Published March 09, 2012, 08:00 AM

Sportsmen aim to restore Twin Lakes

A group of local sportsmen are in the planning stages of restoring Twin Lakes near Roberts into a viable fishing spot.

By: Gretta Stark, New Richmond News

A group of local sportsmen are in the planning stages of restoring Twin Lakes near Roberts into a viable fishing spot.

The lakes, once known for producing desirable fish, are currently on the state’s impaired waters list for a number of reasons.

“Both lakes suffer from excess nutrient enrichment, poor water quality and experience heavy algal blooms. These algal blooms limit light penetration and both emergent and submergent plant growth,” explained Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Marty Engel.

Though there are no formal maps of Twin Lakes, which are divided by a road and connected by a culvert, “files indicate East Twin is about 80 acres and three to six feet deep. West Twin is about 80 acres and is about 12 feet deep during high water periods,” Engel said. “How deep it is today is unknown but it is probably shallower than 12 feet.”

He said shallow lakes normally do not support fish life and tend to freeze out during the winter, which is likely the case with East Twin.

Though West Twin has a better chance at successful revitalization, there are still many problems with the deeper basin.

“Deeper lakes normally support good fisheries but poor water quality, nutrient enrichment and algal blooms can cause these lakes to lose oxygen during the winter months causing fish kills. Certain species of fish (fathead minnows and bullheads) are more tolerant to low oxygen levels than game fish,” he said, which is the problem with West Twin.

Ken Snow, the conservation director for the Bass Federation Nation, said he’s trying to get all the stakeholders together to work on a plan to revitalize the lakes. He’s spoken with the Warren Town Board, DNR, local bass clubs and Star Prairie Fish and Game.

No group has committed to this project, though, until it’s known whether the restoration is feasible.

“We think that it is. There’s really nothing there that tells us it isn’t,” Snow said. “Marty (Engel) will be the one that determines whether it’s feasible or a waste of money.”

“While I feel restoration of West Twin is possible, the question is at what cost?” Engel asked.

Technology exists to prevent winterkill through aeration if the lake is deep enough, which Snow estimates would cost about $15,000 to $20,000, but that is only part of the restoration equation.

“Because bullhead are already established, failure to control tolerant species such as bullhead may prevent the establishment of a quality sport fishery,” Engel said. “Control of bullhead can occur by two standard methods — chemical (poison) treatment or mechanical removal (using fyke nets to trap the fish).”

Cost becomes a major factor with control options.

“Chemical treatment is very expensive and complete control of bullhead may not happen,” he said. “Mechanical removal is labor intensive and it also may be difficult to control bullheads on both lakes to fully complete restoration.”

Engel says the depth of the water will play a major factor in whether he recommends the stakeholders move forward with the project.

“If water levels continue to drop, aeration and rehabilitation may be a waste of money,” he said. “If water levels are determined to be deep enough and the (formal) sponsors are willing to take the risk, restoration may be possible.”

This spring, as time and money allows, DNR fisheries staff will look at water depth and determine the current status of the fishery.

At this time, Engel says the DNR has no money to pay for aeration and any projects for rehabilitation will require further review, plans and approvals.

As parties organize to rehabilitate Twin Lakes they must find a legal entity to sponsor the project, evaluate potential, develop a plan, raise funds and consider the risks of failure before moving forward, Engel said.

The DNR will still help with the project in some form, though.

“DNR staff are available for consultation on development and implementation of a plan,” Engel said. “If a plan is approved, there is the possibility of grants and other assistance from DNR such as aeration installation and stocking sport fish.”

Snow said despite the risks, he’s feeling optimistic.

“All the pieces are in place. We need a legal entity for the aeration system and the township, at least from talking to the town board chairman, seems to be willing to do that,” Snow said. “We just need the DNR to come up with a plan and all of us (stakeholders) to get it done.”

Snow said grants, fundraisers and fishing license and restoration fees could possibly help fund the project.

“It’s basically taking the lakes and starting over with them completely,” Snow said. “If we can fix them, let’s fix them.”

Snow said Twin Lakes have potential to become a successful fishery.

“Because the lakes are so fertile, the growth rate of the fish that survive are three or four times as much as on other lakes. You get really big fish, they grow fast. It will be a good fishing lake once we get the oxygen problem under control,” he said.

If the project is deemed feasible, it will take years until sportsmen will be able to fish the lake.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It will take time to get everything in place: get the old fish out of there, get the aeration system up, get the new fish put back in there, and then probably close the lake for a couple years so the fish can take off. It’s not a very fast process, so everything you can do to keep it moving is good,” Snow said.

He says the long-term goal is to have another fishery in St. Croix County that is sustainable and desired by fishermen.

For more information about the project and plans, contact Snow at 715-308-3873.