Aaron J. Cole from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sent the Chetek Alert the most recent lake survey which was completed in 2018. He indicated that this study was done on Pokegama and Prairie Lake. The complete survey is available on the Alert’s website. The next planned study will take place in 2025. The management recommendations provide a glimpse into the health of our fish populations in the chain.
1.) Large fingerling walleye stockings have improved the walleye fishery and performed better than small fingerlings that were historically stocked in the Chetek Chain. The current alternate year walleye stocking program between the DNR and Walleyes for Chetek stocking should continue (contingent upon availability from DNR hatcheries). An adult walleye density of 2–3 adults per acre could be achievable as different year classes inhabit the fishery. No changes to regulations should be made.
2.) Bluegill and crappie populations continue to be in good shape. These populations support a popular fishery. Despite the high angling pressure (273 to 454% more than Barron and Polk average), the bluegill and crappie populations continue to provide a respectable fishery due to the high fertility of the Chetek Chain. No regulation changes are recommended at this time.
3.) Northern pike have low density and high size structure. The northern pike population is likely limited by shallow vegetation used for spawning. Further protection of these areas is recommended. The current 26-in-minimum length limit and two-fish bag limit should remain.
4.) The largemouth bass population is healthy with good size structure and moderate catch rates. No changes are recommended for the current regulation.
5.) The next comprehensive survey (with SN1, SE1, SE2, and FE) is planned for 2025. The success of the large fingerling stocking should be further evaluated during that survey by assessing the abundance, age structure, population demographics, and stocking survival of the walleye population. Due to the importance of the panfish fishery, the size structure and abundance of the panfish populations should continue to be closely monitored as well.
6.) Winter aeration has prevented major fish kills on the upper end of Prairie Lake. The Prairie Lake aeration project should continue in cooperation among the DNR, the local townships and Barron County.
7.) Efforts to increase habitat complexity in the Chetek Chain should also be encouraged where applicable. Inputs of coarse woody debris, protection/promotion of aquatic vegetation and maintenance/restoration of vegetative buffers are all necessary habitat work for the Chetek Chain. This website healthylakeswi.com is a great resource to learn about this recommendation.
8.) Invasive species monitoring and control programs should continue. Efforts to keep aquatic invasive species out of a waterbody are much more effective than controlling invasive species once they are established.