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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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State New Owner Of Popular Peshtigo River Access Site

Issue Date: April 26, 2017

Wisconsin DNR has purchased a property with Peshtigo River access near the bridge at the junction of County Road P and 3rd Road in the Town of Beaver. Even though it has been privately owned, it has been a popular spot for people to gather and enjoy the river. The owners have allowed the public to use it for many years. Now it is publicly owned.

DNR River Fisheries Biologist Christopher (Chip) Long passed along that bit of information to the Marinette County Land Information Committee on Monday, April 10 as part of an in-depth report on local fisheries.

Long said the previous week Gov. Scott Walker had signed documents for the purchase of the property. Purchase price was $56,000. Long said the owners had been generous enough to let people fish there for 30 years, and now it will be publicly owned. He said avoiding potential for user conflict was one of the reasons the DNR wanted to buy the property.

Supervisor Robert Holley asked if a dock will be installed, and Long said that is not part of the plan. The parking lot will be improved to allow parking for 30 to 40 cars, which has been typical weekend use. The property is a popular spot for fishing, tubing, rafting and swimming.

Committee Chair Ted Sauve asked Long if the DNR does any safety classes on rafting. "You just have to be careful," Long replied.

Long's report mainly focused on fish stocking, and the effect local efforts have had on increasing the population and reproduction of several varieties of fish, mainly by improving access and use of spawning beds in lakes, rivers and streams on public and private properties.

The subject was timely. Spring fishing season for most species caught with hook and line is typically the first Saturday of May - this year Saturday, May 6.

Long handed out sheets showing which bodies of water had received the 245,000 fish stocked last year, what species and age they were, size, and where they had come from.

Fish were placed in lakes, rivers and streams at sites on both public and private properties, including the Coleman Lake Club, Long said. Some of the stocking was done in connection with partnership agreements with sportsman's clubs, conservation groups and private land owners.

Most common source of the fingerling and year-old fish were DNR ponds and hatcheries, but many adult fish came from private hatcheries.

Varieties stocked included brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, muskellunge, lake sturgeon, walleye, bluegill, yellow perch, chinook salmon (in the Menominee River and at Little River on the shore of Green Bay), and black crappies (in Thunder Lake and Rooney Lake.)

Over 100,000 fish were placed in the Menominee River alone, and nearly 30,000 in the Peshtigo. Some were expected to stay, grow up, and reproduce, some would be caught, and some would make their way out to the Bay and Lake Michigan.

Last year the DNR moved 120 sturgeon over the Menominee River Dam, 74 by shocking and 46 by using the new fish lift. Of them, 49 were mature females and 7 will spawn next year. The fish were tagged, and 55 of the fish helped over the dam came back down the river this spring and reached the waters of Green Bay. Six of them right now are stuck between the dams.

The report, prepared by DNR Fish Biologist Mike Donofrio, showed last year the DNR stocked 11,500 4.4inch sturgeon and 2,766 10.7 inch sturgeon at Sturgeon Falls; 7,985 7.5 inch walleye and 477 10.9 inch musky at Chalk Hills; 6,245 walleye and 372 musky at White Rapids, and 1,533 7.5-inch walleye at Grand Rapids.

In the Lower Menominee and offshore in the Bay they stocked 28,000 3-inch chinook from M&M Club net pens; 748 14.7-inch yearling musky and 388 10.8-inch fall fingerling musky; 8,100 steelhead yearlings, and 30,700 brown trout fall fingerlings and 29,000 offshore yearlings.

Committee Chair Ted Sauve commented on the volume of of fish stocked in and adjacent to the Menominee River, and declared, "all this, and the proposed (Back Forty) mine is being built on that river!" He expressed concern, as he did again at the County Board meeting on Tuesday, April 18, that tailings from the mine could pollute the river. He asked if the DNR had done any research into what the mine could do to the river and the fish in it, and if Long personally had an opinion.

"We think it's premature," Long replied. "I'm a fish guy and not knowledgeable enough about mining to have an opinion.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), equivalent of Wisconsin's DNR, is in charge of issuing permits for the proposed mine on the Michigan side of the river. Three of the four permits needed have already been issued. Site is near Shakey Lakes about 25 miles north of Menominee.

Long told Sauve he understands his concern, but water from the mine must meet federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards before it can be discharged into the river.

Supervisor Gilbert Engel asked if they are still stocking salmon at Little River. Long said they had been for years but he doesn't have the numbers because his specialty is inland waters.

Engel commented the number of fishermen there seems to be down Long felt that may be because the waters were down and they hadn't been stocking for a while.

To questions about help for dealing with invasives like zebra mussel, Long said the DNR does not have grant programs, but the United States Fish and Wildlife Service does.

There was mention of a new Lake Noquebay Anglers Partnership Sportsman's Club that is working with the agency on those problems and with improving the environment for fish reproduction

He said a person who owns shoreline property on Lake Noquebay wanted to do some improvements to a 60-foot by 600-foot walleye spawning reef off his shore, and the club helped. The first year they brought in stone, and last year he brought stone and the club came with a Skid Steer and several small dump trucks to put down about 180 tons of stone. The work took about four hour. He said the focus for spawning beds is on the southwest side, where wind and wave action keeps the eggs aerated.

These types of projects help with reproduction, Long said, then added, "I don't think we'll ever get away from stocking, but hopefully we'll need less."

Supervisor Fred Meintz asked if the new spawning beds on the Peshtigo River worked as expected. Long said there will be a study of results in 2019.

The Niagara Sportsman's Club raised over 10,000 brook trout that Long said were mainly released in the Pemene River. They clip a fin before the fish are released, and later in summer look at the percentage of clipped fins. About 25 percent of the fish over five inches caught in 2015 were marked, and the year before that it was 20 percent. "From a fish biologist's standpoint, that's significant!" Long declared.

Supervisor Bob Holley asked if they mostly stock at bridges. Long said that varies, but mainly, "We want to stock where the most people go to fish." He added they usually do not stock trout until three to four weeks after opening day. "On opening day there are fish to catch, just not as many."

Holley noted they used to stock about half a mile of the north branch of the Beaver Creek on his land, but now haven't done it for years, and there's hardly ever a car there any more.

Long said by using money in last year's budget for trout habitat improvement they had done some work there and conditions should improve. An old logging dam had created a big hole, but the DNR replaced it with a non-stop culvert and with one big rain event years of silt quickly filled in the fishing hole.

Holley commented there are logs 18 inches across at the bottom of that dam, and wondered how they got them there in the 1800s.

With budget difficulties the DNR didn't have the staff or equipment to maintain sand traps, Long said, but now they will be maintained, at least in Marinette County.

The DNR is working with UW-Green Bay and UW-Stout to determine the value of the fishery to the local economy.

Engel commented that nobody eats fish from the Menominee River any more, mainly because of years of dumping waste from the mill there. He commented someone showed him a fish caught at Piers Gorge that glowed yellow.

Long said the DNR does occasional studies on fish safety The recommendation is one meal a month of walleye caught from Green Bay, ""but how much is a meal?"

There was brief discussion on the closing of the Thunder River Fish Hatchery and what effect it will have on availability of fish for stocking. Long said the DNR did not supply fish for stocking by local clubs in any case.

In other business at the meeting, long-time Land Information Office Director John LeFebvre, who was recently promoted to Marinette County Administrator, told the committee his plans for filling the position. Until a replacement plan is in place, he has been handling his Land Information and MarOco Landfill duties in addition to being County Administrator.

LeFebvre said he plans to promote from within and split up Director duties among the present staff. He will need to update position descriptions and would report to the committee next month. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 8 at 9 a.m. in the Land Information office.

Committee members discussed possible addresses to the Wisconsin Legislative Joint Finance budget hearing that was to be held in Marinette on Friday, April 21. Sauve commented it was the first time the hearing was held in Marinette, thanks to the influence of Rep. John Nygren.

County Conservationist Greg Cleereman said he would be addressing the Joint Committee regarding funding for his programs.

Water Resource Specialist Chuck Druckrey has been helping the City of Peshtigo apply for grants for the fish viewing platform project, a cooperative effort by the City of Peshtigo, BPM Inc., Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and the marinette County Land and Water Conservation Department. It will rehabilitate pat of a abandoned paper mill passage over the Peshtigo River and use the base to construct a fish viewing platform at one of the most popular walleye fishing and sturgeon viewing destinations on the west shore of Green Bay.

Engel and Cleereman reported briefly on the 2017 Wisconsin Land and Water Annual Conference they had attended. They said it was shocking to find out in one of the ground water quality sessions that due to artificial sweeteners and medicines discharged into the water people are getting about two pounds of chemicals per year.

At another session they learned that Marinette County has the highest Black Bear population, with about one bear per square mile. Total black bear population in the state is 29,000.

There were reports on plans for Sand Lake Conservation Camp at Camp Bird in June; plans for summer and fall events at Harmony Arboretum by Ag Agent Scott Reuss, and a report by Farm Service Agency Representative Mary Noll on program signup dates for farm crops, and a reminder that losses caused by natural disasters must be reported to the DATCAP office within 90 calendar days after the event.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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