MADISON - The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program is the perfect way to earn extra income and provide opportunities for others to enjoy the outdoors.
Enrolled landowners earn income in return for opening their land to year-round public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation.
Lease rates vary by land cover, ranging from $3/acre for agricultural land, $10/acre for grassland or wetland and $15/acre for forest land. VPA leases will expire on Aug. 31, 2020. Landowners participating in other conservation programs are encouraged to apply, including:
Landowners who enroll their land in VPA-HIP report very high overall satisfaction with the program, and little is required beyond providing for public access. Under state statute, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. In addition, the Department of Natural Resources provides compensation for damage to property or crops that occur as a result of opening land to public access.
Whether you like to hunt or simply enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, VPA-HIP is a win-win for landowners and the public.
Visit the updated VPA-HIP website to find out more information and to apply to enroll in the program. Interested landowners should contact Anne Reis, DNR VPA-HIP Coordinator, for more information at 608-279-6483 or via email at Anne.Reis@wisconsin.gov.
For more general information regarding VPA-HIP, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "VPA".
MADISON -- As fishing activity ramps up in waters with early season opportunities and anticipation builds for the general inland season fishing opener on May 6, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that a few extra minutes spent emptying live wells and cleaning plant debris from anchors and trailers plays a critical role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.
DNR research covering 1,000 state lakes released in October 2016 shows the spread of aquatic invasive species has not increased, as would be predicted, but rather has remained stable - an indicator that prevention efforts may be playing a role. Given the recent identification of a few highly undesirable species such as starry stonewort and round gobies in a limited number of inland waters, continued prevention efforts are more important than ever, said Bob Wakeman, DNR's aquatic invasive species coordinator.
"Our research shows that many of the most concerning invaders are being successfully kept out of the majority of lakes," Wakeman said. "For example, 90 percent of our lakes remain free of zebra mussels and 75 percent of our lakes remain free of Eurasian water milfoil. With continued vigilance, we hope to prevent the spread of these and other invasives, which will allow for greater focus on eradication of some species where possible."
Key tips for anglers include never using aquatic invasive species as bait and never dumping unused live bait into the water. Wisconsin's bait laws are designed to prevent the spread of both obvious hitchhikers and other, less visible invaders capable of harming waterways and healthy aquatic communities.
"You may take leftover minnows purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer away from any state water and use them again on that same water," Wakeman said. "You may use leftover minnows on other waters only if no lake or river water, or other fish were added to the container."
When deciding to use minnows, anglers must remember minnow harvest is prohibited on all viral hemorrhagic septicemia known and suspect waters. VHS is a deadly fish virus threatening Wisconsin muskies, walleye, lake whitefish, yellow perch and more. The prohibited area includes Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, the Winnebago system, the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin River up to the Prairie de Sac Dam and all waters connected to these waters up to the first barrier impassable to fish.
Anglers fishing the lower Fox River and Lake Winnebago system are again being asked for special help to guard against further spread of the round goby. Round gobies can survive even in poor quality water, spawn multiple times per season and displace native fish by eating their eggs and young, taking over optimal habitat.
Gobies have become common in some areas of the state such as Lake Michigan and Green Bay but remain on the Chapter NR 40 list as a restricted invasive species. It is illegal to possess, transport, transfer or introduce live gobies, including using them as bait.
While there is no evidence that gobies have reached Lake Winnebago, DNR continues to encourage Winnebago area anglers to report any goby catches through an online survey tool to help determine the extent of gobies in the region and develop a management strategy. The online tool also allows anglers to upload photos of suspected gobies for positive identification.
Anglers who catch gobies on Lake Winnebago, other parts of the Winnebago System or the lower Fox River below the Neenah and Menasha dams during the 2017 fishing season are encouraged to kill the fish by putting them on ice and bringing them to the DNR Oshkosh office, 625 E. County Road Y, Suite 700, Oshkosh, Wis., 54901-9731. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anglers also may call 920-424-7880 to report gobies.
Other tips to prevent the spread of AIS include bringing your day's catch home on ice rather than transporting live fish in water. And, it's important to check, clean and/or drain trailers, live wells and anchors to avoid giving other types of unwanted aquatic hitchhikers a lift.
"We're grateful for continued efforts by anglers to 'Inspect, Remove, Drain and Never Move live fish' to help stop aquatic hitchhikers." Wakeman said. "If every boater and angler took a few minutes to perform these actions before leaving a lake or river, new discoveries of AIS could be even lower."
To learn more, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search "aquatic invasive species." The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 6, 2017 to March 4, 2018. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations and rules that apply on specific lakes, search "fishing regulations." For a complete calendar, search "fishing season dates."
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has completed the final draft of its long-term fisheries management plan for Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters and invites citizens to provide final input. Lake Michigan has seen drastic ecological changes in recent years and the new plan will guide fisheries management through the next 10 years.
"We listened to what the public said during public input sessions and incorporated this feedback along with our own thoughts into the draft 10-year plan," said Brad Eggold, DNR Great Lakes district fisheries supervisor. "Now, it's time to see whether we are on track with the expectations and desires of the public."
DNR manages Lake Michigan fisheries in partnership with other state, federal and tribal agencies and in consultation with the public, particularly sport and commercial fishers. The draft 2017-2026 Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan focuses on five areas:
"Over the last 10 years, we've made good progress and accomplished much of what we set out to do based on the previous plan," Eggold said. "We've managed chinook salmon populations to fuel a decade of fantastic fishing while enhancing walleye and northern pike habitat in the Milwaukee and Menominee rivers as well as Green Bay. Supplies of trout and salmon for stocking have been enhanced following renovation of the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery while sturgeon and musky stocking also has been improved."
However, there are still challenges to address including the ecological changes in Lake Michigan due to the proliferation of aquatic invasive species, diminished forage base and the need to upgrade and maintain the department's fish production system.
"Given the challenges and opportunities before us, input from anglers and others is critical in developing a plan that keeps Lake Michigan healthy and reflects the interests of sport and commercial anglers," Eggold said.
People who are interested in commenting can find the draft plan and summary information on the DNR's website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching for "Lake Michigan Plan." Written comments can be sent to DNRLAKEMICHIGANPLAN@wisconsin.gov or mailed to: Brad Eggold, Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Water Institute, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53204. The deadline for comments is May 20, 2017.
MADISON -- Anglers of all ages will soon have many more reasons to get excited about the upcoming inland fishing season opener on May 6 thanks to efforts by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to stock "catchable" trout in locally accessible lakes, ponds and streams.
For 2017, more than 650,000 trout including adult broodstock, yearlings and large fingerlings are being stocked in more than 300 inland waters statewide. In all, some 240,000 rainbow trout, 221,000 brook trout and 198,000 brown trout will be delivered before the inland season opener on the first Saturday in May.
"Our efforts to stock catchable trout really aim to provide exciting fishing opportunities for anglers of all ages at popular, family-friendly local destinations," said Dave Giehtbrock, DNR fisheries culture section chief. "Many of these locations are used for urban fishing clinics and youth angling opportunities."
Fish for the program are raised at Nevin Hatchery, Osceola Hatchery and St. Croix Falls Hatchery. Additional fish are raised and stocked through cooperative rearing agreements with fishing clubs and about 70,000 fish from these efforts are being stocked in urban fishing waters, such as small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with local municipalities.
Many urban waters have no length limits and a special season for juveniles 15 years of age and younger as well as certain disabled anglers. For 2017, the special season started March 11 and runs through April 28. These waters also have a daily bag limit of three trout, one gamefish and 10 panfish. Other waters stocked with catchable trout have different bag limits and length requirements. For details, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Fishing Regulations."
A complete list of 2017 inland waters expected to receive catchable trout can be found by visiting the DNR website, and searching "Catchable Trout."
MADISON -- Approximately 80,000 hunters will be heading to the field for the 2017 spring turkey hunting season, with the first season starting April 19.
Jon King, conservation warden and hunter education administrator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says there are two key factors needed for safe turkey hunting.
"The two most critical ingredients for a successful spring hunt are a detailed hunting plan in one hand and a firm grip on firearm safety in the other," King said.
DNR statistics show 80 percent of accidents during turkey hunting seasons involve hunters mistaking other hunters for game, or hunters failing to positively identify their target. The other 20 percent of accidents are self-inflicted, usually the result of violating one of the four firearm safety rules.
"Turkey hunters, like all hunters, must practice these four basic safety guidelines when handling their firearms," King said. "Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be sure of your target and what's beyond it, and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot."
It's a good idea to wear a blaze orange cap or gloves while walking. And find a hunting spot that allows you to rest your back against a tree or some other object that is as wide as your shoulders. This helps protect you from not only an errant shot, but from the good vision of the turkey.
Never stalk a wild turkey and don't try to approach closer than 100 yards to a gobbler. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, but the chances of becoming involved in an accident are increased. The less you move the safer and more effective you will be in field.
MADISON - Early spring is the best time to check gardens, yards and woodlands for garlic mustard and take measures to control this rapidly spreading invasive plant, state invasive plant experts say.
"It's important to control garlic mustard in early spring before the plants flower," says Kelly Kearns, an invasive plant specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Preventing the introduction of seeds and regular scouting are the keys to keeping uninfested yards and woodlands free of garlic mustard or other invasive plants."
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can alter the composition of forests. Once introduced, it spreads and can dominate the forest floor, displacing native wildflowers, tree seedlings, and the wildlife that depend on them. Even mature trees can be impacted as chemicals produced by garlic mustard kills the beneficial fungi that tree roots need to absorb nutrients, Kearns says.
Garlic mustard is easily identifiable in spring. As a biennial, garlic mustard it takes two years to produce seeds. Seeds from previous year's plants germinate and can carpet the area. Seedlings grow rapidly and live through the winter as a low green rosette. When the weather warms, seedlings send up flowering stalks bearing many small four-petaled white flowers that develop into long thin seed pods.
"Anyone uncertain about the identification can crush the rapidly growing leaves and If it smells like garlic, you probably found garlic mustard," Kearns says.
To avoid introducing garlic mustard to a site, it's important to always clean boots, tools and muddy dogs after being in areas infested with garlic mustard, Kearns says. "Taking a few minutes to take these steps every time you leave an infested site can help save you literally years of work.
People who find garlic mustard on their property will want to assess the size of area covered by garlic mustard and the resources they have available, to help determine control methods.
Smaller populations can be contained by hand-pulling all second year plants. Any plants already flowering when pulled need to be removed from the site and carefully disposed of by bagging it and sending it to a landfill. Regulated invasive species are exempt from the rule that bans yard waste in landfills. Herbicides are generally used when sites are too large to hand pull. This can be combined with hand pulling the smaller patches, and with returning to the site to hand-pull or re-spray plants that were not killed initially. Fire, either with a propane torch, or as a controlled burn done by trained personnel, may be useful at some sites, Kearns says.
Regardless of the control method, Kearns cautions that property owners will need to continue their control efforts every year. "Seed is likely to stay viable for 10 or more years, which again highlights the need to control plants before they flower," Kearns says. Eradicating the patch requires a long term commitment. Forested sites without garlic mustard should be inspected for new infestations several times a year. Even in the northern part of the state, infestations are now being found.
In addition to garlic mustard there are a number of other plants that can invade forests and spread quickly. Homeowners, and landowners, are encouraged to be vigilant in watching for any plants that seem to be taking over.
For more information on garlic mustard and other invasive plants, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "invasive." Informational brochures may also be available at local University of Wisconsin Extension offices or DNR Service Centers.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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