The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Lake Gogebic project aims to increase baitfish


Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

A BARGE loaded with boulders sets sail from Lake Gogebic at the Bergland dock Wednesday during a reef-building project.

BERGLAND - The Lake Gogebic Chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow believes sinking 550 tons of boulders will be a big boost to fishing on the lake.

The $45,000 rock-sinking project was expected to conclude today or early next week, as Outdoor Impact Shoreline and Landscape Services, of Green Lake, Wis., was hauling the boulders on a small barge 3.5 miles out from the Bergland dock.

Tony Piencikowski, secretary of the chapter, said a similar reef-building project worked well in another massive body of water, Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago.

"They now have a walleye season there that never closes, with a 13-inch minimum length and five fish," Piencikowski said on a picture-perfect Wednesday on the lake.

The Outdoor Impact crew of Adam Jahnke, Tim Soens Jr. and Troy Gregor was hauling from 25 to 30 tons of boulders at a time on a barge.

Propelled by twin outboard motors, the top speed for the barge was only about 5 mph, so the round trip took about three hours.

Piencikowski noted there aren't many firms that would take on such a project, but Outdoor Impact was eager to tackle the work.

Bob DeBonis, who's heading the local chapter's project, said the rock reefs placed in the area of the east shore will attract baitfish such as perch, crayfish and game species such as smallmouths.

"There's a lack of forage for walleyes in the lake," he said, noting past projects included planting minnows in the lake.

Funding comes from the local chapter's banquets and the corporate WFT office in Fond du Lac, Wis.

The Lake Gogebic chapter includes 136 members.

This week's project was the result of two years of planning, including obtaining numerous permits from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which supports the effort.

"George Madison of the DNR has said in the past that the lack of forage fish is why the walleyes are not getting bigger in the lake," DeBonis said.

The rock reefs have been constructed in a former river channel, which features a hard bottom.

The location away from cabins and summer homes was chosen because obtaining riparian (property lakeowners') rights would have complicated the project, DeBonis said.

The boulders were obtained from a nearby quarry, hauled in by Jerry Hartmann, according to the chapter members.

The Lake Gogebic chapter promises to make habitat improvement an ongoing effort.


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