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Recent stocking aims to replenish walleye in Menominee River

WILDLIFE UNLIMITED MEMBER Jim Nicolas checks out a net full of walleyes fingerlings before planting them at the boat landing in Spread Eagle, Wis., as Dick Sherwood of Wildlife Unlimited, far left, and Brian Whitens of the television show “Discovering Wisconsin” look on. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Work continues on a joint effort to restore the walleye fisheries in two area flowages in the Menominee River Basin.

Members of Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County recently met with Greg Matzke, Wisconsin DNR fisheries biologist from the Florence office, as well as Mike Preul, director of the Mole Lake Hatchery in Crandon, Wis., to oversee the stocking of additional walleyes in the Kingsford and Twin Falls flowages.

About 5,000 fish were stocked in the Kingsford Flowage while about another 10,000 were stocked in the Twin Falls Flowage. These plantings of 6- to 8-inch walleye fingerlings represent an annual installment of a 10-year plan launched in 2018 to hopefully restore these two flowages to self-sustaining fisheries. Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County and We Energies are providing financial support to the plan that was developed in recent years by the Fisheries Division of the Wisconsin DNR.

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 that extends downstream to Cowboy Lake near the airport. These flowages between hydroelectric dams that form the state boundary between Florence County and Dickinson County have for many years provided recreational opportunities for area residents.

The rehabilitation plan for the Twin Falls and Kingsford flowages fits within Wisconsin DNR’s larger management plan for the entire watershed. 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 received little management oversight to a point to where only small populations of walleye were being sustained through natural reproduction.

WISCONSIN DNR FISHERIES biologist Greg Matzke holds the end of the hose as walleyes are released into the Menominee River. In back, from left, are Wildlife Unlimited members Dick Sherwood and Bob Baker, and on the truck is Mole Lake Hatchery biologist Mike Preul. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

After learning of the 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 informed 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 to the plan. Through this combined commitment, an additional 30,000 walleye fingerlings will be stocked in the two flowages over the first five years of the plan.

“We are really excited about this effort to restore these bodies of water to self-sustaining walleye fisheries,” said Matt Borchardt, Wildlife Unlimited’s president. “This project is a positive collaboration among some good folks who genuinely want to enhance the outdoors experience in our area. Greg Matze from the Wisconsin DNR and Mike Preul from Mole Lake Hatchery are the brain trust here. They have put a lot of time and expense and good science into giving the project the best chance to succeed. We are very grateful to them and to our Wildlife Unlimited members and certainly to Todd Jastremski and We Energies for making a significant financial contribution which has enabled us to jump start the program. Hopefully, happy angling is just around the corner.”

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