Science and Beer: Exploring the Impacts of Climate Change on Fisheries

Fishing is a vital economic driver in the Northwoods, and its significance cannot be overstated. The region boasts an array of fish species in its lakes and rivers. However, changes in temperatures over the years have posed challenges to fisheries in the area. Since 1950, Wisconsin’s temperatures have increased by about 2 to 3 degrees, and projections indicate that they will warm by an additional 2 to 8 degrees in the next 25 years. These climate changes are expected to affect fisheries in the Northwoods.

According to Holly Embke, a research fish biologist with the USGS Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, we are already seeing changes in fish populations due to warming waters. Species such as bluegill and bass are thriving while cold water species like walleye are struggling. A recent study has highlighted that shifts in ice-off dates may pose a threat to walleye spawning. Despite these challenges, Embke emphasizes that it’s not all negative news. She stresses the importance of understanding where fish populations are struggling and thriving and implementing habitat restoration strategies to support these populations. Actions such as habitat restoration and focusing on different fish species like yellow perch or sunfish may help mitigate the impacts of climate change on fisheries.

Embke will be discussing these challenges and the significance of inland fisheries at the upcoming Science on Tap event in Minocqua on April 4. The event will be held at Rocky Reef Brewing Company in Woodruff and will also be available for streaming online. Embke hopes that attendees will gain a better understanding of the potential changes affecting fish communities and realize that while changes are inevitable, there are opportunities to adapt and support these ecosystems in a changing climate.

By Samantha Johnson

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