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Wisconsin is finishing its public comment process for the state’s first trout management plan, which will run from 2020 to 2029.

The last of four public comment meetings was held by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Spooner Wednesday to get input on the over 100 page draft of the Inland Trout Management Plan, which outlines plans for the management of brook, brown, rainbow and lake trout in inland lakes, ponds and more than 13,000 miles of trout streams.

It specifically guides the allocation of resources, identifies restrictions, and determines locations and priorities for management activities.

It also includes a wide variety of fisheries management activities, such as surveys, habitat improvement and protection, stocking, fishing regulations and land acquisition.

The plan’s four main goals call for protecting and restoring trout habitat and populations, using science-based best management practices and increasing partnerships and public involvement in trout management.

Heath Benike, DNR fishery supervisor for the Eau Claire area, said that in the Chippewa Valley area partnerships between the DNR and private groups like Trout Unlimited and local rod and gun clubs have been a long standing tradition.

The partnerships and volunteer work has led to three to five miles of stream restoration a year for quite a while.

“We’ve been having a very strong program for the last 20 years in our area,” Benike said.

The first stakeholder meetings for the plan were held in January 2018 and included representatives of the DNR, anglers, landowners and others.

The plan will continue to be revised this summer and is planned for approval in September.

The plan also identifies potential threats like water quality and quantity, invasive species and climate change as posing a threat to the cold-water resources.

Benike noted that the problem of invasive species is generally greater in lakes and other bodies of water with boats, but even with a high percentage of trout anglers wading, things can be carried from stream to stream.

“The potential is there,” Benike said.

New Zealand Mud Snails are a recent addition to some Wisconsin trout streams, which can reach huge densities and crowd out food supply.

There are also invasive algae and even viruses that can be spread to trout causing high mortality rates.

In addition to working to slow the spread of invasives, Benike said that in the Chippewa Valley there are also ongoing efforts to increase the number of landowner easements to allow fishing access, and they have added over 30 miles in the last several years.

The Chippewa Valley is also notable for not only the large number of trout streams, but the populations of brook trout, the indigenous trout of Wisconsin.

“We have some of the best Brook Trout creeks in the state,” Benike said.

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