MADISON -- With statewide temperatures projected to remain below freezing through the first week in March, the 2015 Wisconsin early trout season may be on the chilly side.
The good news, state fisheries biologists say, is that many of the state's top trout waters feature strong groundwater flows and stay free of ice. So, the trout will be there waiting if anglers can gear up properly to manage the cold.
The early inland catch and release trout season runs on selected waters from 5 a.m. on the first Saturday in March (March 7, 2015) through the Sunday preceding the first Saturday in May (April 26, 2015). The regular inland trout season runs from May 2, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2015.
Most trout streams are open to early fishing with the exception of tributaries to Lake Superior and most streams in northeastern Wisconsin; check the current trout fishing regulation pamphlet for specific waters. Anglers are required to use artificial lures and flies; barbless hooks are not required.
Jordan Weeks, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist in La Crosse, says stream surveys in West Central Wisconsin during 2014 turned up some good news for anglers this spring. Anglers fishing Crawford County trout streams should experience great fishing in 2015 thanks to two good years of natural reproduction.
"Our surveys found good trout populations were in Plum, Rush, Copper, Tainter and Sugar creeks," Weeks says. "Anglers looking for trophy trout should start looking in all of the aforementioned streams and the Kickapoo River."
In La Crosse County, anglers looking for some action may want to try Mormon Coulee, Dutch and Burns creeks. Anglers seeking brook trout should try John's Coulee, Pammel Creek, Garbers Coulee and Chipmunk Coulee.
Monroe County anglers have several hotspots to try in 2010. Weeks says DNR surveys at 25 sites on 10 streams show trout are present in good numbers with excellent average size. Anglers looking for action may want to visit the Little La Crosse River while those looking for a whopper should concentrate on the La Crosse and Kickapoo Rivers.
Many Vernon County streams also show high trout populations. Surveys at 35 sites on 10 streams indicate that anglers looking to catch trout should find a great return on their investment of time, says Weeks. Good starting places for quality fish are Bishop Branch Creek, the north and south forks of the Bad Axe River, Timber Coulee Creek, Springville Branch Creek, Elk, and Spring Coulee Creeks. For a chance at a trophy, head to the Kickapoo River, or the Bad Axe River.
In northwestern Wisconsin, "cold weather up to the opener should provide cold but clear water conditions," says Marty Engel, DNR fisheries biologist in Baldwin. "The Kinnickinnic and Rush rivers in Pierce and St. Croix counties will remain the most popular early season streams in the area. Anglers can expect lower trout densities but better quality size fish in the 2015 season."
In addition to strong natural reproduction that is occurring in many rivers and streams statewide, habitat improvements in recent years are contributing to increased survival and larger fish, the experts say.
Luke Roffler, DNR fisheries biologist for Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties, says the Bluff Creek/Whitewater Creek system in Walworth County received a major facelift over a decade ago when the first habitat structures were installed to begin restoring a home for brown trout and the forage species they depend on. Today, the system supports reaches of Class 1 trout fishing, natural reproduction and brown trout up to 19 inches.
"This winter, the habitat improvements have continued in the system, including more than 670 feet of stream restoration on the Bluff Creek and Whitewater system," Roffler says.
Given the expected cold start to the season, anglers should target their time on the water to the warmest part of the day, typically from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., says Heath Benike, fisheries operations supervisor in Black River Falls.
"This slight warm period each day is just enough to increase stream drift and the trout will respond with more feeding activity," Benike says. "As the season progresses into mid to late April, this window is expanded and trout will be active for longer time periods during the day. After spring run-off has occurred and the water temperatures start increasing, some of the largest trout landed each year are caught."
Benike suggests anglers should try using midge, mayfly and scud imitations during the early season; spinners and lures are likely to be productive in mid-to-late April after spring run-off has occurred.
To learn more about Wisconsin's early catch and release trout season, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "trout fishing regulations [PDF]." To find out where to fish, including DNR publicly owned lands, easements on private lands allowing for public access and trout stream classifications, search for "public access lands."
Anglers should be aware that the game fish season on most inland Wisconsin waters closes at the end of the day on Sunday, March 1.
The panfish seasons remain open year-round as does the season for certain game fish on select lakes and rivers, including much of the Wisconsin River and its impoundments. Waters that remain open are listed in the fishing regulations on the DNR website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Marty Engel, DNR fisheries biologist in Baldwin, 715-684-2914, email@example.com; Jordan Weeks, DNR fisheries biologist in La Crosse, 608-785-9002, firstname.lastname@example.org; Luke Roffler, DNR fisheries biologist in Sturtevant, 262-822-8164, luke.roffler@Wisconsin.gov; Heath Benike, fisheries operations supervisor in Black River Falls, (715) 284-1447, email@example.com; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-770-8084
WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Outdoor enthusiasts will have an opportunity to meet and speak with Department of Natural Resources staff at the 75th Annual Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show which opens Wednesday, March 4, and runs through Sunday, March 8, at the Wisconsin Exhibition Center at State Fair Park, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the relationship between the agency and the sports show dates back to the days when the agency was called the Wisconsin Conservation Department.
"It's been a long and happy engagement," Stepp said. "This is a great opportunity for folks to ask questions or just talk with our staff, and we are looking forward to it. Our focus is to serve our customers, the public, and this is a wonderful way to do it up close and in person."
The DNR exhibit features a 600-gallon freshwater tank where visitors can view live bluegills, crappies, perch, largemouth and small mouth bass. Live reptiles and amphibians will be on display at the wetlands and waterways section. Returning this year will be the free kids' casting clinics where young anglers can hone their skills.
As they have done for several years, wildlife managers will bring an array of wildlife pelts including beaver, badger, coyote, fox and wolf for youngsters eager to learn more about our furry friends. "This is definitely a 'please do touch' display," said Stepp. Conservation wardens will be available to answer questions about law enforcement, boating and ATV safety.
As always, show visitors can purchase their hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. License sales are a big attraction, especially since previous year licenses expire March 31.
People attending the sports show can learn about the Wisconsin Deer Management Assistance Program. It provides habitat and herd management assistance to landowners interested in managing their property for wildlife. The department helps landowners with the implementation of forest regeneration and deer hunting practices that emphasizes property goals while considering the ecological and social impacts of white-tailed deer.
Staff from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin will again be available to share information about the Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund. The fund was established so that individuals and businesses can give now to care for the state's fisheries, parks, wildlife areas and state natural areas forever.
Visitors can learn how to access and use the Pocket Ranger app. The app helps locate Wisconsin's fishing, hunting and wildlife watching sites and gain immediate access to on-the-spot species profiles, rules, regulations, and permit and license details.
New this year will be hands -on demonstrations of how to operate the Official Guide for Wisconsin State Parks app. This free app provides information on all state parks, including general policy, contact information, activities, trails, park maps, access to online reservations and much more.
The 1,800-square-foot DNR exhibit is located in the southwest corner of the exhibition center. About 20 DNR employees staff the exhibit daily. The hours for the 2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show are Wednesday, March 4, through Friday, March 6, from noon to 9 p.m. On Saturday, March 7, hours are from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sunday, March 8, doors open at 10 a.m. and the show closes at 6 p.m.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Marcus Smith, DNR public affairs manager, 414-263-8516
MADISON -- The Art Oehmcke Hatchery in Oneida County and Gov. Tommy G. Thompson Hatchery in Washburn County will receive important upgrades under plans approved by the state building commission.
The fish hatcheries, operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, raise muskies, walleye and suckers.
Dave Giehtbrock, fisheries culture section chief, said the $4.6 million in improvements at the Art Oehmcke facility will include equipment to disinfect the Madeline Lake and Clear Lake building water supply. The project will modify the Clear Lake pump station, filter the Clear Lake building supply, renovate the Madeline Lake intake screen and replace the Madeline Lake micro screen filtration systems.
Fish rearing operations there also will benefit from an egg disinfection room and new rearing ponds.
The $2.5 million worth of improvements at the Tommy Thompson facility will include a new automatic intake screen cleaning system, a new filtration system for all incoming water and a new disinfection system for incoming water in the building. The money also will repair levees and settled pond areas and add a new bio-secure egg disinfection room in the hatchery building. A truck and equipment disinfection station will be built in an existing storage building.
Giehtbrock said the investment represents an important step forward for the hatcheries, which help sustain $1.5 billion in direct state angler expenditures each year, according to the American Sportfishing Association. Following a bidding process, work on the projects is expected to begin in May with completion of the new ponds at Art Oehmcke by mid-summer.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Giehtbrock, DNR fisheries culture section chief, 608-266-8229, David.Giehtbrock@Wisconsin.gov ; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
MADISON - Conservation organizations and units of government have until April 10, 2015 to apply for funds for developing, managing, preserving or restoring habitat for wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl in Wisconsin.
The funds are generated from the sale of Wisconsin wild turkey, pheasant or waterfowl stamps, as well as a portion of conservation patron license sales. While stamps are required to hunt these species, many collectors and nature enthusiasts also purchase the stamps to help support wildlife habitat improvement.
"Since their creation, these stamp programs have dedicated millions of dollars to habitat management, research, and outreach benefiting turkeys, pheasants and waterfowl as well as the people who enjoy hunting and viewing them," said Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. "Thanks to the availability of these funds, the Department and many partner organizations have accomplished a great deal in habitat and species management in Wisconsin."
Habitat projects typically involve restoration and management of valuable woodland, savanna, grassland and wetland communities.
"Wisconsin residents benefit tremendously from the diverse habitat work funded by the sale of Wisconsin Wild Turkey, Pheasant and Waterfowl Stamps," said Eddie Shea, DNR assistant wetland habitat specialist. "These types of habitat are valuable not only to hunters, they also provide wildlife viewing opportunities for non-hunters, help maintain and improve water quality and provide necessary habitat for a broad suite of wildlife species."
On average, annual wildlife stamp revenue exceeds $300,000 for pheasant, $750,000 for wild turkey and $550,000 for waterfowl. Through state law, 60 percent of Pheasant Stamp funds are reserved for game farm pheasant production, while one-third of Waterfowl Stamp funds are reserved for habitat projects in Canada, where a significant proportion of Wisconsin's fall ducks are reared.
Funding for successful applicants will be available during the Wisconsin 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, which run from July 1 through June 30.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Wild turkey or pheasant: Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458; Waterfowl: Eddie Shea, DNR assistant wetland habitat specialist, 608-261-0775
MADISON -- Temporary waterway crossings needed for forest management activities would undergo a quicker, less expensive review as part of a proposed general permit process now up for public comment.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is accepting comments on the proposed statewide general permit through March 25, 2015.
Martin Griffin, statewide waterway science and policy leader, said the ability to develop the streamlined general permit process was created by a change in waterway and wetland laws in 2012 under 2011 Wisconsin Act 118. The temporary in-stream crossing general permit consolidates permit options for these crossings that had been identified in Wis. Admin Code NR 320.
The proposed temporary in-stream crossing general permit modifies existing standards for temporary structures and allows for placement of additional types of waterway crossings. The proposed permit provides more flexibility regarding the length of time temporary crossing can be left in place, establishes the flexibility to reinstall previously authorized crossings and allows a greater number of crossings to be reviewed as part of one project.
The proposed permit applies to forest management projects that need to cross public waters to reach timber harvest or other forest management sites. The proposed permit includes standards for a variety of situations, such as waterway crossings involving trout streams or other sensitive resources. Other standards establish clearance heights in heavily navigated areas or set forth technical specifications that minimize impacts on water quality and other public rights in the waterway.
To help promote year round forest management projects and address concerns about increased permit fees, the proposed permit allows applicants to apply for more than one crossing under a single application. The application does not impose additional fees if removal and reinstallation is needed before the forestry activity is complete.
DNR developed the proposed general permit with input from partners in the forestry and natural resources communities. The statewide general permit process ensures applicants receive a decision within 30 days. Issued permits are good for five years.
The proposed general permit and environmental impact documents can be reviewed by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "temporary in-stream crossing." Submit written comments to Martin Griffin, statewide waterway science and policy leader, GEF II DNR Central Office, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, Wis., 53703 or email: MartinP.Griffin@Wisconsin.gov.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Martin Griffin, DNR statewide waterway science and policy leader, 608-266-2997, MartinP.Griffin@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
MADISON -- Winter allows landowners a chance to relax and enjoy their property draped in a blanket of snow, but it is also the time they should be preparing if they are considering tree planting on their property next spring.
The spring 2015 Tree and Shrub Ordering Form is still available from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources State Reforestation Program. The form includes information about tree and shrub species that are available and directions on how to order. Species information and tips on how to prepare a site can also be found by searching the DNR website for keyword "tree planting."
"Every year, Wisconsin landowners plant millions of tree seedlings to enhance and restore forests, according to Joe Vande Hey, manager of the Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel.
And when a landowner is thinking about what species of trees to plant, the first place to turn for advice is the local DNR office. Each county has a DNR forester available to visit landowner properties, answer questions, and help the landowner get the maximum benefits from their tree planting activities.
"Landowners contemplating tree planting projects should contact their local DNR forester, private consulting forester, or nursery staff for advice on species selection, site preparation, planting methods, cost-sharing programs, tree planter rentals, and other considerations in establishing a successful forest tree planting," Vande Hey said. (Contact information for all DNR foresters can also be found on the DNR website.
Even though these trees will not be available for planting until spring, Vande Hey said it is important to order now because many desirable species sell out quickly.
Landowners can purchase seedlings from the DNR state nurseries for reforestation, wildlife habitat, and windbreak and erosion control purposes. Customers who would like to select specific seedlings or shrubs must order a minimum quantity of 1000 tree seedlings or 500 wildlife shrubs or build their own packet of 300 seedlings, usually good for landowners new to planting or those with small acreages. Hardwood tree species available from the state nurseries include red oak, bur oak, hackberry, black cherry, silver maple, sugar maple, white birch, yellow birch, shagbark hickory, butternut and black walnut. Conifer tree species available include white spruce, black spruce, white pine, tamarack, red pine, jack pine, hemlock and white cedar. Wildlife shrubs available include hazelnut, ninebark, American plum, and silky dogwood.
"The seedlings grown at the state nurseries are high-quality native species grown from seed harvested in Wisconsin," Vande Hey said. "Planting these Wisconsin-grown trees and shrubs is a great way to improve wildlife habitat, increase the value of the land, reduce soil erosion, improve overall aesthetics, and possibly generate income for the landowner."
Seedlings and shrubs are distributed in April and early May. Landowners who order from the DNR can pick up their seedlings at the state nurseries located in Boscobel, Hayward, or Wisconsin Rapids, or in many counties, at a central location designated by the local DNR forester.
"Staff at the state nurseries places a high value on customer service," Vande Hey said. "Information on tree and shrub inventory is updated regularly at our website. A "Frequently Asked Questions" page helps respond to the most common questions about tree planting, along with additional links to other tree planting information. This information will help landowners maximize their tree planting investment."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Griffith State Nursery in Wisconsin Rapids (715.424-3700) or Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel (608.375-4123).
MADISON - Join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources experts for an online chat Feb. 26 at noon and learn more about coyotes in Wisconsin.
Coyotes can be found throughout much of the state, and are considered opportunistic omnivores that rely on a number of food sources. Staff will be on hand to answer questions ranging from nuisance wildlife concerns to habitat and behavior.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Olson, DNR Furbearer Biologist, 715-685-2934, Geriann Albers, Assistant Furbearer Biologist, 608-261-6452
MADISON -- The Department of Natural Resources proposes to update the Broad Incidental Take Permit and Authorization for Common Activities to include forest management. The permit and authorization will allow for the "incidental taking" of a rare turtle that may occur as a result of regularly occurring forest management activities. 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 Department recognizes that minimization and mitigation measures are often identical for multiple projects and therefore is proposing to issue this broad permit and authorization to cover several regularly occurring forest management activities with the potential to impact the state threatened wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta).
The disturbance caused by these regularly occurring activities may result in some mortality, however take will be minimized by following protocols designed for the wood turtle. The Department has concluded that the forestry management activities covered under this permit and authorization would minimize impacts to the wood turtle by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and/or recovery of the state population of the wood turtle or the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part and the habitat that is critical to its existence; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.
The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Permit/Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the wood turtle are available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040. Public comments will be taken through March 26, 2015 and should be sent to Rori Paloski, Conservation Biologist, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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