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Weekly News Published - February 7, 2017 by the Central Office

 

Good conditions to greet sturgeon spearers as season gets underway Saturday

OSHKOSH, Wis. - When sturgeon spearing gets underway on Lake Winnebago and the upriver lakes this Saturday, spearers can look forward to seeing some big fish.

John Skahen speared this 161-pound, 77.1 sturgeon during the 2014 spearing season.
John Skahen speared this 161-pound, 77.1 sturgeon during the 2014 spearing season.
Photo Credit: DNR

Ryan Koenigs, Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said this season should allow for some great opportunities to spot sturgeon cruising beneath the ice. During a recent survey of conditions, DNR crews measured water clarity ranging from 8 to 13 feet on Lake Winnebago; 4 to 5 feet on lakes Poygan and Winneconne and 2 to 4 feet on Lake Butte des Morts.

"While the length of the season remains to be seen, one thing we can say for certain is that there are some very big fish out there this year," Koenigs said. "Typically when water clarity averages 12 feet or more, spearers have higher success rates and we tend to have shorter seasons. It's hard to predict how long the season will be this year."

Sturgeon spearing opens at 7 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 and may run for up to 16 days until Feb. 26. However, an earlier closure may be triggered when pre-set harvest caps are reached.

Interest in sturgeon spearing continues to be strong with 12,962 licenses sold for the 2017 season, including 12,479 for Lake Winnebago and 483 for the Upriver Lakes. For 2017, the system-wide harvest caps are similar to 2016 with 430 juvenile females; 950 adult females and 1,175 males.

It takes at least 10 years for a sturgeon to reach the legal harvest size of 36 inches, while fish at the 100 pound mark are at least 45 years of age. Koenigs said an abundance of gizzard shad turned up in fall forage surveys, indicating the fish could be in better condition this year.

"There are some very large fish present in the system, with 10 of the 11 heaviest fish on record harvested since the 2004 season," Koenigs said. "This is saying a lot given that the tradition dates back more than 85 years. Thanks to careful management, the system retains a very healthy sturgeon population and this spring alone we handled and released two fish in the 80 to 82 inch range."

Last season, the largest sturgeon harvested measured 77 inches and weighed 147.9 pounds when it was registered at Indian Point by spearer Daniel Bloesl.

To help keep tabs on the population, DNR is asking successful spearers to donate their sturgeon heads for an age estimation study. For most fish species, the otoliths or ear bones are the preferred structure for estimating fish age. Sturgeon otoliths are a bit more difficult to work with than most species so DNR fisheries staff members are starting a project to evaluate different methodologies for estimating sturgeon age and growth including use of the otoliths as one of the methods.

Koenigs said this year, spearers should make note of the updated tagging procedures. Tag validation must occur immediately upon harvest by writing the date and time on the tag, but the tags do not need to be attached to the harvested fish prior to registration as long as the spearer and tag is with the fish. If you leave the fish, the harvest tag must be attached to the sturgeon. DNR recommends spearers bring a clear plastic zip-top bag and tie to protect and secure the new paper tag to the fish.

Spearing hours run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all sturgeon must be presented at a registration station by 2 p.m. on the same day they are harvested for registration by DNR personnel.

Additional details about sturgeon spearing throughout the Lake Winnebago system including the complete 2017 rules can be found at dnr.wi.gov by searching for "Winnebago system sturgeon."

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DNR seeks public input on update of greater prairie-chicken management plan

MADISON - The public is invited to provide input regarding revisions to the Department of Natural Resources' 10-year greater prairie-chicken management plan.

Greater prairie chicken.
Greater prairie chicken.
Photo Credit: DNR

A public meeting Feb. 22 at the Fine Arts Center in the McMillan Memorial Library, 490 East Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids from 5-7 p.m. will give attendees an opportunity to receive information regarding the plan revision process, current prairie-chicken population, draft conceptual alternatives and share feedback with DNR staff.

"This public meeting is a great opportunity for stakeholders and the interested public to give early input as DNR staff and partners begin the process of revising the prairie-chicken management plan," said Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist.

Informational displays will be available at the public meeting and DNR staff will be present for one-on-one discussion and questions. People can submit comments at the public meeting or via an online comment form (which will be posted following the public meeting) through Friday, March 10. Additional public input opportunities will be available after a draft plan is developed and again when the final plan is presented to the Natural Resources Board for approval.

"We look forward to hearing the public's thoughts on managing this iconic native bird and how to keep grassland habitats healthy into the future to benefit both people and wildlife," said Lesa Kardash, Wildlife Biologist for Portage County.

The greater prairie-chicken is a native grouse species that lives in open grassland habitats. In Wisconsin, this species resides in four nearly-isolated sub-populations centered within four DNR Wildlife Areas - Leola Marsh, Buena Vista, Paul J. Olson and George W. Mead - located in Adams, Portage, Wood, and Marathon counties.

Population declines over the past several decades have led to an increased emphasis on grassland habitat management on these four core properties and neighboring private lands through land use agreements, and continued declines raised concerns that Wisconsin population was losing genetic diversity.

Following recommendations from a nationwide panel of experts, prairie-chicken hens from Minnesota were trapped and translocated to Wisconsin between 2006 and 2009. While this effort did provide positive genetic results, further action is needed to ensure the long-term success of this gamebird. Ongoing research has highlighted additional potential avenues to stabilize Wisconsin's population.

The previous greater prairie-chicken management plan was completed in 2004 and covered the period 2004-2014. Department staff are hopeful that an updated management plan and strengthened ties with local communities, stakeholders and interested citizens will allow the greater prairie-chicken to once again thrive in Wisconsin.

To learn more about prairie-chickens in Wisconsin and management plan revisions, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "prairie chicken plan."

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26th annual Kids' Ice Fishing Clinics set for Saturday, Feb.11

MILWAUKEE - Kids 15-years-old and younger are invited to discover the joys of ice fishing at the 26th annual Kids' Ice Fishing Clinics on Saturday, Feb. 11, at park lagoons in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

The free clinics will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will receive instruction on the proper use of equipment and techniques, such as knot tying, ice safety and much more. The clinics are taught by members of local fishing clubs and last 45 minutes, and then the young anglers can begin fishing. Classes are ongoing throughout the day, so stop by any time. The final session begins at 2 p.m.

Children can learn to ice fish at free fishing clinics that will be held at Milwaukee and Waukesha county parks.
Children can learn to ice fish at free fishing clinics that will be held at Milwaukee and Waukesha county parks.
Photo Credit: DNR

"These clinics are an excellent way to introduce youngsters to the sport of fishing and a perfect opportunity for families that want to enjoy some of the winter outdoor recreational activities that Wisconsin has to offer," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp,

The clinics represent a cooperative effort by the Wisconsin Council of Sport Fishing Organizations, Milwaukee County Parks, Waukesha County Parks, the Hunger Task Force Fish Hatchery and the Department of Natural Resources.

All equipment and snacks are provided free of charge and instructions will be given regardless of weather. No pre-registration is required, but please call Ben Heussner, DNR fisheries biologist, at 414-303-0109, for groups of 20 or more, or for additional information. Listed below are the clinic locations and sponsoring fishing clubs:

Milwaukee County

Waukesha County

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Public comments sought on process to streamline small scale dredging projects in public waters

MADISON -- A new general permit that streamlines approvals for small-scale dredging in the state's lakes, rivers and streams has been drafted and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on the language.

The public comment period on the general permit runs until the close of business March 3, 2017.

The proposed general permit, once in place, is valid for five years and will allow applicants to apply for coverage under the permit to remove up to 25 cubic yards from streams and inland lakes and up to 100 cubic yards from the Great Lakes if the project meets all eligibility criteria and conditions.

DNR does not anticipate this general permit to result in significant effects on the environment. Previously approved general permits cover projects for maintenance dredging of a previously dredged area and for removal of accumulated plant and animal nuisance deposits.

DNR plans to hold two public informational hearings to solicit input on the draft general permit on Feb. 14, 2017 at 1 p.m. in room G09, DNR GEF 2 building, 101 S. Webster St., Madison and the second on Feb. 16, 2017 at 1 p.m. at the DNR Service Center, 2984 Shawano Ave., Green Bay.

To view a copy of the draft waterway general permit for small scale dredging, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "dredging."

For more information or to submit written comments on the draft waterway general permit via email, send to dnrwywrzguidance@wisconsin.gov, or via U. S. mail, send to Waterway and Wetland Policy Coordinator, DNR-WT/3, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 07, 2017

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