OSHKOSH, Wis. - When the 2016 sturgeon spearing season opens on the Lake Winnebago system Feb. 13, spearers won't have an easy time pursuing their quarry.
Last year's cold temperatures but clear waters have been replaced this year by a later-than-usual freeze and the most challenging water clarity conditions since 2006, said Ryan Koenigs, senior fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. However, spearers who persevere ultimately will have more opportunities for big fish thanks to a healthy sturgeon population and increased harvest caps for adult females.
"With just under two weeks to go until the season kicks off, water clarity may still improve a bit, but it's very unlikely that we will be in the range of the 12 to 15 feet of visibility we had for the 2014 and 2015 seasons," Koenigs said. "It will be more difficult for spearers to see fish, but we still anticipate that many spearers will take to the ice and renew the traditions of sturgeon spearing while in search of a trophy lake sturgeon."
During a recent check, water clarity conditions ranged from 1.5 to 4 feet on Lake Butte des Morts; 3 to 6 feet on Lake Poygan; and 4 to 7 feet on Lake Winnebago. Following the opening on Saturday, Feb. 13, the season runs either 16 days or until one of the preset harvest caps are reached.
For the 2016 season, the harvest caps for adult females (which normally trigger the season closure) have increased to 950 from 878 a year ago. Harvest caps for juvenile females remain unchanged at 430 while harvest caps for males have decreased to 1,220 from 1,250.
Following a late freeze, ice conditions are now improving and local conservation clubs are starting their annual ritual of marking ice roads with old Christmas trees. Ice anglers have been reporting approximately 10 to 15 inches of ice in many locations, although the DNR consistently recommends caution and encourages all winter sports enthusiasts to assess local conditions before heading out. Fluctuating temperatures and windy conditions can create ice heaves and areas of variable thickness.
This year, spectators can anticipate seeing a large number of shanties dotting the Winnebago system as participants purchased a record number of spearing licenses. A total of 13,674 licenses were sold including 13,190 for Lake Winnebago and 484 for the lottery fishery on the Upriver Lakes.
Koenigs said DNR fishery surveys indicate a strong population of sturgeon this year thanks to decades of careful management. Last year, the 1,870 fish speared from Lake Winnebago represented the sixth highest harvest on record dating back to the 1941 season.
To reach the legal harvest size of 36 inches, the fish that are taken will be at least 10 years old, while fish at the 100 pound mark are at least 45 years of age. In 2014, a record 106 fish weighing 100 pounds or more were taken.
Koenigs said an adequate forage base continues to support a large number of fish in the system that weigh at or above 100 pounds. Koenigs added that although harvested sturgeon were on average "thinner" in 2015, the fish are anticipated to be a bit heavier in 2016 due to a moderate gizzard shad hatch in 2015. Gizzard shad are an important forage item and lake sturgeon will opportunistically feed on dead or dying shad as the shad experience large die offs during the winter months.
"We're excited for the many families who have participated in the sport for years, yet will still have the opportunity to bring home the fish of a lifetime," Koenigs said. "One of the goals of our management program is to ensure a successful, naturally reproducing population of fish so that this tradition can continue."
To learn more about the upcoming sturgeon spearing season, DNR will offer an online chat from noon to 1 p.m. on Feb. 9. To participate, visit the DNR home page and search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at facebook.com/WIDNR and clicking the "Ask the Experts Chat" tab at the top of the page.
Join DNR staff for a Feb. 23 chat at noon and learn more
MADISON - Coyotes become more active in late winter as they become more territorial during the breeding season and give birth to pups. Join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a live chat Feb. 23 at noon and learn more, including how to help reduce coyote interactions with pets.
Coyotes are prevalent throughout much of Wisconsin, and thrive in areas with an abundance of food like rabbits, squirrels, and rodents. In many urban settings, bird feeders, gardens and ornamental vegetation can bring coyotes to the area where these animals feed.
To help reduce coyote interactions, remember a few quick tips:
Trapping and hunting of coyotes is legal year-round on your property without a DNR license, although most municipalities within urban areas have regulations related to trapping and discharging a firearm. Please check with your local government to ensure adherence to local ordinances.
Coyote chat Feb. 23
Join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources experts for an online chat Feb. 23 at noon - staff will be on hand to answer questions ranging from nuisance wildlife concerns to habitat and behavior.
To learn more about what type of animals frequent your backyard, check out the department's guide to mammal tracks in Wisconsin.
109,367 remaining permits available beginning mid-March
MADISON - The 2016 spring turkey permit drawing has ended, and 131,402 successful applicants will receive spring wild turkey permits. A total of 240,768 permits have been made available for the spring 2016 turkey season.
Postcard notifications have been mailed to successful applicants - hunters can also monitor permit status online through the Department of Natural Resources Online Licensing Center or via the DNR Customer Call Center from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463).
Leftover spring turkey permits go on sale starting March 21 with Zone 1
The 109,367 leftover permits for the 2016 spring turkey hunting season will be first issued for sale by zone, one zone per day. Each zone will have a designated sales date and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Extra turkey tags can be purchased at a rate of one per day until the zone and time period sells out or the season closes.
Scheduled sales dates for zones have leftover permits, and are as follows:
After zone-only sales days, all remaining turkey tags will be made available for purchase Saturday, March 26.
Hunters are encouraged to check the turkey zone map [PDF] to verify where they would like to hunt and use the department's turkey permit availability page to see if permits are available for the period and zone in which they wish to hunt.
Leftover turkey permits will cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents - each will have equal opportunity to purchase over-the-counter permits. All hunters will be required to purchase a spring turkey license and 2016 Wild Turkey Stamp, unless they have previously purchased the license and stamp or are a 2016 Conservation Patron License holder. Leftover permit purchases will not affect preference point status for future spring or fall turkey permit drawings.
This year's over-the-counter spring turkey permit sales will be one of the first opportunities for hunters to "Go Wild." This new system allows customers to purchase licenses and renew recreational vehicles all in one stop.
Hunters with any questions regarding permits can contact the DNR Customer Call Center, open 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463). For more information regarding Go Wild, visit gowild.wi.gov.
Spring turkey periods run for seven days
In 2016, the spring turkey season will run from April 13 through May 24, with six seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday. A total of seven zones and Fort McCoy will be open for hunting.
Hunters are reminded that spring turkey permits are no longer available in any of the previous state park hunting zones following a 2014 rule change. While these permits have been eliminated, state parks will remain open for spring turkey hunting during the first three time periods only, and have been absorbed into surrounding turkey management zones. For example, a hunter wishing to hunt within Governor Dodge State Park, previously Zone 1A, may still do so with a Zone 1 permit. For more information regarding hunting within state parks, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "state park hunting."
Hunters are reminded that the Fort McCoy spring turkey hunting season is managed separately from the State of Wisconsin spring turkey hunt. Hunters who do not receive an approval to hunt turkeys through the state drawing in a Wisconsin turkey hunting zone for the 2016 spring season are eligible to apply for a spring permit at Fort McCoy. Applications can be obtained from Fort McCoy by calling 608-388-3337 or visiting www.mccoy.army.mil[EXIT DNR].
Youth turkey hunt set for April 9-10
Youth ages 12-15 who have completed hunter education may hunt during the youth hunt on April 9 and 10 while accompanied by an adult over the age of 18. In addition, thanks to the Mentored Hunting Program, turkey hunters ages 10 and 11 may also participate in the 2016 youth turkey hunt without first having completed hunter education, as long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow program rules. Each youth hunter must have a valid spring 2016 turkey harvest permit, license and Wild Turkey Stamp, and may hunt in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period for which their permit is issued. Youth hunters may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt.
Youth who do not successfully harvest a turkey during the youth hunt may use their unfilled permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.
A limited number of Turkey Hunter Education Clinics are being offered this spring in southeastern Wisconsin. For more information, search keywords "turkey clinics."
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, search keyword "turkey."
MADISON- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Sara Kehrli and warden Benjamin Herzfeldt were named the National Wild Turkey Federation's 2015 wildlife manager and conservation officer of the year at the Wisconsin State Chapter convention on Jan. 30 in Wisconsin Dells.
NWTF wildlife manager of the year
Kehrli has served as the wildlife manager for Columbia County for nearly nine years. Her work covers multiple aspects of habitat management, including wetland restorations, woodland improvements, prairie and oak savanna restorations and invasive species control. Outside of work, Kehrli enjoys spending time outdoors volunteering for the NWTF Glacial Valley Gobblers chapter and serving as a mentor for new hunters through local Learn to Hunt events.
Rick Horton, NWTF regional wildlife biologist, said of Kehrli, "She is very attuned to wild turkey habitat requirements in her work area and actively seeks out partners and outside funding to improve the prairies, savannas and woodlands on her Wildlife Areas. Her success can be attributed to a firm understanding of wild turkey habitat needs as well as the goals and desires of the NWTF."
Since 2011, Kehrli has successfully applied for NWTF Superfund money for five projects with NWTF contributions totaling $19,300. She was able to match these funds with $79,815 to improve 2,163 acres of key habitat for turkeys and other wildlife. Kehrli has also successfully secured habitat management funding from the state Wild Turkey Stamp account.
The ongoing oak savanna restoration at Pine Island Wildlife Area, which has received national attention, exemplifies the results of this funding. Pine Island is home to one of the most intact swamp white oak savannas in Wisconsin. Following tornado damage to nearby wooded areas in 2006, Kehrli and her team began efforts to convert this land to oak savanna across seven different units totaling over 1,000 acres - wildlife in the area is already reaping the benefits these efforts.
NWTF conservation officer of the year
Herzfeldt began his career with the department in 2006, and has been stationed at the Schofield station in Marathon County since January 2008. During his tenure, he has worked hard to build a solid, well-rounded conservation enforcement program that balances public involvement, community education and outreach, agency cooperation, and enforcement.
Herzfeldt is very involved in outdoor education, specifically through providing hunting opportunities for inexperienced hunters and youth. He also works with the Sporting Heritage Youth Day program to provide opportunities for youth to learn more about the outdoors. To learn more about Learn to Hunt opportunities, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "Learn to Hunt."
Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt
The federation's Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt [EXIT DNR] initiative is aimed at conserving and enhancing 220,000 acres of habitat, recruiting new 35,000 hunters, and providing recreational public access to 15,000 acres of land in Wisconsin. NWTF relies upon good working relationships with Kehrli, Herzfeldt, and many others to meet these objectives.
Horton adds, "We simply could not do it without the excellent partnership we have cultivated with DNR staff."
To learn more about turkey hunting in Wisconsin, search keyword "turkey."
MADISON - Wisconsin Natural Resources' cover story, "DNR is helping you Go Wild in Wisconsin" highlights the agency's new portal and licensing system to make it easier and more cost effective to get outdoors. New licenses go on sale in March and readers can update their calendars with the "2016 Wisconsin hunting and trapping seasons" sheet.
Conservation Patrons were surveyed and they report on their favorite outdoor pastimes in "Conservation Patrons speak out." One of their favorite activities - reading the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.
DNR also is celebrating the fine work of the Migratory Bird Treaty and its impact on Wisconsin birds in "100 years of international bird conservation."
Havenwoods State Forest has a heck of a history and it comes to life in "It's a natural playground for people of all ages."
"Winnebago ice magic" fits the season with an incredible sturgeon spearing season story. But for those who might prefer to fish in the warmer months, there is "Lured back in."
"Hatching a plan" provides an update on work being done at the State Game Farm to modernize the pheasant hatchery and readers can follow the author and another pheasant hunter into the field with their four-legged hunting partners. Then read about the colorful personality and namesake of the MacKenzie Environmental Center in "Back in the Day."
Many have heard of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. But they might not know that there is a Youth Conservation Congress? Learn more in "A seat at the table" and read about two teen girls who have a passion for hunting and trapping.
Feel inspired with "Finding Leopold" and its call to take time and read, or re-read, a classic. Plan a trip after reading the fascinating history of the Two Creeks Buried Forest State Natural Area in "Wisconsin Traveler."
An insert, The Fish and Wildlife Account Report, illustrates great ways your money is put to use in Wisconsin.
WNR magazine also has an e-newsletter "Previews and Reviews" to keep our readers informed about upcoming stories and past articles. Sign up to receive the e-newsletter and other email updates.
(Under the Publications box, select Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine).
Not a subscriber? Here's what you are missing:
Already a subscriber? Remember to consider Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine as a thoughtful and inexpensive gift that gives all year. Share what you value about the outdoors with family, friends, customers and professional colleagues. Subscribe toll-free at 1-800-678-9472, online at www.wnrmag.com or by mail. Subscription blanks and single issues are also available from our circulation office at P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
MADISON - Now is a good time for tree pruning, while temperatures remain cold, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tree health experts.
"The best time to prune trees in Wisconsin is during winter when a tree is dormant," said DNR Urban Forester Don Kissinger. This is because:
"Pruning oak trees during winter is a good practice to help prevent introduction of oak wilt," said Kyoko Scanlon, DNR Forest Pathologist. Oak wilt is a fatal disease of oaks. During the winter, beetles that carry oak wilt spores to healthy oak trees are not active.
To help reduce the spread of oak wilt another way, do not move firewood. "Several recent oak wilt finds in northern Wisconsin were probably the result of infected firewood brought from areas with oak wilt," according to Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist for northwest Wisconsin.
"Oak wilt is still uncommon in much of northern Wisconsin", said Mike Hillstrom, DNR Forest Health Specialist for central Wisconsin. Taking precautions to prevent the spread of oak wilt will help keep it that way.
Trees should be pruned throughout their entire life to maintain strong structure and remove dead wood. "Pruning should not remove more than 25 percent of the live crown of a tree. The lower third of trunks of deciduous trees should be free of limbs," Kissinger said. The DNR pruning brochure offers more detailed, step by step tips for tree pruning. Find it by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "tree pruning [PDF]".
Certified arborists who offer pruning and other tree care services can be found at waa-isa.org/arborists/search.asp (exit DNR).
MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Wildlife Management welcomes two new employees within the big game section as they serve in key statewide roles.
Assistant Deer and Elk Ecologist
Derek Johnson has been named assistant deer and elk ecologist. Johnson has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in Conservation and Field Biology. He previously worked for the Beaver Creek Reserve, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust and the department's sharp-tailed grouse research project, Sandhill/Meadow Valley Work Unit, and was the manager of the chronic wasting disease processing center in Black Earth.
"I am looking forward to working with the people of Wisconsin, especially by helping them enjoy our deer resource now and into the future," said Johnson. "I am excited to become engaged in deer and wildlife management with landowners, whether it is through the Deer Management Assistance Program, County Deer Advisory Councils, or other management programs."
Assistant Deer and Large Carnivore Ecologist
Mary Annala has been named assistant deer and large carnivore ecologist. Annala has a bachelor's degree from Michigan Tech and recently received her master's degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where she completed aerial surveys for wildlife on south Texas ranches. She previously worked in Alaska as a naturalist in Denali State Park, an environmental program specialist for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, as a Fish and Wildlife Services field technician, and as an intern with the United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Florida.
"Working with wildlife species like deer, bears and wolves will be an exciting challenge," said Annala. "I look forward to working with the department, the many stakeholder groups, and others throughout Wisconsin."
For more information regarding wildlife management in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "wildlife."
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has accepted a $90,000 donation from the Lake Poygan Sportsmen's Club to construct a breakwall at the mouth of the Wolf River where it enters Lake Poygan.
The donation will advance an approved Department of Natural Resources project totaling $378,700 to create a 1,170 foot long breakwall extending from the shore into Lake Poygan. This structure will be the first of a number of similar structures to be built between the river's mouth and the "Boom Cut" navigation channel.
The broken limestone structures will dissipate wave energy, stop erosion of the shoreland marsh edge and allow rooted aquatic plants to take root and grow, forming a quiet water area with quality habitat for fish and wildlife. This first structure will serve as an engineering test of the construction technique and will be the cornerstone, anchoring the structure to the shoreline.
Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director, said when completed, the entire project will protect 400 acres of critical habitat including deep water marsh and an eroding marsh edge. The area receives little boat traffic because of the shallow water and the project is not expected to affect navigation in the area.
"We are grateful to the Lake Poygan Sportsmen's Club for the group's generous support on behalf of this project," Hasz said. "The club has worked in partnership with the department over many years and this donation again highlights the important role stakeholder groups play in supporting habitat restoration."
Kendall Kamke, fisheries team supervisor in Oshkosh said the project will protect and start to restore important habitat that has been lost over time.
"The project will benefit fish and wildlife in Lake Poygan and the entire ecosystem in the upper lakes," Kamke said. "In turn, that is good for all recreational users of the area and will contribute to the local economy."
The project has been 15 years in the making and has strong local support, said Pat Gorchals, vice president of the Lake Poygan Sportsmen's Club.
"The Lake Poygan Sportsmen's Club has always been focused on protecting, restoring and enhancing the habitats that define Lake Poygan and the Winnebago system and we have a long history of projects to that end," Gorchals said. "Good quality habitat affords our members and the public the opportunity to further enjoy the outdoor things they love. Partnering with the DNR on these types of projects is a natural fit with our mission."
MADISON -- The Badger Coulee Transmission Line soil borings within Segment 6 of the project may result in the "incidental taking" of a rare moth and butterfly under an authorization the Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.
The Badger Coulee 345 kV Transmission Line Project is a proposed new transmission line between northern La Crosse County and northern Dane County. The Project is jointly owned by American Transmission Company (ATC); Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC); Northern States Power Company, a Wisconsin corporation (NSPW); SMMPA Wisconsin, LLC (SMMPA Wisconsin), and WPPI Energy (WPPI). ATC will be the Project's construction manager, acting on behalf of itself and its co-owners. The Project is a new, predominantly single-circuit 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line between northern La Crosse County and northern Dane County. In the La Crosse area, the line will connect to the Briggs Road Substation in the town of Onalaska. In Dane County, the line will connect to the North Madison Substation in the Town of Vienna and continue to its termination at the Cardinal Substation in the Town of Middleton. The Project consists of eight construction segments (Segments 1 through 8) and also extends through Columbia, Sauk, Juneau, Monroe, Jackson, and Trempealeau counties for a total length of approximately 187 miles. This incidental take authorization only covers soil borings within Segment 6 of the project.
The presence of the state endangered phlox moth (Schinia Indiana) and state threatened frosted elfin (Callophrys irus) has been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some moths and butterflies.
The department has concluded that the proposed project will minimize impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of the species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.
The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered/threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the phlox moth and frosted elfin are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski (608-264-6040 or email@example.com). The department is requesting comments from the public through February 16, 2016. Public comments should be sent to Rori Paloski, WDNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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