KENOSHA, WI (CBS 58) A group is keeping nature healthy and recreation widespread just outside of downtown Kenosha.
The Kenosha Sport Fishing and Conservation Association (KSFCA) was formed in 1970, with a specific request.
“A group of guys got together, sued the DNR and said ‘we need a breeding pond for the Kenosha fishery,'” KSFCA President Jim Zondlak explained.
Three years later, a breeding pond was created. The structure sits along the Pike River just off 7and street.
Zondlak says the purpose of the pond is to raise Chinook salmon babies or fry. They feed them and prepare them for release into the Pike River, which eventually sends many of them into Lake Michigan.
“They’re raised from an egg at the Wild Rose Hatchery in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. They’re only about an inch and a half when they come out of the hatchery,” Zondlak said. “We feed them three weeks of food to make them stronger, more aggressive and also much healthier because they have more strength.”
Since its inception, the pond has raised between 30 and 40,000 fish per year, with approximately 1.7 million salmon inhabiting the Pike River for nearly 5 decades.
“People from all over the United States have come to our harbor in downtown Kenosha to fish for the salmon industry,” Zondlak said.
The pond simply creates a good fishing experience for the area, and those benefits trickle down to the community.
“If you bring good fishing downtown all summer, you have good opportunities to grow your business no matter what you’re doing,” Zondlak said.
Richard Matthews echoes this benefit. He owns Musslehead Tackle Shop and specializes in tackle specifically for this type of salmon.
“It’s not even about having a successful business. It’s about seeing other guys succeed and catch fish that they might not otherwise have had,” Matthews said.
He has been a great help to KSFCA and the breeding pond as he thinks it has helped him.
“It’s such a fishing gem that a lot of people don’t even realize it’s there for the most part,” Matthews said, “I grew up fishing this lake with my dad, and there’s no no other place I’d rather be come in the summer, except chasing king salmon.”
Ponds may look simple to the naked eye, but it’s a complicated contraption. The water should stay below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They achieve this, thanks to a thousand-foot well that releases groundwater, while another pump mixes water straight from the Pike River, allowing the fish to imprint themselves on their future habitat.
The breeding ponds cost $2,800 per month to operate. Most of the money comes from membership dues and donations from the public.
“We’re creating a fundraising banner, we’re calling it, so businesses in the area will be on the fence, and their name will be pretty hyped through social media,” Zondlak said, “I think if we keep it local and convenient, we get more publicity this way and more interest in helping out.”
This interest in breeding ponds has spread from business owners like Richard Matthews to charter companies, and even local tournament anglers, like Steve Ruppa and Niki Zawacki.
“It’s just this big circle and community of people where you end up getting to know everyone, and end up lending a hand and getting involved,” Ruppa said.
“It’s a future for fishing. It ensures that generations after us can come here and catch a 20- or 30-pound chinook salmon. It brings the lake to life,” Zawacki said.
To keep these waters alive and safe, some work needs to be done quickly.
Climate change is causing the Pike River to erode, and if left unaided, it could threaten the safety of the fish that are released here.
“We are working to restore the banks of the Pike River. The Pike River is a very fast river. When it rains, it rises quickly and high and digs into the banks,” says Zondlak.
In response, a few organizations, such as Root-Pike WIN and Stand Associates, are involved in a project to restore the area.
In addition to restoring the banks, they plan to add more grasses and native species, ADA-accessible balconies, kayak launches, and educational resources, globally glorifying the breeding pond area. of the Pike River.
“We want people to come here and spend a day. At the moment there is not a lot of room to spend a day here. It’s not as pleasant as we would like, but we will do a lot better than it is,” Zondlak said.
“The more we can bring into fishing, the more we can get out as a community ultimately,” Matthews said.
The project would also create a more protective structure for the ponds. Funding is secure and they hope to complete the project within 3 to 5 years.
“People don’t know that, and that’s a special thing. If it’s more accessible and inviting to people, it can only help bring people into the hobby,” Zawacki said.
Kenosha’s fishing industry is a hobby focused on creating memories and helping the local environment.
“If we don’t take care of what mother nature has given us, we will lose it,” Zondlak said.
KSFCA’s hope is that raising awareness about this will attract more fishing enthusiasts on board to keep the farming area running.
“It’s got to have a next generation of people to pick up the slack. It’s not just a bunch of weekend guys. It’s a commitment to our conservation,” Zondlak said.
For more information on the KSFCA, click HERE.
Kenosha Sportfishing and Conservation Association – Ensuring that future generations have the same or better resources that we enjoy
You can read more about the salmon farming pond HERE.
Salmon Breeding Pond – Kenosha Sportfishing and Conservation Association
Click HERE for more details on the design and restoration process.
Pike River Breeding Pond Design Begins | Kenosha.com