Giving the fishery
a helping hand
The Root River Steelhead Facility was built in 1992-1993 to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources effectively manage Lake Michigan’s trout and salmon fishery. Because natural reproduction of trout and salmon doesn’t occur in Wisconsin waters, the fishery is entirely dependent upon hatchery-raised fish. Each year, the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan are stocked with hundreds of thousands of steelhead trout and coho salmon, much to the delight of anglers from around the region.
The facility also enables DNR biologists to gather information on the overall health of the fish, growth rates, migration patterns and other important data about the fishery.
During low-flow periods, the Great Water Alliance will help more fish reach the facility by raising the level of the Root River by as much as 6.5 inches.
how it works
A dam intercepts the upstream migration of trout and salmon during their spawning run. The large volume of water flowing down a “fish ladder” triggers their instinct to swim against the current, and attracts them to its entrance.
The Fish Ladder
The ladder is a 90-foot long chute with a steep slope and a series of steps. When the fish pass over the final step at the top of the ladder they enter a holding pond which surrounds the work area.
The Holding Pond
This large area has a mixture of river water and well water pumped into it continuously. Inside the work area you can see the large volume of water being discharged into the pond through strategically placed pipes. At certain times, it’s also circulated through an aerator which adds more oxygen to the water.
The Work Area
A 4-foot square basket mechanically lifts fish from the pond and drops them into a stainless steel tank. The fish are removed from the tank by DNR personnel, who then record data such as length, weight and health status. Carbon dioxide added to the water acts as an anesthetic, enabling biologists to handle fish without injuring them. Hatchery crews are on site at various times to remove eggs and sperm from fish ready to spawn.
Once fish are processed, they are placed into oxygen-rich water tanks to recover. After several minutes they are able to enter a large plastic tube which runs underground all the way back to the river. Once back in their natural habitat, the fish are again accessible to anglers.