MADISON - Wisconsin's next fisheries director takes over May 5 and is already well-known at home and abroad for nurturing Winnebago System's lake sturgeon into the world's largest population that supports a unique winter spearing season.
Ron Bruch WDNR Photo
"I'm really humbled and honored to follow in a long line of directors that includes the likes of Mike Staggs, Lee Kernen, Doc Schneberger and James Nevin," he says. "Mike's leadership took our fisheries program to a high level. It's my task to build on that and try to take it to the next level." Bruch says he looks forward to working with DNR staff and management, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the tribes, fishing groups, citizens and businesses with an interest in fishing, to expand outreach efforts and recruitment and retention of anglers. "We all share a common interest - making fishing great in Wisconsin."
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is excited about Bruch's appointment and strong connections with the fishing public, particularly as DNR focuses on developing statewide management plans for panfish, walleye, trout and bass and revising the Lake Michigan fisheries plan. "Ron has a proven track record of outstanding customer service," she says. "He is an accomplished professional in his field and is able to lead teams with differing perspectives towards a common goal. We are very fortunate that he has accepted this position and we look forward to the next great things he will accomplish."
Bruch was chosen from a deep field of candidates and impressed the broad panel of partners who served on the interview panel, says DNR Water Division Administrator Ken Johnson, who led the search for Staggs' replacement.
Representatives from the Conservation Congress, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission and a fisheries management staff member were among those serving on the interview panel, Johnson says.
As fisheries director, Bruch will lead a staff of 226 people and a budget of $27 million. Wisconsin's fisheries management program and fishing traditions are among the nation's strongest. Nearly 40 percent of adults 16 and older report fishing, and anglers catch an estimated 88 million fish a year and keep about one-third of them. Sport fishing generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits every year, supports 22,000 jobs, and generates $148 million in state and local tax revenues. Wisconsin ranks third, behind Florida and Michigan, in luring nonresident anglers to their waters.
Over his DNR career, Bruch has worked at every level in the fisheries management program from field and habitat technician, fisheries biologist, supervisor, to fisheries bureau section chief. He most recently was statewide planning director, working on projects including the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative plan to boost walleye populations statewide.
Although he has worked on both inland and Great Lakes fisheries, Bruch is most well-known for his service from 1986-2012 as the Winnebago sturgeon biologist and Oshkosh fisheries supervisor, where he led the assessment and public involvement efforts for the internationally respected program managing the Winnebago System's lake sturgeon population and winter spear fishery.
As a strong advocate for public involvement in resource management, Bruch has worked extensively throughout his career with anglers and other fisheries interests in the state including the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, recently joining forces with the Congress to create and launch the new Wisconsin Fisheries Advisory Council.
Bruch has a Bachelor of Science from UW-Stevens Point, and master's and doctorate degrees from UW-Milwaukee, all in fisheries science. He is author or co-author of numerous peer review publications, as well as the 11-time national award winning book "People of the Sturgeon, Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish."
Bruch currently serves as co-founder and president of the Wisconsin-based North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society, and as co-founder and secretary general of the Germany-based World Sturgeon Conservation Society.
Bruch and his wife Kathy have two married children and four grandsons.