Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Take Me Fishing campaign aims at getting more people out fishing

MADISON – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank today announced the state has begun its second year of the Take Me Fishing Campaign in partnership with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The campaign uses direct marketing and radio advertising to reach out to anglers who have fished in recent years but haven’t bought a license in at least one of the last five years. As part of the campaign, more than 55,000 post cards were mailed today to anglers meeting this criteria.

“This program has proven to be effective in bringing families back to fishing on Wisconsin’s waters and we are happy to continue our partnership with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation,” Secretary Frank said. “We were very pleased with last year’s results, and hope we can get even more anglers out on Wisconsin waters this year.”

Last year, the campaign’s first, Wisconsin lured back more anglers than any other state: 11,231 of 41,322 people (27 percent) receiving the mailing bought a fishing license. Altogether, more than 223,000 fishing licenses and permits were sold in 29 of the 30 states that participated in 2008.

“Wisconsin is known throughout the country for our great fishing,” Secretary Frank said. “Fishing is an important part of Wisconsin’s heritage that supports healthy families, healthy local economies and a healthy environment.”

For every additional license the DNR sells, it receives $10 in federal funding from excise tax on the sale of fishing gear to invest in improving fishing for everyone.

Thirty-two states will launch their programs over the coming weeks with two separate mailings, aiming to bring lapsed anglers back to the sport, according to RBFF [www.rbff.org] (exit DNR). The second year of the program continues to integrate radio advertising and public relations support from the RBFF to enhance the direct mail effort. Another element of the campaign is TakeMeFishing.org, the campaign Web site where anglers can find tips on fishing tackle to use, fishing techniques, fish identification, maps showing lakes and rivers to fish, and links to all states’ fisheries program.

Take Me Fishing is a three-year-project. Find more information about Wisconsin’s participation in the DNR’s fishing media kit, under the tab, “campaign.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Schenborn (608) 267-7591 or Rachel Piacenza (608) 261-6431

New law restores longtime bass and musky season structures

MADISON - Wisconsin’s longstanding season structures for bass and musky have been officially restored and the early-season barbless hook requirements eliminated for some catch-and-release seasons under a bill Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law earlier this month.

As a result of the changes made by 2009 Wis. Act 6 (Assembly Bill 4):

  • The normal musky season opening dates will remain in effect. This means the northern zone musky season opens May 23 this year and no person may actively fish for musky before that date in waters north of Highway 10. Southern zone musky season opens May 2.
  • The largemouth/ smallmouth bass season opens May 2 on most state waters. In the northern zone, anglers may fish for bass but as in the past, must release all bass they catch until June 20. Anglers are NOT restricted to barbless hooks and artificial lures during this catch and release portion of the season in the northern zone or on other waters which have a catch and release bass season.
This bill was initiated and adopted in response to a statutory change – not a Department of Natural Resources rule change -- in the 2007 budget bill that would have required the DNR to create an early musky catch-and-release season and required anglers to use barbless hooks during that season and any bass catch-and-release season.

“Both of these statutory requirements caused considerable consternation among the angling public, and we are grateful that those laws have been repealed before the May 2 fishing opener,” says Joe Hennessy, the DNR fish biologist who coordinates fisheries regulations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joe Hennessy (608) 267-9427

$950,000 destined for private land habitat management in Driftless Area

MADISON – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank today announced the state has received a $559,602 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program to enhance privately owned prairie and savanna habitat throughout the driftless area of Wisconsin in coming months along with $397,486 in state and private matching funds. Funds will be distributed through Wisconsin’s Landowner Incentive Program (LIP).

The federal dollars are part of nearly $9 million in State Wildlife Grant Competitive Program funds awarded to12 state wildlife agencies across the country to help imperiled mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies, and their habitats. State matching funds include $180,000 from the Stewardship Program and approximately $190,000 from conservation groups and the University of Wisconsin.

“The grant will help federal, state and nongovernmental organizations work with private landowners for successful species and habitat conservation in the driftless region,” Frank said. “It is great news that we are able to offer landowners financial and technical assistance to protect the future of these species and improve this important habitat.”

Species of greatest conservation need include those that are listed as either endangered or threatened, as well as some not yet listed but showing signs of decline. In many cases, habitat loss is a major factor for their decline. Efforts to prevent species from becoming endangered or threatened are less costly and help avoid regulation.

“The driftless area of Wisconsin is largely under private ownership and contains unique habitat that supports a number of wildlife and plant species of great need,” Frank said. “The driftless area contains some of the best remaining remnants of oak savanna, prairies, forests and stream in the upper Midwest and provides habitat for unique plant and animal species.”

Available only for use on private lands within the target area, the nearly $250,000 in assistance grants are designed for projects benefitting animal species such as grassland birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Examples of likely projects include prescribed burns to rejuvenate prairie and savanna areas, removal of invasive brush such as honeysuckle and multi-flora rose and conservation easement purchases for areas supporting very rare species like the Hines emerald dragonfly.

Estimated at roughly 24,000 square miles, the driftless area consists of two ecologically important regions, the southwest savanna and western coulee and ridges.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Heidi Nelson - 608-267-0797

$1.3 million in grants to fight aquatic invasive species

MADISON – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank today announced that more than $1.3 million in state grants are headed to local communities to help them prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

State grants helped fund this work party organized by the Golden Sands RC&D Council, and the McDill Pond Lake District, to eradicate remaining Eurasian watermilfoil while McDill Lake was drawn down.

More than 20 local governments, lake districts and conservation groups will be awarded the grants to prevent invasive species from being introduced to new lakes, to control them where they’ve become a problem, and to respond rapidly when an aquatic invasive species is detected in new water for the first time.

“These grants are an important part of Wisconsin’s effort to protect our beautiful waterways, fish habitat and our $13 billion dollar tourism industry,” Frank said. “Governor Doyle has been a leader in fighting aquatic invasive species in Wisconsin and under his administration funding has increased to help stop their spread on inland waters.”

The program, which began in 2003 under Governor Doyle’s administration, has now provided $10.2 million to fight aquatic invasive species. The grants, and the local partnerships and interest they build, are an important part of the state’s overall strategy to tackle invasive species, which can crowd out native species, hampering recreation and industry.

With more than 140 grant applications and requests for twice the amount money available, this round of funding was very competitive, said Carroll Schaal, the DNR’s lakes team leader. The high quality of the projects being funded reflects what works and what research shows is needed, allowing Wisconsin to tackle the problem strategically and on a more regional basis, he said.
New administrative rules governing the grant program effective this summer make some changes for the next round of grant applications, due Aug. 1, 2009, Schaal said. The changes align grant priorities with the best scientific knowledge to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, and to manage them effectively. They encourage regional efforts while ensuring small projects can compete for funding.

Town of Cloverland Town of Cloverland Lakes Management Planning Project $138,268.54
Lincoln County Land Information and Conservation Dept. Tri-County AIS Coordinator $177,799.89
Golden Sands RC&D Regional AIS Specialist 2 $107,145
Town of Lac du Flambeau Lac du Flambeau AIS CB/CW, Edu & Monitoring Project $44,708
Winnebago Lakes Council Winnebago Pool Lakes Strategic Planning-Ph II $78,353.25
City of Shell Lake Shell Lake Invasive Species 2009-2011 $50,300
Washburn County LWCD Washburn County AIS Strategic Plan Implementation $23,000
Iron River Area Lakes Assn Pike Chain AIS Cont. & Prev. Proj 2009-13 $161,225.25
Minocqua-Kawaguesaga Lakes Protection Assn., Inc. Minocqua-Kawaguesaga AIS Control Project $164,236.50
TLA, Inc. Lake Tomahawk AIS Control Project $149,701
Enterprise Lake P&R District Enterprise Lake AIS Control Project $50,000
Little St Germain Lake P&RD Little St Germain Lake AIS Control Project $50,000
Minong Flowage Assn. Minong Flow. EWM Control Proj 2009-11 $50,000
Town of Arbor Vitae EWM RR Project $4,958.63
Harris Lake Assn. CLP RR Project $9,997.50
Town of Three Lakes Three Lakes Chain $20,000
City of Eagle River Silver Lake EWM Project $17,927.25
Lac Vieux Desert Lake Assn. Lac Vieux Desert EWM Rapid Response $19,998.75
Callahan/Mud Lake Prot Assn. EWM Treatment $12,180
Maiden Lakes Assn. Maiden Lake-Oconto Co $12,273.75
Lake Holcomb Improvement Assn. Lake Holcomb $6,375
Rock River Coalition Knotweed Eradication-Badfish Creek $3,257
Lake Wissota Improvement Assn. Lake Wissota #1 $9,009
Crooked Lake Assn. Crooked LK $5,000
Total $1,365,714.31

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Carroll Schaal (608) 261-6423 or Tom Nowakowski (608) 267-0494

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swimming Jig Technique Often Produces Nice Spring Bass

If you're a bass fisherman like Greg Vinson, all it takes to convince you to master a fishing technique is catching one big bass. Vinson's first bass caught swimming a jig weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and today, more than 10 years later, the Yamaha pro still prefers the unusual presentation whenever he's fish- ing shallow vegetation.

"Swimming a jig not only provides an alternative to spinnerbaits," Vinson explains, "but also seems to at- tract larger fish. A jig with a twin-tail trailer is a bulky lure that creates a lot of water movement and vibra- tion but it doesn't have the flash of a spinnerbait. "You're fishing for reflex strikes, and I think bass may hit it because they haven't seen a lot of swimming jigs yet. I really use the technique a lot during the spring, but it works year-round whenever bass are using shallow cover."

Swimming a jig is easy. Instead of letting the lure sink to the bottom, it is retrieved rapidly no deeper than 8 or 10 inches below the surface. Vinson also shakes his rod tip as he reels to give the jig more action. The tech- nique has been around for many years but it has never gained widespread popularity, probably because most bass fishermen have been using spinnerbaits.

"I was getting beaten in bass tournaments on the Coosa River in Alabama where I live," Vinson laughs, "so I learned how to do it out of self defense. The old-timers there had been swimming jigs for 20 years before that, and they were trying to keep it a secret."

The Yamaha pro prefers ¼ and 3/8-oz. jigs with triangular heads and flat sides that come through cover easily; they're made by one of those old timers who used to out-fish him on the Coosa, too. "One of the special tricks I like to use is stopping my retrieve as I swim the jig over the top of a clump of vegetation, shaking it hard for a few seconds, then letting the lure fall along the edge of that vegetation," Vinson continues. "Strikes come either as my jig is falling, or the moment I begin to raise it again, and they're vicious, hard strikes. It's almost as if bass think the lure is invading their territory."

Vinson does not limit himself to swimming his jig over grass and lily pads. He also fishes it around shallow laydowns, through stumps and standing timber, and even over rocks. White/pearl was once everyone's preferred color for swimming jigs because it imitated shad but Vinson often uses black/blue, brown/green, and even brown/orange so his lures look more like bluegill and crawfish.

"Plastic trailers like twin-tail grubs are also an important part of making this presentation successful be- cause they provide a lot of the action," emphasizes the Yamaha angler. "When the water is really clear or if it's cooler, I use a smaller one, but normally, my trailer is pretty bulky. A lot of different designs can be used, but the most important feature is that the trailer have some type of legs that swim or vibrate." He also likes a medium/heavy action rod with a soft tip that allows him to shake the jig easily, and 40 or 50- lb. braided line that improves hook-setting in vegetation. The Yamaha angler prefers to swim a jig in water less than five feet deep and with a slight ripple on the surface, but he has used the technique successfully in both calm and rough water.

Source: The Fishing Wire


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Will Invest in 11 Wisconsin Projects
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold announced today that Wisconsin will receive approximately $7.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the economic stimulus, to invest in wildlife refuges and hatcheries, improve facilities, and promote conservation across the state to create jobs. The largest investment for Wisconsin will be $6.1 million to build an energy efficient headquarters and visitor center at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Other projects include $500,000 to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to install energy efficient photovoltaic panels on the visitor center, $405,000 to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery to complete stalled maintenance projects, and $839,000 for habitat restoration projects along the Kickapoo River, Bad River, Troutmere Creek, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

“The commitment to public lands and our environment runs deep in our state and this investment will help protect our fish and wildlife,” Feingold said. “I am pleased that this stimulus funding will not only help to create jobs in Wisconsin, but will also make energy efficiency improvements to buildings, finish long overdue maintenance projects, provide critical habitat restoration, and ensure that many outdoor enthusiasts will continue to enjoy our state’s beautiful wildlife and landscape.”

Feingold has been a strong supporter of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Feingold has been helped lead efforts in the Senate to increase funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System to meet the tremendous budget shortfalls the refuges face. In August 2007, Feingold was presented with an award for his leadership in supporting the National Wildlife Refuge System by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a coalition of more than 20 conservation, sporting and scientific organizations that range from the Defenders of Wildlife to the National Rifle Association.

For a full list of the Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Act projects and plans, go to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery web site at http://recovery.doi.gov/fws/. Additional information about other Department of the Interior Recovery Act issues can be found at the Department’s Recovery Web Site at http://recovery.doi.gov/.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chemical treatment of Half Moon Lake to begin this week

EAU CLAIRE – A three-year program to control invasive plants in Eau Claire’s Half Moon Lake will begin Thursday or Friday with the application of herbicides designed to kill invasive plants without harming native aquatic species.

Adjoining property owners are being asked to not water lawns or gardens for 21 days after the herbicide application. Lake users are being asked not to fish or have contact with treated Half Moon Lake water for three days after the herbicide application. The chemicals do not pose a human health risk, but they can briefly affect the taste of fish.

Half Moon Lake, 154 acres of water in the shape of a horseshoe, surrounds historic Carson Park within the city of Eau Claire. It is one of the most popular natural resources in the area, offering city residents a prime fishery and a beautiful setting for water recreation and relaxation. The explosive growth of curlyleaf pondweed each spring and an expanding infestation of Eurasian water milfoil, however, have resulted in poor water quality. The invasive plants threaten to choke off large sections of the lake and replace native plants important to the fishery and water quality.

The chemicals – Endothall and 2-4-D – are being applied at precise water temperatures and before native plants become vulnerable. The city of Eau Claire is working with the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore and preserve the lake.

Signs in both English and the Hmong language will be posted around the lake to alert neighbors and users of Half Moon Lake about the treatments.

Lake property owners “turn back the clock” to protect clean water, habitat

BARNES, Wis. – Carol LeBreck and other property owners along Bony Lake in Bayfield County decided they needed to turn back the clock if future generations were to enjoy the lake’s clean water and wildlife as they have.

“We realized we were responsible for leaving a healthy lake legacy for our children and grandchildren, and the best way to do that was to partner with our neighbors and local government to remove unsightly riprap and other lake-unfriendly things, and to replace them with the native plants and trees that were here before us,” said LeBreck, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Lakes and Bayfield County Lakes Forum [www.bayfieldcountylakes.org] (eixt DNR) who spearheaded a project that’s one of the largest habitat restoration efforts in Wisconsin.

So LeBreck and other neighbors have spent the last few years giving this northern Wisconsin lake a makeover to appear 125 years younger, much like it did before logging and settlement substantially changed the landscape.

They’ve been removing rip-rap and old sheds and replacing them with native plants and trees that stabilize their shorelines and filter runoff before it enters the lake. They’ve selectively cut upland trees and transported them into the shallow water to create habitat for fish and other lake wildlife, and they’ve installed rain gardens, rain barrels and berms to soak up the rain and filter out pollutants before runoff enters their lake.

And the property owners committed their shorelines to conservation use in perpetuity on the deeds. “These conservation agreements assure the long-term investment of state grant dollars will provide habitat benefits for generations to come,” says Department of Natural Resources Lake and River Management Coordinator Pamela Toshner.

Project a “full team effort” launched in 2006

While shoreline restorations have historically been implemented on individual parcels, the concept of lakewide or whole-lake restoration work is relatively new. This project began a few years ago with a full team effort.

During summer 2006, lake property owners began meeting with the Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department, Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, and DNR officials. The property owners wanted to protect the 191-acre lake from increasing water quality and habitat stressors such as development and recreational use.

LeBreck led the partner team and wrote a successful DNR Lake Protection Shoreland Restoration Grant that provided $100,000 over three years. There was an additional $45,000 in cash and in-kind matching funds available and dedicated for the project.

Working together, the team has completed six shoreline restorations and installed the rain gardens, berms, and rain barrels. They quintupled woody habitat, improving nursery and feeding areas for young fish and benefiting birds, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife. They also used the funding to educate the local community about the lake’s water quality, fishery, and historic conditions. Local and national media have picked up on the Bony Lake story with features in area newspapers, Cabin Life magazine, and outdoor television programs.

Like many waterways in northern Wisconsin, Bony Lake has excellent water quality. The Bony Lake project is a model for similar lakes where water quality protection and habitat restoration are the primary management goals.

“Project success is built upon citizens contributing their talents and skills to drive the effort and share their stories with neighbors and surrounding communities,” Toshner said. “Perhaps the greatest gauge of success is that we’re hearing from property owners along other lakes who want to follow the lead of the Bony Lake folks.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pamela Toshner (715) 635-4073 and Carol LeBreck (715) 425-6904

New fishing tournament rule effective May 1

MADISON – A new Wisconsin fishing tournament rule goes into effect May 1, 2009.
The rule aims to reduce user conflicts and complaints about crowding by spreading out tournaments that exceed size limits, according to Mike Staggs, Wisconsin’s fisheries director.

The rule will also help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia or VHS disease.

“This rule allows fisheries biologists to work with tournament organizers to help make sure that tournament participants don’t accidentally introduce these invaders into new waters via their bait, fishing equipment, or boats,” Staggs says.

Fishing tournaments with more than 20 boats or 100 participants will need a permit under the new rule. Those tournament organizers needing a permit would have to pay an application fee to cover some of the cost of the fishing tournament program.

“For those tournaments that actually need a permit, we’ve kept the fee affordable,” Staggs says. “The vast majority of tournaments that need to get a permit will pay a $25 fee, and tournaments aimed at providing fishing opportunities for kids and disabled people are free.”

“We don’t expect many events to be affected by the size limits, and if they are, we’re confident we can find agreeable solutions to most scheduling conflicts,” Staggs says. “And in the coming years, we’ll be evaluating the effect of the rule and how it may influence tournament activity.”

Tournament organizers who already have their permits for future tournaments or those who apply before the May 1 deadline will not be affected by the new tournament rule. Organizers can now easily plan and apply for a fishing tournament permit online. A new, searchable calendar is available that allows organizers, participants, anglers, and all water users to see which waters already have fishing tournaments scheduled. For more details on the new rule, visit the DNR fishing tournament Web site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanna Griffin (608) 264-8953 or Jon Hansen -(608) 266-6883

Top 10 spring boating safety tips

Be aware of cold water, debris, dams

MADISON – Anglers who fish the May 2 opening day of Wisconsin’s inland fishing season can make sure their first trip of the season isn’t their last by following a few safe boating tips, recreation safety experts say.

Cold water, unpredictable weather, debris in the water and high river flows all require special precautions during the early season, says Conservation Warden Todd Schaller, recreation safety chief for the Department of Natural Resources.

“Wearing a life jacket is the most important precaution you can take,” Schaller says. “It will keep you afloat and help you retain body heat.”

People lose body heat 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air, and hypothermia can occur in any water less than 70 degrees, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

More information about hypothermia, more safety tips, and links to boating safety course information and videos can be found on the Boat Safely in Wisconsin page of the DNR Web site.

Dam Safety Awareness Week April 26-May 2

Schaller and Meg Galloway, DNR dam safety chief, also advise boaters to be particularly cautious this spring around the 3,800 dams on Wisconsin rivers and streams. DNR is joining with the Midwest Hydro Users Group and Wisconsin Public Service to mark Dam Safety Awareness Week April 26 – May 2.

Two of the 20 boating fatalities in Wisconsin last year involved a dam. Two men drowned when their boat capsized when they got too near the water cascade below an open dam on the Wisconsin River in Marathon County.

“People always need to be cautious around dams because of the tricky currents and rapidly changing conditions, but anglers and boaters need to be especially cautious in spring because of the high flows from melting snow and rain and the cold water temperatures,” Galloway says. “Entering an area near the dam that was safe in low flows may put you at higher risk of an accident during high flows, and the cold water will limit your ability to react and your survival time.”

In addition to wearing a life jacket, the other name top spring boating safety tips are:
  • Tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Test your boat and ensure that all equipment is there and working before launching.
  • Dress in layers that can be peeled off and put back on as the temperature dictates.
  • Watch carefully for branches and other debris carried into the water by snowmelt or runoff and avoid anything that appears to be floating on the water.
  • Be aware that river water levels will be higher and currents faster in spring, and boat within your capabilities.
  • Be aware of weather conditions before leaving shore, and keep track of them while on the water. Take along a weather radio or regular radio or tune into the marine band's weather channel.
  • Return to shore if a steady increase in wind or thick dense clouds signal approaching storms.
  • If you end up on the water, stay with your boat and try to pull yourself up on it since the air temperature is likely warmer than the water.

Take these safety precautions when around dams:

  • Observe all barriers, flashing lights, horns and sirens.
  • Leave your boat motor running to provide maneuvering power.
  • Stay clear of spillways; changing currents and "boiling" waves can make boat control difficult near dams.
  • Never anchor boats below a dam because water levels can change rapidly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:Todd Schaller (608) 267-2774; Your regional recreation safety warden

Monday, April 20, 2009

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes

Asian carp have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Due to their large size and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

To prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to install and maintain a permanent electric barrier between the fish and Lake Michigan. [Full Story]

McKenzie Creek Trout Habitat Restored, Clam River next

Frederic – Last summer Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff completed an extensive stream habitat restoration project on McKenzie Creek in north central Polk County east of Frederic. A similar project takes place on the Clam River this year.

“The goal of these projects are to improve habitat for large brown trout by increasing pool area and overhead cover” said Heath Benike, DNR fisheries biologist, “and this increases more trout per mile of stream for the benefit of the angler.”

The work involves adding bank cover structures and boulder clusters. Spawning areas are also enhanced including several miles of streambank brushing.

Anyone wanting to view the completed work on McKenzie creek should go east of Frederic on Polk County Highway W, then north on McKenzie Trail before crossing McKenzie Creek. Travel northward on McKenzie Trail for approximately a quarter of a mile and several gated access roads lead downhill to McKenzie Creek.

The projects are paid for courtesy of state trout stamp monies used only for habitat and spring pond improvements, Benike said. Such investments pay big dividends in angler recreation for years, he said.

2009 Annual Spring Fish & Wildlife Rule Hearing Results

MADISON – Nearly 8,000 people attended the 2009 Spring Fisheries and Wildlife Rules Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings that were held in every county statewide on Monday, April 13. The hearings allowed 7,939 citizens to comment and provide their input on proposed fish and wildlife rule changes, Conservation Congress and Natural Resources Board advisory questions, and to submit resolutions for rule changes they would like to see in the future.

Statewide hearing results and the questions are available on the Spring Rules Hearings page of the DNR Web site. The results will be presented to the state Natural Resources Board in May.

Hearing results, along with written comments on proposed rules, and DNR recommendations are used to advise the state Natural Resources Board. This year’s results will be reviewed at the board’s May 27 meeting in Baraboo. Votes are non-binding and are presented to the Natural Resources Board to reflect public sentiment on proposed DNR rule changes.

DNR fish and wildlife managers will spend the next several weeks analyzing the vote tallies and developing recommendations they will present to the board in May.

The hearings are held in conjunction with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings. DNR related proposals are presented to attendees by DNR staff. Following DNR business, the meeting is reconvened as a Conservation Congress meeting and congress advisory questions are presented and county congress delegates elected. The congress is an advisory body to the Natural Resources Board. During the congress’ portion of the hearing, citizens may introduce resolutions for consideration and vote by those attending the hearings.

A Monster Swims Among Us - DNR crew nets record yellow bass in Lake Mendota

FITCHBURG – A potential world record yellow bass is alive and well and swimming in Lake Mendota.

DNR’s South Central Region fisheries crew here netted and released the 16.7 inch, three pound fish on Tuesday, April 14, reports fisheries technician Scott Harpold, Fitchburg.

Crews were conducting a comprehensive fishery survey using fyke nets on Lake Mendota where they collected and released the fish on the north end of the lake near Governor Nelson State Park.

“Yellow bass are a unique fish and it was pretty neat,” said Mr. Harpold.

Although present in Lake Mendota and the Yahara Chain-of-Lakes, Mr. Harpold noted that yellow bass are more abundant in nearby Lake Kegonsa.

The fish would better the existing state record – 14.4 inches, 2.2 pounds caught in 1972 from another Yahara Lake, Monona – and, according to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, it would better the existing all tackle world record by one-half pound.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wisconsin inland fishing season opens May 2

MADISON – The countdown to the May 2 inland fishing season opener has officially begun. The ice is melting, the fish are hungry and 1.4 million anglers who purchase Wisconsin fishing licenses each year are ready to forget the winter, reconnect with family and friends, and make great memories.

“The fishing season can’t come soon enough for most of us,” says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. “It’s been a hard year so far economically, so we feel a heed to relax and recharge our batteries – and fishing is a great way to do that.”

Wisconsin has thousands of fishable lakes and streams, two great lakes, and a long stretch of the Mississippi River which means that good fishing is never far and good catching isn’t either, evident by the 88 million fish that anglers caught in 2006, the most recent statewide survey of anglers.

Fishing is a great activity for the family, and with children under 16 being able to fish for free, it provides year-long, low-cost fun. If you need fishing tackle, DNR has equipment for loan at many DNR offices and state parks for your angling pleasure.

And there’s no better day to catch fishing fever than on May 2.

“Taking part in the May 2 fishing opener is a tradition that’s meant to be shared,” Frank says. “A fishing license is your first-class ticket to enjoy time outdoors with family and friends.”
Anglers looking for a new place to fish or the fishing forecast for individual waters can find the latest information in the 2009 Wisconsin Fishing Report.

Regional DNR fisheries forecasts

Here’s a heads up on how DNR fisheries biologists and supervisors are seeing the season opener shape up across Wisconsin:

Northern Wisconsin

Similar to last year, spring has been slow to come to northern Wisconsin. Ice fishing will be possible on at least a few waters through mid-April, particularly in the central part of the region. So it’s likely that early spawning fish like walleye and northern pike will still be spawning on some lakes on the fishing opener. The annual Governor’s Fishing Opener event will be held on the Chippewa Flowage this year. Flowages and other waters with rivers running through them will be a good early-season choice for all anglers this year. These waters tend to be dark colored and relatively shallow. This allows them to warm up more quickly than deep, clear-water lakes and fish are more likely to be in a post-spawn feeding mood or at least more active. It’s still dry across much of northern Wisconsin and anglers should expect to see low water levels on many lakes, especially seepage lakes (those with no inlet or outlet). While this may not markedly affect fishing, it may present some navigational and boat launching challenges. Remember that most of the north has a catch-and-release only regulation for bass until late June. As was the case last year, this season also has an additional barbless-hooks-only restriction. A law to repeal the barbless-hooks-only restriction is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. Keep an eye open for any news releases should this happen before the fishing opener. - Steve Avelallemant, regional fisheries supervisor, Rhinelander

Southeastern Wisconsin

As with last year, a long winter will leave lingering, cool-water temperatures come opening day. For largemouth bass anglers this means no need to get up early; unless you are worried about securing a parking place at the boat landing. Largemouth bass metabolic rates -- and thus their feeding urge -- will probably not be strong until the mid-day sun warms surface waters. Fish shallow, organic bays with dark sediment bottoms on the north side of lakes and use a slow presentation. Plastics, like natural-colored plastic worms are probably your best bet.

Smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye will be a different story; they will probably be most active early and late in shallows. Try jig and minnow combinations fished slowly for all three. And on lakes with substantial northern pike populations, add a thin-wire leader to prevent bite-offs. Catchable-sized rainbow and brown trout will again be stocked in our two-story lakes including Beulah, Lower Genesee, Lower Nashotah, Waubesee, Ottawa and Fowler. Walleye in large, deep lakes like Geneva, Delavan, Pine and Big Cedar will probably still be spawning; so the potential to catch a huge pre-spawn female from any of these lakes is very real. Smallmouth bass populations have been increasing in recent years, whether through global climate change, increased protection from size limits, catch and release or some combination of factors we do not completely understand. Good populations exist in Pewaukee, Delavan, Nagawicka, North, Pine, Lac La Belle and Oconomowoc lakes. Muskellunge will still be spawning and should be found in shallow, weedy inlet bays. Good musky bets include Pewaukee, Okauchee, Oconomowoc, Silver Lake (Kenosha County) and Lac La Belle. DNR fisheries crews recently netted a 45-inch musky from Lac La Belle. Off our Lake Michigan harbors, there should be excellent opportunities for catching large brown trout as well as steelhead as they resume their normal feeding after spawning. For browns, fish wherever you can find turbid waters or currents, such as at warm-water discharges and river mouths. Whether fishing from a boat or shore, casting for browns in the harbors of Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee should be excellent. Due to high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels, most designated urban ponds cannot support trout through the summer. However, this cool spring should allow almost all the more than 50 urban ponds stocked with catchable-size rainbow trout to continue to produce trout well into May. Remember, an inland trout stamp is required along with a fishing license for most adult anglers fishing urban ponds. Our urban fishing hotline number is: 1-888-347-4563. See page 21 in your fishing regulations for a complete list of urban ponds and their fishing regulations. - Randy Schumacher, regional fisheries supervisor, Milwaukee

Northeastern Wisconsin

It’s mid-April and the ice has been off the lakes for only two weeks. Most of the walleye spawning activity should be over, but many will still be in the shallow water. Hungry fish can be found near sunken tree brush or just off gravel and rocky shorelines.

The abundant walleye in the Lake Winnebago system will be actively feeding after returning from their spawning runs up the upper Fox and Wolf rivers. Walleye anglers should also fish the lower reaches and river mouths of the Menominee, Peshtigo, Oconto and Fox rivers of Green Bay. Early May is a good time to fish for crappie in our inland lakes. Schools of crappie can be located near shore in submerged brush cover and in connected boat channels. Trout fishing opportunities abound. The melted snow filled the streams and the levels will be normal with clear water. High-quality trout streams can be found from Marquette County through Waushara, Waupaca, Shawano, Oconto and Marinette counties. Popular streams include the Mecan, Pine, Little Wolf, Red, South Branch of the Oconto and Pike rivers. Many of the streams flow through state-owned lands open to fishing. The winter snow is gone and it’s time to go fishing! – George Boronow, regional fisheries supervisor, Green Bay

South Central Wisconsin

South of Route 18 in Iowa County, anglers will find a wide variety of wadable streams to fish. While some of these streams may hold some smallmouth bass and the occasional walleye or northern pike, brown trout will offer anglers the best opportunity. Gordon, Ley, Conley-Lewis and the Smith Conley creeks contain fishable brown trout populations. Yellowstone Lake in Lafayette County will offer good fishing for walleye, panfish, and channel catfish. Anglers heading to the Pecatonica River system will want to target walleye or channel catfish. Channel catfish are more abundant and will offer the best chance for success. The Galena River, known locally as the Fever River, supports one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in southwest Wisconsin. South of route 18 in Grant County, anglers have smallmouth bass, brown trout, walleye, and channel catfish available in fishable numbers in many small streams. Streams supporting fishable numbers of smallmouth bass include the Platte River, Little Platte River, Grant River, Rattlesnake Creek, and Blockhouse Creek. The lower portions of the Platte, Little Platte and Grant Rivers are ideal for those anglers looking to do some float fishing for smallmouth bass. Trout streams anglers may want to visit include Borah Creek, Rountree Branch, McPherson Branch, Platte River, and Rogers Branch.

The entire coulee region should provide absolutely outstanding trout fishing for the foreseeable future. While there are greatly improved numbers of fish in the streams throughout the entire season, these wild populations, which make up the vast majority of our trout populations, are more wary than were their domestic brethren and therefore require more skill to put them on the end of the line.

The overall fisheries of the Lower Wisconsin River are in very good shape. The walleye population has seen a significant increase in the number of 15- to 18-inch fish.

Channel catfish populations are currently in good shape and continue to be the most important fishery on the lower part of the Lower Wisconsin River. There are also decent populations of bluegill and crappie located in the quiet stillwater areas of the river. These are little utilized fisheries and would provide good fishing for anglers wanting to specifically target these fish. Northern pike throughout the Lower Wisconsin River and musky in the uppermost part of the Lower Wisconsin River provide pretty good action for anglers pursuing these species.

Beaver Dam and Fox lakes should continue to produce good catches of crappie this spring and early summer. Fox Lake walleye numbers are up in recent years with numbers of fish reaching the 18-inch minimum length this fishing season. Beaver Dam Lake should also continue to produce walleye action this year. Channel catfish fishing has been heating up on Beaver Dam Lake and the Beaver Dam River below the Beaver Dam. Try numerous stretches of the Rock River for catfish action and Rock Lake for largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing, as well as bluegill and other panfish.

For northern pike fishing, head to Lake Emily in Dodge County, where pike abundance has increased during the past few years. Dense aquatic vegetation makes this lake challenging to fish, but growth rates are good and multiple year-classes of pike are available. – Bradd Sims, fisheries biologist, Dodgeville, Gene Van Dyke, fisheries biologist, Dodgeville, and Laura Stremick-Thompson, fisheries biologist, Horicon

West Central Wisconsin

Water levels in the Mississippi River have generally peaked in most areas and will be declining in the coming days. Northern pike have almost finished spawning but a few males can still be found hanging around backwater lakes and sloughs. The walleye and sauger fishing below the locks and dams has been good but will slow down over the next couple of weeks as walleye and sauger migrate to areas to spawn. Anglers can target these fish by trolling or jigging in 12 to18 feet along main channel and side channel borders near riprap. The mouths of tributaries can also be very productive for walleye and sauger in early spring. As water levels stabilize and water temperatures increase, bluegill, crappie, and perch action will improve in backwater lakes and bays. Night crawlers, red worms, or waxies fished on the bottom or suspended by a float in 2 to 4 feet of water can be very effective angling technique for these species.

The Lower La Crosse River (below Lake Neshonoc) is a consistent producer for catfish, smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye. Good numbers of these species should be available to both shoreline and small boat anglers. The Lower Black River (downstream of North Bend) holds good numbers of walleye and smallmouth bass with the occasional muskellunge thrown in. With little rainfall this spring, river levels should be manageable. Anglers fishing coulee region trout streams should experience great fishing in 2009. Above average reproduction in 2007 and 2008 produced two huge year-classes of trout. While these fish are still relatively small, they should provide opportunity to anglers looking to harvest some fish or just wet a line. In addition to healthy trout populations, nearly one mile of trout stream improvement work was done this past year. This includes the installation of rock vortex weirs, LUNKER structures, in-channel logs, rip-rap, and boulder abutments. – Patrick Short, fisheries biologist, Prairie du Chien and Jordan Weeks, fisheries biologist, La Crosse

Season dates and regulations

The hook-and-line game fish season opens May 2 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 2, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 2 through June 19. Anglers are reminded that artificial lures and barbless hooks must be used if fishing for bass during the catch-and-release bass fishing season in the northern zone and any other waterbody that has bass catch-and-release regulations. From June 20 to March 7, 2010, there’s a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.

Musky season opens May 2 in the southern zone and May 23 in the northern zone.
The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.

The seasons for rock, yellow and white bass, panfish, bullheads and rough fish, catfish, cisco and whitefish are open all year. Check the “2009-2010 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations” for special regulations listed by county, for regulations on the Great Lakes and boundary waters, and for tributary streams to Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The complete guide is also available at DNR offices and license agents.

Anglers that catch a DNR tagged fish are encouraged to report as much information as possible including the tag number, location caught, whether it was kept or not, and the fish length and weight if you have it. Only remove tags from legal-size fish that are kept.

If the tag has an address on it, send the information to that address. Otherwise, visit the DNR Web site for a list of waters with tagged fish or contact a local fisheries biologist.

The information helps DNR determine fish population estimates, and harvest and exploitation rates. Your cooperation and participation is greatly appreciated.

Fishing licenses
It’s easy to buy a fishing license. You can purchase online; at DNR license vendors; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927 do not need a license, nor do people who exhibit proof they are in active service with the U.S. armed forces and are a resident on furlough or leave.

Anglers are reminded of rules to help stop the spread of VHS

Anglers are reminded to follow rules that help prevent the spread of the deadly fish disease viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS. For more information on VHS and steps that all water users can take, visit VHS Prevention.

Connect with fish

Be the first to hear where fish are biting and more by subscribing to fisheries email updates or following [fishwisconsin] on Twitter [twitter.com/home] (both links exit DNR).

Stocking trucks rolling out for May 2 inland trout season opener

MADISON – Does the early bird really get the worm? Trout anglers will have to find out for themselves, but with more than 600,000 catchable trout scheduled to be stocked by the inland trout season opener on May 2, it’s hard to argue the old proverb.

“We hope that trout anglers of all ages find good weather on opening day,” says Al Kaas, Department of Natural Resources statewide fish propagation coordinator, “and also that they catch some of the fish we stock as part of the traditional opening of the fishing season.”

A total of 615,296 catchable rainbow, brown and brook trout are expected to be delivered to hundreds of waters statewide, and as many as the weather permits before the inland opener. A list of waters with catchable trout is available on the DNR Web site.

Put and take” waters, which are capable of supporting trout during the spring, summer and fall, but have poor habitat for sustaining fish over the winter are scheduled to be stocked with 328,800 brown, brook and rainbow trout.

Urban fishing waters, which are small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing, are expected to be stocked with 74,950 rainbow trout. A list of these waters and specific regulations can be found in the “2009-2010 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations".

With the help of cooperative fish rearing agreements and non-profit organizations around the state, an estimated 117,900 additional trout will be stocked. The organizations take small trout fingerlings (less than 1 year old) and raise them to legal size and larger for stocking.

Restoration, rehabilitation, and experimental projects, in addition to overwinter waters throughout Wisconsin, also receive fingerling stocking.

The trout stocked are between 16 and 18 months old and are typically at least 9 inches in length. The department tries to make sure that 80 to 90 percent of the fish stocked are legal size or better, according to Kaas.

Anglers can still warm up to the May 2 opener by taking in some fishing during the early catch and release trout season that runs through April 26. Try some of these “tried and true” waters recommended by DNR fish biologists, supervisors, technicians and hatchery personnel for early trout season.

Increase your chances of filling your bag by checking out these tips and techniques for catching trout, or look into the 2009 Fishing Report for fishing forecasts of waters near you.

Anglers should check the “Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations and Guide, 2009-2010" for daily bag limits and size limits. The state’s inland trout season opens May 2 and runs through September 30.

And when you head out for on your trout fishing trips this year, take someone with you!

“We stock trout in waters for anglers of all ages, so go fishing and take someone with you,” says Kaas. “Fishing is a great, low cost activity with all of the benefits of companionship, fresh air and the thrill of catching and landing a fish - real excitement that you can take to your memory bank! Now that’s a tradition to share.”

Walleye bag limits adjusted for Ceded Territory lakes

MADISON -- Daily walleye bag limits have been revised on 418 lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory in response to harvest declarations made by six bands of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources has announced. Revised bag limits are effective between May 1, 2009 and March 7, 2010, inclusive.

There will be a three walleye bag limit for sport anglers on 87 lakes, a two-fish daily bag limit on 324 lakes, and seven lakes will have a daily bag limit of one walleye.

Most Chippewa tribal harvest takes places during the spring spearfishing season. An administrative rule passed by the state Natural Resources Board in 1998 allows the department to adjust initial bag limits annually to reflect actual spring spearing harvest and projected summer harvests. Following the spring spearfishing season, DNR will review tribal harvest and where possible revise bag limits upwards on lakes lightly or not speared. The number of lakes spearers harvest annually is typically been in the range of 150 to 170.

Lakes declared by the Lac du Flambeau Band have a daily bag limit of three walleye for sport anglers. The DNR and the Lac du Flambeau Band have an agreement giving the Band authority to sell fishing licenses in return for making declarations at a level that allows a three walleye per day recreational angler bag limit.

The adjusted bag limits (pdf; 27KB) are available in portable document format on the regulations page of the DNR Fishing Wisconsin Web site and are being published as an insert to the 2009-2010 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations. Lakes not listed are subject to the regulations printed in the regulations pamphlet. The statewide daily bag limit for walleyes on many Wisconsin lakes remains at five fish per day, but anglers should check the regulations for special size and bag limits that are in effect on specific waters.

As part of a 1983 federal Appellate Court decision affirming Chippewa off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, the six bands of Wisconsin Chippewa set annual harvest quotas for off-reservation lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory. As part of court agreements, the Department of Natural Resources reduces bag limits for recreational hook and line anglers in lakes declared for harvest by the Chippewa bands to assure the combined tribal and recreational angler harvest does not jeopardize the ability of walleye to sustain its population in any lake. The state is entering its 25th year of the joint tribal and recreational fishery.

For background information on Chippewa treaty rights, a description of the management and monitoring system used to ensure the long term viability of fisheries in the Ceded Territory, and to see data collected as part of that monitoring system, including walleye population estimates and creel survey summaries for all game fish, see the DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management Internet pages regarding the joint tribal and recreational fishery in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory.

Webmeister Note: You may have to click a few times to get the actual Bag Limits for your Lake or Lakes, however there is important information provided by the WDNR you may want to have access to before you try to go out and catch your limit of Eyes for the frying pan. We just want to present the information the way it is.

‘Calling all frogs!’ workshop offered at Sandhill

BABCOCK, Wis. – People interested in learning more about Wisconsin’s marshland frogs and toads can join herpetologist Dan Nedrelo on a night-time frogging adventure Saturday, May 16 at Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center. The workshop will include a a discussion of frog ecology and status, and then participants will search for and identify the croakers in their marshland boudoirs.

Participants should bring their own meal and refreshments if desired. Hip boots are required for this swampy soiree and are available upon request.

Registration is limited to 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Register by mailing in a registration fee of $20 per person by May 8. Participants may stay overnight in the skill center dorm following the event for a donation of $15 per person per night.

Checks should be made out to DNR-Skills Center. Include the name of each participant, and the address and daytime phone number of one person in each party. Send your registration fee to: Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, PO Box 156, Babcock, WI 54413. Inquiries on the status of registrations may be sent via e-mail to: Richard.Thiel@wisconsin.gov.

The Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center is located 20 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids on County Highway X, 1 mile north of Highway 80 near Babcock, Wisconsin on the 9,000 acre Department of Natural Resources Sandhill Wildlife Area.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Early Season Lake Winnebago Walleyes

April 27th – Jim O’Brian, fishing guide and owner of Dancing With Walleyes Fishing Guide Service LLC, gives a Powerpoint presentation on “Area Hotspots for Opening Weekend,” plus a special presentation covering “Early Season Lake Winnebago Walleyes.” $5.00, 7 p.m. meeting & 8 p.m. speaker. Calhoun Station, 1849 So. Calhoun Rd., New Berlin. Contact Dan Freiherr, treasurer, (414) 464-9316. Fishing reports, fishing equipment raffle plus hot pizza is available.

Jim O’Brian is a highly successful guide who guides anglers of all ages. O’Brian is experienced regarding fishing techniques and locations for both panfish and gamefish. For your Opening Day, this is a must attend meeting covering how to catch fish in increased numbers near Milwaukee and on Lake Winnebago. Bring your angling friends and relatives. Make this a fun night with your fishing buddies.

Wisconsin Fishing Club, Ltd

Up to 70 waters to be tested for VHS fish disease: 2008 results good but expansion in Lake Michigan concerning

MADISON – Three years after VHS fish disease was first detected in Wisconsin waters, state fisheries officials are confident that good compliance with new rules and procedures can continue to contain the fish disease.

But they are keeping a close watch on lakes and rivers, particularly the Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan systems where VHS has been found. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, is not a human health threat but it can infect 37 different fish species and has caused big fish kills in other Great Lakes waters.

Testing is underway for VHS on up to 70 lakes and rivers across the state, and Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff are expanding efforts to look at susceptible species in the Winnebago System.

“We’re entering our third year with VHS in pretty good shape due to the efforts we’ve taken to contain the disease and the cooperation we’ve had from people who can potentially spread the disease: boaters, anglers, bait harvesters, fish farmers and our own fisheries management staff,” says Mike Staggs, who leads the Department of Natural Resources’ fisheries management program. “We didn't find VHS in any new waters in 2008 testing and that’s a credit to everybody who followed the new rules and procedures.”

Staggs is concerned, however, that 2008 saw VHS expand its range much farther south in Lake Michigan, killing round gobies and yellow perch near Milwaukee.

The disease poses a threat to southern Lake Michigan fish as well as increases the chance that VHS will inadvertently be spread by boaters and anglers moving infected live fish and contaminated water back and forth between Lake Michigan and inland waters. Lake Michigan is the state’s most popular water and the one that people most often trailer their boat to and from, according to a 2007 DNR study of recreational boaters.

Sue Marcquenski, the DNR’s fish health specialist, is also closely watching what happens on Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan to see if they exhibit the same pattern seen on some other Great Lakes waters where VHS has been detected.

“My hunch is that there may be a lag time of at least two years after VHS causes an initial outbreak before we see fish kills in new locations, or in new species from the same location,” she says.

Staggs says that DNR will be carefully monitoring state waters for VHS this year and working closely with the public to prevent the spread of the deadly fish disease.

Testing underway to learn where VHS is found

This spring, the DNR will conduct “surveillance” testing on 27 waters to continue to assess the prevalence of VHS. In addition, four hatchery water supplies and all wild fish DNR uses for broodstock for its hatcheries will be tested for VHS to make sure fish stocked from state fish hatcheries are VHS-free.

The DNR also will test fish from suspicious fish kills. All told, more than 50 waters and as many as 70 will be tested, says Tim Simonson, who coordinates VHS surveillance testing.

Those waters planned for surveillance testing are popular and highly trafficked waters by anglers and boaters, increasing the chances of VHS being spread by the movement of water and live fish, Simonson says. Mendota Lake in Dane County, Geneva Lake in Walworth County, Castle Rock Lake in Juneau and Adams counties, and Butternut Lake in Price County are among those on the list.

Sampling occurs while the water temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the period when the virus is most active. DNR fish crews will collect tissue samples from 170 individual fish from each of the 27 waters for surveillance testing, focusing on susceptible species. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, the La Crosse Fish Health Center and Microtechnologies, a private lab in Maine, will do the testing.

Working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the La Crosse Fish Health Center, sampling for VHS will also take place on Pools 9 and 10 of the Mississippi River, and the St. Louis Estuary on the St. Louis River.

The costs associated with the VHS testing is paid for with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Inspection Service as well as a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) and fishing license sales.
People finding fish with symptoms of VHS are encouraged to contact their local fish biologist. More information is available on the VHS Web site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; Tim Simonson (608) 266-5222.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wisconsin Outdoor Report as of April 2, 2009

Northern Region Northeast Region Southeast Region South Central Region West Central Region
Winter made a brief return to the state this week, with snowfall ranging from 1 to 5 inches reported across parts of southern and northern Wisconsin. Snow melted quickly in the south, but from 1 to 5 inches was still reported on the ground across the north. More snow is in the forecast in the north, but even if it arrives, snowmobilers are reminded that trails are now closed for the season, as trail easements have expired for the year, and state parks and forests will not be grooming ski trails any more this season.

Lakes are now opening up through central Wisconsin with open water reported from the Eau Claire through Waupaca areas. The North and South Forks of the Flambeau River are open. Ice depths still range from 14 to 16 inches on some Northwoods lakes, but access sites are in poor condition and shorelines are beginning to open up on shallow bays. The waters of Green Bay remain frozen, but large patches of open water are now present. Strong winds from the southeast this week shoved large amounts of ice onto the west shoreline of Lake Winnebago, with up to 25 feet measured along the Neenah shoreline.

Ice fishing pressure in the north has been light and panfish success has been limited, with anglers having to move around quite a bit to find active fish. Some crappie have been found in deeper water suspended 4 to 5 feet off the bottom. Perch have been moving up to shallower water and near old weed beds. Although northern rivers open or have open stretches, water temperatures have been holding in the 35 to 38 degree range and sucker runs have not yet begun.

The Menominee River was providing a few early boat anglers with some walleye action at Marinette and shore anglers were getting a mixed bag of steelhead and walleye. Angling pressure picked up on the Oconto River with some success for steelhead. The steelhead run was slower this week on Manitowoc, Twin, Sheboygan and Pigeon rivers. The Milwaukee River remains relatively high, but some steelhead have been caught. Water levels on the Root River are good, but the temperature has dropped down and steelhead have moved into the deeper pools. Boaters have been fishing open water at harbors and have had some success with brown trout and steelhead at Sheboygan, Port Washington, and Milwaukee.

The Wolf River saw a lot walleye action this week and the Fox River was also producing bag limits of walleye. The water temperature in the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac Dam is at 42 degrees. The walleye activity has been increasing with a number of people catching nice fish. Water levels are still extremely high on the Rock and Crawfish rivers and snow-no-wake ordinances remain in effect in Rock and Jefferson counties. Anglers fishing the Rock River have been catching some legal size walleye and white bass were still being caught in below the dam in Jefferson. As of April 1, the Mississippi River stage was at 11.4 feet at Prairie du Chien, up from 10 feet last week, and expected to climb to about 11.7 feet over the weekend. Walleye and sauger action was very spotty this week, but some decent fish have been taken.

Turkey flocks are breaking up with increasing reports of tom turkeys displaying with tail feathers all fanned out.

Skunk cabbage is starting to emerge. With daytime temperatures above freezing and night time temperatures below, conditions have been good for maple sap tapping. Sugar houses have been filled with steam as the sap is boiled down to make syrup. The MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Poynette will be holding its Maple Syrup Festival this Saturday, April 4 with guided tours of the center's sugar bush and maple syrup-making process, horse-drawn wagon rides, and, of course, maple syrup tasting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Outdoor cooking class offered

BABCOCK, Wis. -- Great food makes any outdoor experience better. Hunters, anglers, campers, and others interested in outdoor cooking can join the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center staff to learn and practice techniques for creating successful outdoor meals.

Topics include building a proper cooking fire, equipment, cooking techniques, menu ideas and recipes. Lunch will be whatever the participants cook. The course will be offered Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Registration is limited to the first 25 people who mail in their $25 per person fee by April 24. Participants may stay overnight in the center’s dorm either prior to or following the event for a donation of $15 per person per night.

Checks should be made out to DNR-Skills Center. Include the name of the class, the names of each participant, and the address, e-mail address, and daytime phone number of one person in each party, and send to: Sandhill-DNR, Box 156, Babcock, WI 54413.

The Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center is located 20 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids on County Highway X, 1 mile north of Highway 80 near Babcock, Wisconsin on the 9,000 acre Department of Natural Resources Sandhill Wildlife Area.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sandhill Skills Center at: (715) 884-6333 or (715) 884-2437

Great Lakes photo contest winners announced

MADISON - Six photographers from Wisconsin earned top honors for their entries in the Department of Natural Resources’ inaugural “Discover Wisconsin’s Great Lakes” photography contest and will have their work featured in a calendar available this summer.

Shirley Birr of Suring, Thomas Ferrella of Madison, Jim Raiten of Manitowoc, Eric Poggemann of Fredonia, Robert E. Rolley of Madison, and Gervase Thompson of Brule all received either first or second place honors in the contest’s four categories.

Their photos will be featured in the 2009-2010 16-month calendar that DNR’s Office of the Great Lakes, which sponsored the contest, will give out at the 2009 Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Aug. 6-16, according to Jo Temte, the Great Lakes office water specialist who coordinated the contest.

The photos appearing in the calendar are available on the DNR Web site.

“We were thrilled with the interest in the contest and with the beautiful images these photographers shared,” Temte says. “The photos clearly show that the Great Lakes are among Wisconsin’s most scenic and beloved natural resources.”

Photographers from across Wisconsin as well as from Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, California and Germany submitted more than 170 photos from August 2008 through February 2009. The DNR also had asked for submissions from Wisconsin authors and received three poems and one song.

The Office of the Great Lakes plans to hold the contest annually and will begin accepting photos for next year’s contest Aug. 6, 2009.


Lake Michigan sport fish harvests down in 2008

MADISON – High fuel prices in summer 2008 and bad fishing weather contributed to across-the-board decreases in the number of trout and salmon caught by Lake Michigan anglers in 2008, state fisheries official say.

Lower forage base levels may have contributed as well to the lower harvests, and for chinook, a lake-wide reduction in stocking levels since 2006 also may have shown up in anglers’ creels in 2008, they say.

Anglers spent a total of 2.5 million hours fishing Lake Michigan and tributaries, down from 3.1 million hours the previous year. While angler effort has been slowly declining in Lake Michigan since the 1980s, anglers spent less time on the water in 2009 than in any other year than 2000, angler surveys show.

“The weather was off for fishing, and with gas at $4 a gallon, more anglers decided they didn’t want to go out and look for the fish,” says Brad Eggold, Southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources.

Unusual weather patterns kept the chinook farther away from shore and scattered throughout the water column, and the coho fishing also didn’t follow its normal pattern of starting off strong in spring in Kenosha area waters and slowly moving northward, Eggold says.

“In the past, when chinook and coho numbers dropped, boaters went out 12 miles off shore to locate and catch steelhead,” he says. “This didn’t happen this year, most likely due to gas prices and consequently, the catch for steelhead are low as are the overall salmon and trout catch.”
Anglers who fish Lake Michigan tributaries were the only category of anglers tracked in the survey that actually spent more time chasing their quarry in 2008 than the previous year.

Wisconsin anglers pulled in more than 650,000 fish of all species from Lake Michigan, with decreases in harvests of brook, rainbow, brown and lake trout, as well as yellow perch, and chinook and coho salmon. Lake Michigan anglers harvested 256,796 chinook in 2008; that places it in the top 10 years of harvest but down from the phenomenal 431,143 the previous year. The fish were larger, a good sign that the reduction in chinook stocking instituted by Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan in 2006 is working to bring chinook numbers closer in line with the forage base to sustain good fishing into the future, Eggold says.

“Chinook stocking was reduced lake-wide by 25 percent in 2006 to balance the amount of forage per numbers of fish,” says Eggold. “Because of the salmon’s maturity schedule, we saw little or no effect on harvest in 2007. The fewer, but larger fish in 2008 could be a sign that the reductions are doing what we needed them to do.”

What can anglers expect for Lake Michigan fishing in 2009?

“Gas prices are half the price they were a year ago and provided the weather cooperates and prey base stays adequate, anglers should continue to see solid numbers of chinook and a bounce back in coho,” says Eggold.

Additional information on chinook fishing can be found on the DNR Web site, including a chart showing overall trout and salmon harvests, and harvests broken down by species, in addition to more information on chinook salmon; the best seasons for Lake Michigan year-round chinook shore fishing.

More information on Lake Michigan fisheries is also available on the DNR Web site. The Lake Michigan Hotline at (414) 382-7920 features up-to-date fishing reports and conditions.