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Walleye restoration: Menominee River getting tens of thousands of large fingerlings

From left, Dane Baker, James Nicolas, Dick Sherwood and Randy Evosevich of Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County look at one of the large walleye fingerlings being planted in the Twin Falls Flowage on the Menominee River. Wildlife Unlimited and We Energies are providing financial support to a plan developed by the Fisheries Division of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to return the Twin Falls and Kingsford flowages to quality, self-sustaining walleye fisheries. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News phots)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Work is underway to rehabilitate the walleye fisheries in two area flowages in the Menominee River Basin.

Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County and We Energies are providing financial support to a plan developed by the Fisheries Division of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The plan is an attempt to return the Twin Falls and Kingsford Flowages to quality, self-sustaining walleye fisheries.

The Twin Falls Flowage, commonly called “The Badwater” by area residents, is the section of the Menominee River north of town upstream of the newly renovated hydroelectric dam near the U.S. 2 bridge. The Kingsford Flowage is the section of the river below the U.S. 2 dam, which extends downstream to Cowboy Lake near the airport.

These flowages between hydroelectric dams — which form the boundary between Florence County, Wis., and Dickinson County — have for many years provided recreational opportunities for area residents.

According to WDNR Fisheries the entire Menominee River has walleye populations in all the flowages. A number of these flowages have been stocked with walleye. The rehabilitation plan for the Twin Falls and Kingsford Flowages fits within the larger management plan for the entire watershed.

From left, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Greg Matzke, Joey Tallier of Mole Lake Fisheries, Jake Daugherty, and Katie Renschen clip walleye fingerlings before release this week in the Twin Falls Flowage on the Menominee River.

These two sections of the Menominee River Basin were once highly valued by walleye anglers on both sides of the Wisconsin-Michigan border. However, over the past few decades these fisheries had degraded to a point to where only small populations of walleye were being sustained through natural reproduction.

Extensive research in recent years by WDNR Fisheries Biologist Greg Matzke at the Florence office determined there is a good possibility these otherwise healthy flowages could become significantly more productive walleye fisheries and, very importantly, have the potential to become self-sustaining.

WDNR then established that a special strain of Lake Michigan walleye indigenous to the Menominee River Basin would be reared to implement a stocking plan for these two flowages. The plan includes raising and stocking tens of thousands of large walleye fingerlings (7 to 9 inches) that will be introduced into the Twin Falls and Kingsford Flowages over the next decade.

After learning of the WDNR plan to restore these fisheries, Wildlife Unlimited approached the department to see if additional assistance could be provided to bolster the plan in its early years.

When notified that such support would be welcomed within the guidelines of the plan, Wildlife Unlimited committed $15,000 to the effort and then reached out to We Energies to see if additional financial assistance could be secured. We Energies pledged $45,000 over the next four years for the plan and will be working closely with Wildlife Unlimited and WDNR Fisheries.

From left, back, Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County members Dane Baker, Randy Evosevich, Dave Johnson, Brandon Carlson, James Nicolas, Dick Sherwood and Bob Baker watch as Jake Daugherty, Katie Renschen and Greg Matzke of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources release large walleye fingerlings into a net on the Menominee River.

Through this combined commitment, an additional 30,000 walleye fingerlings will be stocked in the two flowages over the next five years.

We Energies owns and operates several hydroelectric power plants along the Menominee River Basin and is one of the largest property owners along the waterway. Through licensing agreements with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the company established the Mitigation and Enhancement Fund to improve the quality of terrestrial and aquatic resources in the upper Menominee River Basin.

Additionally, We Energies has designated 23,000 acres in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula as the Wilderness Shores Recreation Areas to enhance the experience for outdoor enthusiasts, anglers certainly among them.

“We are committed to practicing responsible environmental stewardship and to giving back to the communities in which we operate,” said Todd Jastremski, We Energies asset manager for hydro operations. “Supporting this project shows that commitment. It is an honor to take part in this restoration effort.”

For its part, Wildlife Unlimited has for nearly 40 years advanced its mission of promoting the outdoors experience of residents of Dickinson County and the surrounding area.

“We are really excited about this effort to restore these long-neglected boundary water fisheries,” noted the organization’s president Randy Evosevich. “First and foremost, we are very grateful to our Wildlife Unlimited members who attend our banquet every year and pledge their support for our mission. They have made this effort possible. I also must say that Greg Matzke and the fisheries team at the Wisconsin DNR have put a lot of thought and effort into this visionary plan. We really appreciate the opportunity to work with them. Hopefully, anglers on both sides of the river will soon be wearing big smiles on their faces.”

Evosevich then added, “For many years We Energies has been a responsible steward of the lands and waters entrusted to them. The Wilderness Shores recreation program and Mitigation and Enhancement Fund represent a serious effort on their part to enhance the quality of life of the people of northern Wisconsin and the U.P. We are thrilled and very grateful as well that We Energies is lending their support to this plan.”

Stocking began in the fall of 2018 on both stretches of the river and was followed by additional stocking this month. Progress will be carefully monitored by the WDNR in the years ahead and will be reported to the public.

The long-term plan is to hopefully create abundant, self-sustaining walleye populations in the Kingsford and Twin Falls Flowages, something which will surely be received very positively by area residents.

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