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On October 13, 1994, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and DNR Secretary George Meyer were on hand as the state renamed the Woodruff Hatchery as the Art Oehmcke State Fish Hatchery. Oehmcke published “The Woodruff Hatchery Story,” in 1989, which was updated and reprinted in 2005


  • Species:
    • A.  Muskellunge – raise one (1) size to 11”; about 20,000 are distributed throughout Wisconsin
    • B. Walleye – (2013/14 Walleye Initiative – $1m designated from WI State budget – 2015/16 built 3- 1 acre rearing ponds & disinfection room in hatchery 
      • raises two (2) sizes 
      • 366,000 – Fingerling 1.5” – 2.00” – takes about 35-40 days to “grow”
      • 143,000 – Larger Fingerlings 6.5” – 7.00” – typically harvested in September each year
    • C.  White suckers – spawn, incubate, & hatch – MORE than all the walleye and muskellunge fingerlings they raise
  • Operations: Hatching and rearing – 15 – one (1) acre , lined ponds
  • Location: On County Highway J, 2 miles east of Woodruff, Oneida County
  • Restrooms at DNR Fire Station – across the street
  • Picnic areas and campgrounds nearby in Northern Highlands-American Legion State Forest
  • Guided tours: Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily from Tuesday after Memorial Day to the Friday before Labor Day (May 30, 2023 through September 2, 2023)
  • Telephone: (715) 356-5211, x 215
  • Address: 8770 Highway J, Woodruff, WI 54568
  • Visitor center with a live fish display



Oehmcke, Art – Retired district director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), died December 3, 2006, in Rice Lake. Oehmcke was a respected natural resources leader and musky management biologist. A native of Milwaukee, Oehmcke was born in 1913 and attended Milwaukee area schools. He graduated from Wauwatosa High School in 1932 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a major in Plant Ecology in 1937. Later he became the first state employee to receive a conservation fellowship grant to attend Harvard University where in 1953, he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. He began work for the Wisconsin Conservation Department, predecessor of today’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as a biologist’s aide at Sturgeon Bay. He worked as hatchery foreman and field supervisor at Spooner and Madison until 1941. From 1941 to 1969 he directed the Woodruff Hatchery and specialized in propagation of muskies. He and his staff developed the state’s muskellunge fingerling and yearling culture and management program, and helped to design the new hatchery at Woodruff that featured automatic water temperature control (1960-64), which at that time was the first of its kind. He wrote Wisconsin’s first production report on muskellunge fingerling for the Progressive Fish Culturist in 1949, which was followed in 1950 with the first report on muskellunge yearling production and management. He was responsible for management of 4,000 lakes and 4,000 miles of trout streams in northeastern Wisconsin from 1941 to 1969, and he developed a close working relationship with all major sportsmen’s clubs in 12 northeast Wisconsin counties. While in the north woods, he met and married his wife Cora Syltie in 1942. Cora was Art’s favorite fishing partner. They enjoyed many outdoor sports such as skiing, snowshoeing and hiking in their beautiful woods. He served as assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries Management from 1969 to 1971, and was appointed director of the West Central District headquartered in Eau Claire in 1971. In 1977 he was named director of the Northwest District in Spooner, and retired in 1978 following 41 years of service to the resources and the people of Wisconsin. Oehmcke served in Fishery Administration in all regions of the state, including as Fishery Supervisor at Madison, Spooner, and Woodruff, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Fisheries Management in Madison, and as District Director at Rhinelander, Eau Claire and Spooner. Although a man of many interests, his favorite is undoubtedly fish management and he developed the first system of large-size musky fingerling and yearling rearing at Woodruff. He and his staff introduced the first hatchery automatic temperature control system; promoted voluntary muskellunge creel census in resort areas; utilized muskies as predators to improve panfish quality and achieve balance in sterile, landlocked lakes; assisted in establishment of Northern Highland Lakes Fishery Research Station; initiated and administered the first fly-fishing-only projects on the Peshtigo and Wolf Rivers (while receiving severe criticism from the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation); promoted and administered the first successful spring pond dredging and rehabilitation projects; initiated liberalized hook and line fishing for northern pike control in musky waters to improve the trophy muskellunge fishery; and directed a unique experiment of raising fish in wastewater treatment ponds in western Wisconsin. He was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 1982, the National Fish Culture Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Muskies, Inc. Hall of Fame in 1994. Besides the management end of fisheries, Art knew how to handle a fishing rod and when VIP’s visited Wisconsin, he was among the group selected to guide them for muskies. He assisted in musky guiding expeditions for anglers such as President Eisenhower, Ted Williams, Gypsy Rose Lee, Edward R. Murrow and Prince Harald of Norway. Oehmcke was a member of the American Fisheries Society, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Spooner Musky Club, and Muskies, Inc. He served as an AARP-Tax Aide, and assisted the American Cancer Society, Rotary Club, and Salvation Army. After retiring from the DNR, he served as a Washburn County delegate to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress from 1981 to 1985. He made a motion at the statewide Congress meeting in 1983 to increase the muskellunge size limit from 30-inches to 32-inches thus achieving the first change in musky size limits since 1924. On October 13, 1994, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and DNR Secretary George Meyer were on hand as the state renamed the Woodruff Hatchery as the Art Oehmcke State Fish Hatchery. Oehmcke published “The Woodruff Hatchery Story,” in 1989, which was updated and reprinted in 2005, with the proceeds going to assist musky propagation at the Oehmcke Hatchery in Woodruff. Oehmcke is survived by his wife of 64 years, Cora, of Spooner; nieces and nephews; other relatives and friends. Visitation Friday, December 8 from 5-8 PM at the Scalzo-Taylor Funeral Home, 306 Rusk Street, Spooner WI. Funeral Saturday, December 9 at 11:00 AM at United Methodist Church in Spooner, WI. Memorials to Salvation Army in recognition of Art’s years of service to that organization and its bell ringer program.