In addition to sending me a spread sheet
chronicling forage harvest on lakes in Vilas and Oneida
Counties, Bruce indicated that forage harvesting was suspended
in 2006 due to VHS concerns but did note that sucker eggs are
still taken to support hatchery production. The spread sheet
that Bruce sent me covers the years between 1998 and 2006 and
shows the forage harvest in pounds for the lakes listed.
The two tables shown below list the total pounds
of forage taken from lakes and rivers in Vilas and Oneida
Counties from 1998 to 2006 and are arranged by the highest
*Note This is a
partial List of Lakes. There were 45 Vilas County and 22 Oneida
In order to get a good perspective of just what
this means, you need to consider two things:
How many minnows make up a pound (minus
What effect would removing forage have
on the fishery when Musky are at a 100% release rate?
As for how many minnows make up a pound, I have
no exact number. If you have ever harvested minnows using a
seine net, you could estimate that 20 or 30 might equal a pound.
If we use 30 minnows equaling a pound, we see, for
example, that 936,840 minnows were harvested from Lake
Tomahawk in Oneida County from 1998 to 2006.
As for the effect on the health of the Musky
fishery from removing 936,840 forage minnows when no Musky are
being harvested, the negative impact is obvious. Now you have
more Musky chasing a diminished food source. Without sufficient
food no animal or human will achieve their genetic potential…in
this case it’s the Musky achieving a trophy size.
(Sort of makes increased size limits
for Musky a joke, doesn’t it?) The problem gets even
worse when you artificially increase the number of Musky through
stocking which puts more pressure on the forage base. Given the
amount of forage taken from these Musky lakes and the 100%
release of Musky and the continued stocking of Musky, it is
NOT hard to recognize that
the health of the fishery will soon reach a tipping point that
plunges the fishery into imbalance.
Mr. Underwood also pointed out that because of
VHS the DNR now buys its minnows from commercial outlets. This
has had an impact on the ability of the DNR to continue hatchery
operations. The current 2013-2015 DNR budget indicates that 3
hatcheries have already been closed and projects that more will
have to be closed.
I have only focused on two counties. I am
confident that hatcheries in other counties, like Sawyer and
Price have also harvested forage to support their hatchery
So is there a solution to head off the
inevitable decline and eventual collapse of Wisconsin Musky
I have two suggestions, neither of which will be
Musky stocking should be stopped for a
period of 5 years and hatchery operations should be
reorganized to produce forage for stocking in Musky
bodies of water.
Musky size limits should be reduced to
44 or 45 inches and Musky anglers should be encouraged
to harvest at least 1 legal Musky a year.
I can already hear the folks at Muskies, Inc.
saying that calling for lower size limits and harvesting of
Musky is a radical idea.
To that I would respond
that the Wisconsin Musky fisheries are facing an inevitable
collapse because too many Musky are chasing too little food.
Suspending Musky stocking coupled with size
limit adjustments and limited harvesting represents no more of a
radical suggestion than the concept of catch and release did
back in 1969.
The pendulum of Musky fishery health has
swung to a perilous extreme and it needs to be returned to a
more balanced approach.
If Muskies, Inc. has a better idea to address
the Wisconsin Musky fishery decline, I am sure we would all be
interested. I would be pleased to provide a spokesperson for
Muskies, Inc. space on my website for their suggestions.