First Fish Stocked From Newly Renovated Hatchery in Wisconsin

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Wild Rose staff weigh coho salmon before transfering them into a stocking truck for the trip to Lake Michigan. - DNR Photo by Randy LarsonWILD ROSE – The first fish raised in the new $15.9 million coldwater facilities at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery are being stocked in Lake Michigan waters this week and next, marking an important milestone for the century-old fish hatchery and Wisconsin’s stocking program.

The new facilities were dedicated last month in a ceremony with Gov. Jim Doyle and DNR Secretary Matt Frank, and early this morning, state stocking trucks rolled out of Wild Rose with 28,000 coho salmon and 13,000 Seeforellen Brown trout bound for Algoma.

All told, 150,000 coho salmon and 60,000 Seeforellen trout will be stocked in Lake Michigan harbors by the end of the month. The fish are “large fingerlings” about 5-inches long, and should grow big enough over the next year to start being caught by anglers next summer.

“We’ve very excited that after all the years of hard work and effort, the first fish are being stocked from the new coldwater facilities at Wild Rose,” says Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Director Mike Staggs. “It’s a great day for anglers, particularly those who enjoy fishing Lake Michigan.”

The new facilities at Wild Rose are critical for continued great fishing for Lake Michigan trout and salmon. These fisheries depend on stocking, and virtually all of the 2 ¼ million trout and salmon produced at Wild Rose in a given year are destined for the “big pond.”

“So far, the hatchery is doing what it’s supposed to do,” says Hatchery Supervisor Steve Fajfer. “These fish look just tremendously healthy and in good shape, which should transmit to better survival when stocked, which will mean more fish being available to anglers a year from now.”

The new coldwater facilities replaced aging, century-old raceways and a faltering water supply that were making it difficult for fisheries crews to raise healthy fish. The fish have adjusted so well to the new facility and have grown so fast that hatchery staff had to adjust the amount of feed they were receiving so the fish didn’t outgrow the new facilities, Fajfer says.

Stocking trucks roll this week and next to deliver the first fish raised at the renovated Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. - DNR Photo by Randy LarsonNew regulations and precautions in effect to prevent the fish disease VHS from entering the hatchery system mean a tightly orchestrated schedule of getting fish out for stocking before new eggs can be brought on site for rearing, putting space at a premium.

Those regulations also mean that for the first time in about three decades, Wild Rose has been raising Coho Salmon. All eggs collected from fish in the Lake Michigan basin, where VHS, or viral hemorrhagic septicemia has been found, are hatched and then raised at state facilities within the same basin.

The new coldwater facilities represent the first phase of renovation at Wild Rose, which also built a new visitors center. Work is underway on the second phase of the renovation, building new coolwater facilities to raise walleye, lake sturgeon, spotted musky and northern pike.

Lake Michigan is the state’s top fishing draw, accounting for 6 percent of angler trips, according to a 2006-7 DNR angler survey. In that same year, 235,000 anglers fished a total of 3.7 million days on Wisconsin’s Great Lakes waters, generated a $418 million economic impact, supported 5,011 jobs and generated $28 million in state and local tax revenues, according to the American Sportfishing Association’s 2008 report, “Sportfishing in America,” available on the association Web site [] (exit DNR; pdf).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Fajfer (920) 622-3527 ext 201; Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; Al Kaas (608) 267-7865