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News From Behind the Scenes at Engbretson Underwater Photo and Stories about the Freshwater Environments We Visit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lake Ellwood Update: Without Chemicals, Fish Return

Eurasian Watermilfoil (c)Eric Engbretson

Last year on this blog, I wrote a piece about Lake Ellwood, the Florence County lake where reproduction by bass and bluegills had come to a halt due to lack of aquatic plants in the lake.  (You can read my original posting here.)  In the meantime, there's been some interesting new developments that I'd like to share with you in the following Lake Ellwood Update:

In the spring of 2013, an application from the Lake Ellwood Association to further chemically treat about three acres of Eurasian Watermilfoil was denied by the Wisconsin DNR.  Instead, a 5 year whole-lake study began on the lake in the summer of 2013 headed by Dr. Greg Sass of the WDNR's Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Research Section. The goal of the study is to better understand why a drastic change in the fish community occurred between 2002-2012 and to test for effects of chemical treatments/reduction in aquatic plants on the Lake Ellwood fishery.

In the early stages of the study, noticeable changes have already been observed.  Since chemical treatments have ceased, the fish and aquatic plant community has responded.  The most recent fish surveys conducted during September and October of 2013 revealed robust year classes of bluegills and largemouth bass.  Native aquatic plants have also rebounded.  Littoral areas that were barren just one year ago now have lush colonies of native plants.  "I couldn't believe how fast the native plants returned", remarked an amazed Greg Matzke, Florence County Fisheries Biologist.

Matzke is optimistic about the five year study (which doesn't include any further chemical treatments for Eurasian Watermilfoil.) "It's my hope that after taking a very thorough look at the fish community, we can better understand what drives natural reproduction of fish in Lake Ellwood, and provide a plausible explanation of why the fish community crashed and how the fight to control Eurasian Watermilfoil has contributed to it." 

Lake Ellwood still has a few acres of invasive milfoil and likely always will. What's returned are the native plants and young largemouth bass and bluegills.  It's a trade off that feels like an immediate victory for fisheries managers at this point.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What are the Clearest Lakes in Wisconsin? 2013

I was talking to Jennifer Filbert at the Wisconsin DNR the other day. Jennifer manages the data for the state-wide citizen's lake monitoring group.  They're a network of individuals, usually lake-front property owners who monitor and regularly take a variety of water samples from lakes all across Wisconsin.  The data they compile helps to give us a look at how our lakes are doing. One of the many tasks lake monitors perform is to take regular sechi disc readings.  This is a universal way of assessing and comparing water clarity.  I was interested to know which Wisconsin inland lakes were the clearest.  Jennifer sent me a spreadsheet of some really comprehensive data and I thought it would be interesting to pass this along.  Here are the lakes that recorded the highest average water clarity in 2013. In short-here are Wisconsin's clearest inland lakes and their average water clarity in 2013:

1)   Black Oak Lake-Vilas Co.-37 feet
2)   Pine Lake-Waukesha Co.-27 feet
3)   Maiden Lake-Oconto Co.-26 feet
4)   Keyes Lake-Florence Co.-25 feet
5)   Whitefish Lake-Douglas Co.-25 feet
6)   Eagle Lake-Bayfield Co.-24 feet
7)   Lake Metonga-Forest Co.-23 feet
8)   Lake Lucerne-Forest Co.-23 feet
9)   Stormy Lake-Vilas Co.-23 feet
10) Blue Lake-Oneida Co.-23 feet
11) Bolger Lake-Oneida Co.-23 feet
12) Lac Courte Oreilles-Sawyer Co.-22 feet
13) Lake Owen-Bayfield Co.-22 feet
14) Millicent Lake-Bayfield Co.-22 feet
15) Deer Lake-Polk Co.-22 feet

For the 2014 lake list, click here.  For the 2012 list, click here.