At our AFS meeting last week, Mike Mushinski from the Brown County Land & Water Conservation department came in to talk about northern pike restoration projects he is involved with. He is currently involved with a west shore YOY and adult monitoring project that has been going on since 2003. Green Bay proper has a poor habitat for these fish, and Mike is focusing on small, intermittent streams and wetland complexes to study them. Due to habitat degradation, there has been a significant decrease in northern pike populations. This is mostly because the pike do not have a place to spawn where their larvae are successfully able to make it out to the bay. Northern pike are not a species that needs assistance in reproducing – they do fine with that. What they need is a place for successful reproduction. They require small ephemeral wetlands, lots of vegetation, and shallow waters for a significant amount of time.
Part of the project includes setting out wooden box traps to catch the YOY northern pike migrating back out to the bay. The pike were counted and measured, and then released. This data has shown that within the last 3-4 years, populations have increased substantially. It was also found that many other species utilize these wetlands, including black bullhead, suckers, shortnose gar, bowfin, yellow perch, and many minnow/shiner species.
Another significant part of this restoration project is creating barriers, or water control structures, to hold water in a spawning site. This is a way to keep water levels up so that the ichthyoplankton can develop and the young-of-year fish can migrate out.
One initial positive to this study is that northern pike do not use natal homing to return to the stream they were spawned in, so that means that they may be more likely to utilize these restored areas for reproduction.