Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DNR fisheries veteran and sturgeon expert named Wisconsin fisheries director; Ron Bruch takes over May 5

MADISON - Wisconsin's next fisheries director takes over May 5 and is already well-known at home and abroad for nurturing Winnebago System's lake sturgeon into the world's largest population that supports a unique winter spearing season.

Ron Bruch WDNR Photo

Ron BruchRon Bruch, a Wisconsin native with family ties to Butternut in Ashland County and Milwaukee, and a 37- year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Management program, takes over from Mike Staggs, who retires after 17 years at the helm.

"I'm really humbled and honored to follow in a long line of directors that includes the likes of Mike Staggs, Lee Kernen, Doc Schneberger and James Nevin," he says. "Mike's leadership took our fisheries program to a high level. It's my task to build on that and try to take it to the next level." Bruch says he looks forward to working with DNR staff and management, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the tribes, fishing groups, citizens and businesses with an interest in fishing, to expand outreach efforts and recruitment and retention of anglers. "We all share a common interest - making fishing great in Wisconsin."

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is excited about Bruch's appointment and strong connections with the fishing public, particularly as DNR focuses on developing statewide management plans for panfish, walleye, trout and bass and revising the Lake Michigan fisheries plan. "Ron has a proven track record of outstanding customer service," she says. "He is an accomplished professional in his field and is able to lead teams with differing perspectives towards a common goal. We are very fortunate that he has accepted this position and we look forward to the next great things he will accomplish."

Bruch was chosen from a deep field of candidates and impressed the broad panel of partners who served on the interview panel, says DNR Water Division Administrator Ken Johnson, who led the search for Staggs' replacement.

Representatives from the Conservation Congress, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission and a fisheries management staff member were among those serving on the interview panel, Johnson says.

As fisheries director, Bruch will lead a staff of 226 people and a budget of $27 million. Wisconsin's fisheries management program and fishing traditions are among the nation's strongest. Nearly 40 percent of adults 16 and older report fishing, and anglers catch an estimated 88 million fish a year and keep about one-third of them. Sport fishing generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits every year, supports 22,000 jobs, and generates $148 million in state and local tax revenues. Wisconsin ranks third, behind Florida and Michigan, in luring nonresident anglers to their waters.

Over his DNR career, Bruch has worked at every level in the fisheries management program from field and habitat technician, fisheries biologist, supervisor, to fisheries bureau section chief. He most recently was statewide planning director, working on projects including the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative plan to boost walleye populations statewide.

Although he has worked on both inland and Great Lakes fisheries, Bruch is most well-known for his service from 1986-2012 as the Winnebago sturgeon biologist and Oshkosh fisheries supervisor, where he led the assessment and public involvement efforts for the internationally respected program managing the Winnebago System's lake sturgeon population and winter spear fishery.

As a strong advocate for public involvement in resource management, Bruch has worked extensively throughout his career with anglers and other fisheries interests in the state including the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, recently joining forces with the Congress to create and launch the new Wisconsin Fisheries Advisory Council.

Bruch has a Bachelor of Science from UW-Stevens Point, and master's and doctorate degrees from UW-Milwaukee, all in fisheries science. He is author or co-author of numerous peer review publications, as well as the 11-time national award winning book "People of the Sturgeon, Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish."

Bruch currently serves as co-founder and president of the Wisconsin-based North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society, and as co-founder and secretary general of the Germany-based World Sturgeon Conservation Society.

Bruch and his wife Kathy have two married children and four grandsons.

Anglers to find a mixed bag of fishing conditions for 2014 opener

MADISON - That old Wisconsin saying - wait a minute and the weather will change - is playing out across the state this week as anglers get ready for the Saturday, May 3, 2014 fishing opener as they enjoy a beloved tradition and catch some new fish stories.

As of Tuesday, April 29, Balsam Lake in Polk County, where the Governor's Fishing Opener will be held on May 3, was ice-free thanks to two days of rain. But it's a mixed bag elsewhere in northern Wisconsin, with the best pre-season advice being to check in with local bait shops before venturing out. Southern Wisconsin waters are open but water temperatures are still in the 40s and low 50s in most places.

 Click Here for Video

"My earlier predictions for northern Wisconsin were optimistic, it appears," says Steve Avelallemant, longtime fisheries supervisor for northern Wisconsin, who two weeks ago predicted that anglers would find mostly open water on opening day.

"As of now (4/28) it is most likely that most lakes will still have ice cover in north-central Wisconsin on the opener including the larger flowages like the Rainbow and Willow. Very few will be solid enough to ice fish on but you won't get a boat in either. The northwest part of the state I expect will have more lakes open. They are a week or so ahead of the north-central part of the state generally."

Anglers are encouraged to prepare for cold weather conditions, take steps to stay safe and dry, and use the kind of techniques and bait that worked last year, when opening day dawned with many lakes still covered by ice, Avelallemant says.

Some fish supervisors in northern Wisconsin filed short reports on Monday, April 28, sharing quick updates on what to expect in their areas.

Ashland and Bayfield counties

The water in the rivers is very high and is probably going to stay very high. The forecast is for rain off and on all week with highs in the low 40s. The fields are open, but there's still a lot of snow in the forested areas in Bayfield County. I went for a walk in the National Forest north of Drummond on Saturday. Some places the snow was only 4-6 inches deep, but there were spots it was over my knees. It'll continue to melt with continued runoff all week. As for the lakes..... the ice is generally starting to pull away from the shores, but virtually everything is still ice covered. The rain and the wind will be taking a toll on the ice, but I don't want to go out on a limb and try to guess what percentage of lakes will be open by the weekend. Conditions could change dramatically in the next five days. - Mike Keniry, supervisor, Western Treaty Fisheries Assessment Team, Ashland

Lincoln, Vilas, Onieda counties

As of Sunday (4/27), there is still a fair amount of ice fishing occurring around the Woodruff area. Anglers are reporting solid ice conditions and panfish are biting well. However, getting onto the ice near shorelines is getting difficult with each passing day. Some of the smaller lakes in Lincoln and southern Oneida County may start to open up this week, but there is no question ice will be problematic for the fishing opener, that is, if you're planning to launch a boat. The weather forecast this week shows lows in the upper 20s and highs in the low 40s with overcast conditions - this will put us in a holding pattern through the weekend with little loss of ice. - Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor, Woodruff

Marinette and Oconto counties

The flowages on the Menominee and Peshtigo are ice free. Water levels are high so anglers should use caution when fishing those waters. The best local place to fish the opener for walleye would be the lower Peshtigo, Oconto, Menominee and Fox rivers. If Green Bay becomes ice free in the next five days then walleye fishing should also be good on the Bay. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor, Peshtigo

Dane County

Madison lakes should be in the upper 40s or low 50s. Panfish are in and out of the shallows depending on the daily weather, they like to find the warmer water when the sun shines. The walleyes and northern pike are finished spawning and should be transitioning from the near shore spawning areas to deeper water. However, they should be eating to replace those energy reserves spent in spawning. Trolling to find congregations of fish and then dragging live bait should be effective for walleyes. Anglers should consider casting bigger crankbaits and spoons on flats that drop off to deeper water to target pike. Area streams will likely have higher flows and dirty water but there are plenty of trout. The Lower Wisconsin River is high and flows are very fast so use caution but the walleyes are still congregated at the dam and will be migrating back down river soon. - Dave Rowe, fisheries supervisor, Fitchburg

Lake Winnebago

Walleye are done spawning on the upper Fox and Wolf Rivers should be on their way back to or already in the upper lakes of Winnebago System. Cooler water temps are keeping bass and panfish from spawning yet, so these species are still in pre-spawn locations and patterns. - Kendall Kamke, fisheries supervisor, Oshkosh

Burnett, Polk and St. Croix counties

Water temperatures in many lakes will still be in the mid- to upper 40s so anglers should adjust their approach accordingly. Heavy rains have resulted in heavy runoff jeopardizing fishing potential for area trout streams and the St. Croix River on the opener. If anglers are planning to fish an area stream or river they are advised to check out local conditions on before the opener! - Terry Margenau, supervisor, Spooner

Waushara and southern Waupaca counties

Stream water levels will more than likely be running a little high for opening trout. Multiple rain events the week before combined with a later than average spring will mean cooler water temps as well. This cooler water can cause fish to be less reactive or less aggressive. Anglers should fish spinners/bait/streamers slowly and concentrate on pools and deep water edges. If water is stained or cloudy from runoff or rain, try higher visibility patterns in gold or chartreuse. Good Luck! - Shawn Sullivan, supervisor, DNR Regional Field Operations, Wild Rose

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CONDITIONS CONTACT: The fish biologist in the county you are interested in

More than 329,000 anglers already have their ticket to fishing fun and relaxation

MADISON - Fishing license sales for Saturday's fishing season opener are looking very similar to last year's, another year when cold spring weather left many northern lakes covered in ice as well.

Through Tuesday, April 29, 329,333 anglers had purchased fishing licenses and 76,270 trout stamps. That's a bit behind last year at the same time, when 335,639 anglers had purchased fishing licenses and 75,856 trout stamps. It compares to 448,472 at the same point before the 2012 season, which followed the warmest spring on record statewide.

Karl Scheidegger, fisheries outreach leader, expects sales to pick up in coming days. "People are tired of the long winter and will gladly venture outside to enjoy the opening day tradition."

And he notes that last year's license sales caught up to the normal levels by mid-summer. Typically, 1.3 million to 1.4 million anglers buy Wisconsin fishing licenses.

Anglers have three easy ways to buy their license: over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

New veterans' program, discounts make it easy to share the fun

Recently returning Wisconsin resident veterans may receive a one-time free annual fishing license under a 2013 law.

Veterans who wish to receive a free license must first contact the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to determine their eligibility for this program. Such eligibility-related questions should be directed to the Veterans Benefits Resource Center via web chat [www.wisvets.com (exit DNR)], email wisvets@dva.wisconsin.gov or phone 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

Anglers who have never purchased a fishing license - or who haven't purchased one in 10 years - can get a discounted "first time buyers" license. The discounts are automatically applied when the license is purchased. Residents' discounted license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

Anglers who recruit new people into the sport can get rewarded for their efforts. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter three or more times within one license year are eligible for a discount on the license of their choice the next year.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

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 and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Ice cover delays stocking of some catchable trout

OSCEOLA - A late spring thaw is again delaying stocking of catchable trout in some northern inland waters, state hatchery officials say.

"This year we're again experiencing some delays in stocking due to ice cover in the northern part of the state," says David Giehtbrock, Department of Natural Resources statewide fish production manager. "As soon as Mother Nature thaws things out, we will get the rest of the fish into the water!"

Click Here for Slide show

DNR stocks catchable size trout in inland waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction; such waters are a small subset of Wisconsin's more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water. More than 5,400 miles of trout water are Class 1, supporting naturally reproducing populations. Find forecasts for many of these naturally reproducing waters in the 2014 Wisconsin Fishing Report trout forecast.

This year, DNR had planned to stock more than 316,000 catchable size trout in dozens of inland trout waters across Wisconsin before the May 3 inland fishing season opener. Nevin State Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg has been able to stock all of the waters on their list, mostly more southern waters where the ice has been off for several weeks now.

However, some stockings are delayed of fish from St. Croix State Fish Hatchery and Osceola State Fish Hatchery, which supply fish mainly to northern waters. Stocking of brown trout will be delayed to Stormy Lake in Vilas County, brook trout to waters in Ashland, Bayfield, Oneida, Vilas and Waukesha counties, and to waters in Ashland, Florence, Iron, Oneida, Rusk and Sawyer counties. Bradley in Chippewa County and Camp Lake in Washburn County also will receive fish after the opener.

DNR fisheries crews have been raising the rainbow, brown, and brook trout at Nevin, Osceola and St. Croix Falls state fish hatcheries. They've also been working with fishing club volunteers, students, and others to help stock the fish raised under 21 cooperative rearing agreements with DNR.

More than 100,000 of the fish were stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing.

The rest of the trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury - more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.

Tips for boating safety during the early fishing season

MADISON - With low water temperatures statewide and many northern Wisconsin waters still thawing, boating safety officials are encouraging anglers to take special precautions to make sure they stay safe on their early season fishing trips, recreation safety officials say.

Water temperatures in southern Wisconsin lakes were reported in the 40- and 50-degree ranges and anglers were still ice fishing in the Woodruff area the last weekend in April.

Roy Zellmer, conservation warden and boating safety administrator with the Department of Natural Resources, says that such conditions mean that anglers who fall into the water or have their boat flip will have less time to get to safety because hypothermia sets in quickly.

Hypothermia can occur when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees. "The loss of body heat results in loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness and eventually loss of life," Zellmer says. "Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air."

Click here to watch Boating Safety Hypothermia

View more boating safety videos on our recreation safety playlist.

Zellmer encourages anglers to check in with local bait shops to find out what water temperature and ice conditions are and to follow these boating safety tips.

  • Equip and inspect your boat before hitting the water.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. You can float without using energy and they cover part of your body thereby providing some protection from the cold water.
  • Make sure you travel at the safe speed for your water conditions and surroundings - and that includes other vessels on the water around you.
  • Avoid alcohol. Most hospitalized hypothermia cases involve alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgment and inhibits the body's normal shivering trigger denying the body its most effective heat producing response.
  • Stay low in the boat, don't stand or move around unless necessary. Capsizing and falling overboard is often due to a victim losing balance or tripping over equipment in the boat. Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
  • Do not overload a boat.
  • Avoid sudden changes in boat speed which can allow the stern wake to overtake and swamp the boat.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Plan what to do if you should fall in. If you know you are about to fall into cold water, cover your face with your hands to avoid gasping water into your lungs. Get back in the boat if possible; if not, get as much of your body out of the water as possible. See professional medical care as soon as possible.

    If someone is not able to get back in a boat, they should limit body movement, and not swim unless they can reach a nearby boat or floating object. Swimming lowers body temperature and even good swimmers can drown in cold water, he says.

    Instead, Zellmer says people should "assume the heat-escape-lessening-position" (H.E.L.P.). Begin by crossing your ankles, then cross your arms over your chest, draw your knees to your chest, lean back and try to relax.

    "We would like to make 2014 the safest boating season ever. We can do it if everyone follows safe boating practices," Zellmer says.

    For more information search the DNR website for "boat safety."

Wisconsin Fishing Facts

Wisconsin Fishing Facts

  • Nearly 40 percent of Wisconsin adults say they fish, although not every year.
  • Anglers annually catch 88 million fish and keep 33 million fish of all kinds in Wisconsin.
  • The muskellunge, or musky, is the state fish. More world record musky have been landed here than anywhere else.
  • Walleye are Wisconsin anglers' favorite targets, followed by bass. Collectively, panfish are caught most frequently.
  • By far, most Wisconsin fish are the result of naturally reproducing populations. But the DNR typically raises and stocks about 7.5 million fish of larger sizes.
  • Wisconsin has more than 15,000 inland lakes, 42,000 miles of perennial streams and rivers, 1,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, and 260 miles of the Mississippi River.
  • Wisconsin boasts more than 13,000 miles of trout streams, with 5,400 of them high quality, Class 1 trout streams.

Economic impact of fishing

  • Sportfishing annually generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits and supports 22,000 jobs in Wisconsin.
  • Sportfishing annually generates $148 million in state and local tax revenues.
  • Sportfishing brings more than 330,000 nonresident anglers to our state - behind only Florida and Michigan.

Free and discounted licenses make it easy to take friends and family out fishing

  • Wisconsin's Free Fishing Weekend is June 7-8, 2014. Anyone can fish without a license or trout stamp in all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. On this same weekend, admission to state parks and forests is free, people can use state trails for free, and people can ride their ATVs and UTVs for free on public trails open to such use.
  • DNR's first-time buyer's license is $5 for residents and $25.75 for nonresidents.
  • DNR's 1-day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents and is a great way to get people out for a day.
  • New this year -- recently returning Wisconsin resident veterans can get a one-time free annual fishing license.
  • DNR has tackle loaner sites in 50 locations, including many state parks, making it easy for people to enjoy fishing if they don't have their own equipment or if they left it at home.

Sportfishing in America, January 2013, American Sportfishing Association, and DNR statewide angler mail survey, 2006-2007

Free DNR fishing app available

    MADISON - Anglers can now find fish species information, boat access sites, shore fishing areas, lake information and regulations in the palm of their hand: the Department of Natural Resources has updated its Wisconsin Fish & Wildlife mobile app to include a full array of fishing information. Fishing Hunting mobile app

    Done in partnership with Parks by Nature, this free app for Apple and Android devices provides essential information for prospective, novice and experienced anglers, alike, says Karl Scheidegger, Department of Natural Resources fisheries outreach leader.

    "Users should find something for everyone in the initial launch of the fishing side of the DNR app, and we'll expand the information and update it throughout the year to provide anglers with a more comprehensive look at Wisconsin fishing," Scheidegger says.

    The app includes information on:

  1. FISH SPECIES - An angler's guide to Wisconsin's commonly caught fishes. Individual species profiles include information on fish name, identification, habitat, food, reproduction, angling notes, average size and state record.
  2. WHERE TO FISH - Information on lakes with shore fishing areas and boat access information by region, county within region and alphabetical site by county. Specific site information with GPS map location.
  3. FISHING NEAR ME - GPS enabled - Identifies current location with nearby fishing opportunities like fisheries areas, boat access sites, shore fishing areas and hatcheries. Coming soon: wild walleye waters and more.
  4. RECORD FISH/ANGLERS' CLUB - Record fish information and current records. Membership information for the Hooked on Wisconsin Anglers' Club
  5. FISHING SEASONS - Annual fishing season dates information.
  6. CONNECT WITH FISHERIES - Access to the social media that enables anglers to connect with DNR and the fishing community through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Pinterest.
  7. FISHING REPORT - An E-publication of the latest fishing report with individual species forecasts broken down alphabetically by county
  8. LICENSES and PERMITS - A link to DNR licensing page and information on resident and nonresident fishing license structure and cost.
  9. RULES and REGULATIONS - Direct link to web-optimized fisheries regulation database for lakes.
  10. ANGLER EDUCATION - Angler and aquatic education materials including fishing clinics, tackle loaner sites and more.
  11. ANGLERS' DIARY/PHOTO ALBUM - Parks By Nature Trophy Case App - Anglers' log to include fishing summaries (conditions, bait/lure, photos). Ability to share and post to social media.
  12. EATING YOUR CATCH - Safe eating guidelines.
  13. FISHERIES MANAGEMENT - Hatcheries and rearing stations listed alphabetically with visitation information and GPS map. Stocking information with stocking database so anglers know what fish went where and when.
  14. FISHERIES STAFF - Fisheries biologist information includes biologist's address, phone number, email and county management responsibilities.
  15. DIRECT DIAL TIPLINE - One touch connection with the DNR's enforcement TIP line.

Free Fishing Weekends

Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes, and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division looks to connect as many individuals as possible with our state’s plentiful recreation opportunities, and strives to create special opportunities to do so – including our annual Free Fishing Weekends. Conducted each winter and summer, these events allow anyone to enjoy Michigan’s premier fishing for FREE!

For these two weekends, all fishing license fees are waived for two days! Residents and out-of-state visitors are allowed to enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish during their respective open seasons, without having to purchase a fishing license. Please note all other regulations will still apply during this time.

Summer Free Fishing Weekend graphic

The 2014 Summer Free Fishing Weekend will be held Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8.

To encourage involvement in Free Fishing Weekends, organized activities are offered in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by individuals, constituent groups, schools, parks (local/state), businesses and others.

Will you join in the fun and plan a 2014 Summer Free Fishing Weekend event? There’s still time and it’s so easy to do!

We’ve compiled numerous resources to help you plan and execute such an event in your community. Simply visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing and look through the Free Fishing Weekend Event Planning e-Toolkit. If you’ve already been hosting Free Fishing Weekend events, thank you! We’ve got tools to help you as well via the Free Fishing Weekend Event Promotion e-Toolkit at this website as well. Resources in this e-Toolkit include outreach and public relations materials.

Once your event is coordinated, please register it as an official 2014 Summer Free Fishing Weekend activity online at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/2014SummerFFW-Registration. Upon doing so you will be contacted about potentially receiving valuable resources from Fisheries Division to use during your event.

Please join in this year’s efforts to help get more individuals of all ages fishing. We welcome you to become a part of the annual Free Fishing Weekends, to make memories, and to have some fishing fun!

For additional Free Fishing Weekend information, please contact Elyse Walter at waltere@michigan.gov or (517) 284-5839.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Michigan conservation officers offer safe boating tips for National Safe Boating Week May 17-23

As the weather warms up and thoughts turn to summer recreation in Michigan, boating comes to the minds of many Michigan residents and visitors. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' conservation officers remind Michigan residents to practice safety when boating.

May 17-23 is National Safe Boating Week, an effort to remind people to follow some boating safety tips. The DNR encourages Michigan residents and visitors to:

  • Wear a life jacket - more than 80 percent of drowning accidents in the United States are due to people not wearing their life jackets. In Michigan, anyone less than 6 years of age must wear a life jacket when on the open deck of any vessel. But wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is recommended for everyone.
  • Make sure your boat is properly equipped and your equipment is in good working order. In addition to all legally required equipment, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, always carry a first-aid kit, nautical charts and an anchor. Make sure your navigation lights are working properly.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol - nearly half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. Studies show that passengers are 10 times more likely to fall overboard when they have consumed alcohol.
  • File a float plan. Always let a family member or friend on shore know the who, what, when and where of your trip - and when you are expected back. Give them phone numbers for the local sheriff or U.S. Coast Guard in the event you don't return when expected.
  • Maintain a sharp lookout. Stay alert for other boats, swimmers, skiers and objects in the water. This is especially true when operating in crowded waterways, at night and during conditions of restricted visibility.
  • Carry a marine radio or cell phone. Be prepared to call for help in case you are involved in an accident, your boat becomes disabled or you otherwise need assistance. Program the phone numbers for the county sheriff or U.S. Coast Guard in your cell phone. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, but be aware that there are often gaps in coverage on the water.

“We also recommend a boating safety course for anyone who plans on taking to the water in a boat or on a personal watercraft,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, who manages the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety program. “Boating safety classes are offered at different locations around the state and online, making it convenient and affordable.”

For more information on boating safety, including who is required to take a boating safety class, go to www.michigan.gov/boating.

For more information on safe boating, visit the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Safety Resource Center at www.uscgboating.org.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Calling all volunteers: guard Michigan's sturgeon against poachers this spring

Sturgeon for Tomorrow is once again seeking volunteers to join in its annual effort, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, to help protect sturgeon from poaching.

Each spring, mature lake sturgeon, a fish species that is threatened in Michigan and rare throughout the United States, become vulnerable to poaching as they briefly leave Black Lake in Cheboygan County for spawning sites in the Black River.

Hundreds of volunteers are needed to stand guard along the Black River during the spawning season, from mid-April through early June, to report any suspicious activity and deter the unlawful take of this prized fish.

"For over a decade, the annual Sturgeon Guarding Program has proven that citizens who watch over the river have greatly reduced poaching while helping to ensure the protection and proliferation of the species," said Ann Feldhauser, a DNR retiree and the program's volunteer coordinator. "It's a unique and rewarding experience to witness the sight of these majestic fish, which can live up to 100 years and weigh over 200 pounds, swimming up the Black River and to take part in safeguarding one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources."

When spawning begins, sturgeon guards are assigned in shifts to sites along the river. The volunteers stand watch and, if necessary, use cellular phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow, to contact DNR conservation officers who are actively patrolling the area in support of the guarding effort. Aerial surveillance is also deployed to secure the area and deter illegal activity.

Many opportunities are available for those who wish to help. Coordinators will be on-site to assist and answer questions. In addition to guarding the fish, volunteers can also play a key role by recording the number and activity of fish they see.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering should contact Ann Feldhauser at 906-201-2484 or register online at www.sturgeonfortomorrow.org/guarding-program.php.

For those traveling from outside the local area, several hotels, restaurants and Onaway State Park (located on Black Lake) are very close to the critical guarding locations. Volunteers are also encouraged to set up their rustic camps along the banks of the Black River. There is no charge for camping on the state land adjacent to the Black River.

Lake sturgeon rehabilitation in the Cheboygan River watershed is a cooperative effort involving the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow, the DNR, Michigan State University and Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership. In addition to the guarding program, this effort includes activities such as tagging sturgeon adults and raising young fish for stocking.

To learn more about sturgeon population and management in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/sturgeon.

Attack Packs: Making Invaders Real

By Aaron Conklin

Ask just about any teacher, and they’ll tell you hands-on, experiential learning tops lectures and reading assignments any day of the week. That’s a big part of the reason Sea Grant has Attack Packs available for Wisconsin educators to borrow and use with their science-minded students. 

What’s an Attack Pack, you ask? It’s an attractively designed backpack, packed to the zipper with information on aquatic invasive species (AIS), from the threats they pose to our Great Lakes environments and strategies to stop their spread. Each pack includes examples of famous invaders like the zebra mussels and the rusty crayfish, preserved and encased in easy-to handle acrylic  blocks. There are handy fact sheets and a USB flash drive filled with lesson plans developed by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. Of course, the most visceral and popular piece of the pack: An actual sea lamprey, preserved to ensure its disturbing, slimy effect.

Erin Hunter, a science teacher at East High School in Madison, borrowed an Attack Pack last fall for the limnology/oceanography course she teaches to 10th through 12th graders. She found the pack’s contents especially useful for her unit on invasive species in the Great Lakes.

“I liked that the pack was easy to use, and that I could show off examples of various species to the kids,” said Hunter, who also adapted her curriculum to include invaders that trouble lakes in her home county. “They liked it because some of the organisms were bigger or 'grosser' than they had thought, and it made them real for the students in a way that showing them pictures on the Internet wouldn't have.” 

It’s that “making it real” part that gets to the core of what the Attack Packs are all about. Preventing the spread of AIS cost millions of dollars each year. The potential water-quality and food-web devastation AIS can wreak in our lakes if left uncontrolled could be even greater. That’s why educating the public—and the next generation of lake and river users—is so important. 

“Combatting invasive species is one of the top priorities of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which provided funding for the Attack Packs,” said Kathy Kline, Sea Grant education outreach specialist. “By making the packs available for free checkout, we hope to educate as many students as possible about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species.”

Kline, Wisconsin Water Librarian Anne Moser and AIS Outreach Specialist Tim Campbell frequently use the Attack Pack in presentations and public talks to student groups. If you’d like to borrow one and check it out for yourself, complete this form.

Want to go fishing? DNR has a license to fit

Resident married couples can obtain an annual combination fishing license for $35, compared to $44 for two adult individual licenses, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Asking a spouse, child or friend to go fishing is one way to start a tradition, said Jenifer Wical, of the DNR’s outreach section.

“Most people won’t start fishing by themselves but they will if someone asks them to go,” Wical said.

Buy licenses at any DNR license agent, online via mobile and desktop at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236. Mobile buyers receive a text or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers, and cut their time between front door and fishing.

For children, a fishing license can be an investment in building a lifetime interest in the outdoors. Lifetime angling licenses for children age 3 and under are $304, while lifetime angling licenses for those age 16 to age 50 are $508.

Want to try fishing for a weekend? Purchase a 72-hour fishing license for $12, around the price of a movie. Teens ages 16 and 17 can buy annual fishing licenses for only $5, little more than the price of some smartphone apps. Kids under 15 are not required to buy a license to fish, but must comply with fishing regulations.

Time outdoors need not end at the boat access. Outdoors-savvy customers can buy hunting and fishing licenses in one fell swoop. A Sports license includes angling and small game for $38, while a Super Sports license includes a trout/salmon stamp, small game with pheasant and waterfowl, and a deer tag (archery, firearms or muzzleloader) for $93.

Free "Healthy Dishes with Wisconsin Fishes" cookbook now available online

Anglers can start the 2014 fishing season off on a delicious note by trying a new recipe for preparing the fish they catch. DNR's new Healthy Dishes with Wisconsin Fishes cookbook is now available online for downloading.

The cookbook illustrates the wide variety of Wisconsin fish species that can be eaten - gar on the half-shell, anyone? - and features recipes submitted by Wisconsin anglers and chefs. The cookbook also highlights species and recipes that maximize health benefits while reducing health risks of eating fish, and passes along helpful tips for fileting northern pike, suckers and redhorse to remove the "Y" bones.

"We hope the cookbook gives people some new recipes for their fish dishes and provides a fun, interactive way to learn about the health benefits of eating fish and about Wisconsin's fish consumption advisories," Williams says.

River Talk Focuses on St. Louis River Fisheries

The next monthly River Talk is scheduled for Apr. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Clyde Iron Works Restaurant (2920 W. Michigan St., Duluth, Minn.). John Lindgren and Paul Piszczek with the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of natural resources will present, “Something Fishy: What’s happening with fish in the St. Louis River Estuary.”

Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) have teamed up to offer this series of science cafĂ©-type evening talks about the St. Louis River Estuary. These informal “River Talks” began in 2013 and are held on the last Tuesday of the month through May. Grab a mug of coffee or maybe a glass of beer and join us! 

If you miss a talk, visit the Wisconsin Sea Grant’s “Great Lakes Takes” blog for a summary of the discussion. Check the Lake Superior NERR website for details about upcoming talks.

Trout, salmon, cisco and whitefish tops in omega-3 fatty acids

DNR sent samples of nearly 200 sport fish representing 15 species to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and the Minnesota Health Department to be analyzed for several types of fatty acids, including five types of omega-3's. The testing revealed that an 8-ounce serving of all 15 species analyzed will provide the adequate intake level of two fatty acids important in preventing heart diseases and hypertension, and in brain and eye development, Williams says.

"The good news is that Wisconsin sport fish contain high enough concentrations of beneficial fatty acids that you don't need to eat them every day," says Candy Schrank, who coordinates the fish consumption advisory. "In fact, eating one or two meals per month of some species will get the job done. Check the consumption advice that applies to your fishing spot and start enjoying the health benefits."

Read "A Healthy Dose of Flavor," in the April Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine to learn which fish species tested highest for these beneficial fatty acids and get tips on avoiding exposure to mercury and PCBs, two common fish contaminants.

More anglers draining bilge, buckets to slow the spread of invasive species

MADISON - Nearly 10 percent more anglers and boaters took a key step in preventing the spread of invasive species and fish diseases last year than in previous years, spurring state invasive species experts to urge them to keep up the good work in 2014 when the inland fishing season opens May 3.

"Anglers and boaters really stepped up to the plate last year and started draining boat bilges and the containers carrying their day's catch in significantly greater numbers," says Bob Wakeman, who coordinates aquatic invasive species efforts for the Department of Natural Resources. "We're really pleased with the response and hope to see even more boaters and anglers draining their boat bilges, live wells and the containers holding their catch."

Boaters and anglers over the past decade have reported a high awareness of the state law that requires them to remove any attached plants and animals from their boats and equipment before leaving a water body to avoid accidentally spreading aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. However, awareness has been much lower among anglers and other boaters that the smallest invasive species - like microscopic zebra mussel larvae and spiny water fleas - can spread in leftover water from boat bilges, live wells and buckets.

Aquatic invasive species are non-native plants and animals that can harm Wisconsin's aquatic wildlife and economy by outcompeting native species and hampering recreation. The invaders are transported to new lakes and rivers when they hitchhike on boats, trailers, fishing equipment, machinery or other gear.

To raise awareness of draining requirements, DNR and partners launched a statewide "Drain Campaign" last summer. With help from volunteers, wardens, county staff and other partners, Wisconsin anglers heard reminders to drain water from their live wells and buckets on the radio, in newspapers, and from their local natural resources staff.

Interactive map shows locations of all Wisconsin fish species found in state

MADISON - Anglers and fish enthusiasts alike can now see where their favorite fish species have been found using an interactive Department of Natural Resources research tool that shows results from fish surveys dating as far back as 130 years.

Fish Mapper
Click on image to go to fish mapper website (exit DNR).

The online fish mapping tool lets anyone search the more than 160 fish species found in Wisconsin by either county or habitat types. Data points on the map are pinpointed by GPS coordinates and show the kinds of fish species were found during a given research outing.

"What's great about the fish map tool is you can see the big picture of where different species are found in the state," says John Lyons, fisheries research scientist. "It also lets you zoom in on specific bodies of water so you can see what kinds of fish are found in your favorite local lakes."

http://youtu.be/KnbT0tYiUeg
The tool offers a fun interactive application for anglers and there is a tutorial video on the fish map website (exit DNR) explaining how to use the map and along with terminology. The fish map tool was created in partnership with the US Geological Survey Center for Integrated Data Analytics and is used by DNR researchers to study long term trends for fish populations in Wisconsin. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Upper Red Lake’s summer walleye regulations unchanged for 2014

(Released April 21, 2014)

(Minnesota) Regulations that allow Upper Red Lake anglers to keep larger walleye after June 15 will be in effect again for the 2014 open water season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Beginning Saturday, May 10, to Saturday, June 14, anglers must release all walleye 17- to 26-inches long.

Effective Sunday, June 15 to Sunday, Nov. 30, anglers may keep walleye less than 20 inches and must immediately release all walleye 20- to 26-inches long.

The possession limit for both periods is four fish and only one of those fish can be longer than 26 inches.

The more restrictive size limit is necessary for the early season when angler catch rates are high and mature walleye are extremely vulnerable. As the open water season progresses, catch rates and fishing pressure decline, reducing the impact of harvesting larger walleye.

Winter regulations will not be finalized until open water harvest is determined. Winter regulations will be announced in late summer and will be posted on the DNR website.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp statement on 2014 walleye declarations by Chippewa tribes

MADISON - In response to annual tribal walleye harvest declarations from the Chippewa tribes for waters in the Ceded Territory covering the northern third of Wisconsin, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has issued the following statement:

"Responding to Chippewa tribal declarations, the DNR is obligated to establish a one-walleye daily bag limit for anglers on 173 lakes in northern Wisconsin to ensure a vibrant long-term walleye fishery. Once the spring spearing season concludes, the DNR expects the number of lakes that are set at a one-bag limit will be significantly reduced as has been past practice.

"In the years to come, the DNR anticipates less user conflict. As the Governor noted in his State of the State address, all Wisconsinites love walleye. Through the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, the DNR and partners are making tremendous investments into stocking efforts and habitat improvements that will produce more fish in years to come. We are also pleased that the Natural Resource Board approved our scope statement in March, which will allow us the opportunity to explore management initiatives based on the latest science.

"We are confident that our long-term efforts will yield less fluctuation and more consistency with bag limits while still effectively managing and protecting the resource for all to enjoy."

The full list of walleye bag limits by county and lake is available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/ceded/baglimits.html.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UN Climate Change-Energy Expert to Deliver Remarks in Madison

April 17, 2014

Nguyen Khac Tiep, an international leader in sustainable energy options to battle the effects of climate change, will speak at 3:30 p.m., Monday, April 28, in Room 1630, Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

He leads the United Nation’s Industrial Energy Efficiency Program and will deliver, “Climate Change and Energy: Current Status, Future Scenarios and Impact; and Related UNIDO Work.”

“Energy is a prerequisite for development of every country and economy on our planet. But energy is also the main emitter of the greenhouse gas, which is the main cause for global warming,” Tiep said. “Global transformation toward sustainable energy systems is necessary and the window of opportunity for action is now: The business-as-usual approach will not suffice.”

UNIDO stands for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. The organization’s mission is offering universal access to modern energy services, doubling global energy efficiency rates and doubling the share of renewable energy in energy matrices.

Tiep currently manages about $79 million in projects that include low-carbon transport options for businesses, implementing industrial energy efficiency and using solar thermal energy. Some of the countries in which he’s working include China, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Ecuador and Myanmar.

Tiep’s appearance is co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Natural and Applied Sciences Program and Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Muskegon River boating access sites closed due to flooding

The Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division today announced the temporary closure of four boating access sites on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County due to flooding. The sites include Thornapple, Pine Street, Newaygo/New Bridge and Anderson Flats.

These areas will remain closed until the river's depth lowers to 10 feet as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) depth gauge at Croton Dam in Croton Township. The closures are in effect to avoid potential danger to rescue personnel and reduce damage to boat launches during the flood stage.

For more information, call the USGS hotline at 231-652-5009 or visit http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mi/nwis.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Fish stocking creates abundant fishing opportunities throughout Michigan

The Department of Natural Resources today announced it is in the middle of its new fish-stocking season. This spring, DNR trucks will be spotted pulling up to hundreds of lakes and streams throughout the state to release prized, recreational cargo.

Fish stocking is a valuable tool used by fisheries managers to restore, enhance and create new fishing opportunities in Michigan's inland lakes and streams and the Great Lakes. The DNR's Fisheries Division accomplishes this task by rearing fish at its six fish-production facilities located throughout the state, cooperatively managing up to 50 rearing ponds and 12 Great Lakes net pen locations, and maintaining a fleet of 17 specialized fish-stocking vehicles.

Over the course of the year, the DNR will stock roughly 26 million fish weighing nearly 370 tons, including eight species of trout and salmon and four coolwater species such as walleye and muskellunge. DNR fish-stocking vehicles will travel nearly 137,000 miles to stock more than 1,100 locations.

Michigan anglers have access to four Great Lakes, 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams. That puts residents and visitors no more than 10 minutes away from great angling opportunities and world-class fisheries.

Visit the DNR's website at www.michigandnr.com/fishstock for information on local fish-stocking locations.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Slow no-wake boating restriction in effect on St. Croix River

Water levels on the St. Croix River have risen to the point where any early boaters venturing onto it will be required to slow down to minimize shoreline damages.

Boaters on the St. Croix between Taylors Falls and Prescott must operate at slow no-wake speeds when the river’s level reaches 683 feet above sea level at Stillwater. The special restriction, authorized by state rules in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, is aimed at reducing shoreline erosion and resulting property damage in areas not usually susceptible to wave action at lower water levels. Officials from Wisconsin, Minnesota and the National Park Service will post signs regarding the slow no-wake requirement at all public accesses, and marina operators have been notified.

The slow no-wake rule will remain in effect until the water level again recedes below the 683-foot level. The river is predicted to remain above 683 for about a week. Boaters can consult the National Weather Service website for the latest updates on current and projected water levels.

Boat and water safety officials at the DNR also point out that high-running rivers often contain debris floating just below the surface that can present significant hazards. Boaters should slow down and exercise extra caution in such conditions. Water temperatures at this time of year also pose serious risk of hypothermia.

The Conservation Patron License offers something for everyone

As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I, like so many of you, enjoyed and continue to enjoy all the wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities available to us, including hunting, fishing and trapping.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens that enjoys our beautiful and bountiful natural resources, and would like to help protect and enhance our state's gems, a Conservation Patron license might be the perfect win-win purchase for you, a family member or a friend.

Besides the countless hours that this license offers hunters, trappers and anglers to enjoy our natural resources, it also offers outdoor enthusiasts, including wildlife watchers, hikers and campers, many benefits as well. Even if you don't hunt or fish, there are many advantages to purchasing the conservation patron's license.

Purchase of the Conservation Patron's license includes a state park sticker. Our state parks are nature's masterpieces. A state park sticker gives you a little extra incentive to get out there and offers the convenience to just pull in instead of passing by.

A subscription to the award winning Natural Resources Magazine also comes with the Conservation Patron's license. This bi-monthly publication is filled with photos and stories on the state's fish, fowl and furry creatures, along with its flora and fauna, and also lists fun outdoor events to help you find a new way to enjoy them.

If you're a bird watcher or outdoor photographer, you know how important good habitat is to successful natural resources management, and all the beautiful natural sights to see.

Do you hike, bike, ride an ATV, horse or snowmobile on state trails? It's a great way to experience our outdoors. A state trails pass is also included in the Conservation Patron's license

The purchase of a Conservation Patron license includes licenses and stamps necessary to enjoy many of the fishing and hunting seasons in the state at a discounted rate from purchasing them individually.

Opportunities abound. But even if you don't have the time or interest in pursuing all the seasons and adventures associated with the license purchase, know that funds generated by the Conservation Patrons license go directly back to species habitat protection and enhancement programs.

Your Conservation Patron's license also helps pay for your conservation wardens. These are the dedicated men and women that are out there every day protecting your rights to enjoy our natural resources, and providing public safety when you are participating in outdoor activities and ensure that our fish and game laws are being adhered to.

Were you once an angler or hunter and no longer participate in these outdoor activities? Ever considered being a mentor for someone to introduce them to the thrills and excitement of pursuing fish and game? Having a Conservation Patron's license allows you to go afield or on the water without the worry of being in compliance with license requirements for mentors.

If you have natural resource conservation on your list of things you strongly support, purchasing the Conservation Patron license is a way to put your personal resources directly into Wisconsin's natural resources.

It's the one license that covers just about anything an outdoor enthusiast would want. From hunting and fishing to hiking and reading great articles out of the Natural Resources Magazine. It's one-stop shopping for Wisconsin's outdoors -- and it's all available for $165.

With the purchase of a Conservation Patron License, you can have all these great opportunities that normally would cost about $325 and you will have them all. Not to mention the hours of pleasure you'll have re-connecting with the outdoors, and the priceless adventures and memories to follow.

For more information, call 1-888-WDNR-INFo (I-888-936-7463)

Oh, and hint, it makes a great Mother's or Father's Day present.

New senior hunt/fish combo license gives resident seniors price break, refund

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is making it easier for Michigan seniors age 65 and older to get a price break on the hunt/fish combo license. The new senior hunt/fish combo license includes a fishing license (good for all legal species), a base hunting license and two deer licenses for $43.

When purchasing the 2014 licenses without a senior discount, seniors who purchased the regular hunt/fish combo license paid $76. The only way to get a senior discount on these items was to purchase them separately as senior licenses.

The newly packaged discounted license is available for purchase as of April 14. In addition, resident seniors who paid the higher $76 price for a 2014 license will be receiving a letter from the DNR offering a refund of $33 -- the difference between the regular hunt/fish combo and the senior hunt/fish combo.

"When the license year began on March 1, we had quite a few seniors who qualified for discounts on individual licenses but were buying a hunt/fish combo and missing out on the senior discount,” said Denise Gruben, manager of Licensing and Reservations for the DNR. “This packaged senior hunt/fish combo provides an easy checkout for seniors to get their discount and get the combo all at once.”

Seniors who qualify for the refund will be receiving a letter in the mail within the next three weeks, giving recipients the option of getting a refund. Those who opt for the refund will receive a check from the State of Michigan. The DNR asks seniors not to seek refunds from the location where they purchased their license. Seniors who are eligible for the refund should keep the license they received when they purchased the hunt/fish combo; these licenses are valid and do not need to be replaced.

DNR plans to stock more than 316,000 catchable-size trout in inland waters

MADISON - More than 316,000 catchable size trout are being stocked in dozens of inland trout waters across Wisconsin before the May 3 inland fishing season opener. A list of waters receiving fish and how many were planned for stocking is now available online.

"Continuing ice cover on the lakes and difficult conditions at the lake access are delaying some of the planned stocking this year, but we're still hoping to have everything done by the May 3 opener," says David Giehtbrock, Department of Natural Resources statewide fish production manager.

"The upside is that while they wait to be stocked, these fish continue to grow bigger at our state fish hatcheries and will be ready for catching when conditions improve."

Go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword "fishing," and click on the trout stocking feature in the center of the page.

DNR fisheries crews have been stocking rainbow, brown, and brook trout raised at Nevin, Osceola and St. Croix Falls state fish hatcheries. They've also been working with fishing club volunteers, students, and others to help stock the fish raised under 21 cooperative rearing agreements with DNR.

More than 100,000 of the fish are to be stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing. Many of these waters have already been stocked, including for last week's free kids' fishing clinics held at 17 locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

The rest of the trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury - more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.

Read "A Trout Treasury: Welcome to the good old days of trout fishing," in the April 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine to learn about the general, overall improvement in the total number of trout, and trout in all the size ranges since 1950.

Find links to downloadable and interactive maps of trout streams and other resources to help find places to fish on the inland trout page of the DNR website.

May 3 inland fishing opener kicks off another exciting year of fishing

New this year: largemouth bass harvest available statewide

MADISON - Anglers heading out for the May 3 opening day of Wisconsin's regular inland fishing season will find a mixed bag of fishing conditions but strong populations of anglers' favorite fish species as well as the opportunity to harvest largemouth bass in northern Wisconsin for the first time in 22 years.

"People can look forward to another year of exciting fishing in Wisconsin," says Mike Staggs, fisheries director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "It's clear it's going to be another later spring like last year, so what worked for people last year is a good bet to work again this year.

"Opening day is a great Wisconsin tradition, so whether you're fishing open water or setting tip-ups, we hope to see you out enjoying the day and reeling in another year of great fishing stories."

This will be Staggs' last opening day as Wisconsin's fisheries director; he's announced his retirement as soon as DNR finds his successor.

Fishing conditions expected to vary statewide

Southern Wisconsin waters are open. In northern Wisconsin, the spring thaw is still a work in progress.

"The ice is about 20 to 24 inches on most lakes right now and this coming week is predicted to be pretty cold so no more significant melting until near the weekend again," says Steve Avelallemant, longtime DNR fisheries supervisor in northern Wisconsin.

Graphic of northern bass zone in Wisconsin

Largemouth bass may now be harvested in

the northern bass zone starting May 3

for the first time in 22 years.

Smallmouth bass are still catch-and-release

only in the northern zone through June 20.

WDNR Photo

"But we've still got almost three weeks to the opener and it might finally turn into full blown spring by this next weekend. My best guess is that we will have ice-out by the opener on most lakes in the north."

Avelallemant says that early spawning game fish like northern pike and walleyes will still be spawning and in-shore so anglers should key on the spawning substrates for both species.

"Panfish and bass won't even be thinking about spawning and will likely be in the shallower bays off of the main lakes where those are available," he says.

Skip Sommerfeldt, DNR fisheries biologist stationed in Park Falls, suggests walleye anglers try rivers, smaller flowages, and smaller lakes where the ice is more likely to have melted by May 3.

"The rivers are going to be open, and maybe some of the smaller flowages and lakes," he says. "Walleye anglers will want to target those waters and use early season tactics and baits."

Walleye are likely to be right in the middle of spawning on opening day. "Walleye do feed during their spawning period," Sommerfeldt says. "They usually spawn at dark in water six inches to three feet, and during the day, they'll drop back to a little deeper water from 6 to 20 feet. Try throwing a rapala along rocky points or even a jig and minnow on the gravel drop offs."

Sommerfeldt says that panfish also will be another good target for anglers fishing northern Wisconsin and looking for their first shore lunch of the season.

"Look for shallow, warm bays with a weedy or mucky bottom. Try a slip bobber with a small minnow or a worm along any emergent weed lines or on the mud flats in 2 to 4 feet of water."

A little farther south, Bob Hujik, fisheries supervisor in western Wisconsin, expects that lakes in western Wisconsin will be open by opening day.

"Walleye and pike will be finished spawning and looking for an easy meal. Minnows and small crank baits worked slow should trigger bites. Sheltered bays with trees in the water should be a good place to find crappies and bluegills on sunny warm days. Small jigs and crappie minnows should be baits of choice for early season panfish."

Hujik says that trout anglers should find the streams in good shape, unless there are some locally heavy rains. "Early season anglers have been reporting good catches of trout on many of the western Wisconsin streams during the early catch-and-release trout season," he says. "So it stands to reason that the regular season will be no different."

Anglers can find information about fish populations in specific waters in the 2014 Wisconsin Fishing Report. Forecasts are arranged by fish species and listed in alphabetical order by county.

Largemouth bass can now be harvested statewide starting May 3

This year, for the first time in 22 years, anglers fishing in northern Wisconsin can take home largemouth bass on opening day.

The bass catch and release season in place in northern Wisconsin since 1992 has been culled -- smallmouth bass are still protected from harvest but largemouth bass are now fair game in the northern bass zone.

"Bass populations throughout the state are doing great, particularly in terms of numbers, and largemouth bass are doing so well in northern Wisconsin that we're having some issues with slow growth," says Jon Hansen, a fish biologist who leads DNR's bass team. "So starting May 3, you can harvest largemouth bass statewide. They make for a fine fish fry, so don't feel bad taking a few home if you want."

The largemouth bass season runs from May 3 to March 1, 2015. Smallmouth bass must still be immediately released in the northern zone from May 3 through June 20. From June 21 to March 1, smallmouth bass 14 inches and greater in the northern zone may be harvested. During the harvest season for each of the bass species, anglers are allowed a daily bag limit of five bass in total. While the statewide length limit for bass is 14 inches, many waters have no length limit so check the hook-and-line regulations for specific waters.

Season dates and regulations

The 2014 hook-and-line game fish season opens May 3 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

Musky season opens May 3 in the southern zone and May 25 in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.

Find the "Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations 2014-15" and "guide to Wisconsin Trout Regulations 2014-15" by searching the DNR website for "fishing regulations."

DNR hasn't yet released final fishing regulations for the Ceded Territory but they will be posted before opening day on the regulations page. So check back or sign up to have them delivered by email when they are posted.

To sign up, enter an email address, and then scroll down the list to "Fishing Updates" and click on the "Fishing Regulations" box.

New veterans' program, discounts for first-timers make it easy to share the fun

Recently returning Wisconsin resident veterans may receive a one-time free annual fishing license under a 2013 law.

Veterans who wish to receive a free license must first contact the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to determine their eligibility for this program. Such eligibility-related questions should be directed to the Veterans Benefits Resource Center via web chat [www.wisvets.com (exit DNR)], email wisvets@dva.wisconsin.gov or phone 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

Anglers who have never purchased a fishing license - or who haven't purchased one in 10 years - can get a discounted "first time buyers" license. The discounts are automatically applied when the license is purchased. Residents' discounted license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

Anglers who recruit new people into the sport can get rewarded for their efforts. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter three or more times within one license year are eligible for a discount on the license of their choice the next year.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Buying a license is easy and convenient over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website at all authorized sales locations, or by calling toll-free 1-877-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 and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

WDNR Dam Safety Program - 2014 Dam Safety Workshops

The purpose of the workshops is to educate dam owners, operators and engineering consultants about the dam inspection requirements and process. The dam permitting/approval process will also be covered along with basic dam terminology, design and information on how to hire an engineering consultant. The workshops will also provide an opportunity for dam owners/operators to meet one on one with WDNR Dam Safety staff, if desired.

The workshop cost is $20.00 and includes lunch and breaks. Registered Professional Engineers can earn 6 Professional Development Hours by attending the entire workshop. Attendees will receive a CD with course materials and other materials related to dam safety, IOMs, EAPs, permitting and inspections.

LOCATIONS and DATES

May 13, 2014

Lussier Heritage Center - Main Level

3101 Lake Farm Road

Madison, WI

 

May 14, 2014

Washington Town Hall

5750 Old Town Hall

Eau Claire, WI

 

May 15, 2014

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Student Center

SC132 Lecture Hall

2740 West Mason Street

Green Bay, WI

 

AGENDA

 

8:00 – 8:30 Registration/Coffee

Session 1 Course Introduction/Basic Dam Terminology and Design

Session 2 Dam Permits and Approvals

11:45 – 12:30 Lunch provided

12:30 – 3:00 Session 3 Inspecting Your Dam

Session 4 Owner Required Inspections

3:00 – 3:15 Wrap up

3:15 – 5:00 One on one discussions with WDNR staff

For questions regarding registration, please contact the Association of Dam Safety Officials at (859) 550-2788 or http://www.damsafety.org/ and click on Register for Training. For questions concerning workshop materials, professional development hours for Wisconsin registered professional engineers, etc., please contact WDNR at DNRDAMSAFETY@wisconsin.gov.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Muskegon River boating access sites closed due to flooding

The Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division today announced the temporary closure of four boating access sites on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County due to flooding. The sites include Thornapple, Pine Street, Newaygo/New Bridge and Anderson Flats.

These areas will remain closed until the river's depth lowers to 10 feet as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) depth gauge at Croton Dam in Croton Township. The closures are in effect to avoid potential danger to rescue personnel and reduce damage to boat launches during the flood stage.

DNR to hold public hearing on Eagle Lake designation and management

A public hearing on a proposal to formally designate Eagle Lake in McLeod County for wildlife management will be hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources near Brownton on April 23.

The meeting is 7 p.m. at the Brownton Rod and Gun Clubhouse, on the south side of Lake Marion, 108th St.

Eagle Lake is a 353-acre shallow basin, 5 miles southwest of Hutchinson, with a history of excellent migratory waterfowl use. Eagle Lake is in a degraded condition typical of many shallow lakes in southern Minnesota, with poor water quality — likely caused by excessive nutrients and overabundant rough fish.

Designating Eagle Lake as a wildlife lake would give the DNR authority to conduct periodic drawdowns by way of a proposed water control structure on the lake. A drawdown can improve waterfowl, wildlife and water quality conditions by stimulating critical aquatic plant growth and promoting a rough fish die-off. The DNR partnered with the Buffalo Creek Watershed District and Ducks Unlimited for a study to help determine the effectiveness of proposed management actions.

Those unable to attend the meeting, but wanting additional information, should Joe Stangel, DNR area wildlife supervisor, 507-225-3572, or Nicole Kovar, DNR wildlife lake specialist, 507-537-6607. Comments will be accepted in writing until May 23 to the Nicollet area DNR office, 501 9th St., Nicollet, MN 56074.

Minnesota fishing facts

The following information about fishing can be used in stories in preparation for the fishing opener on Saturday, May 10.

Anglers and waters

  • About 1.5 million licensed anglers.
  • About 500,000 people are expected to fish on opening day of the walleye and northern pike season, Saturday, May 10.
  • Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, 5,400 of which are managed by DNR fisheries. There are 18,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams, including 3,600 miles of trout streams.
  • Average annual expenditure per angler is about $1,500. 1
  • Although not every kind of fish lives everywhere, 162 species of fish can be found in Minnesota waters.

Participation and the economy

  • Fishing contributes $2.4 billion to the state’s economy in direct retail sales, ranking Minnesota fourth in the nation for angler expenditures. 1
  • Fishing supports 35,400 Minnesota jobs. 1
  • Minnesota ranks second in resident fishing participation at 32 percent, second only to Alaska. 1
  • Minnesota is the third most-popular inland fishing destination in the country. 1
  • Minnesota ranks sixth among states with the highest number of anglers. The top three states are Florida, Texas and Michigan. 1

Who goes fishing

  • Most resident anglers – 855,000 of them in fact – are from urban areas. The remaining 474,000 resident anglers live in greater Minnesota. 1
  • Men account for 66 percent of resident anglers. Women account for 34 percent. 1

Fishing habits

  • Significantly more time is spent fishing on lakes rather than rivers and streams. 1
  • The average Minnesota angler spends 15 days fishing each year, with 84 percent of resident anglers never fishing anywhere else but Minnesota. 1
  • The most sought-after fish species, in order of preference, are crappie, panfish, walleye and northern pike. 1

Cook County fishing closures will protect spawning fish

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wishes to inform anglers that there will be several fishing closures in Cook County during the beginning of the 2014 fishing season to protect concentrations of spawning walleye. Closures on Minnesota-Ontario waters are made in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.

The following closures took effect April 1:

• Sea Gull River from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3 mile north of the narrows; closed through May 23.

• Saganaga Falls on the Minnesota Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake; closed through May 31.

• Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Saganaga Lake; closed through May 31.

• Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota Ontario border; closed through May 31.

• Cross River (inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake; closed through May 23.

The following areas will be closed to fishing from May 10 through May 23:

• Tait River from White Pine Lake to the Forest Road 340 crossing, including a portion of White Pine Lake.

• Junco Creek from the first log dam above County Road 57 downstream to Devil Track Lake, and including a portion of Devil Track Lake near the river mouth.

Closures apply to fishing only; travel is permitted through these areas. All closed areas will be posted.

The closures are intended to protect concentrations of walleye that may be vulnerable to over-harvest in what is expected to be a year with relatively late ice-out and delayed spawning. Questions can be directed to the DNR fisheries office in Grand Marais at 218-387-3056, or to the Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor, Steve Persons at steve.persons@state.mn.us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

‘Ask the DNR’ to air on WNMU-TV Channel 13 on Thursday, April 17

“Ask the DNR” returns to WNMU-TV Channel 13 in the Upper Peninsula Thursday, April 17, at 8 p.m. (EDT). The show will focus on the trout fishing opener and fishing regulations; spring wildlife activity; and wildfire prevention.

The hour-long program features a panel of Department of Natural Resources employees taking questions from viewers who call in during the live show to 800-227-9668. Questions are answered live on the show; any questions not answered before the end of the episode will be answered by phone call to the viewer.

The episode will feature Law Enforcement Sgt. Marc Pomroy from Crystal Falls, wildlife biologist Monica Joseph from Crystal Falls, fisheries biologist Darren Kramer from Escanaba, and fire specialist Keith Murphy from Marquette.

“Ask the DNR” is produced five times a year on WNMU-TV 13, the public television station in Marquette. It is aired live on public television stations throughout the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin and typically replays the following day at noon. Please consult local television listings to confirm replay times for the program. Episodes are also available online at wnmuvideo.nmu.edu/program/ask-dnr/.

DNR again stocks steelhead in Red Cedar River to enhance fishing on MSU campus

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that nearly 3,200 steelhead were stocked this week in the Red Cedar River at Michigan State University.

In 2013, an ordinance was changed by the MSU board of trustees to allow hook-and-line fishing on campus grounds between the western edge of Brody Complex and what's sometimes referred to as the Sparty bridge connecting West Circle Drive to Chestnut Road. Prior to that, anglers had not been allowed to fish from the Red Cedar's shores since the 1960s.

Fishing from the designated area, on the north bank of the river only, is part of a three-year test period. Good angling opportunities will include steelhead and sucker fishing in the spring, smallmouth bass in the summer, salmon in the fall, and a host of other native species throughout the open season.

A fishing license is required to fish along the Red Cedar. Licenses can be purchased from local retailers or online at www.mdnr-elicense.com from a smartphone, tablet or computer.

DNR stocks adult trout in southeast Michigan, creates additional fishing opportunities

The Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Division recently stocked adult trout in the Clinton River at Riverside Park in Auburn Hills, Huron River at Proud Lake Recreation Area in Commerce Township, and Spring Mill Pond at Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton.

The Clinton River was stocked with 600 brown trout from 15 to 17 inches; the Huron River was stocked with 1,800 brown trout sized 15 to 22 inches and nearly 1,400 rainbow trout sized 16 to 22 inches; and Spring Mill Pond was stocked with nearly 400 brown trout sized 15 to 22 inches and nearly 600 rainbow trout sized 16 to 22 inches.

This annual activity uses unneeded brown and rainbow trout broodstock from Michigan's state fish hatcheries to release in special regulation areas.

Huron River at Proud Lake Recreation Area is closed to fishing Oct. 1 through March 31. From April 1-26 anglers are limited to flies-only, catch-and-release fishing. Youth under the age of 12 may keep one fish between 8 and 12 inches. Beginning April 27, all baits are allowed and anglers may keep up to five trout over 8 inches but only three over 15 inches.

Spring Mill Pond at Island Lake Recreation Area is closed to fishing March 15- 31. From April 1-25 anglers are limited to artificial lures only, catch-and-release fishing. This year the lengthy winter may keep ice on the pond longer than normal and prevent fishing in early April. Youth under the age of 12 may keep one fish between 8 and 12 inches. Beginning April 26, all baits are allowed and anglers may keep up to five fish over 8 inches but only three over 15 inches.

The Clinton River upstream of Dequindre Road is not classified as a trout stream, so trout fishing is open year-round with an 8-inch minimum size limit and a five-fish daily possession limit, of which no more than three may be 15 inches or longer.

See the 2014 Michigan Fishing Guide for complete regulation details. For more information about this stocking effort, please contact the DNR offices at Proud Lake (248-685-2433), Island Lake (810-229-7067) or the Waterford Fisheries Office (248-666-7445).

Public invited to Waterville area DNR fisheries open house April 19

The public is invited to attend an open house at the Waterville area fisheries office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Saturday, April 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Spring is a busy time of year for us and a great chance for the public to learn first-hand about some of the things we do,” explained Scott Mackenthun, assistant area fisheries supervisor. “We anticipate northern pike hatching to be in full operation by the open house and the public can learn how and why we stock pike in southern Minnesota.”

Mackenthun said many people are unaware of the northern pike stocking program that is unique to south-central Minnesota; this is a chance to see it in person. The fisheries team rears, harvests and distributes walleye, channel catfish, muskellunge and northern pike from the hatchery and rearing ponds located in the Waterville area. Each year, the team produces 45 million walleye fry and 2 million northern pike fry for stocking in lakes locally and throughout the state.

The goal of the office is to improve fishing on 78 lakes and 107 rivers and streams across Blue Earth, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueuer, Mower, Rice, Steele and Waseca counties. This is accomplished by gathering information, improving and protecting habitat, conducting research and stocking fish.

Fisheries staff will be on hand throughout the open house giving demonstrations and answering questions. There is no cost to attend. The fisheries office is at 50317 Fish Hatchery Road, just west of the city of Waterville on Ridge Road/Le Sueur County Road 14. From the east, take Paquin Street west through the city of Waterville. From the west, use Le Sueur County Road 14 or get off on Le Sueur County Road 6 from Minnesota State Highway 60. Look for the DNR sign and ponds lined by cedar trees.

For more information on the Waterville area fisheries office, visit here or call the office during regular business hours at 507-362-4223.

$25,000 donation will fund new accessible fishing pier at Peninsula State Park

MADISON -- A new accessible fishing pier will be constructed at Peninsula State Park, thanks to a $25,000 donation the state Natural Resources Board accepted at its April 9 meeting in Madison.

The Alan Rheinschmidt Memorial Fund donated the $25,000, which will fund an accessible fishing pier at the Nicolet Bay boat launch area at Peninsula State Park.

Rheinschmidt, of Mosinee, passed away in December 2013. He was an avid outdoorsman, whose "passions were hunting and fishing," according to his obituary. He worked for 30 years at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"This generous donation bequeathed by Mr. Rheinshmidt will assure that his passion for Wisconsin's outdoors and Wisconsin's state parks will be shared with generations to come," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Rheinschmidt was also a strong supporter of Disable Veterans and Special Olympics, and his donation will assist the department in its mission of opening the outdoors to people with disabilities, Stepp said.

This is not the first significant contribution Rheinshmidt has made to the State of Wisconsin. In 2003, seven years after his retirement from UW-Green Bay he donated $30,000 to the university to be used by the chancellor at his discretion to address institutional needs. He agreed then to allow his gift to be publicized saying: "As long as I had the opportunity to give a little, I would. I hope it inspires others to do the same."

The new accessible fishing pier will be placed at the end of the new breakwall extension located at Nicolet Bay. The donation will allow for the construction of the accessible fishing pier and potentially an accessible kayak to be available for public use at Peninsula State Park.

This will provide additional opportunity for fishing at Nicolet Bay and separate anglers from the heavily used boat launch. Day users and campers will benefit from this designated fishing pier and it will provide an opportunity for additional educational opportunities.