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Lake Michigan whitefish management

Fishing Wisconsin

Management strategies are currently being considered to address changes in lake whitefish population abundance and distribution in Lake Michigan and Green Bay. 

The lake whitefish population in Lake Michigan and Green Bay has changed considerably over the past 15 to 20 years. While the overall population appears to be stable, in recent years fewer young fish are returning to spawning grounds in northern Lake Michigan. In contrast, whitefish populations in Green Bay have grown with documented recolonization of historical spawning grounds. Whitefish have historically been primarily pursued by commercial fishers. However, over the past decade a strong recreational fishery has also developed in Green Bay. Currently commercial harvest in Lower Green Bay (Commercial Fishing Zone 1) is limited to about 12.5% of the overall Wisconsin harvest limit (quota). 

Results from stakeholder meetings held in 2016 and 2017 and subsequent comments collected by the department showed the need to gather more data on whitefish populations, explore the potential for new methods to monitor harvests and find ways to improve dual use of waters where both sport and commercial fishers pursue whitefish. We began this effort in 2016 and hosted two public meetings, launched an online survey, and opened a public comment period (see below).

In addition, we recently created a scope statement to allow us to begin discussions with stakeholders on possible rule changes to help us manage this important fishery. This was the first step in that process and was approved by the Natural Resources Board. The next step is to hold an informational meeting so that stakeholders can see the latest information we have on a variety of whitefish projects and provide comments and feedback on not only the information but on future meeting logistics. 

The next Lake Michigan lake whitefish informational meeting will be on November 17 at 6:00 p.m. Information on how to attend this virtual meeting is below. Within one week of the meeting additional details will be available on the public meetings page.

This virtual meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 17 at 6 p.m. concluding at 8 p.m. Members of the public can access the meeting beginning at 5:45 p.m. via Zoom or by calling 1-301-715-8592 with meeting ID 881 4642 4587. Topics that will be discussed at this meeting include quota numbers for Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 


Public Meetings

October 22, 2020 - The Department hosted the third meeting for our Lake Whitefish initiative. This meeting focused on a variety of issues including a large mesh gill net request for bid effort, the sport fishing in Green Bay, by-catch information from commercial fisheries and management options.

Meeting Notes [PDF]

Large Mesh Gill Net Request for Bid

Green Bay Whitefish Sport Fishery

Historical information on the commercial fishery

Catch composition study

Management Options


September 22, 2020 - The Department hosted the second meeting for our Lake Whitefish initiative. We continued to engage interested stakeholders on the science behind our Lake Whitefish management. This meeting focused on our commercial electronic harvest reporting system. inputs into into our whitefish models, guide reporting, commercial fishing statictics and allocation issues.

Meeting Notes [PDF]

Electronic Fish Harvest Reporting System

Guide Reporting

Whitefish Allocations

Lake Whitefish Model Inputs

Commercial Fishing Statistics

August 18, 2020 - We hosted an information meeting for interested stakeholders via Zoom to begin to collect comments and suggestions on the best management practices for lake whitefish. The meeting focused on three presentations and sought input on the topics and frequency of future meetings.

Meeting Notes [PDF]

Lake Whitefish Movement

Lake Whitefish Modelling

Lake Whitefish Comprehensive survey

January 10 & 11, 2017 -- We hosted two public meetings to help find a balance between recreational and commercial interests and develop an appropriate management structure to address the changing Lake Michigan/Green Bay fishery.  The meetings were on Jan. 10 at the DNR Green Bay Service Center and Jan. 11 at the Door County Government Building, Sturgeon Bay.  We had attendance from stakeholders representing a variety of interests and had productive discussions of the various issues.  The entire Green Bay meeting was recorded so that stakeholders that could not attend could view this important information.

Green Bay meeting presentation [PDF]

Video recording of the Green Bay meeting 

May 12, 2016 -- A public meeting was held in Sturgeon Bay at the Door County Government Center. We received feedback and discussed whitefish management issues at this public meeting.  During this meeting, a presentation was given to inform stakeholders on the current status of the whitefish population in Lake Michigan. In addition, the entire meeting was recorded so that stakeholders that could not attend could view this important information.

Sturgeon Bay meeting presentation [PDF]

Video recording of the Sturgeon Bay meeting