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Middle School Students Help Stock Walleyes

by David Coles On October 6, a team of Department of Natural Resources staff and local seventh grade students released about two thousand “extended growth” walleyes into the Milwaukee River near Lakefront Brewery. The one-year-old fish were raised using funds provided by the Milwaukee River Basin Chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow, a group dedicated to restoring healthy populations of this native species, and to helping clean Milwaukee rivers to improve habitat. The target release number had been ten thousand fish, but unfortunately about eighty percent were lost to infection with a parasitic eye fluke. Joining in the stocking event were seventh graders from Riverwest teacher Thor Stolen’s class at Milwaukee Education Center Accelerated Middle School. The students have been learning about freshwater ecology and got a hands-on lesson along the river, each having the opportunity to personally release at least one of the six-to-eight-inch fish. The school’s principal, Debra Bell, said that she was “happy to see MEC students experiencing ‘powerful learning’ outside of the classroom.” This was the students’ second field trip that contributed to the cleanup and restoration of the Milwaukee River, which flows just a stone’s throw from their King Drive school. Mr. Stolen says, “The students are gaining respect for the environment and learning the value of community involvement.” Walleye stocking in the Milwaukee River has been going on for more than ten years, and the populations are flourishing. Abundant gizzard shad provide an excellent food source, and the local walleye enjoy some of the highest growth rates found in the state of Wisconsin. Stocking remains necessary due to a lack of spawning habitat, which has, to all appearances, prevented the fish from successfully reproducing. In spite of the popularity of stocking, the program may be in jeopardy, as the DNR will soon be deciding whether or not it will continue. The decision will be based in large part on public comments received at or before a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 30. Written comments will also be accepted until January 31st, 2005 and can be sent to: Wisconsin DNR, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee WI 53104, or via the DNR’s website: www.dnr.state.wi.us David Coles is the Treasurer of Walleyes for Tomorrow’s Milwaukee River Basin Chapter. For information on the group, call 414-614-7752 or email:
by David Coles