Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lake Puckaway fish kill affects netted, penned game fish and rough fish

Contractor hired to remove rough fish from lake is faulted Public meeting scheduled for December 16

MONTELLO - “Final estimates of the number of dead fish as the result of a preventable fish kill in Lake Puckaway in Green Lake County are expected to be completed in several days,” says Ron Bruch, DNR Fisheries Team Leader in Oshkosh.

The fish kill was reported by a Puckaway lakeshore resident who had concerns about the way the rough fish removal contract was being carried out by a carp removal contractor who is permitted to harvest rough fish, primarily carp, from the lake. There has been a contracted removal of rough fish on this lake for several decades without any similar incident. This is the first year with this particular contractor and the contract with him has been terminated.

The north and south shores of the lake where most of the fish were killed are adjacent to the areas where the contractor had set up his net pens. The contractor’s failure to remove the game fish as required from these nets was the primary cause of the fish kill. Thirty per-cent of the fish killed were game fish. Various species of rough fish made up the remaining 70%.

Fresh dead walleye and drum have been collected and sent to the lab in Madison for necropsy and disease testing. “The final tallies of the numbers of walleye that we picked up or were seen dead on shore may be less than we originally thought,” said Bruch, “however the size of the walleyes was impressive -- with many fish over 5 pounds.”

DNR fisheries biologists are collecting the facts about the kill, doing dead fish counts, collecting biological information on the walleyes, and developing estimates of the size of the kill. DNR law enforcement officers are conducting a thorough investigation, have terminated the rough fish contract, and will hold discussions with the Green Lake District Attorney to determine what legal action may be taken.

Fisheries staff are working closely with the district to sort through the information and put together a plan of action to move forward with the management of the fishery. “Several individuals asked whether the DNR was going to stock the lake to re-build the walleye population,” said Bruch who explained that stocking the lake will not replace the large walleyes that were killed. He reports that the walleyes ranged from 18 to 28 inches and were probably 6 to 18 years in age.

Biologists will alter their lake assessment schedule to conduct a fisheries survey on Lake Puckaway after ice is out in the spring of 2010. Until the fish biologists do their assessment of the lake they won’t have an accurate picture of what kind of impact the kill actually had on the fish community. DNR and the lake associations will move forward from that point.

Prior to this fish kill, the DNR had planned to work with the lake district to prepare their walleye wagon to spawn and raise walleye fry for stocking in spring 2010. Biologists reaffirmed their commitment to work with them to make sure they get the eggs from the lake, that the walleye wagon is functioning properly, and that the fry stocked are marked for future assessment.

DNR has scheduled a public meeting to review and discuss the information about the kill and plans for the future. Members of surrounding communities, area businesses, and lakeshore residents are pleased that DNR is moving ahead to actively involve the public. The public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on December 16 at the UW Extension facility, 480 Underwood Avenue in Montello.

The department will advertise this meeting in local newspapers in the Lake Puckaway area and the Lake Puckaway District and Association will get the meeting announcement posted on the Lake District/Association web site.

DNR biologists are confident they will have good data on this fish kill and that they have a solid strategy outlined to move forward.

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