Something fishy in Wild Rose

The fish hatchery is the largest in the state

Written by Greg Siubert


After more than a century as one of the largest producers of fish in Wisconsin, the spawning of Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery shows no signs of slowing down.

Millions of fish — including trout, salmon, walleye, northern pike, musk and sturgeon — have been raised at the facility over the years before being stored in Lake Michigan or inland lakes, rivers and streams.

Jesse Landwer oversees the operations of the hatchery located north of the village of Wild Rose in Wauchara County.

“The Wild Rose hatchery is actually the largest hatchery in the state,” he said. “It has always been one of the largest hatcheries in the state just because of the groundwater resources we have here.

“The unique thing is that we keep both cold and cold water fish,” he said. “We grow trout and salmon for stocking in Lake Michigan, and we also farm walleye, boreal, musk, and lake sturgeon for inland storage. We stock lakes and streams across the state. Of the state’s 72 counties, we are likely to stock fish in more than 40 counties.

The hatchery is one of 11 hatcheries and breeding stations operated by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Wild Rose is the only hatchery in central Wisconsin.

“It’s beautiful because it’s a central location and the fish don’t have to go very far to get to other parts of the state,” Landwer said. “The hatchery is in place because of the massive groundwater resources that are in the area. We are sitting on the edge of the Wisconsin glacier. There is really a great aquifer under us and there were a lot of artesian wells here. They were building a pond and raising fish in it. And because they need more fish. They dig more puddles and flow more.”

Major face lift 2008-10

According to Landwehr, the hatchery underwent a major facelift from 2008 to 2010.

“The cold water facility was reconstructed – salmon and trout side – and opened in 2008,” he said. “The cold water side was completed in 2010. It was a large and extensive renovation. This was not really a renovation, it was a complete rebuild.”

The former hatchery area still stands and includes a visitor center.

“The old hatchery is still here and you can still see it,” Landwer said. “This is where the visitor center is and you can walk around the old facility. The new hatchery was built to fix a lot of groundwater problems because a lot of the artesian wells that were showing up were not legal wells. They were just a pipeline going down into the aquifer so that if If anything ever happened, it could contaminate it. They’ve capped all the old wells at the facility to prevent anything from happening to the aquifer.”

The renovation of the hatchery also solved a major problem: fish predation by wild animals.

“The old hatcheries were outdoors, so birds, otters and mink had access to the fish,” Landwer said. “We were raising thousands of extra fish every year just because we had to plan for predation losses. When they rebuilt the hatchery, it was all inside and it was all well water, so we could control the flows and temperatures. We grow the fish in a much healthier environment. They don’t have bacteria and stuff. From the outside world they come in. We can control that much better.”

Landwehr said the Wild Rose hatchery and other state hatcheries are among the main reasons Wisconsin has been a major fishing destination for years.

“Storage is a really big investment and it’s a very important part of fisheries science,” he said. “Fish stocking is critical, as is all the survey work we have done to assess what the populations of the lakes look like. Establishing regulations is important and the habitat work that our crews do is important. I enjoy the fact that we are putting out fish for the public to catch.”

The visitor center provides access

Fish farming has been going on for over 100 years at the Wild Rose State fish hatchery.

A visit to the hatchery visitor center gives people a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes at the largest state-run fish hatchery in Wisconsin.

Lake trout, salmon, walleye, northern pike, musky and sturgeon are reared at a hatchery before being stocked in Lake Michigan and inland lakes, rivers and streams.

Joan Voigt offers tours of the hatchery and also oversees the visitor center.

“The visitor center has two 300-gallon tanks,” she said. “One of them is for our cold water fish, which is trout and salmon. Now, we have brown and hardheaded trout or rainbow trout there. These fish would have spawned a year ago in January and are about 6 inches long at present. The rest of them are stored These fish in Lake Michigan from Door County all the way to the River Root in Racine.”

Meanwhile, the cold-water basin in the center includes grey, northern and yellow perch.

“We have a lot of hands-on exhibits,” Voigt said. “There’s a mock fish tech lab, so you can be a fish tech expert all day. You sort the eggs and do some calculations to see how many eggs are left alive. We have a kind of microscope where people can look at insects and microscopic eggs.”

“We also have a sturgeon exhibit, which talks about the story of the sturgeon, its history, and how the species was nearly decimated,” she added. “Our hatchery is the only hatchery that raises sturgeon in the lake. We will spawn them by (Wisconsin) Dells as soon as the water temperature is warm enough. We bring them back here and raise them. They will be stocked the following year in Merrill and we will work our way across the River Wisconsin to Baraboo.”

The center also contains a mock fishing pond, Voigt said.

“Kids love it,” she said. “They can catch a fish and try to identify it and determine if it is invasive or native. We have an invasive species display. There are many aquatic invasives that disturb the natural habitat of our native fish. We have a record fame with 26 fish and people can try to guess what that fish is based on. basis of its shape.

The hatcheries set up open houses in the spring and fall, but this year’s spring event has been put on hold.
“We just reopened again and we weren’t sure how quickly we would get permission to open up and open up to the public here,” Landwer said. “As long as everything continues, we plan to do our open houses for immigration in the fall again.”

Landwer said COVID-19 has affected public access to the facility.

“It was hard to see the visitor center unused for a year,” he said. “We opened for a while last year for a little while and closed for the winter. This spring we opened our doors again at the beginning of April, so we are back to our regular schedule again.”

Memorial Day Summer Hours Begin

Summer hours at the center begin on Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day.

“We have a really great visitor center with a lot of educational offerings for students,” he said. We don’t allow the public into the buildings because we’re trying to keep bacteria and diseases out. We have a video we put together a year or two ago that shows the inner workings of the hatchery. On the tour, Joanne will take you to our cold water building where there is an observation room with windows so you can see what’s going on without actually entering the hatchery.”

“We’re open on all three summer holidays, including the Fourth of July, and we’re Wednesday through Saturday,” Voigt said. “From 8 to 3 people can walk around the property and the building will generally be open from 9 to 2.”

Voigt offers guided tours at 10am and 1pm

Tours can be scheduled by calling her at 920-622-3527, ext. 209 or [email protected]

“I offer a 10-minute video of what we’re doing here,” Voigt said. “Then I will take them to our nursery where they can see inside the viewing window where the baby fish are raised. If you have a group you would like to bring at a different time, just call me a week in advance so I can arrange a date for them. If there is a group Of 20 or more people, I am asking them to call ahead to book so I can give them my full attention.”

The public can also spend time along the waterways where the hatcheries raised fish before a major renovation from 2008 to 2010.

The great brown trout still swims the rink, which is a huge hit with students who visit the hatchery in the spring and fall.

“We have a lot of old brown trout mothers that are probably 10 to 15 years old,” Landwer said. “It is a good size and the kids always love to see the fish. It is great to see where the hatchery came from and then to go to the new facility and see how much it has progressed over the years.”

“They are really excited and we let them feed the fish,” Voigt said. “We have a feed dispenser in our picnic shelter that takes place. The fish will jump and go crazy for food.”

“The historic hatchery is always open,” Landwer said. “There are some educational shows out there and people are always welcome to come and check during the day if the hatchery gates are open.”
The visitor center gives the public a chance to see what’s happening at the hatchery, Voigt said.

“It’s really important to share what we’re doing and it usually amazes people to know what it takes to grow fish,” she said. “Wild Rose is one of 11 hatcheries that help maintain a balance in lakes and rivers. Some fish do not reproduce well. Sometimes, they are overfished. We help maintain this balance and keep populations healthy for fishermen to have a great opportunity to catch fish.” “.

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