Which Wisconsin Fish Takes 1st Place in Spring Spawning?

Since the ice is off our lakes early this year and the sun is now (sometimes) shining on the water, it’s time to start thinking about spring spawning. As water temperatures start to warm, a trigger is tripped in many species of fishes that tells them to go make babies. And, since it’s Fish Fry Day, when we serve up a helping of fish facts here on the blog, it got us to wondering – which are the first to find a suitable place to mate?
We found the answer to this question, unsurprisingly, in Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine which, no matter what our elected officials say, provides content and information that no other publication in the state covers. (At least for now – you can read more about the governor’s plan to end the nearly 100-year old publication here).
It turns out that burbot (also called eelpout and lingcod) are Wisconsin’s earliest spawners. They don’t even wait for spring – preferring to propagate their species under the ice in the dead of winter. But, if it’s spring you’re wondering about, the title of “earliest spawner” goes to yellow perch, who wait for water temps to hit a nice balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit before jumping into action. Crappie and bluegill follow close behind.
In addition to these fun fishy facts, we learned about the phenomenon of “drunken” fish under ice, why the bottom water of a lake is warmer during winter and much, much more. In fact, why don’t you just read the article for yourself? And, if you think $9 bucks a year is a good price to pay for all of this information, consider subscribing to the magazine while it still exists!

Read Alisa Santiesteban’s cool piece in the December 2009 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine – “A Cold World with an Icy Ceiling” for more fun facts about life under ice for Wisconsin fishes!

Top photo of yellow perch in Lake Mendota courtesy of Ted Bier.


1 thought on “Which Wisconsin Fish Takes 1st Place in Spring Spawning?”

  1. I can attest to the fact that the spawn sacks in perch are about to burst in the Mississippi River, at least at the Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa, just south of LaCrosse. The bite is on, and the water temp there the past week was around 39-40 degrees. These are huge perch, the largest caught last week was 13 inches!

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