The so-called developing "dead zone" in the waters of Green Bay has some area fishermen on edge.
Scientists say the "dead zone" represents an area of extremely low oxygen levels. As we've reported, the worst area is near the mouth of the Fox River.
The "dead zone" starts about eight miles northeast of the city and extends to the Sturgeon Bay area.
The owner and operator of Reel Action Sport Fishing Charters in Sturgeon Bay has been fishing the bay for 18 years.
"The last three or four have been some of the best years in record-keeping history as far as walleye fishing goes so we're pretty fortunate to have the bay of Green Bay in our backyard," explained Scott Gutschow.
But the phrase "dead zone" has him worried.
"We're looking at 400 to 500 charters a year between Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay, that includes our ice fishing charters as well, that could be impacted by "dead zones" if you will, not just the economic impact to me, personally with two daughters, I look at the next generation of fishermen as one of my biggest concerns," Gutschow said.
Scientists say a leading cause of the "dead zone" is runoff of phosphorus and other nutrients primarily from farms, sewage treatment systems, and yards.
"There is more demand for the oxygen than the water can supply," explained DNR Water Resources Supervisor Rob McLennan.
Despite the concern, experts say it's still unclear exactly how big of an effect it could have on fish.
"You could be disrupting the food chain the fish require, and if that disruption is going on - and I can't speak to the degree of severity of it, but I know there are certain areas in the Gulf of Mexico where they've seen changes in fish population because of a 'dead zone' there," McLennan said. "And it's not unreasonable to think there could be some fishery impacts here but whether they currently exist or in the future is yet to be determined."
But agencies such as the DNR are trying to protect the water.
"In the upcoming years, the public will see action on reducing the pollutants that are coming into the bay," McLennan said.
And anglers, like Scott Gutschow, hope that's true.
The Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, or NEW Water, is beginning to study what it might be able to do to restore oxygen levels in the bay.
Officials hope to have a pilot program in place next year.
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