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Fago, Don / Distribution and relative abundance of fishes in Wisconsin: VII. St. Croix River Basin

COVER: Crystal darter and gilt darter
  This report is dedicated to the nongame fish, whose in-
terrelationships in the aquatic ecosystem are generally
not well documented or appreciated.
  Little attention has been given to
nongame fish species which comprise
over 75% of the 150 fish species in Wis-
consin waters. Yet many of those spe-
cies play a major role in maintenance of
sport fish populations so vital to recrea-
tional and economic interests in the
state. In essentially disregarding these
species, their right to exist and their
role in maintaining community stabil-
ity through species diversity have been
overlooked. The nongame fish not only
make up the majority of fish species in
Wisconsin but are also more abundant
than sport fish species in both total
number and total biomass.
   Further attention by either research
or management to nongame fish species
must be preceded by an inventory of
what we have and where we have it. In
1974 the Bureau of Research of the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Re-
sources (DNR), with inputs from field
fish management personnel, began a
statewide assessment of the distribu-
tion and relative abundance of fish spe-
cies, emphasizing but not limited to
nongame species. This assessment was
begun using a basin approach to deline-
ate location of sampling stations on the
over 7,200 lakes (over 350,000 ha) and
11,200 streams (over 68,000 km)
within the state. The 3 major basins
(Mississippi River, Lake Michigan,
and Lake Superior) were further di-
vided into 30 minor basins.
   The last report on the distribution
of fish species throughout the state was
made by C. W. Greene (1935) for the
1900-31 period. He covered about 1,400
sampling stations. Since then, other
collectors, notably Dr. George Becker
(1959, 1964a, 1964b, 1966, 1983), Pro-
fessor Marlin Johnson (Johnson and
Becker 1970), and the students at the
University of Wisconsin at Madison
(including McNaught 1963) and Ste-
vens Point, have added appreciably to
knowledge of regional distribution of
Wisconsin fishes.
  The need to update our knowledge
of statewide fish distribution is most
clearly evident from the dearth of in-
formation available on nongame spe-
cies in most watersheds for preparing
environmental impact assessments and
reports and department master plans.
In addition, both federal and state law
now require the establishment of an en-
dangered and threatened species list.
Furthermore, the Wisconsin DNR has
been directed to "conduct research on
endangered and threatened species of
this state and shall implement pro-
grams directed at conserving, protect-
ing, restoring, and propagating se-
lected state endangered and threatened
species to the maximum extent practi-
cable" (Chap. 29.415, Wis. Statutes).
   Field collecting under the research
study initiated in 1974 was essentially
terminated in 1980 due to reduced
funding, with only limited sampling af-
ter that time. Of the 30 river basins in
the state, sampling has now been com-
pleted in 17 and nearly completed in 1.
Only scattered samples were taken in
the other 12 basins. These samples in-
ventoried about 45% of the state.
   The results of the work so far com-
pleted on fish distribution are being
published in a series of separate bulle-
tins dealing with one or more minor ba-
sins. The following reports are now
available: Greater Rock River basin
(Fago 1982), Black, Trempealeau, and
Buffalo river basins (Fago 1983). Red
Cedar River basin (Fago 1984a), Root,
Milwaukee, Des Plaines, and Fox river
basins (Fago 1984c), Grant & Platte,
Coon & Bad Axe, and La Crosse river
basins (Fago 1985a), and Sheboygan,
Manitowoc, and Twin river basins
(Fago 1985b). The bulk of the data pre-
sented refers primarily to collections
made during the Bureau of Research
study. However, other fishery biolo-
gists and managers have made numer-
ous collections over the years, and their
published and unpublished records,
when available to us, are included.
Therefore, data from as early as 1900
are available for some basins, permit-
ting comparisons between historical
and current records.
  This series of reports, however, con-
stitutes only an overview of a volumi-
nous mass of data now permanently
stored in computer files. For the field
manager or investigator, the greatest
value of this study lies in the availabil-
ity of fish data on specific waters or on
waters in close proximity to those of
immediate concern. Data now in com-
puter files (over 17,000 collections)
have already, in over 300 cases, proven
to be very useful to DNR personnel in
several bureaus and to other state and
federal agencies, environmental consul-
tants, and students. They have used
the data for various purposes; e.g., to
make assessments on past as well as po-
tential changes in the aquatic environ-
ment, indicate water quality through
fish species composition, and determine
ranges in Wisconsin for particular fish
  Sufficient data were collected during
the research study to recommend the
revision of Wisconsin's endangered and
threatened fish species lists in 1979 and
again in 1982. The first revision added
15 species to both lists and removed 3
from the endangered list. The second
revision added 2 to the endangered list,
and removed 1 from the endangered
and 3 from the threatened list.
   The bulk of the preserved fish collec-
tions are curated at the Milwaukee
Public Museum, further enhancing the
value and significance of this study.
There they are used by scientists and
educators interested in taxonomy, sys-
tematics, and natural history. They
also are serving as a baseline collection
from which to determine changes in fish
community structure and environmen-
tal loads of pollutants and toxicants.
   This report deals with the St. Croix
River basin.

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