Machickanee Flowage drawdown aims to benefit boaters and fish

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STILES, Wisconsin (WBAY) – An Oconto County waterway is filling up again.

Just upstream from Stiles Dam on the Oconto River, the Machickanee Flowage is nearly barren, down seven feet from its normal water level.

It’s been four decades since the last drawdown here, long overdue, says Steve Dupuis, president of the Machickanee Advancement Association, as the boats struggled through the weeds and the game fish had stunted.

“An excessive amount of aquatic vegetation here, the fish were small due to predatory fish not being able to reach them because of it, and that also presented a navigation problem,” Dupuis explains.

In cooperation with the DNR and Oconto Electric, drawdown began in early July, with water levels dropping six inches per day for two and a half weeks.

This allowed all the weeds to be exposed, to wither and die.

Dupuis says all of the fish in the stream handled the drawdown very well.

“Our drawdown was so gradual, six inches a day, we had volunteers looking for fish to collect and put in deeper water and shellfish, but no one found a fish that I know of,” explains Dupuis.

While Dupuis says some residents have expressed frustration over a wasted summer of sailing on the Machickanee, the vast majority were in favor of the drawdown.

And now, with the water returning slowly, he says all signs are that the flow is in much better shape to move forward.

“It’s for the health of the flow and the Oconto River at this point here, and you know, it’s been 41 years I think so it’s a long time,” says Dupuis.

Machickanee’s flow is expected to return to its normal water level by October 1.

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