Fort McCoy News June 28, 2013

Fish consumption advisory revised for 2 locations

The Fort McCoy fish consumption advisory has been re-evaluated and new guidelines will be issued for bluegill, sunfish, black crappie and largemouth bass caught at the North Flowage and Lost Lake (Ranch Creek Flowage).

John Noble, Fort McCoy fisheries biologist, said the advisories were enacted after fish tissue tested in 1998-1999 revealed higher levels of mercury in crappie and largemouth bass caught in the affected waters. North Flowage and Lost Lake (Ranch Creek flowage) were re-tested by the Wisconsin Department of Health in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in 2004 and 2012. Mercury still is prevalent in fish living in these waters and prevalent at different levels for waters globally. The 2012 mercury results were slightly lower for largemouth bass, enough to suggest new consumption guidance. (See guidelines)

PHOTO for fish story
Steve Rood (left) and Ryan Ennis, both Colorado State University contracted employees supporting the Fisheries program, conduct a fish population study for crappies, bluegills and bass at Big Sandy Lake. File photo

A mercury advisory does not necessarily mean people should not consume fish caught in an affected body of water. WDNR officials said it means people need to be aware of the health risks of eating fish and adjust their consumption levels and frequency of consumption, accordingly.

WDNR officials suggest that the source for mercury is atmospheric and do not believe the mercury was caused by any other activities.

The WDNR plans to update the Wisconsin fish consumption advisories for waters with contaminants as it has for mercury. The guidance is important for anglers to consider when keeping certain sizes and types of fish to eat or when providing fish to feed their family and friends to minimize exposure to contaminants in fish and related health risks. See the "Choose Wisely" booklet available from a local DNR office or available at the website to find the booklet on safe-eating guidelines.

Candy Schrank, toxicologist for the WDNR Fisheries Management who has been working with Fort McCoy on this project since 1998, said, "Mercury concentrations in North Flowage and Lost Lake largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill are higher than levels found in many other Wisconsin waters. Consumption guidance is provided for all species that occur statewide based on statewide mercury levels. Anglers should note that some of these fish species may not exist in these waters or exist in low numbers."

The WDNR added, "Studies suggest regularly including modest amounts of fish (one to two servings per week) in your diet can benefit a person's health." Studies indicate that little additional nutritional benefit is obtained from consuming more than two servings per week.

Noble said Fort McCoy test data indicate the mercury levels in affected fish increase with the age and size of the fish.

Rather than keeping big bass to eat, anglers are encouraged to keep smaller bass in accordance with the fishing regulation, adopting a catch-and-release philosophy to allow these bass to grow bigger or mount/keep a larger fish as a trophy fish.

Keeping smaller bass to eat will help improve the fishery condition, size and age structure. By doing this, the Fisheries section expects to have less food competition within smaller fish. Having more food to eat will improve bass growth, therefore there will be more bass getting bigger, beyond 15 inches in length. Anglers then will have larger bass to catch and eating younger bluegill will help to sustain a quality bluegill and sunfish population.

The North Flowage bluegill average size has improved by approximately two inches from the past 12 years of management. Bass age and growth are slowly improving too, as more anglers have been supporting this management concept and keeping more, smaller bass to eat.

In other fishing news, Noble said angler success during the Inland Fishing Season, which began May 4, improved with warmer temperatures.

Much like the arrival of spring this year, fishing started off slow.

Fish activity picked up noticeably as water temperatures warmed.

Anglers who changed tactics, slowed presentation or experimented with lure size found limits of fish.

Additional Fort McCoy rainbow trout stocking has been completed, he said.

For more information about fishing and hunting at Fort McCoy, call the Permit Sales Office at 608-388-3337, visit building 2168, or access fishing and hunting information at the Fort McCoy public website by clicking on the visitors menu bar.

(See guidelines)