Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wisconsin Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wisconsin Fishery Project

Population characteristics and movements of smallmouth bass in the Menominee River

January 2016 - June 2019


Participating Agencies

  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • we energies; Mitigation and Enhancement Fund

The Menominee River supports popular, high-quality fisheries for smallmouth bass. Maintaining these fisheries is an important goal of the Wisconsin and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources which jointly manage these fisheries. Below Sturgeon Falls, the Menominee River is divided into a series of relatively riverine impoundments by several hydropower facilities. These facilities currently prevent upstream movement of fish and probably limit downstream movements for some species. Additionally, some of these impoundments are relatively long (> 20 river miles) and some contain natural features (i.e., falls or rapids) that could limit movements of smallmouth bass. Consequently, population characteristics of smallmouth bass could vary among sections of river within the same impoundment. This spatial separation could result in situations where smallmouth bass inhabiting upstream portions of the impoundment represent important sources of recruitment for lower portions of the impoundment. Additionally, previous studies have shown that in response to falling water temperatures in fall, smallmouth bass in riverine systems move towards deeper water where they spend the winter period. During this fall-winter period, smallmouth bass could occupy relatively small, overlapping home ranges if preferred habitat is limited, making them potentially more vulnerable to anglers. Harvest of smallmouth bass during fall could negatively affect smallmouth bass fisheries in the Menominee River, but it is not known if smallmouth bass are exhibiting this behavior or if angler harvest during this period could be a problem. Recently, a few anglers have begun to voice concern over this issue and biologists are interested in determining if harvest during fall represents an important management issue. Furthermore, it is not known if current harvest regulations are sufficient to maintain the quality of these fisheries, or if more stringent regulations could improve the number of relatively large bass available to anglers. Lastly, at a larger scale, black bass (smallmouth and largemouth bass) abundance has increased in many bodies of water in the Upper Midwest and there are concerns that black bass can negatively affect walleye populations, possibly through predation or competition for available prey, consequently changes in smallmouth abundance within the Menominee River could affect other species, including walleyes. However, few studies have examined diet interactions between the two species. The Menominee River offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate dietary interactions between smallmouth bass and walleyes in a system that supports healthy populations of both species. Examining diets will also allow biologists to better understand which prey species are important to smallmouth bass and walleyes within the river. The Wisconsin and Michigan DNR rarely conduct sampling on the Menominee River that specifically targets smallmouth bass, so only limited information is available for these species. More information is needed to determine if current management strategies are appropriate for maintaining the quality of these smallmouth bass fisheries in the future. Furthermore, our proposed study will compliment similar research that will be conducted by the Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit and Wisconsin DNR in the impoundment between Grand Rapids and Park Mill dams, providing a rare opportunity to complete a comprehensive evaluation of smallmouth bass populations within the Menominee River.