Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Large-scale effort underway to improve Wisconsin River water quality

WAUSAU, Wis. -- Water quality problems in the Wisconsin River are limiting recreational opportunities, hurting businesses and creating conditions that adversely affect public health, according to state environmental officials who say the primary problem is phosphorus and other nutrients that enter the river as runoff from agricultural fields, barnyards, urban storm water and wastewater discharges.

Phosphorus fuels massive blue-green algae blooms in Wisconsin River impoundments, some of the worst recorded anywhere in the state, according to Scott Watson, Wisconsin River basin manager for the state Department of Natural Resources. Blue-green algae can be toxic to animals and humans, causing respiratory ailments, watery eyes and rashes. In addition, excessive phosphorus and algae blooms can lower dissolved oxygen levels in the river, harm aquatic life and cause fish kills.

“Waterfront business owners tell us when the algae blooms are present, they have seen customers arrive, then get back in their cars and leave,” Watson said. “This is a problem we need to address.”

Unfortunately, Watson notes, there are no quick solutions to help these businesses, because the problem was a long-time in the making. So the DNR has embarked on a three-year, science-based program to evaluate the phosphorus loads entering the river during various seasons and different climatic conditions to tackle the biggest remaining pollution sources. It will be expensive to fix and the state can’t afford to waste any money on efforts that won’t fix the problem.

Water quality monitoring began this past year from Tomahawk downstream to the Lake Wisconsin Dam near Sauk City.

DNR staff is working with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to collect water quality samples at 21 river and stream sites and 23 reservoir sites. Water quality data is being collected as well by specially trained citizens who are contributing data from the Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages, the two largest impoundments on the river.

The Wisconsin River drains approximately 20 percent of the state to the Upper Mississippi River basin. Along its 430-mile journey, the river provides many benefits to local communities and industries, and it is a vital asset for our recreation and tourism economy.

Many of the historical water quality problems that impaired the Wisconsin River have been substantially addressed since the 1970s, primarily by regulating industrial and municipal discharges. However the river and some of its tributaries, such as the Big Eau Pleine River, continue to receive excessive nutrient loads, primarily phosphorus.

The water quality data collected as part of this monitoring effort will not only be used to determine the amount of phosphorus reduction needed to restore water quality, it will be used to predict how the river will respond to different types of management actions, such as erosion controls, cropping practices and wastewater treatment.

Specific limits will be established for the amount of phosphorus that can be discharged from point sources and from nonpoint sources. The limits are expressed as a total maximum daily load, or TMDL. Actually setting the TMDLs involves a public participation process, including a public comment period. Once comments are addressed, the TMDL must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This study will give us the tools we need to design solutions,” said DNR monitoring coordinator Ken Schreiber. “This is a huge challenge and it’s one we have to take on for our economy and our environment.”

The Wisconsin River has long been an engine of commerce, a boundless source of recreation and the lifeblood of the communities that grew up around it. Its potential for future generations is enormous. This project is critical for reaching the long-term goal of restoring the health, beauty and economic vitality of Wisconsin’s namesake river and its tributaries.

80,000 competed in Wisconsin fishing tournaments

MADISON -- Eighty-thousand anglers competed in 595 fishing tournaments in Wisconsin in 2010 and reeled in $3.9 million in prize money, according to statistics from the state's fishing tournament permit system.

Larger fishing tournaments have had to get permits since the mid-1990s, but a 2004 law directed the Department of Natural Resources to update rules as tournaments increased. DNR worked with an advisory group to revise the rules to establish limits on the size and number of tournaments on some lakes and rivers to minimize concerns such as crowding, the spread of invasive species, and indirect fish mortality.

In 2010, there were 637 applications for tournaments; all but one were approved, although some applications were withdrawn or the forms incomplete, and some events were cancelled. "Based on what we've seen so far, there doesn't seem to be any major issues with the capacity limits -- tournament organizers are getting the lakes and dates they wanted," says Jonathan Hansen, one of the fisheries biologists who works on tournament permitting issues.

Joanna Griffin, tournament coordinator for the DNR, said the permit system and database have helped reveal just how popular tournament fishing is. "What's interesting is where all the tournaments occur and how much money, time, and effort is devoted to them."

2010 Fishing Tournament Fast Facts

Of the 595 approved tournaments, 61 percent were so-called traditional tournaments. A traditional fishing tournament is one that was issued permits 4 out of 5 years between 2004 and 2008 for the same water or waters and time period.

  • 61 percent of the tournaments were catch, hold and release.
  • Fully one-quarter of the tournaments were ice fishing tournaments.
  • Tournaments took place in 64 counties; Winnebago County was tops with 37, followed by Oneida County with 32 and Waukesha County with 30.
  • Anglers spent 1.4 million hours fishing in tournaments, down from 1.67 million in 2009.
  • The number of fish registered in bass and walleye tournaments decreased with the decrease in tournaments from last year, however registered catch of Great Lakes salmon and trout, panfish, and musky all increased.
  • Bass were the target of 421 of the tournaments in 2010, followed by panfish at 324 tournaments and walleye at 204.
  • 99 percent of the musky caught in tournaments were released and 98 percent of the bass were released.

Tournament permits are required when any of the following apply: the tournament involves 20 or more boats, or 100 or more participants; targets any trout species on waters classified as trout streams; has a catch-hold-release format with an off-site weigh-in; or the total prize value is $10,000 or greater.

A full copy of the 2010 report is available on the fishing tournaments page of DNR website.

Ice fishing tournament organizers reminded to apply for a permit

Organizers of ice fishing tournaments will want to apply for a permit for their 2011 event as soon as possible -- applications must be submitted at least 30 days before their event.

And organizers of all tournaments -- open water and hard water -- can apply for permits for 2012 events as soon as April 1, 2011.

That's when the open period for applying for 2012 events starts, and it runs through June 30, 2011. Organizers applying during that the open period have the best chance of getting their desired dates and waters for 2012 events, says Hansen.

After April 1, permits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis so there is the potential of not getting the day and water desired, although that hasn't been a problem in the first two years of the permit system, Hansen says.

All applications received during the open period will be reviewed by Aug. 1, 2011, and in the unlikely event that another tournament conflicts with an organizer’s choice of dates or waters, DNR fisheries biologists will discuss options with the tournament organizers, Griffin says.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Show attracts Canada’s best

The All-Canada Show – visiting mid-America’s largest cities – will featclip_image002ure Canada’s top fishing and hunting destinations. The 28th annual event also includes: free seminars, free maps and travel guides, a free magazine with features and tips on Canadian adventures, free Cabela’s hunting simulator and, on opening night, a free Dardevle collector lure.

Adventurers interested in traveling to Canada will find a wide variety of destinations including: canoe outfitters, drive in resorts, remote fly-in outposts, 5-star fly-in lodges and hunting outfitters. The shows website lists exhibitors in each market including links to their websites. Go to AllCanadaShow.com for details.

The show is also a resource for planning the perfect adventure. “The key to a successful Canadian trip is proper planning,” says the shows media manager Joel Prunty, “That’s the whole premise of the All-Canada Show – we have everything you need to plan your trip. The opportunity for show guests to talk, face-to-face, with the owners and operators of these lodge…greatly improves their chances of a successful adventure.

Show staff and featured speaker Norm “the Great” McCreight use their combined 50-years fishing and hunting expertise on the show’s seminar stage to educate consumers. These informational presentations offer insight into selecting for the perfect destination, choosing the right lodge plan, crossing the border, plus tips on saving money and wilderness safety.

Prunty also noted, “There are some misconceptions out there about trips to Canada, the biggest being that it is expensive. Our show does host some of the finest lodges and resorts anywhere in the world, but there are also many housekeeping lodges and camps offering fabulous fishing for $500 per person for a week (and everything in between).”

“If you like Canada, there’s plenty to keep you occupied at the show,” he said, “Although the primary purpose of the show is to select the perfect destination for your adventure, we also offer a variety of information, attractions and entertainment to aid in the process and create a real Canadian atmosphere.”

For a discount coupon and complete details on the All-Canada Show go to: www.allcanadashow.com.

Other show features include:

‘Hanson Buck’ presented by Cabela’s—The World Record Whitetail exhibit ‘Hanson Buck’ visits the All-Canada Show. This life-size exhibit brings you face-to-face with the magnificent buck shot by Milo Hanson of Biggar, Saskatchewan in 1993. The 'Hanson Buck' is sure to capture your attention.

Norm “The Great” McCreight—This icon of the All-Canada Show will talk

hunting and fishing in his beloved Canada at his daily seminars and may even throw in a few hockey comments. Updated seminar schedules will be posted on the All-Canada website: AllCanadaShow.com.

Moose Bay Trading Company – will an expanded inventory for 2010 Moose Bay offers unique Canadian gifts, food items and clothing. Anglers will also find must have lures for their Canadian Adventures. Visit MooseBayTrading.com for more details.

Meet 2008 DU International Artist of the Year—Anthony J. Padgett, rated in the top 10 wildlife artists in the United States, will be present during all show hours in the gallery at the show. Padgett painted “Locked at Lac Seul,” the original artwork of two trophy moose near Lac Seul, Ontario.

Eppinger night—Opening night every paid admission will receive a free

Eppinger Dardevle, one of the best lures to take along on your Canadian fishing trip. Throughout the show, children between the ages of 8 and 16 will receive a free mini-Dardevle with a paid admission.

Other Attractions—The show’s traditional favorites are back: an authentic Canadian shore lunch (for an extra fee) in concessions, featuring Labatt Blue and a Free Cabela’s hunting simulator.

Free stuff—All show guests will receive a free copy of All-Canada Adventures

magazine (a $5.25 value) as well as maps and brochures from exhibitors and the All-Canada Show Travel Centre.

Prizes—Grand prize for all eleven shows is an Anthony J. Padgett original artwork A view from Churchill, plus $1,000 Cabela’s gift card. In addition All-Canada awards a vacation prize to Canada in every city including: three days and four nights for two people, American Plan including all meals, boat, motor, gas, guide (two-day minimum) and tax.

Sponsors—National sponsors for 2011 include Cabela's, Travel Manitoba, Labatt Blue, Yamaha Canada, Tourism Ontario, Eppinger (Dardevle lures), PermaTrophy, and Spectra Print.

Admission--Adults, $10; seniors and children (13-16), $8; and children 12 and under, free. For $2 off coupon and complete show details, log on to AllCanadaShow.com or call: 800-325-6290.

2011 All-Canada Show Schedule: St. Louis, St. Charles Convention Center, Jan. 7-9; Indianapolis, The Ritz Charles, Carmel, Jan. 10-12; Chicago, Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, Jan. 13-16; Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Sports Complex, Jan. 20-23; Madison, Marriott Madison West Convention Center, Jan. 24-28; Green Bay, ShopKo Hall, Jan. 27-30; Sioux Falls, Ramkota Exhibit Hall, Feb. 3-5; Omaha, Holiday Inn Convention Centre, Feb. 7-9; Des Moines, KJJY Event Center at 7 Flags, Feb. 11-13; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Earle Brown Heritage Center, Minneapolis, Feb. 18-20 and Dallas, Irving Convention Center, Feb. 25-27.

Hours: St. Louis, Des Moines and Dallas: 5-9 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday. Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay: 5-9 p.m., Thursday; 3-9 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday. Minneapolis: 3-9 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday. Madison, Omaha and Indianapolis: 5-9 p.m., Monday; 3-9 p.m., Tuesday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday. Sioux Falls: 5-9 p.m., Thursday; 3-9 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday

Cold weather kicks off Ice fishing season

MADISON - Cold weekend weather helped firm up ice in many parts of Wisconsin to kick off what is often some of the best fishing of the hard water season, state fish biologists say.

"Early ice fishing can be some of the best fishing for walleye, bigger game fish, for a lot of species," says Steve Avelallemant, fisheries supervisor for northern Wisconsin. "Especially on those lakes that are shallow and weedy. The fish seem to be accessible and biting more early in the hard water season. Any time before Christmas."

Fishing pressure nearly triples in December in Wisconsin after lakes freeze over, based on results from a 2006-7 statewide mail survey of anglers. Fully one-third of the state's 1.4 million licensed anglers reported ice fishing, and they spent about 1,589,000 hours in December alone, up from 624,000 hours in November of that year, according to Brian Weigel, the DNR fisheries researcher who analyzed the survey results.

Fishing friends
Ice fishing with your buddies, can anything beat it?
WDNR Photo

Across the entire ice fishing season, anglers caught 14 million fish in the survey year and released more than half of them during the survey year.

Avelallemant advises that ice anglers who want to maximize their chances of catching fish go to a lake with a good northern pike population. "Northern pike, when you look at their distribution worldwide, you'll find them all the way up into the Arctic Circle. They prefer cold water. Pike tend to get cranked up when it gets cold."

He advises that anglers check in with local bait shops to find out what the walleye are hitting on, and fish that. "A pike will take whatever you throw down," he says.

How to fish for panfish, pike and walleye

Panfish, northern pike and walleye are most frequently caught in the winter, with 11.7 million, 866,000, and 750,000, respectively, based on the mail survey results. Four northern Wisconsin fish biologists who are avid ice fishermen share their secrets for success in targeting the big three:


"Panfish are creatures of habit and habitat. They tend to be in the same general areas every winter. Don’t waste a lot of time looking for that secret honey hole away from the crowds. You’re probably just moving away from the fish. Instead, getting out there at the crack of dawn may put you on a hot bite before ever-increasing crowd activity puts the fish off. Most any tackle works when panfish are in a biting mood but most of time they will be in a neutral or negative mood. Light tackle is a big advantage to tease out a bite from reluctant fish. Quality 2- or 3-pound test mono with a limber rod to absorb any sudden shocks will handle most panfish situations. The line should stay soft and supple in the cold. If your tear drop can’t pull the kinks out you’re not even going to detect bites that could have been a fish in the bucket. Bobbers are still popular bite detectors but the smallest one possible that barely holds the bait up is best. Even then bites won’t always take the bobber down. It takes some experience to learn when to set a hook on a bobber wiggle. Wire or spring steel bite detectors on the end of the rod are the most sensitive. They also let you detect bites while you raise or lower your bait. Slowly pulling your bait up and away from a fish you spot on your fish finder often triggers a strike. On good bite days, fish are actively milling around and you can sit in one spot and wait for the fish. On slow days, the fish are pretty stationary. If you drop a bait right down on a resting school you’ll often get one or two to bite right away and then nothing bites even if you can still see fish on your finder. Since fish aren’t moving, you have to move from hole to hole picking up a few here and there for a meal." - Larry Damman, fisheries biologist, Spooner

Northern pike

Northern pikeEarly ice offers some nice rewards,

like this 22-inch pike caught on

Butternut Lake in Price County

Dec. 5, 2010.  Skip Sommerfeldt photo

"When pike are active during early ice there is really no best time to fish. That's one of the reasons pike are so popular during winter - morning, mid-day, or afternoon can all be excellent times to catch pike. My advice? Keep it simple. Don't out-think your opponent. Pike are low on the evolutionary scale and supposedly have a brain that is 1/1305 of its body weight (Becker 1983). No need to get too fancy. Also, split the difference. Many anglers when setting tip-ups place their bait a certain distance off the bottom. For example, say water depth is 12 feet. Find bottom and set your bait one or two feet off bottom. If you are fishing in vegetation, my general rule is to think in halves. Twelve feet of water –put your bait at six feet. This serves two purposes. First, vegetation is still occupying a fair portion of the water column at early ice. If you place you bait based on x feet from the bottom there is a good chance it’s in the vegetation. No sight – no bite. Second, predators like northern pike cruise the water column. Even if they are near the bottom they can find prey above them. The opposite is less likely to be true." - Terry Margenau, fisheries supervisor, Spooner.


"Our surveys show that this is the best time all winter to put a walleye on the ice. Caution should be used at this time of year as ice thickness can very greatly even on the same body of water.

Skip Sommerfeldt

Walleye fishing can be fantastic during

the early hard water season, as this 23-inch

walleye caught and released in 2010 shows.

Walleye will be on the feed during this time period and frequenting the same places they were looking for a meal in late summer and fall. Deep weed flats and outside edges are the key sites to look for. Once ice and snow are on a lake finding these sites on your favorite lake may be difficult. Open water scouting and a GPS make finding these spots much easier and saves a lot of hole drilling. Walk softly on the ice and set up and wait away from your tip ups. Too much commotion on only a few inches of clear ice will spook fish.

Most anglers use tip ups, though jigging can also be very effective, baited with small sucker or medium golden shiners. Set some tip ups with each because on some lakes walleye sometimes show a preference for one over the other. Use light monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders (6- to 10-pound test) that are 2-plus feet long. Also try to use smaller sharp #10 or #8 (even #12) treble hooks because this makes the bait look more natural." - Steve Gilbert, fisheries biologist, Woodruff.

"My trick for walleye fishing . . . . just go fishing a lot! Actually, the key for me is that I mostly fish at prime time (the hour before dark), and I concentrate on break lines and substrate edges in 8 feet to 12 feet of water. As for bait, I mostly use medium-size suckers and fish them 4 inches to 6 inches off the bottom with my tip-ups." Skip Sommerfeldt, fisheries biologist, Park Falls.

Check out his predictions for ice fishing in 2010-11 and the daily diary Skip Sommerfeldt kept last hard water season, when he fished 68 days in a row. And learn how to make ice fishing fun for kids and the adults who bring them.

ice claws
Ice claws: nail heads are ground off to a point and then covered with corks to prevent injury. The cord, made to the correct length, can be worn inside the jacket with each claw inside a sleeve. Or they can be draped over the shoulder and inside the coat. The wooden dowels and nylon cord will float, so they are accessible in an emergency.
WDNR Photo

Take steps to prevent going through the ice

Early ice can also be treacherous ice, so it's important to take a few basic safety precautions, warns DNR Recreation Safety Chief Todd Schaller.

"Check in with local bait shops so you know ice conditions before you go," Schaller says. "Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, and then go prepared with some basic equipment to help yourself or others should something happen, like wearing a float coat or carrying picks and a rope."

Follow rules to prevent spreading fish diseases

Ice anglers eager to start the hard water season are reminded to take steps to prevent spreading VHS and other fish diseases and aquatic invasive species.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a virus that can infect several dozen fish species and cause them to bleed to death, was confirmed in 2010 in fish from Lake Superior. The disease has now been confirmed in all of the Great Lakes.

Avelallemant credits anglers for helping contain the disease -- it has not been detected in new inland waters since it was confirmed in the Lake Winnebago system in 2007 -- and says that the VHS prevention steps are helping keep Wisconsin fish healthy from other invasive diseases and species.

"Our lakes are under constant threat from invasive species. There's over 200 invasive species in the Great Lakes alone," he says. "The same tactics for preventing VHS will also help prevent the next one."

They are:

  • Follow bait rules. Buy bait from Wisconsin bait dealers. If you take minnows home after a day fishing and you’ve added lake water or fish to their container, you can return with them only to that same waterbody the next day.
  • Preserve bait correctly if you catch your own. If you use smelt or other dead bait, preserve it in a way that does not require freezing or refrigeration. Watch the video Preserving Your Bait [VIDEO Length 2:48] for more information.
  • Don’t move live fish away from the water. Keep the fish you catch and want to take home on the ice until you leave at the end of the day, or carry them away in a dry bucket.
  • Drain all water from your equipment. That includes all buckets and containers of fish. When you’re leaving the ice, you may carry up to 2 gallons of water in which to keep your minnows.

Following these rules will protect Wisconsin lakes and rivers and anglers’ pocketbooks: a citation for carrying live fish away from a water runs $343.50, while the penalty for failing to drain the water from fishing equipment is $243.

Online fishing resource for the hard water season

Visit Ice Fishing Wisconsin for reports on what's biting where, tips for great fishing and for successful outings with kids, lists of places to go fishing, and more.

Wisconsin Ice Fishing Fast Facts
  • Wisconsin has 1.4 million licensed anglers, and about one-third that number report they ice fish.
  • Ice fishing trails only sledding, snowmobiling and ice skating outdoors as the most popular of outdoor winter activities.
  • Anglers spent 11 million hours ice fishing in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That's 21 percent of the total 52 million hours spent fishing across all of the 2006-7 license year.
  • Anglers reported catching 14 million fish while ice fishing, and keeping 6.6 million of them, or less than half. During the open water season, about one-third of all fish caught are kept.
  • Panfish, northern pike and walleye, are the top species caught, in order, with 11.7 million, 866,000, and 750,000, respectively.

Source: DNR statewide mail survey of anglers during 2006-7 license year; SCORP 2010

Ice not safe, snowmobile trails not yet ready for riding

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are reminding snowmobilers and others to stay off lakes because the ice is not safe yet.

According to the DNR, there have already been several ice rescues involving snowmobiles. Also, one fatality occurred when a man on foot broke through thin ice on Lake Washington in Blue Earth County.

“We’re telling snowmobilers and others to please stay off of lakes until there is at least five inches of new, clear ice,” said Lt. Dave Olsen, DNR Enforcement, Grand Rapids “Early season riders are often tempted to ride on lakes. But they are not yet safe for snowmobiles, ATVs, or even walking, in most cases.”


And even though there is snow, many trails are not yet ready for riding, according to DNR Northeast Parks and Trails Operations Manager Scott Kelling.


Snowmobile clubs and trail crews are out working on the trails now, but it could be some time before all the trails are ready. When the trails do open, people should continue to watch for hazards, especially if they are on unfamiliar ground.


“It takes at least a couple of passes with the groomer tractors to get trails into mid-season form,” said Kelling. “On their early runs, groomer operators often encounter areas that are too wet or not frozen enough to safely get through. Some stretches simply need more time and cold weather before they can be groomed.”


Several conditions must be met before trails are ready and legally open for travel:


  • Trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs need to be in place and gates need to be opened.

  • Bridges need to be checked and needed repairs made. Many trails and bridges were affected by heavy rains last summer. Snowmobile club volunteers and DNR crews are finishing repairs.

  • The ground must be frozen enough to allow crossing of wet areas.

  • Trails must have adequate snow cover for grooming. Up to 12 inches of snow can pack down to a base of only an inch or two.


Many snowmobile trails cross private land. Generally, landowner permission for snowmobile use on those trails began Dec. 1 and extends through March. That permission is for snowmobiles only and other uses are trespasses, according to the DNR.


Also, riders must follow the snowmobile safety requirements when riding along public road rights-of-way. For example, it is illegal to ride on the inside slope, shoulder, and roadway of state or county roads.


Minnesota has more than 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile registrations, trail pass sales, and gas tax attributed to snowmobile use.


Donations, fundraisers, and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails. Club volunteers do most of the maintenance. Trail clubs always need more help and welcome new members to help keep trails open and join in other club activities.


Snowmobilers can check state trail conditions, maps and regulations on the DNR website or by calling 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367. Trail conditions are updated every Thursday throughout the season.


Trail information and local contacts are also listed on the back of DNR Snowmobile Trail maps for each quadrant of the state (NW, NE, SW, SE). Printed maps are available at local DNR offices and also can be ordered, printed or viewed from the DNR website.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WDNR - DNR Outdoor Report - December 2, 2010


GENERAL | Northern Region | Northeast Region | Southeast Region | South Central Region | West Central Region

Hunters registered a preliminary tally of more than 218,000 deer over Wisconsin’s nine-day regular gun deer season, an 11 percent increase over the 2009 nine-day season. The opener was highlighted by good hunting conditions and no firearm-related fatalities for only the second time on record. Statewide, hunters registered 102,000 bucks, a 17 percent increase over 2009 and 116,000 antlerless deer, a nearly 7 percent increase over 2009. Gun deer license sales totaled more than 621,000, about a 3 percent decline from 2009.

A muzzleloader gun deer hunt is now underway statewide and there is an antlerless deer hunt Dec. 9-12 open to hunters with a valid antlerless deer tag for the unit in which they are hunting. Finally, there is a Holiday deer hunt in CWD zones in south central Wisconsin that starts Dec. 24 and lasts until Jan. 9. Other hunters, including archery and small game, are reminded that the blaze-orange clothing requirement remains in place whenever any type of gun deer season is progress, and all other people enjoying the outdoors are urged to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing.

Ice is forming on lake across Wisconsin, and many small ponds and marshes have frozen over. In the north, some lakes have a thin layer of ice, while in the south some smaller bays of lakes can have iced over and a few early ice anglers have been reported out. But state recreational safety specialists are urging anglers to stay off the ice until there is at least 3 inches of solid clear ice, and they remind everyone that there is no such thing as completely safe ice. Ice depths can be several inches thick in one location, and just an inch or so thick just a few feet away.

There are still reports of ducks being seen in southern Wisconsin, but as lakes freeze over they will be pushed south. A reminder that the southern zone duck season closes Dec. 5. There are still some pheasants around for late season pheasant hunters, and there were even some pheasant hunters out pursuing their goal of a nice rooster during the nine-day gun deer season.

A winter storm is in the forecast for this weekend that could leave up to 8 or more inches of snow in some areas. While the new snow will be tempting for skiers, most state parks and forests will probably not have groomed trails. Parks and forests with property open to the late gun deer seasons will wait until those seasons have closed to groom trails. Others may begin trail preparation by packing down trails, but it will take additional snow before actual trail grooming can take place.

Rafts of ducks were being seen along the shores of Lake Michigan including scaup, buffleheads, goldeneyes, and gadwall. Flocks of snow geese have also been seen and heard passing through the state in the last week. Pine siskins, tufted titmouse, flickers, and purple finches are showing up at bird feeders.

A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling (608) 266 2277 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (608) 266 2277 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

A new report is put on the line each week.

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Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Most of the lakes in the Upper Chippewa Basin currently have a thin covering of ice. However, ice thickness is very thin and all lakes have less than 2 inches of ice in the deep water areas out away from shore. In addition, the rain and mild temperatures of early in the week softened up the ice and has made even the slightly thicker ice in the shallow bay areas very hazardous as well. The ice is not yet considered safe for any kind of travel and all people are urged to stay off of any lakes or ponds. Cold weather later in the week may firm up the ice and add some thickness, and at that point the first ice anglers may start to appear when 4 inches of solid ice are available. The ice thickness at several spots on Butternut Lake over the last couple days was real variable. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, there was still an open-water area out in the middle and thickness ranged from 1 to 3.5 inches up near shore in a couple spots. In addition, the ice had gotten pretty soft from the rain and upper 30-degree temperatures on Monday and Tuesday. No sign of any ice anglers yet – though there were several reports of anglers out on a shallow bay on the Phillips Chain and one on the south end of Butternut Lake. It will likely take a few more nights of temperatures in the low teens to give the shallow bays thick enough ice to walk on (4" or more).

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Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Governor Thompson State Park - The first ice anglers were out this past weekend. The park is now closed to hunting for the year. Construction on the new campground has stopped for the winter. In spring the new septic systems, water systems, fire rings, picnic tables, and water fountains will all need to be installed. Our 16 miles of hiking trails are open and now is a great time to go hiking! Leaves are now off the trees, and visitors can see all the hidden geological features that cannot be seen in the summer months.

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Despite the cooler weather, wildlife is out and about within the park. Down on the beach, large waves bring shells. These are invasive species called zebra and quagga mussels. Red-breasted mergansers and buffleheads rafted up in large numbers over the weekend. A flock of snow geese were heard and seen flying over the park one early morning. An immature bald eagle has been sighted during the mornings soaring over the beach. In the forest the rut is near the end and bucks are still moving around. Chickadees and nuthatches can be seen in large numbers throughout the forested dunes. A hike along the black or brachiopod trail will provide a glimpse of various woodpeckers; redheaded, pileated, downy and hairy. Increasing porcupine chewing and sightings have occurred on the red trail. By the creek a bit of green foliage can still be viewed while most of the park has changed to various shades of brown. As winter draws closer, park staff will be working to finish preparing trails for skiing. Mark your calendars for the annual Candlelight Ski on Saturday, Jan. 29. Volunteers are needed to help set out and pick up candles along with staff the shelter building refreshment table. Whitefish Dunes State Park was open for the first time to deer hunting during Wisconsin’s regular gun deer season. The park will not be open to hunting during any other early or late-season deer hunts, included in herd reduction areas, muzzleloader dates, special youth or disabled hunts, or other special hunting opportunities. While hunting enhances recreational opportunities in the parks, its primary objective is vegetative and resource management. The entire beach is now open to dogs. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times. Once snow falls pets are not allowed on or along side groomed ski trails.

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No reports.

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Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Blue Mound State Park - The Campground is open year-round. Camping is walk in only during the winter months. There will be a candlelight ski/hike/snowshoe on Saturday Jan. 1.

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - Horicon Marsh is completely frozen. Large flocks of mallards and black ducks have been see in cornfields in the Horicon and Waupun area. Also a few flocks of snow geese have also been sighted.

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Dane County - Some part of the lakes are starting to freeze but ice conditions are definitely not safe to venture out onto to ice fish. Deer season in Dane County seemed to be fairly successful. Hunting numbers seemed to be about average but numerous harvested deer were observed as well as numerous alive deer as well. Hunters are encouraged to take part in the remaining seasons that are open (muzzle loader, 4 day December Hunt and Holiday Hunts). During the deer season several waterfowl hunters and pheasant hunters were contacted and they seemed to be having decent success as some hard to get to spots are freezing up and allowing hunters to get to areas that have not been hunted much.

Janesville DNR Service Center area

Rock County - Most ponds and lakes have frozen over in the last couple days, but hunters and anglers should be careful of thin ice. The regular 9 day gun deer season ended without any gun related injuries reported in the county. The harvest was slightly higher than last year for the opening weekend. The lack of crops and mild weather most of the season allowed for hunters to see the deer and stay in the field longer. There is still time to harvest a deer and put some venison in the freezer as the muzzleloader season opened Monday followed by the four-day antlerless season. The archery deer season is also still open through Jan. 9, 2011. There are still some pheasants around for late season pheasant hunters, and there were even some pheasant hunters out pursuing their goal of a nice rooster during the nine-day gun deer season. Rain has helped deteriorate the little bit of ice that had formed and geese are keeping open some sections of water on ponds. Many large flocks of ducks were still being observed in Rock County. Trappers are out in force trying to catch their last bit of fur before temperatures and snow make things more difficult. Trappers continue to harvest muskrats, mink, and coyotes. The raccoon harvest for trappers and hunters has slowed with the colder nights. A few otter have also been registered the last couple weeks in Rock County.

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Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Willow River State Park - Ice fishing has started on the lake. Anglers reported about 4 inches of ice. Archery hunting for deer continues on the open parts of the park. Relatively few people come out for that hunting season. A saw-whet owl was observed this week along the Willow Falls trail. Measurable snowfall is predicted for the weekend starting Dec. 3. Big wind to shake the snow out of the trees is not predicted. Spotty coverage under the pines may not provide enough snow to groom for skiing. Depending on snow conditions trails may remain open to hiking or change to ski trails only. That decision will probably come on Saturday. All trails are open to hiking as of Thursday. Any changes over the weekend will show up on the skinnyski web site before they post here. Non skiers should call the office. Early season skiing has its challenges. Is the trail going to have enough snowfall, or base to support your skis? The first snowfall and subsequent rolling by the groomer can still leave a very thin base with no classic track. On the flats (or anywhere), if classic skis go through the base it can rub on the ground. The ski can get slowed down or stopped suddenly. What if both skis grab ground? How about downhill? Take care when you ski on that early snow if it is thin. Beginners should probably stick to the flatter trails and walk any down hills off trail. Skaters will probably have an easier time on the thin snow. Most skiers in this area don’t own back country (classic) skis, generally 60mm or wider at the narrow point. A wider and softer ski offers more floatation. These would be a better choice than racing or touring skis. Some models are built too wide for track skiing. On the flats by the beach, field, and dam area, skiers can cut their own classic track and the touring skis work fine. If the groomer is reporting a thin base early (www.skinnyski.com), arrive with choices. The Willow River Nordic skiers will resume training on selected weeknights when trails are in skiing condition. Adult ski lessons are planned for Saturdays Dec. 11 and 18. Lessons run 9 a.m. to noon stating at the Nature Center. Learn to skate ski or diagonal stride (classic.) Contact the park office to sign up. Instructors are all active racers or retired from the marathon length events. The student must provide the equipment. Unfortunately, rentals are not available nearby. In the event of not enough snow, a possible alternative could be a ski waxing clinic and some dry land training. Even “no wax” skis need waxing.

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

People looking for some late season hunting opportunities, may want to set their sights on squirrels. These abundant mammals are found statewide and offer plenty of challenges for beginning and advanced hunters alike. Squirrels remain active throughout winter but will hole up for several days during the nastiest winter weather. With a daily bag limit of five and an open season that runs through Jan. 31, there are numerous opportunities for hunters. Be sure to comply with blaze orange laws when squirrel hunting during open gun deer seasons. And do not forget to recycle those squirrel tails (deer tails too) by sending them to Sheldon's in Antigo, where they will be utilized for dressing Mepps fishing lures. No other natural or synthetic fiber can duplicate the desirable qualities for dressing spinner baits as squirrel hair. See the Mepps website for details: [http://www.mepps.com/programs/squirrel-tail/].

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Winter is fast approaching. Currently there is no snow yet but a few inches are forecast for this weekend. Crews will need a minimum of 6 inches of quality snow to be able to groom cross-country ski trails. Skiers will notice that there has been a fair amount of timber sale activity along the trails this year. Motorized trails will open Dec. 15 as long as the ground is frozen. With current conditions and the forecast this should definitely occur by then. Once trails are open if temperatures get above freezing we ask ATVs to stay off the trails to protect the base. Snowshoers are welcome to enjoy their sport on any ungroomed trail in the state forest. We recommend people try either the nature trail at Castle Mound Campground, a two mile circular loop, or the five mile trail from Pigeon Creek to Smrekar road. This trail can be accessed by the Smrekar parking lot by hiking west on Smrekar road. The trail intersects the road just when the road takes a sharp 90 degree turn north. The trail continues west to Pigeon Creek Campground. Please note this trail is not a loop so you will need to turn around and retrace your steps at some point. If you are with a group one option is to have at least one vehicle at Pigeon Creek and at least one at the Smrekar parking lot so you do not have to turn around. East Fork Campground is closed for the season and will not open until the middle of April. A few select sites will be plowed open at Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek this winter.

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Rib Mountain State Park - The road leading into the main portion of the park is now open. Please make note that construction activities are still taking place at the top of the mountain as we begin work on the new Public Entrance and Visitor Station. Lots of deer, woodchucks and even an occasional turkey have been seen. Trails are in excellent condition, we are working on developing new trails in the quarry area. Muzzeloader deer hunting is going on in certain areas of the park through Dec. 8. The park is open to all visitors, we recommend that non-hunters where blaze orange for safety purposes. Granite Peak Ski Area has begun to make snow in anticipation of the 2010-2011 ski season, please visit [www.skigranitepeak.com] (exit DNR) for more information.

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - The park and wildlife areas are open to late bow deer season. The park office registers deer when the office is open. Muzzleloader deer hunting is allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and 1,200 acres of state park north of Cty G and north of 31st St. Waterfowl and small game hunting are allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and Buckhorn Wildlife Area only, not in the state park. Check the current hunting maps for areas and rules. Note: there was an error in the deer regulations. Buckhorn is a REGULAR unit, not herd control. For does you must purchase a 54A doe tag. During the December 9-12 antlerless hunt you must use a unit specific tag (ex. 54A antlerless). The "T intersection" gate and gates on 22nd Ave and 33rd will be closed when roads are snow covered. A few Campsites are open for winter camping.

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The campground and main gate are now closed for the season. Parking is available at the winter lot on Czech Ave and that pit toilet is still open. Hunting is not allowed in Roche-A-Cri State Park.

WDNR - DNR Outdoor Report - December 2, 2010