WILD ROSE (WAOW)--The next time you net a brown trout or coho salmon, consider this-- the fish you will soon enjoy at your dinner table could have been raised at one of the Wisconsin DNR's 12 fish hatcheries.
"That's our whole goal is to raise the best fish we can so they can survive, grow and hopefully end up on someone's plate someday," said hatchery Supervisor Steve Fajfer.
The Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery is one of the largest of the 12, stocking millions of fish in lakes and streams across Wisconsin. It's a valuable resource helping those waterways thrive in the face of invasive species and other dangers.
The hatchery just went through a multi-million dollar renovation, making the hatchery's indoor cold and cool water facilities safer for employees, and better for the fish. The raceways were formerly outdoors, forcing employees to battle the elements to do their jobs and making fish an easy target for animals searching for a free meal.
"We want people to catch fish, that's a good thing," said Fajfer. Like many of the hatcheries employees, he's been helping raise fish for decades. He's passionate about stocking bodies of water with the best and fisheries technician Tom Van Effen couldn't agree more."I've been involved with raising right around 94 million fish of stockable or transferable size."
Van Effen dropped out of school many years ago and got a job at the hatchery. Since then, he's been raising brown trout and other species.
"It's just fun. I love working with fish. I love starting them off, raising them, seeing them grow and ending up in the lakes and have people catch them," he said.
Over in the raceways, Dave Swansby monitors 70,000 coho salmon. He checks water flow and oxygen levels and also feeds the fish multiple times a day.
He said helping these salmon, which will eventually swim free in Lake Michigan, makes the big catch that much more meaningful.
There is a lot that goes into raising fish for stocking that you don't see. Different species need different habitats and other elements like water temperature and fish behavior must be carefully monitored.
Fajfer said hatcheries like Wild Rose are important because they help wildlife thrive when habitats become degraded.
Swansby added, "Without it, fisherman wouldn't catch anywhere near the number they're catching now."
So the next time you net your catch-of-the-day, consider the people working behind the scenes helping to keep Wisconsin lakes and streams stocked with fish.