Northern pike rescued from Suamico wetlands

A northern pike is stranded in wetlands near Suamico April 21, 2014, after moving from Green Bay to spawn. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
A northern pike is stranded in wetlands near Suamico April 21, 2014, after moving from Green Bay to spawn. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

SUAMICO - Dozens of northern pike are back home in the waters of Green Bay after being trapped in their spring spawning grounds.

The fish make their way upstream into wetlands and ditches, but cannot make the return trip when water levels go down.

In the shallow waters beneath a Suamico wetlands, northern pike are tired, trapped, and in trouble.

"They can swim up the ditches when the water is high. The wetland that we have here is prime habitat for northern pike to spawn in," said Tammie Paoli, DNR fisheries biologist. "What we've been seeing the last few years is the water level drops in the ditch, so the pike can't get back out to the bay when they need to."

But help is on the way. Crews from the DNR, Brown County Land Conservation, and UW-Green Bay used portable shocking equipment to flush out the fish.

"It temporarily stuns the fish, it doesn't hurt them, and it gives enough time to stun them for somebody to be able to net them," said Paoli.

Scott Sonnabend and his family checked out the operation Monday morning.

"It's pretty interesting, nice to see these northern going back to the bay, and it's exciting for the boys to see a big fish up close," said Scott Sonnabend of Suamico.

The fish were measured, and for the first time, tagged as well.

"If we have any of those same fish with tags that we tagged this year, it will give us some information if the same fish come to the same place year after year," said Paoli.

It's a place that may be getting smaller.

"A lot of these wetlands were lost years and years ago. When all the ditching was done on the west shore. A lot of the wetlands that were connected to these stream networks are gone. Either filled, or fish don't have access to them," said Mike Mushinski, Brown County Land Conservation Department.

In all, 41 northern pike traveled three miles to the Suamico boat landing to be released back into the bay.

"We know that naturally this happens in many wetlands all the way up and down the bay. Any little bit that we can do helps," said Paoli.

The DNR says this is the only fish rescue planned. But they say crews may be back if warm temperatures trigger another spawning run.