goal: These healthy 16- to 17-inch walleyes were harvested from Lost Land Lake on June 30, 2017 after being stocked as EG fingerlings by WDNR in fall of 2013 — the beginning of this walleye restoration program.