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Grant boosts investigations into why bass are booming, walleye waning in some lakes

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Largemouth bass are booming in northwestern Wisconsin. DNR’s Travis Holte shows off a nice fish captured during a spring survey on Polk County’s Apple River Flowage.

photo courtesy WNDR ©2012

MADISON – Work to help understand and respond to why bass are booming and walleye waning in many northwestern Wisconsin lakes just got a big boost.

A consortium of researchers and fisheries biologists from the University of Wisconsin’s Madison and Stevens Point campuses and the Department of Natural Resources have received a $760,000 federal grant over five years to help investigate the shifting fish populations and tease out the most likely reasons behind the shift.

Apple River Flowage largemouth

“We’re excited to have a large-scale, collaborative research project underway to tackle our key questions and help inform our management decisions,” says Jon Hansen, one of the DNR fish biologists involved in the study and leader of DNR’s bass committee.

“The issue is very complicated, and identifying the causes of these changes requires various approaches and the expertise that the different partners bring to the table.”

Says Steve Carpenter, a UW-Madison limnologist and a principal investigator in the study, “At this point, we have nothing but hypotheses. Now we can get to work on gathering real information and figuring out which of the many hypotheses might be right.”

The grant is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and will be led at UW-Madison by Carpenter, at Stevens Point by Dan Isermann, and at the DNR by a team of DNR Bureau of Science Services researchers and Fisheries Management biologists.

The work will build on, and draw data from, ongoing state efforts to adjust bass and walleye fishing regulations and attempt to determine how much anglers affect these populations. Bass are the fish Wisconsin anglers reported releasing most often in a 2006-07 statewide mail survey, with only 5.4 percent of bass harvested, while 30 percent of all walleye were harvested.

“These traditional approaches (changing regulations and collecting data) are important to do, but if that is all we did, we’ve never be able to figure out what this is happening,” says John Lyons, the DNR fisheries researcher who assembled the collaborative research team. “We’d still be speculating. What this study will do is not necessarily provide the solution, but it will narrow down the explanations from 10 plausible reasons to two or three that are highly plausible, and which of our management tools could work.”

Read more here:

For more information:

  • Steve Hewett – DNR – (608) 267-7501
  • Mike Staggs – DNR – (608) 267-0796
  • Steve Carpenter – UW-Madison – (608) 262-3014
  • Dan Isermann – UWSP – (715) 295-8878

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