Fish and Fisheries

Great Lakes fisheries are under stress, and new management approaches must be found to cope with these difficult challenges. The list of needed research encompasses fish biology and population dynamics, habitat and ecosystem health, toxic chemical contaminants, the potential effects of climate change, socioeconomic impacts and conflict resolution. Recent Wisconsin Sea Grant-supported fisheries research has focused on the lake trout fishery and food web dynamics in Lake Superior, and the decline of yellow perch and smelt fisheries in Lake Michigan.


Great Lakes Fishes Poster 2014
Our popular fish poster is a great way to hang your love of fish on your wall.  Read more...


Researchers Find That Dioxin Exposure Can Impact Fish Noses and Reproductive Tracts
A Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded researcher discovered dioxin could have a negative impact on the nose tissue and sexual development of rainbow trout and zebrafish. Read more...

Wisconsin Fish

Fish Identification Tool
Trying to identify a Wisconsin fish?  We have just the tool for the job.  You can search for a fish by name or identify one by its appearance. You can now download an Android app or an iOS app.

Fish Species
More than 170 species of fish inhabit the Great Lakes, their tributaries and connecting waterways. Read more...

Eat Wisconsin Fish
Health experts agree that everyone should eat two servings of fish a week. It’s easy to make at least one of these weekly servings from a Wisconsin fish farm or the Great Lakes! Read more...

Savory Recipes
Looking for some new recipes using local fish? 

Download the Wisconsin Fish ID Mobile App!
Carry 174 Wisconsin fish in your pocket!  Download the mobile app and you can identify Wisconsin fish wherever you go, no Internet connection required. Read more...

Fish Anatomy
View a gallery of the anatomical features of fish.  Learn about general anatomy, body forms, color patterns, fins, mouths, and scales. You can now download an Android app or an iOS app. Read more...

Fish Glossary
Don't know the difference between your caudal peduncle and your mandibular pores? You can sort it all out here. You can now download an Android app and an iOS app is coming soon. Read more...

Trap Nets

Net maps, coordinates and depths
The 2015 trap net season is over. Check back in Spring 2016 for updates.

Manitowoc-Two Rivers Trap net maps: Out of the water.

Be aware of nets! Sheboygan nets will be between 43 40' 55" and 43 34' 39" between June 29 and Labor Day.


Trap Nets in the Great Lakes
Whitefish trap nets are back in the water for the 2015 season. Entanglement in commercial fishing nets can be extremely dangerous. Learn how to steer clear of them and keep yourself and your gear out of the nets. Read more...

Ghost Nets

Ghost nets - Don't get trapped!
Ghost nets are lost fishing nets that can continue to catch fish and become entangled in fishing gear and boat propellers. Boaters and anglers can learn more about what to do what caught in a ghost net or other commercial fishing gear. Read more...

Report a Ghost Net
Report a suspected ghost net to the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission or a local Department of Natural Resources office.

Report online:

Fish Smart - Tips for Success

Selecting Lure Colors for Successful Fishing
What does a fish see when a lure zips by? Find out more about the optical properties of water, how color changes at different depths and make smarter decisions when selecting lures in this new UW Sea Grant Institute Fact Sheet. Read more...

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)

VHS in the Great Lakes

Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum

In 2012, the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum (LMFF) changed from an advisory group to a forum devoted to raising awareness of Lake Michigan fisheries issues and providing an opportunity for discussion and feedback.  

The LMFF is a citizen-based group, and its charge is to review and provide input into the fishery goals, objectives and management plans for Lake Michigan. Members will assist fisheries managers in charting the future course of fisheries management by providing feedback to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Lake Michigan Fisheries Team.

Anglers, commercial fishers and anyone else with an interest in Lake Michigan's fisheries are encouraged to join.

The LMFF is facilitated by Titus Seilheimer, UW-Sea Grant, and is independent of the DNR. Representatives from major sport fishing clubs on Lake Michigan and Green Bay, commercial fishers, the Conservation Congress and the University of Wisconsin System are formal members of the forum. Meetings are open to the public.

See the LMFF page on the DNR’s website for more information.

Older Fisheries Forum Recommendations and Notes
A list of all official recommendations and notes from Fishery Forum meetings in PDF format. Read more...


Avoid the Trap: What Anglers Should Know about Commercial Fishing Nets
A fishermen's guide to avoiding trap nets and gill nets in the Great Lakes -- and what to do if you get caught in a drifting net. Read more...

A Cold Shoot on Lake Superior
Shooting video on Lake Superior can be challenging. Take a look at this short (1:43 minutes) video taken during the filming of a video about "ghost nets." Read more...

Titus Seilheimer: Fisheries Outreach Specialist
Titus Seilheimer tells us about his work as the fisheries outreach specialist for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. Read more...

What Will Round Gobies Do to Great Lakes Streams?
Using funding provided by University of Wisconsin Sea Grant, UW-Madison ecologist Jake Vander Zanden and UW graduate student Matt Kornis set out to discover just what kind of impact round gobies might be having on streams and rivers. Read more...

Sturgeon Spearing on Lake Winnebago
Sturgeon spearing has its roots in the customs of many of the Native Americans who lived in the Great Lakes region long before Europeans arrived. The tradition continues today. Read more...

Spawning Sturgeon, Wolf River, Wis.
Sturgeon spawning is a yearly event triggered by water temperature—about 54 degrees Fahrenheit—and it in turn triggers a migration of spectators, researchers, wardens and volunteer guards. Read more...

Recent Changes in Great Lakes Fisheries
The fisheries specialist at UW Sea Grant, Dr. Phil Moy, explains recent changes in the Great Lakes, which species are at greatest risk, and the threat posed by Asian carp. Read more...

How Many Sport Fish Can Lake Michigan Support?
An environmental food web is an intricate, organic and delicate thing. That's why researchers have paid such close attention to the food webs in Lake Michigan. Read more...

Who Are the Critters in Your Neighborhood
Finding out who eats who in Lake Michigan -- and how two tiny water fleas could restructure the food web. Read more...

Growing Fish in Greenhouses
Milwaukee's Growing Power, a community-based urban food center, is using plants as natural water filters for raising yellow perch. Fred Binkowski of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute provides technical advice on the experimental effort. Read more...

Jumping Carp
This video, courtesy of the Illinois Natural History Survey, shows Asian carp on the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. The fish jump in response to the noise of the motor or the charge from the electrofishing boat. Read more...

Effects of Climate Change on the Fish and Fisheries of the Great Lakes Basin
Brian Shuter, research scientist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Adjunct Professor of Zoology, University of Toronto presents at a meeting of the Wisconsin Fisheries Forum. Read more...


A New Tool for Studying Food Web Changes

Jake Vander Zanden, UW-Madison, (608) 262-9464,

Great Lakes ecosystems have undergone dramatic changes due to a suite of interacting anthropogenic stressors. For example, Dreissenid mussels have shunted productivity to the nearshore benthos and caused severe oligotrophication in the offshore zone. What are the underlying  food web changes that both drive and respond to these remarkable ecological shifts? Amino acid-specific nitrogen isotope analysis (AA-NIA) is a novel approach for measuring food web change in freshwater systems. We will develop the basis for long-term retrospective food web analysis from preserved museum specimens and calcified tissues (fish scales and otoliths). Using this approach, we will test hypotheses about historical trophic niche partitioning among deepwater coregonids in the upper Great Lakes. In addition, we will test hypotheses about food web responses to Dreissenid-driven changes in nearshore and offshore habitats. This innovative approach has exciting potential to serve as an integrative ecological indicator of Great Lakes ecosystem health. (R/HCE-24)

Quantifying Coastal Wetland – Nearshore Linkages in Lake Michigan for Sustaining Sport Fishes

Patrick Forsythe, UW-Green Bay, (920) 465-2525,

Coastal wetlands support rich and diverse faunal communities, providing habitat for 90% of Great Lake fish species. Estimates of the linkages between coastal wetlands and other lake habitats will fill a major data gap concerning how wetland degradation and restoration of previously degraded wetlands affect the Lake Michigan nearshore food web. Otolith microchemistry analysis will provide an estimate of fish use of wetland-nearshore habitats. Isotope mixing models will be used to construct cross-habitat food webs and provide estimates of wetland and nearshore energy sources for piscivorous fish. These results will determine both how and when nearshore sport fish use wetland habitats and accumulate wetland energy. By understanding wetland-nearshore linkages, we can incorporate coastal wetlands into long-term management of Great Lakes food webs and the Lake Michigan fishery, and set appropriate protection and restoration priorities for the Lake Michigan coastal zone.  R/SFA-09

Genetic Analysis of Virulence Factors of the Fish Pathogen Flavobacterium columnare

Mark McBride, UW-Milwaukee, (414) 229-5844,
David Hunnicutt, St. Norbert College, (920) 403-3200,

Flavobacterium columnare is a common fish pathogen that causes columnaris disease in wild and farmed freshwater fishes and results in devastating losses in the aquaculture industry. The disease has been recognized for nearly 100 years, but a lack of genetic tools to manipulate the bacterium has hampered identification of the mechanisms of pathogenesis. The researchers developed robust genetic tools and procedures for Flavobacterium johnsoniae and recently demonstrated that some of these function in F. columnare; they propose to adapt additional genetic tools for use in F. columnare.  F. johnsoniae GldN is a component of a novel protein secretion system.  The researchers suspect that F. columnare GldN is involved in secretion of the chondroitinase CslA, and that GldN and CslA are needed for virulence. To test these hypotheses, wild-type, gldN mutants and cslA mutants will be examined for ability to cause disease in the model zebrafish system and in yellow perch. R/SFA-08

Estimating the Economic Benefits of the Wisconsin Great Lakes Sport Fishery

Daniel Phaneuf, UW-Madison, (608) 262-4908,

This project will develop models describing the behavior of users of the recreation fishery, focusing on developing predictions that are conditional on the range of ecological and management regimes that may exist in the future. This will allow prospective analysis of how economic benefits may change in response to changes in stocking rates, invasive species control, pollution levels, and other management and environmental conditions. Researchers will conduct surveys of private anglers and charter boat captains and combine the results with existing data to develop spatially explicit models of anglers’ participation and destination decisions and charter operators’ profit-maximizing decisions. Once in place the models can be used to understand how use of the fishery will evolve if, for example, stocking rates are reduced. Predictions of the changes in behavior will then be used to simulate how the economic benefits to individuals and coastal communities may be affected by these types of external shocks.  (R/RCE-01)


Asian Carp Research
This will be a literature review of current research on the control of the spread of Asian carp throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin to also include input from the more than 25 partner organizations involved in control measures. These efforts will create a document on the current status of research that will be directed toward interested members of the public, resource managers and policymakers. Finally, Sea Grant will identify knowledge and information gaps in the current understanding of Asian carp in North America. The identified gaps can then be used to guide future research and management activities for better control of the species and more efficient use of funds. Funding source: Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee through Ohio Sea Grant.

Salmon Ambassadors Wisconsin
This project will engage Wisconsin anglers in the management of Lake Michigan Chinook salmon and also involves partner state and federal regulatory agencies. Anglers will be recruited from Wisconsin ports to collect information about the fish they catch. Fish size and fin clip (an indicator of stocked vs. wild) data will be collected by anglers to increase the knowledge of seasonal change in the abundance of wild salmon in Wisconsin waters. This program will also allow for increased and more targeted collection of Chinook salmon heads for retrieval of coded wire tags, which will offer information on the movement of stocked and wild salmon.

Great Lakes Commercial Trap Nets Location
In order to diminish entanglement events involving sport anglers’ equipment and commercial fishing nets, Sea Grant works with the Lake Michigan commercial whitefish fleet to make the GPS coordinates of commercial trap nets available to anglers on its website and in printed maps in some locations. In previous years, the project included areas from Sheboygan to the Two Rivers/Manitowoc area.

AIS Prevention at Fishing Tournaments
Fishing tournaments have the potential to spread aquatic invasive species (AIS) through the movement of participants’ boats among water bodies and the equipment used by tournament organizers. Judge and release boats and weigh-in equipment may be transported hundreds of miles between events with little time to dry. By educating tournament organizers, and in turn tournament participants, about AIS prevention, Sea Grant and its national and regional partners can slow the spread of AIS between waters, maintain the fishing tournament industry and engage tournament anglers in youth education. Funding source: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Related Publications

Fishes of Wisconsin by George Becker
This classic book is available in its entirety in a digital format through the University of Wisconsin library system. Read more...

More Related Publications
For more publications about fish and the Great Lakes fisheries, see our publications store. Read more...

Related Websites

Video on Lake Sturgeon
Learn more about Wisconsin's Lake Sturgeon population through Sea Grant-produced video, which is located on the organization's You Tube channel. Read more...

Wisconsin's Water Library

Wisconsin's Water Library has reading lists on many different topics.  Take a look at the fish and fishing reading list, the Great Lakes fish reading list and books for kids on fish and fishing.