September 3, 2015
KAUKAUNA, WIS.—The Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) has proactively closed the Menasha lock in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources while the DNR determines if the round goby fish is in the Lake Winnebago environment. This is the southernmost lock on the Fox River and the first lock that links Lake Winnebago to the lower Fox River. Boaters will not be able to travel from Little Lake Butte des Morts to Lake Winnebago and back through the lock system while the lock is closed. Normal lock operations will continue at the Appleton Locks, Cedars Lock, Little Kaukauna lock at Little Rapids, and De Pere Lock.
“We realize this is an inconvenience for boaters on the Labor Day weekend, but putting the Lake Winnebago environment at risk to an invasive species such as the round goby would have long-term consequences for the entire state and for sport fishing in Lake Winnebago,” said Bob Stark, CEO of the Authority.
For updated information on when the Menasha lock will be open, please access the Authority’s Facebook page under “Fox Locks.”
Boaters are still able to trailer boats to public boat launches and can access the Fox River at these launches:
- 9th Street, Menasha
- Lutz Park, Appleton
- Sunset Park, Kimberly
Boaters have access to Lake Winnebago at many public launches including
- Jefferson Park, Menasha
- Doty Park, Neenah
- REC Park, Neenah
Boaters can also launch boats from any one of approximately 60 locations on Lake Winnebago. For information on public boat launches, please visit www.dnr.wi.gov.
The FRNSA maintains the lock system linking Lake Winnebago to the bay of Green Bay. The 16 locks on the system were recently restored to working order, however the lock at Rapide Croche has been closed for almost 30 years and will remain sealed as a barrier to invasive species such as the round goby. The Rapide Croche lock is located south of Wrightstown.
As a preventive measure, the FRNSA tests waters north of the closed Rapide Croche lock and south of the lock to ensure that invasive species have not breached the lock or the dam. Water samples are tested every two weeks in the summer and fish are caught using dip nets and traps. “We have sampled waters at Rapide Croche, Kaukauna, and Kimberly regularly and have not found the round goby at any of these locations,” said Lawrence University biology professor Dr. Bart DeStasio. DeStasio has been leading the Authority’s testing program for ten years.
Although the Authority recently celebrated the restoration of the locks, the system itself has not been fully operational for about 30 years. “In three decades there has been no water running through the lock system from Lake Winnebago to the bay of Green Bay,” Stark said. “Water still is not flowing through all five Kaukauna locks and the Little Chute locks are dry due to bridge construction. If invasive species have breached the system, it’s a possibility there was another entry point,” Stark said.
The Authority’s long-term plan for the lock system calls for keeping the lock at Rapide Croche sealed as a barrier to aquatic invasive species. Stark says the Authority will continue to work collaboratively with the DNR while it tests the waters of Lake Winnebago.