Fort McCoy News April 25, 2014

Stocking, survey efforts precede May 3 fishing opener

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Wisconsin's 2014 general inland fishing season opens May 3. The more than 3,800 people who fish in the lakes and streams on Fort McCoy on average every year will benefit from the stocking of fish in several bodies of water on post.

"We stock about 15,000 rainbow trout annually in six lakes and impoundments," said John Noble, Fort McCoy Fisheries biologist from the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch. "Typically, rainbow trout are stocked in the spring, usually a week or two prior to opening day. This year, there will be thousands of trout stocked by opening day."

Photo for fish article
Fisheries biologists Ryan Ennis and Steve Rood, working under an agreement between Fort McCoy and Colorado State University, conduct a fish population survey April 15 in the North Flowage area of the post.

"Fish are raised from eggs and take about 11 months to grow to 8 to 12 inches, depending on the feeding rates," Noble said.

"We obtain these fish through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Genoa National Fish Hatchery. We have an agreement with the FWS, who raise the fish and certify fish health before delivery and stocking."

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery is located about three miles south of Genoa, Wis., and was established in 1932. The hatchery serves six Midwestern states and rears 23 species of fish to support high-priority federal management, restoration and threatened and endangered species programs, according to FWS. The certification of fish health is completed by the FWS La Crosse Fish Health Center.

Noble said rainbow trout are the preferred fish to stock because they're not capable of reproducing in the lake or streams if they get past a dam.

"We like rainbow trout, as there is no competition with the stream trout," Noble said. "We have plenty of natural reproduction in our streams, and no longer have a need to stock the streams. We don't want to stock other genetic strains of brook or brown trout into the system."

Stocking fish once a year in the spring — in addition to having benefits for anglers — allows for better survivability for the trout with cooler water temperatures, and saves money from multiple fish-stocking efforts, Noble said.

"Trout are raised in water that is about 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), so, when the lake water is warmer, these fish need to be tempered by bringing up the water temperature on the fish inside the tank before stocking," Noble said. "We can have issues with mortality due to temperature stress and shock when stocking in warmer lake conditions, so cooler water temps help significantly reduce fish mortality."

Noble added stocking fish does not help the habitat but rather improves recreational angling for those who purchase a license and permit to fish on Fort McCoy.

"We have about 3,800 anglers annually, and most are very fond of catching the rainbow trout," Noble said. "For decades, trout have been stocked in these waters on Fort McCoy. The addition of rainbow trout also helps reduce the burden of harvest on other species that are present and reproduce naturally."

In addition to trout, most fishing areas on Fort McCoy also have bluegill, pumpkinseed and bass along with some other warm-water species.

"Reservoir situations — lakes and ponds created on trout streams — will have brook trout in them too," Noble said. "If you're a bigger predator, like a largemouth bass in these waters, eating trout is a pretty good dietary supplement to make them bigger and to grow faster. Anglers shouldn't be afraid to throw a larger lure for big bass."

Noble said Fort McCoy anglers also should be aware that more training activity will take place on water as well as convoy encounters while traveling to their fishing locations.

"We'll use the game line and the i-Sportsman website to keep anglers informed of any lake fishing closures from troops conducting water-related training," Noble said. "Water purification units and water removal stations are expected as well as periodic helicopter bucket dipping at the lakes. We suggest anglers who are planning a fishing trip should check ahead by calling call the game line (866-277-1597) or check i-Sportsman (http://ftmccoy.isportsman.net).

"The game line recording or listing on the i-Sportsman website will specifically list the lake name and not the training area for the date that lake fishing is closed," Noble said. "The Permit Sales Office is another good source of information on fishing as well for getting updated training information."

Noble encourages anglers to also report tagged fish information.

"Usually, we are looking to get the date of catch, lake or stream location, the tag number and fish length information which can be submitted to our Permit Sales Office," Noble said. "Many anglers already do this and we send them information specific to the fish they caught. Giving us fish length to the nearest quarter inch is best. Some anglers even provide fish weight."

Noble described a young angler he knows who harvested some largemouth bass from the North Flowage was surprised to learn the fish were nearly as old the young angler.

"Some fish take longer to grow due to over competition for food," Noble said. "The good news is we are finding improvements in North Flowage bass growth and encourage anglers to eat more smaller bass. We learn a lot about our fishery through fish tagging, creel surveys and angler interactions."

All Fort McCoy anglers must have all required licenses, which include a 2014 Wisconsin fishing license, trout stamp (if fishing for trout) and Fort McCoy permit, to fish on post. Fort McCoy fishing permits are sold through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Automated License Issuance System (ALIS). Permits can be purchased at any authorized WDNR ALIS vendor.

A regular Fort McCoy annual fishing permit is $13. For children ages 16 and under, a youth fishing permit is $8. Also available for $8 are the senior fishing, disabled fishing and four-day fishing permits. Resident and non-resident pricing are the same for each category.

Fort McCoy will participate in the WDNR Free Fishing Weekend June 7-8. No permits or licenses are required during this time, however all other rules and bag limits apply.

More Fort McCoy fishing information can be obtained by contacting the Permit Sales office at 608-388-3337, or by checking out the Fort McCoy i-Sportsman website at http://ftmccoy.isportsman.net.