DNR conducts annual fish population survey - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

SLIDESHOW & VIDEO INCLUDED: DNR conducts annual fish population survey

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Holcombe (WQOW) - The DNR's spring fish survey is underway around the state and despite a late ice out for area lakes the results are piling in.

Gear packed, boat launched and it's on the way to check the nets.

"58 degrees here, which is actually pretty warm.  It's a shallow bay though, it's going to warm up a little bit faster than what the main lake would," says DNR fisheries biologist, Heath Benike.

Which means fish spawning should be heating up and filling Fyke Nets along the shore.

"The main reason why they go in the net is they're basically starting to spawn so they're looking for places to spawn and fish to spawn with.  So as they swim along the shoreline when they hit that lead in the net they're not smart enough to turn around and go back the other way," says Benike.

WHICH RESULTS IN AN EASY WAY FOR THE DNR TO GATHER, "It's a Bluegill, very nice fish, probably around eight to eight and a half inches long," says Benike, count, sample, record and release.

"Right now we have 20 nets out on Lake Holcombe.  We're basically trying to capture spawning Northern Pike, Walleye, Yellow Perch and now the Crappies are starting to come in too," says Benike.

Game fish are clipped because later the DNR surveys again to establish a population count in the lake.

"We also age the fish too to see how fast they're growing.  If they're growing fast that tells us we have a lot of forage.  If they're growing really slow that may suggest there's too many fish in the lake and there's not enough food," says Benike.

Because with the right environment lakes like Holcombe can produce great game fish for anglers.

"Female Walleye, it's actually already spawned, it's already done spawning.  Real nice fish, probably in that 21 to 22 inch range," says Benike.

But if the results aren't favorable, the DNR can make adjustments.

"Based on our data, we can change a fishing regulation.  Another thing we may do is change stocking.  Let's say we're stocking fish in a lake and we're not seeing what we want to see or maybe we want to try different stocking size," says Benike.

The largest change for 2013; the late winter.

"Normally done with our Fyke Netting about three weeks ago. So this is the first time I've netted in the first week of May for spawning like Pike and Walleye," says Benike.

With measurements in hand, they can track this spring's species in the future.

Even the slimy salamander looking guy called a mud puppy.

The fish scales and spines from Walleyes collected during the survey are analyzed under the microscope over the winter to determine the fish's age.

Scales show rings like trees and the DNR counts each one, which represents a year.

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