GREEN BAY, Wis. -- While size and bag limits are the subject of frequent discussion among many anglers, there's one group of fishing enthusiasts who are relatively unaffected by such matters: musky hunters.
A glance at online fishing forums indicates most musky anglers would never keep a musky unless they believed the fish was unlikely to survive or it was a record fish. Steve Hogler, a senior fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says his experience with musky anglers on Green Bay and the Menominee River bears this out.
"Over time, our creel surveys have indicated fewer than 10 musky per year are actually being harvested from Green Bay," Hogler said. "For the anglers who have kept the fish, either it's the largest fish they've ever caught in their life or they have a firm belief that it couldn't be released healthy, maybe because it swallowed the bait too far. When we went to increase the size limit from 50 to 54 inches in 2014, we had very few complaints from musky hunters because the anglers already viewed it as a trophy fishery."
Musky anglers heading to northern Wisconsin for the season opener this Memorial Day weekend have good reason for optimism this year - and this 49.3 inch fish from Trout Lake shows why. DNR fisheries biologist Lawrence Eslinger captured the fish, which weighs more than 40 pounds, during a survey of the Vilas County lake about two weeks ago. The fish is now back in the lake.
Musky fishing will be the focus of many anglers throughout the northern region of the state this Memorial Day weekend. The northern zone season opens Saturday, May 23 and extends until Nov. 30 on inland waters north of Highway 10 including Green Bay and most of its tributaries. On the Menominee River, the season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30 while on inland waters south of Highway 10, the musky season opened May 2 and runs to Dec 31.
While the size limit on most state waters is 40 inches, the 54 inch size limit on Green Bay and the Menominee River distinguish the region as one of a select few in the world capable of producing such large fish. Ample forage in the form of gizzard shad, suckers and alewife help the muskies grow quickly and they typically reach sexual maturity at age 4 or 5 for the males and 7 or 8 for the females.
"The sheer biomass in Green Bay is incredible and it's dominated by forage fish," Hogler said. "Ideally, you'd like a 20-to-1 ratio of forage to predators and I'm sure it's much higher than that. That means the great walleye, bass and musky fishery that anglers are experiencing now probably will be there for the foreseeable future."
Without a unique partnership involving DNR and half a dozen private sport fishing clubs, however, the trophy musky fishery would not exist. Musky were native to Green Bay but vanished from the region due to overfishing, pollution and habitat loss in the early 1900s. In the mid-1980s, DNR fisheries managers identified the return of a musky population to the region as an important goal, but it wasn't until private organizations stepped in with funding and volunteer support that the effort could progress.
Hogler said Dave's Musky Club in Kaukauna, Packerland Musky Club in Green Bay, Titletown Muskies Inc., in Green Bay, Muskies Inc. in Sheboygan and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin all have made critical contributions to an effort that has resulted in some 155,000 muskies being stocked into Green Bay since 1989. The involvement of the clubs continues, with some providing support for rearing operations after the fish are spawned and the eggs taken to the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery and the C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility near Kewaunee.
"We're grateful for the continued support of these groups and we saw 15 or 20 club members observing as we conducted our spring survey work along the shores of the Fox River," Hogler said. "They were extremely happy to see the fish and one of the fish we picked up had a Floy tag from 16 years ago. The type of data we are able to gather from these tagged fish is very useful to our research as we work to understand the age and size structure of the muskies."
One remaining challenge involves establishing natural reproduction to help sustain the Green Bay musky fishery. Natural reproduction has been occurring on an extremely limited basis in the Menominee River and Little Sturgeon Bay but Hogler said fisheries team members believe greater population density, additional genetic diversity and improved habitat are needed for more successful spawning to occur. Currently, population densities are running below the target range of one fish per 5 acres.
Beyond additional stocking efforts now underway to introduce fresh genetics from Great Lakes spotted musky out of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, more woody debris along the river shorelines and aquatic vegetation likely is needed to facilitate spawning and provide places for young muskies to hide.
In the meantime, however, the waters of Green Bay are supporting a true trophy fishery in which fish larger than 50 inches are commonly caught by anglers. The question, said Randy Schumacher, DNR eastern district fisheries supervisor, is whether the region will yield a record fish anytime soon.
These muskies were collected during DNR spring fisheries work on the Fox River. Photo provided by Bill Gerndt, Titletown Chapter of Muskies, Inc.
More world record muskies have been landed in Wisconsin than anywhere else and a 69 pound, 11 ounce fish taken from the Chippewa Flowage claims the current state and world records. While conditions in Green Bay are uniquely suited for producing large fish, the strong catch and release ethic among anglers in the region may prove to be a factor in how long the current record stands.
"There's no other place in Wisconsin with more fish that musky like to eat than Green Bay and it's a good possibility that there are record fish out there right now," said Schumacher, a 39 year veteran of the department who plans to retire later this month and spend more time fishing. "But given the sense of stewardship among musky anglers, that record may not be broken anytime soon."
Buying a fishing license is easy and convenient 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).
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Hogler, DNR senior fisheries biologist, 920-662-5480, Steven.Hogler@Wisconsin.gov; Tim Simonson, DNR fisheries biologist, 608-266-5222, email@example.com Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
MADISON -- There's great fishing in store on northern Wisconsin lakes this Memorial Day weekend and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is encouraging visiting anglers and returning cabin owners to familiarize themselves with some updated rules before heading out for walleye.
Highlights of the new and upcoming changes include:
Additional habitat improvements, stocking efforts and research projects also will move ahead, Hewett said. There are many great fishing opportunities for catching and keeping other game fish and panfish on Minocqua, Mid, Mud, Jerome, Kawaguesaga, Little Tomahawk and Tomahawk lakes as noted in the Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations for 2015-2016.
To learn more about the three-bag limit and other rule updates, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "fishing regulations." For background information on the tribal and recreational fishery and Chippewa treaty rights, search for "Ceded Territory."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Russell Fell, DNR conservation warden supervisor, 715-645-0050, Russ.Fell@wisconsin.gov; Steve Hewett, DNR fisheries management section chief, 608- 267-7501, Steven.Hewett@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
MADISON - The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on proposed revisions to rules for how the Department of Natural Resources seeks and considers public input and evaluates and discloses the environmental impacts of pending projects at a June 2 public hearing.
Chapter NR 150 of the Wisconsin Adminstrative Code relates to the department's environmental analysis procedures under the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act, or WEPA. A revision to the rule went into effect in April 2014 and current revisions are clarifications to those changes.
The proposed rule includes clarifications to procedures for bigger picture strategic policy analysis and specific environmental analysis requirements for individual department actions.
"WEPA and NR 150 are cornerstone laws for the agency that date back to the 1970s," said Dave Siebert, head of the DNR's environmental analysis program. "Major changes to the rule became effective in April 2014 to make our compliance with WEPA more effective, meaningful and consistent. However, in working with the 2014 rule, it became apparent that a few additional improvements were necessary."
The hearing will start at 10 a.m. on June 2 in Room G09 of the State Natural Resources Building, 101 South Webster St. in Madison.
Department staff will make a brief presentation on the proposed rule revisions and the rules process prior to opening the public comment portion of the hearing.
The proposed rule may be reviewed and comments electronically submitted by June 10 at the state's administrative rules web site (exit DNR).
Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted via U.S. Mail to Jeff Schimpff, Bureau of Environmental Analysis and Sustainability (EA/7), P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Comments may be submitted until Wednesday, June 10, 2015.
Written comments, whether submitted electronically or by U.S. mail, will have the same weight and effect as oral statements presented at the public hearing. A copy of the proposed rule and fiscal estimate may also be obtained from Jeff Schimpff, Bureau of Environmental Analysis and Sustainability (EA/7), P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or by calling 608-267-7853.
Following review of public comments and any modifications from those comments, the proposed changes will be presented to the Natural Resources Board for adoption as a permanent rule at the board's August 12 meeting in Horicon. The package of materials for that board meeting will include the final proposed rule language and a response to comments and will be available on the meeting agenda when it is available. The public may comment and appear as part of the normal board process.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Siebert, Bureau of Environmental Analysis and Sustainability, 608-264-6048
MADISON - Wisconsin's Beaver Management Plan is nearly complete, and those who wish to play a role in beaver management are encouraged to attend a public meeting or provide feedback before June 22.
The Beaver Management Plan will guide decisions regarding population management, habitat management, disease monitoring, education, damage management and research through 2025. The draft Wisconsin beaver management plan [PDF] is available for review by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "management plans."
A Beaver Task Force comprised of individuals from 24 agencies, organizations, tribes and user groups drafted the Beaver Management Plan, with meetings in Hayward, Rhinelander, Oshkosh, and La Crosse held to gather public input. In addition, a webinar open to the public helped gather informal input and guide the task force in the initial stages of the process.
Four public input meetings will be held in June to share information regarding the status of the new plan and gather final feedback.
Public meeting dates and locations are as follows, with each running from 6-8 p.m. No advance registration is required. The meetings will be held:
Those unable to attend a meeting can submit comments through June 22. Feedback can be sent to Geriann Albers, Wisconsin DNR WM/6, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Olson, DNR furbearer ecologist, 715-685-2934; Geriann Albers, DNR assistant furbearer ecologist, 608-261-6452
MADISON -- Six photographers from Wisconsin earned top honors for their entries in the Department of Natural Resources' seventh annual Wisconsin's Great Lakes photography contest.
The video of the winning photos is also available on the DNR YouTube channel.
The winning photos will be featured in a calendar available this summer at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Dan Patrinos and Julian Kegel, both of Milwaukee, Mason Morris of Port Washington and Bob Ford of Ashland won first place honors in the contest's four categories. Morris was a fist place winner in two contest categories. Kegel also won a second place honor, as did Edward Deiro of St. Francis and Christopher Rand of Kewaunee.
This year's winning photos will be featured in the 2015-2016 16 month calendar that DNR's Office of the Great Lakes will give out at the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Aug. 6-16, 2015, said Jo Temte, the Great Lakes office water specialist who coordinates the contest.
The winners were among photographers from across Wisconsin and beyond who submitted more than 500 beautiful photos of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, said Steve Galarneau, Office of the Great Lakes director.
New for next year's contest, the Office of the Great Lakes will introduce the category of lake stewardship activities and will ask participants to submit not only a photo, but a brief description of their Great Lakes project.
"We know there is a lot of good work going on for the protection and restoration of Lake Michigan and Superior," said Galarneau. "Our new category will give people involved in these projects a chance to tell their stories."
DNR also coordinates a "Wisconsin's Great Lakes" writing project and this year received 23 submissions that also can also be found on the Office of the Great Lakes website. Writings by Patricia Williams of Iola, Robby DeGraff of Bayside, John Bourgeois of St. Germain, Charles Rossiter of Oak Park, Ill., and Chris Turek of Anchorage, Alasaka will be featured in this year's calendar.
DNR's Office of the Great Lakes is now accepting photos of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior for next year's contest. Contest information and instructions for submitting photos and writings can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for "Great Lakes Photo Contest."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jo Temte, 608-267-0555, Glenna.Temte@Wisconsin.gov
MADISON - Requests to approve the antlerless deer harvest quota for the 2015 deer hunting season, update inland trout size and bag limits, and apply new panfish regulations on approximately 100 lakes are among the issues the state Natural Resources Board will take up at its May 27 meeting in Madison.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 27, in Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St., Madison.
Among items the board will consider:
The public may testify at board meetings on topics open for public comment (listed on the agenda) and during the citizen participation period. The deadline to register to speak at the board meeting or to submit comments is 11 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2015. The public may also submit written comments about issues that come before the board. For more information see the board public participation page of the DNR website.
Board meetings are webcast live. People can watch the meeting over the Internet by going to the NRB agenda page of the DNR website and clicking on webcasts in the Related Links column on the right. Then click on this month's meeting. After each meeting, the webcast will be permanently available on demand.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, board liaison, 608-267-7420
MADISON - State forest health specialists remind campers and travelers that firewood can carry harmful insects and diseases that can travel with firewood if it is moved around the state.
"Insect pests such as emerald ash borer and gypsy moth, and diseases like oak wilt and Dutch elm disease spread to new areas easily while hidden in firewood," said Andrea Diss-Torrance, invasive forest insects program coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "A few simple steps can help you avoid moving these problems around."
Certified firewood label.
Firewood certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection can be moved freely around the state, regardless of quarantines, because it has been processed to be free of pests and diseases that may have been hiding in it. If you are shopping for certified wood, look for a label like the one shown, or a DATCP certified vendor number. A list of certified dealers and their ID numbers is available online at emeraldashborer.wi.gov under "Firewood Regulations".
Firewood regulations at state parks and forests
Invasive species threaten public land we all share in Wisconsin. To help protect these areas, firewood is only allowed on state managed properties if it is:
Most state parks and forests have certified firewood or firewood from the property for sale on site. To check availability, contact the property. Many federal, county and private campgrounds also restrict firewood on their properties. Call for details before you travel.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Invasive Forest Insects Program Coordinator, (608) 264-9247.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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