Spring Netting on the Madison Chain with the DNR

by Free Speech on April 15, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

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The ice on the Madison Chain of Lakes has been off for just over a week. The smaller “Chain Lakes”; Lake Kegonsa, Lake Waubesa, and Lake Wingra have been open for a week longer. The larger lakes, Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, are always the last of the area lakes to open up. Lake Mendota is always the last lake to open up just because of its sheer size and depth. Lake Monona was the next to last lake to open up about the first of April and that’s when our DNR began its spring work.

Madison Muskie




Every spring, as soon as the ice clears, DNR personnel are out on the Madison lakes doing their early spring “fyke” netting as part of the continued research that the DNR annually does on local waters. Fyke nets are long hoop nets that allow the fish to enter and be “captured” till checked daily by DNR technicians to be measured and fin-clipped for later identification and research. The Department of Natural Resources does comprehensive research on one of the local lakes every year which includes; fyke netting in the spring and electro-shocking at least once later in the year. Despite the budget cuts that are coming down the road, the DNR still does great work and makes the Madison fishery one of the best around!

I had contacted DNR Fisheries Biologist, Kurt Welke, about joining his crew one day to take some images, shoot some video, and see the netting process up close. The DNR had put their nets on Lake Monona about April 1st when all the ice was finally gone. This was the year to do continued research, netting, and shocking on Lake Monona. The Department tries to target a different Chain lake every year in their continuing research project. Lake Monona has been the center of muskie research the last few years with muskies being released from the Leech Lake strain of muskies and the Wisconsin muskie strain. The purpose of this research is to see which strain of muskies is better suited for “our” waters between the two muskie strains. The state is looking for a cost effective fish and one that also grows fast. This on-going project will take years to see what it results produce.The last few years, Lake Monona has been producing muskies over 50 inches which is considered a trophy to most muskie anglers in any state.

I met Kurt Welke, Scott Harpold, a lead DNR fish technician, Dick Brandt, another technician, and Scott Harpold’s brother, Dale, at the Olin Park boat landing on Saturday morning at 8:00 am. Kurt, Scott, and Dick are DNR employees and Dale was a volunteer. If interested, the DNR is looking for help and volunteers in many of their departments due to budget cuts. Contact the DNR if interested in helping.

The netting crew had 16 nets placed in locations around Lake Monona where it was likely that they would trap or capture fish. Welke and Brandt went off in one boat and Scott, Dale, and I went to check fyke nets in another area of the lake. The nets are placed in spots that would likely have fish concentrations this time of year. Some of the good locations where nets were placed were points on the lake, hard bottom areas of rock and gravel, and near the inlets and outlets on Lake Monona. The fyke nets are anchored on shore and then the hoop net is pulled tight out from shore, and then anchored at the end in deeper water. Most of the nets are in water from 5 to 10 feet deep. Most, if not all fish species are found in water less than 10 feet deep this time of year. Fish seek out the warmest water they can find this time of year. Now, the warm water is shallow and on the north shore of lakes because there they get the most sunlight and warmth.

Saturday was supposed to be warm and in the 60’s, but the fog never burned off and the water on Lake Monona is still 42 degrees which makes it rather chilly when working. This might have been one of the few times that I’ve ever been on Lake Monona without seeing a fleet of fishing boats. I saw one couple out fishing, the University crew team was working hard, hundreds of coots were constantly running across the water, and I saw more loons than I can ever remember seeing at one time before. Loons are loners and you rarely see more than a pair on most northern Wisconsin lakes in the summer. This time of year, the Madison lakes get a large number of migrating ducks and water birds that you probably wouldn’t even know that they passed through like shovelers, pintails, and widgeons. Most of these birds are just migrating through the area and the Madison Chain of Lakes attracts thousands of ducks that are on their way up north with its thousands of acres of water. These birds are gone by the time most people get on the water to fish, sail, and ski.

We were hoping to get some muskies in the nets for photographing, but this wasn’t the day for big fish. Last week, there seemed to be a frontal system moving through Wisconsin every other day. This hurts netting just like fishing! Fish Technician, Scott Harpold, said that the best times for netting are those following a sunny and warm day. One day last week, there were 30 muskies in one net and the next day there were no muskies in the same net. The largest muskies netted thus far were fish that measured 47 and 46 inches. This is the time of the year when fish are constantly moving and where the fish were one day doesn’t mean that they’ll be there the next day. Saturday was not one of the better days for netting, but I got to see a sampling of the numerous fish that inhabit Lake Monona which is very impressive. Harpold’s crew checked eight nets that all were full of nice-sized bluegills, crappies, and the occasional perch in most every net. Then, in some of the nets there were numerous largemouth bass, the odd walleye, and a few good size northern pike. Bluegills were the most common captured fish species followed by crappies and largemouth bass. The northern pike are just finishing their spawning with a few fish still dripping eggs, the walleyes are getting close to spawning, and the perch were filled with eggs to soon drop in the weeds.

The research and data that the DNR workers are doing is strictly on gamefish; muskies, northern pike, walleyes, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass. The gamefish are taken from the net to a tank for holding them before they are measured and fin-clipped. All gamefish are measured, clipped, and recorded by length for research. When netting, you often come across fish that have been caught before or recaptured. Muskies are checked for PIT tags or passive integrated transponders that were injected into fish at a previous capture or stocking.

The Madison fisheries seem to be in very good condition with good populations of all fish species. But, much of this is due to the stocking that the DNR regularly does. The walleyes and muskies in our waters do not reproduce. So, all the quality fish that we have in the Madison Chain is due to the DNR stocking and anglers practicing catch and release. We’re extremely lucky to have such wonderful fishing at out doorsteps.

www.garyengbergoutdoors.com You may go on my website and see some YouTube video of the netting.

10106 Hwy.  Y Mazomanie, WI.    53560
Phone & Fax    608 795-4208
E-mail    gengberg@chorus.net
Web site: http://www.garyengbergoutdoors.com
Copyright Gary Engberg Outdoors 2011

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