Panfish re-stocking funds sought for Little Elkhart Lake

by Paul Boocher Chair, Little Elkhart Lake Management Committee

In the spring of 2014, Travis Motl, the local Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, determined that a total fish kill had occurred at Little Elkhart Lake due to the extreme winter of 2013/2014.

The long cold winter provided for more than 30” of ice depth on the lake and a continuous snowcover of more than a foot of snow all winter long. These conditions helped create a depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lake.

The fish suffocated due to not having enough dissolved oxygen to survive. Residents of the district, and Camp Anokijig removed several hundred dead fish from the shoreline of Little Elkhart Lake and disposed of them.

In order to restore the fish population to the lake, Mr. Motl stated that DNR protocol would require that at least 16,000 panfish or more would need to be restocked into the lake along with some predator fish.

Through a generous private donation and efforts by the Sheboygan County Conservation Association (SCCA) 7,500 panfish were restocked to Little Elkhart Lake in the spring and fall of 2014. These were native panfish that were purchased from a DNRapproved fish farm. They included 3” to 5” Bluegill, Yellow Perch, and Black Crappie and some small Largemouth Bass.

In the fall of 2014 the DNR stocked some small Northern Pike that were provided from the state gamefish hatcheries that are owned and operated by the DNR.

The state of Wisconsin does not own or operate any panfish hatcheries. Therefore, any panfish that are needed to restock Little Elkhart Lake would have to be purchased from a DNR approved fish hatchery.

Thirty-five years ago, this same type of winter fish kill occurred at Little Elkhart Lake. At that time the DNR had the resources to restock the lake with Rainbow Trout immediately in an effort to give the fishing public some fish to fish for. The funds and resources to do this again no longer exist.

In the 1980’s it was legal and common practice to do lake-tolake transfers of fish in order to help with restocking a lake that had been winter killed. The laketo lake transfer method was one of methods that was used to restock the lake at that time. Lake-to-lake is no longer allowed because of the Viral Septicemia Hemorrhagic (VHS) disease in some fish populations.

These factors leave the re-population of panfish to Little Elkhart Lake to the public sector.

A volunteer from Camp Anokijig has been monitoring the dissolved oxygen levels in the lake this past winter to determine when critical levels are reached that might threaten the survival of the fish.

The Little Elkhart Lake Rehabilitation District has been involved in efforts to keep the fish of the 2014 stocking alive by purchasing and operating an aerator that adds dissolved oxygen to the lake water in the winter months.

Along with records gathered about the amount of dissolved oxygen in the lake the aerator can be used if needed to sustain the fishery once it is returned to a healthy status.

The District, through its Lake Management Committee, and in partnership with the Sheboygan County Conservation Association, has been raising money to purchase at least 8,000 more small panfish to be restocked to the lake.

The Little Elkhart Lake Rehabilitation District is applying for a matching funds grant from the Sheboygan County Stewardship Fund. If the grant request is accepted, it means that the money collected by the District could be matched by the Stewardship Fund allowing for even more panfish to be purchased and released into the lake.

Little Elkhart Lake has long been known as a popular destination for fishing and boating recreation of all kinds.

Camp Anokijig, a not-forprofit youth services organization, has fishing as one of its major outdoor activities. Without a healthy fishery in Little Elkhart Lake the fishing classes offered by Camp Anokijig would suffer.

Fishing at Little Elkhart Lake has historically been a year-round activity. That is what the Little Elkhart Lake Rehabilitation District is hoping to achieve again by collecting funds for restocking panfish to the lake.

Donations of any amount can be made to the District’s partner the Sheboygan County Conservation Association (SCCA) at P.O. Box 522 Sheboygan, WI 53081.

Please make a note that the donation is intended to restock panfish to Little Elkhart Lake. The SCCA is a registered 501 (c) 3 organization and all donations are tax deductable.


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