Max Wolter is DNR Fisheries Biologist at the Hayward Service Center.
The Namekagon River upstream from Hayward supports one of the most popular and productive brown trout fisheries in northern Wisconsin.
We survey a one mile stretch near Seeley on an annual basis to track trends in the trout population. The survey could not be completed in 2020, so we were excited to get out in 2021 to see how things had changed. On June 27, a team made up of DNR, the National Park Service, and other volunteers gathered to complete the survey.
The area received a significant amount of rainfall the night before the survey, which created some challenges. Still, we were able to complete the survey and gathered data that will help us understand what’s happening with the fishery.
Abundance (number captured per mile surveyed) of trout over 5 inches was right at the long-term average, as was the abundance of trout over 12 inches. Capture rate of large trout may have been impacted by the high water. Abundance of young of year trout (less than 5 inches) was excellent, and represented the second largest year class recorded in the 13-year history of this survey.
The largest year class recorded was in 2019. Between these two classes, we expect a high abundance of trout to be in the river over the next few years.
This survey also showed that the health of the overall trout fishery remains strong, despite low water and several periods of intense heat earlier in the summer. This population has shown itself to be fairly resilient, but smart watershed land use practices are still critical to preserve this exceptional fishery.