A small island in the Apostle Islands will remain a no-fishing zone for the time being. Researchers say the Gull Island shoal is a critical area for the comeback of lake trout in Lake Superior.
Since it was established in 1976, the strategically placed Gull Island Shoal Refuge has brought back the fishing population from almost nothing to millions of fish today. UW-Stevens Point Fisheries Professor Michael Hansen doesn't think this would have been possible without it, "We haven't finished analysis but it sure looks like the refuge provided a high degree of protection."
Hansen says depending on the samples, the lake trout population could grow even larger, "We usually don't see them in our nets until their about age four or so. When they're much younger, their hiding off shore and their pretty difficult to sample. So we're talking about numbers in the millions."
Hansen says this refuge was originally created for the lake trout but coincidentally is helping out more than just the trout, "The other species in Lake Superior also benefit from a refuge for lake trout because fishing in prohibited in the refuge. So other fish species like cisco, lake white fish, they all benefit from the refuge the same way the lake trout benefit."
Hansen says the population has reached the point where the refuge is one of the main ways fish are being regulated in Lake Superior, and not just to have a safe place for the fish, "If they blunder out of the refuge, then they would be subject to fishing. If they stay in the refuge their safe, if they go out they're not."
Hansen is also working with a graduate student on a project that could model what affects the refuge could have on the fish population in the future.