At a meeting Jan. 8 at R&R Bayview Resort, nearly 60 Chippewa Flowage homeowners learned about an ambitious Pike Improvement Project to be undertaken this year by the Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Association (LCFRA) to remove 10,000 northern pike from the Big Chip fishery in one year.
Fisheries biologist Max Wolter of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) explained that reducing pike abundance by combining DNR netting and intense angler harvest has the potential to lead to a variety of improvements in the fishery, including larger pike. He said that in 2017 about one-third of the northern pike in Lac Courte Oreilles were removed and in just one year the average pike size increased 3.5 inches and stocked muskies had improved survival rates.
The LCFRA board understood similar results would be more difficult to achieve on the Chippewa Flowage because of its greater size and variable conditions. It was agreed taking northerns 24 inches and smaller would have the biggest impact on improving the fishery. They recognized that many anglers unintentionally catch northern pike, especially smaller ones, which usually are just released. Ideas were discussed on how to promote harvest and eat.
Barb Czarnecki, LCFRA representative, said resort owners on the Chip will be distributing entry tickets for prizes for every northern pike harvested legally. Each resort will be provided with laminated instructions on how to clean northern pike and recipes for cooking and pickling. The website www.chippewaflowage.com will have a pike cleaning video and recipes. Marketplace Foods has agreed to help develop pickling kits to make the process even easier. For instant gratification, lapel pins will be presented to anglers who take their harvest in one day.
The Pike Improvement Project is strongly supported by local clubs and organizations. The Chippewa Flowage Area Property Owners Association pledged more than $2,000 for support, and the Hayward Chapter of Muskies Inc. is printing Musky-Northern Pike identification posters to be distributed at all resorts and at boat landings.
In addition, since the musky survival environment is expected to be improved with the reduction of pike, the Hayward Muskies Inc. voted to provide an additional $12,000 for shiner minnows to really grow the 5,000 extended growth muskies they will stock in the Chippewa Flowage next fall.
The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame also donated the grand prize of $1,000. Entrants do not need to be present to win. The drawings will be held in October. Entry tickets require the name of the angler and contact information, the date of catch, size of fish and host location. LCFRA member guides, Jenks Bait and D & B Bait and Tackle also will be hosts. This data will be tabulated by the DNR for further study.