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Friends of Gile stock Flowage with bluegill

 

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

JACOB BUSCH, with the Stevens Point-based Central Wisconsin Fish Farm, nets bluegills Monday as part of an effort to stock the Gile Flowage with more panfish.

PENCE, Wis - The already good fishing in the Gile Flowage will hopefully improve over the next few fishing seasons as an additional 5,000 bluegill were released at the Pence Park Boat Landing Monday.

The fish-stocking effort is part of a three-prong strategy to increase the number of panfish in the flowage and protect the population from predators to ensure the long-term sustainability of the population.

"(The Gile Flowage) is really a predator-dominated system, and so if you just put bluegills in (it won't last)," said Zach Lawson, a fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Bureau of Fisheries Management. "We've tried that in the past, and it improves the fishery for a short period of time but then there is just very little refuge for these little bluegill from these predators - mainly walleye."

Lawson said stocking the flowage during spring ensures the higher water levels provide extra brush and other cover to provide protection for the fish.

Bluegill were chosen not only because they fit the requirement as a panfish but also as a way to reduce the invasive species populations.

"We selected bluegills because they have a tendency to prefer the invasive spiny water flea over other diet items, and more so than other panfish species in the Gile," Lawson said.

"Because panfish levels are at very low density in (the Gile), that kind of releases the predation on spiny water fleas and so you can get them at really high (levels) during the summer," he said. "So we come at it from the invasive species angle too."

A second release of another 5,000 bluegill is planned for fall, Lawson said. The DNR is also exploring the possibility of doing a panfish transfer from an upstream source, but Lawson said a suitable location had to be found for this effort to move forward.

The stocking project is funded through a private effort, including work by the non-profit Friends of the Gile Flowage and donations from area businesses and residents.

Along with the increase in panfish population, there are also efforts to improve the panfish habitat.

Lawson said the Friends of the Gile has been working with Xcel Energy to drop trees in specific locations on the flowage to provide additional cover. He said plans have been put in place, and while permits need to be secured, he hopes the work will be done in fall and winter.

"We've been doing a lot of scouting work to try and locate very precise areas where these young bluegills need refuge from predation," Lawson said. "In very specific locations as water levels come down in the summer time adjacent to spawning areas, and the deep water they are going to move into later in the year as that water level recedes."

Lawson said conservation efforts are also underway to ensure fishing doesn't deplete the populations either.

"As we stock these fish, we want to try and protect them," Lawson said. "It's a lot of time, effort and money by everybody."

One proposed rule would reduce the daily bag limit for panfish in the Gile from 25 to 10.

Lawson said this proposal would be discussed at the DNR's next spring hearing and possibly implemented in 2018.

Given the size of the existing panfish in the flowage, Lawson said lowering the limit shouldn't impact the fishing experience.

"We've got a good thing going here already, the fishery is in really good shape," Lawson said. "We just want to boost numbers a little bit - hence the stocking."

If anything the stocking effort will likely result in a better fishing experience, given there will be more fish to catch.

"The size is already there. You just don't see fisheries with the panfish community like the Gile has," Lawson said. "The average size is phenomenal ... but there just aren't that many of them."

 
 

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