In late April and early May, watershed management biologists Steve Rood and Derek Maki with Colorado State University were at many of Fort McCoy's lakes and ponds completing fish-population surveys as part of a cooperative agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The surveys, according to Fisheries Biologist John Noble with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch, are necessary to determine the health of the installation's many waterways.

"The surveys produce data that is really critical for our fisheries management," Noble said. "We have good fishing opportunities here because the Army and this installation take the health of our waterways very seriously."

Surveys include electrofishing streams and netting and electrofishing lakes and ponds, Noble said. Much care is taken to ensure the fish caught are not harmed. Fish caught include rainbow, brook, and brown trout; bluegills; bass; pumpkinseed; crappies; and other warm-water species.

In each area they netted and conducted surveys, Maki and Rood measured each fish, checked its weight, and tagged many of them. Certain species are tagged or given a recognizable mark by clipping the fish fin while specific fish species are affixed with a numbered tag. These surveys are completed every year with typically five lakes being assessed, Rood said.

"Sometimes we capture fish we've netted in previous years, and we can further track growth," Rood said. "As the years go on, we're able to establish a history of results for each area we have netted and recorded information about fish."

Using mathematical equations, a fish population estimate can be derived from marked and recaptured fish during the survey, Noble said. Age and growth of these populations are also determined from lab assessment of fish structures, such as scales or otoliths.

Noble said he encourages Fort McCoy anglers to report any tagged fish information, too.

 "Usually, we are looking to get the date of catch, lake or stream location, the tag number and fish length information, which can be submitted to our Permit Sales Office," Noble said. "Many anglers already do this, and we send them information specific to the fish they caught. Giving us fish length to the nearest quarter inch is best. Some anglers even provide fish weight." 

Noble described a past young angler he knows who harvested some largemouth bass from North Flowage and was surprised to learn the fish were nearly as old as the angler. 

"Some fish take longer to grow due to over-competition for food," Noble said. "The good news is we are finding improvements in North Flowage bass growth and encourage anglers to eat more of the smaller bass. We learn a lot about our fishery through fish tagging, creel surveys, and angler interactions." 

From the 2018 surveys, Noble said there are a good variety of fish in all the lakes, ponds, and streams on post.

"I would encourage more anglers to try stream fishing, too," Noble said. "We are seeing some larger brook trout and brown trout that anglers would enjoy catching.

"And all throughout the post, we had another 15,000 rainbow trout recently stocked for anglers to catch, plus naturally producing populations of fish are doing very well."

Anglers must have the appropriate Fort McCoy permits and Wisconsin licenses to fish on post. This includes a general Wisconsin fishing license, a trout stamp if fishing for trout, and a Fort McCoy fishing permit.
Fort McCoy fishing permits are sold through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Service Center and participating service agents statewide.

Permits can be purchased locally at Fort McCoy at the Pine View Campground office or the Exchange.

Licenses also can be purchased at the WDNR online at https://gowild.wi.gov. All prospective anglers have to do is create an account at the Go Wild site, select the licenses they need, pay for the licenses, and print them, all online.

The cost of a Fort McCoy annual fishing permit is $13 for people age 16 and older. Permits for youth under 16, seniors (age 65 or better), and disabled anglers and four-day fishing permits are $8. There also will be a Free Fishing Weekend on June 2-3 in Wisconsin and at Fort McCoy. No licenses or permits are needed, but all bag limits and other rules apply.

"The Free Fishing Weekend is an excellent time for people to come out and see all the fantastic fishing areas we have here," Noble said.

Anglers should call the i-Sportsman Game Line at 866-277-1597 or visit the i-Sportsman website (https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net) for updated fishing area closures.