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Weekly News Published - May 2, 2017 by the Central Office

 

Inland fishing season opens May 6

Walleye, musky, bass and trout - what will you catch when you head out?

MADISON -- Fisheries biologists from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say anglers can expect to find some trophy potential fish as well as abundant numbers of popular game species this spring when the general inland fishing season gets underway statewide on Saturday, May 6.

Editors' Note: The following fisheries team members are available to talk about statewide and regional fishing opportunities for the general inland season opener starting May 6.


"Thanks to great partnerships with angling groups and lake associations, Wisconsin's sportfish populations are in excellent shape heading into opening weekend," said Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director. "We are seeing continued increases in overall musky size, abundant bass populations on many lakes, strong results from walleye stocking efforts and expanded inland trout fishing opportunities. While many anglers will use the inland season opener as an opportunity to head out for an extended weekend trip, the success of our urban stocking program also means there will be catchable trout close to home for families and young anglers."

It was a good day in April for DNR fisheries biologist Scott Toshner and his crew while conducting spring netting surveys on Upper Eau Claire Lake in Bayfield County. Left is a 49 inch musky while right is 48 inch musky.
It was a good day in April for DNR fisheries biologist Scott Toshner and his crew while conducting spring netting surveys on Upper Eau Claire Lake in Bayfield County. Left is a 49 inch musky while right is 48 inch musky.
Photo Credit: DNR

Wisconsin's unique combination of easy access, opportunities for consistent action and the potential for trophy fish make it one of the top fishing destinations in the nation, Hasz said.

"Each year, more than 1.3 million anglers buy fishing licenses in the state and their participation generates about $2.3 billion in economic benefits while supporting 22,000 jobs," said Hasz. "Sportfishing brings more than 330,000 nonresident anglers to our state - ranking behind only Florida and Michigan. While our diverse fishing opportunities certainly contribute to these impressive rankings, it's also no secret that Wisconsin produces more record musky than any other state."

In southern Wisconsin waters, the inland musky season gets underway this weekend as part of the general season opener while on northern waters, the musky season opens May 27 to give the fish additional time to complete spawning. Steve Hewett, DNR fisheries management section chief, said the average length of all muskies captured during spring netting surveys as well as the size of the largest 10 percent of fish has been trending upward in recent years.

DNR fisheries supervisor John Kubisiak cradles a 47.7 inch musky netted in April on Two Sisters Lake in Oneida County during spring netting surveys. While the southern zone musky season south of Highway 10 gets underway on Saturday, May 6, the northern zone musky fishing season begins May 27 to give the big fish a chance to finish spawning.
DNR fisheries supervisor John Kubisiak cradles a 47.7 inch musky netted in April on Two Sisters Lake in Oneida County during spring netting surveys. While the southern zone musky season south of Highway 10 gets underway on Saturday, May 6, the northern zone musky fishing season begins May 27 to give the big fish a chance to finish spawning.
Photo Credit: DNR

"The average length of all adult muskies in state waters now stands between 37 and 38 inches with the top 10 percent of fish collected during spring netting surveys running above 46 inches in length," Hewett said. "We attribute these positive trends to a combination of sound propagation work, continued habitat improvements and incredible angler commitment to informed catch and release practices."

Among the impressive fish captured this spring was a 47-plus-inch musky weighing more than 32 pounds that was netted in April on Two Sisters Lake in Oneida County while Upper Eau Claire Lake in Bayfield County yielded 48- and 49-inch fish. After getting weighed and measured and given a fin clip for population studies, all the muskies were quickly released.

In all areas of the state, the daily bag limit for musky is one fish and it must be at least 40 inches. Most musky anglers practice catch and release even if the fish are of legal size.

Hasz said DNR fisheries biologists also are conducting walleye research on a number of inland and boundary waters to understand local population dynamics. Through the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, more than 797,000 6- to 8-inch walleye fingerlings were stocked in 150 Wisconsin waters in 2016 - a record number of fish.

"This year, anglers can look forward to catching some of the 455,307 large fingerlings stocked in 2013 as many of these fish are now reaching legal size," Hasz said. "Most inland lakes and rivers in the northern third of Wisconsin known as the Ceded Territory have a daily bag limit of three walleye with a length limit of 15 to 20 inches with one fish greater than 24 inches. We are excited to see how anglers do this year and in the years ahead as more of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative stocked fish reach legal size."

DNR fisheries biologist Dan Oele picked up this tagged walleye during survey work on Lake Waubesa. DNR has been tagging walleye in the Madison lakes and elsewhere to better understand the movement of fish between the lakes as well as harvest. Anglers who catch a tagged fish anywhere in the state should report it to the local DNR fisheries biologist.
DNR fisheries biologist Dan Oele picked up this tagged walleye during survey work on Lake Waubesa. DNR has been tagging walleye in the Madison lakes and elsewhere to better understand the movement of fish between the lakes as well as harvest. Anglers who catch a tagged fish anywhere in the state should report it to the local DNR fisheries biologist.
Photo Credit: DNR

Wisconsin bass management efforts also continue to move ahead with a daily bag limit of five largemouth bass 14 inches in length or greater on most waters. Smallmouth bass management is divided into northern and southern zones with catch and release only in the northern zone until June 17. Northern zone regulations for smallmouth bass then become consistent with southern zones with a five fish daily bag limit and 14 inch minimum size.

Meanwhile, trout anglers continue to benefit from habitat management efforts that have contributed to a significant expansion of Wisconsin's documented trout waters. More than 41 additional streams have been classified as trout waters since 2014 with most of these new 292 trout-stream miles located in west central and southern Wisconsin. Overall, Wisconsin boasts more than 13,000 miles of trout streams.

Additional information about where to trout fish and local regulations can be found using DNR's TROUT tool, which was designed to help trout anglers find places to fish including classified trout waters, public land and DNR fishing easements. To learn more about the regulations, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "trout regulations."

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."

Fishing opener license information

Anglers are reminded that the new license year began April 1. Licenses and stamps for the 2017 year are on sale now through GoWild.Wi.Gov. Fees for the 2017 license year remain the same as last year.

Anglers fishing Lake Michigan and all other Wisconsin boundary waters are again reminded they must possess a paper copy of their license to be legal. The paper printouts are required so law enforcement officials in the surrounding states can verify compliance with license and stamp regulations.

More information about length and bag limits as well as places to fish can be found on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov by searching "Fishing Regulations."

Help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species

Anglers play a key role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Please:

To learn more, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search "aquatic invasive species."

Be firewise while fishing

DNR encourages anglers heading out for opening weekend to be firewise when planning campfires for shore lunches or burning debris around seasonal residences. Regardless of recent precipitation, wildfire season extends until vegetation greens.

Weather conditions play an important role in how fires start and spread. Warmer temperatures, low relative humidity, gusty winds and dry vegetation can lead to increased chances of fires starting.

To obtain a free DNR burning permit or to keep an eye on the changing fire danger and any burn restrictions, visit the DNR website and search keyword "fire" or call 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876).

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Join DNR experts for Fishing Opener Chat Thursday, May 4 at noon

MADISON - People who want to learn more about Wisconsin's top fishing spots and what to expect for the inland season fishing opener on May 6 can join fisheries biologists and other experts from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for an online chat Thursday, May 4 at noon. The chat will cover spring fishery survey activities, Wisconsin's new catch and release state record category, fisheries regulations and more.

To participate, join via dnr.wi.gov by searching "Ask the Experts" or sign in on the DNR Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WIDNR. Click on the "Ask the Experts chat" link under the cover photo.

DNR online chats provide an opportunity for customers and stakeholders to get important information from DNR experts in real time and learn more from other knowledgeable participants.

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Enjoy migratory birds and help care for them on International Migratory Bird Day

Community events, peak of bird migration highlight May 13 celebration

MADISON - May 13 is International Migratory Bird Day in North America and it's a great time for Wisconsin residents to get outside to enjoy these long-distance travelers and take steps around home to help them.

"International Migratory Bird Day is the perfect time to go birding," says Ryan Brady, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist who coordinates bird monitoring for the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "In our area, that's probably the overall peak of migration. You'll see the biggest number and variety of birds either returning to nest in Wisconsin or stopping to refuel as they make their way north to breeding grounds."

Warblers, orioles, thrushes, hummingbirds, tanagers, indigo buntings and shorebirds are among the favorite birds people are likely to see. But that's just the beginning: records dating back to the 1900s show that more than 350 different species of birds have been reported in Wisconsin in May.

International Migratory Bird Day focuses attention on birds' journey between their winter and summer homes, flights that can be thousands of miles long. The event is observed through bird festivals and bird walks and education programs.

This year, dozens of Bird City Wisconsin communities and birding groups, nature centers, state parks and others will host events. Bird City Wisconsin, an education and conservation organization modeled after Tree City USA, welcomed its 100th and 101st community into the fold this year as the nation's first organization of its kind and one of the largest. Participating communities hold an annual event marking International Migratory Bird Day. View Bird City's calendar to learn about events statewide; also find birding events at state parks and other properties on the DNR Get Outdoors calendar and check community, nature center and local birding club websites for other events.

Stopover habitat highlight in this year's celebration

This year, the IMBD celebration highlights the importance of stopover sites and their habitats, something bird conservation partners in Wisconsin have been working to enhance, says Kim Grveles, an avian ecologist who coordinates the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.

"This year's theme of 'Helping Birds Along The Way' makes us aware that birds need good places for stopping over between flights and that we can provide those places - called 'stopover habitats' - in our own backyards," Grveles says. "When we replace mowed lawns and non-native ornamentals with native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, migratory birds will reward us with their presence as they seek shelter and replenish fat stores used up in long flights."

The Wisconsin Stopover Initiative was launched in 2005 by DNR and The Nature Conservancy in order to identify and protect the places where migratory birds stop while traveling between breeding and wintering grounds in the western Great Lakes basins of Wisconsin. Partners gathered data from experts and developed migratory bird stopover habitat models to use as tools for identifying key sites, and have been working in recent years with many agencies and organizations to protect and enhance those sites.

"Wisconsin organizations and individuals have really stepped up to increase stopover habitat in recent years but there is still more we can do together to benefit birds," Grveles says. "We invite people across the state to take time out to enjoy birds on International Migratory Bird Day and take a few steps to care for them."

Information about creating habitat for migratory birds and preventing bird collisions with windows, and decreasing other threats to birds can be found on the Wisconsin Stopover How You Can Help page.

Get weekly statewide birding reports and more bird news via email or text by subscribing now to the Birding and Bird Conservation updates compiled by DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program staff.

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Help keep the gains going for rare birds; donate to The Great Wisconsin Birdathon

MADISON -- For the next two months, bird lovers have an easy way to help build on the progress being made in Wisconsin in recovering federally endangered Kirtland's warblers, establishing a self-sustaining flock of whooping cranes in the eastern U.S., protecting and enhancing stopover sites for Wisconsin's rare bird species and completing a comprehensive survey of breeding birds.

By making a pledge through The Great Wisconsin Birdathon to a team, individual or the event in general, bird lovers can directly donate to eight priority bird conservation projects that are making great gains for rare birds in particular and all birds in general through habitat work, reintroduction, research, and monitoring.

"These projects are some of the most important long-range bird conservation projects in Wisconsin and contributions through The Great Wisconsin Birdathon will help them keep this important work going," says Sumner Matteson, a longtime Department of Natural Resources avian ecologist, member of the Birdathon's guiding team, and captain of The River Raptors.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is a joint effort of The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, of which DNR is a partner. WBCI partners that participate in the Birdathon get to keep half of the money they raise for local bird conservation efforts. The event runs through June 15 with an ambitious goal of raising $75,000 for birds.

During the Birdathon, participants spend any portion of a 24-hour period until June 15 observing birds and asking for contributions. Donations and pledges are tax deductible and are handled simply and securely online.

"Wisconsinites love our birds, from white pelicans to hummingbirds," says, Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. "When you donate to a team you are helping birds through their whole life cycle from nesting to migration."

Proceeds from the event go to the Bird Protection Fund, which was created in 2007 and is managed by a partnership of DNR, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (a nonprofit 501c3 organization), and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.

Money raised for The Bird Protection Fund will go toward these priority projects:

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 7 photos

Last year, these priority efforts made significant progress, shown and briefly described in this slide show.

Funding raised in 2017 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon will enable conservation partners to do even more work to help keep the momentum going. Since its start in 2012, participants in The Great Wisconsin Birdathon have raised more than $200,000 for priority bird projects.

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Preliminary 2016 bobcat harvest information now available

MADISON -- Preliminary harvest data for Wisconsin's 2016-17 bobcat season show hunters and trappers harvested 338 bobcats.

Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information - final harvest information should be available by mid-June. The 2016-17 season marked the third year of a statewide bobcat harvest. These preliminary figures include results from the newly opened southern bobcat harvest zone.

Bobcat harvest is distributed by allocating harvest permits to those using northern and southern management zones. According to preliminary data, 169 bobcats were harvested in the northern zone and 139 were harvested in the southern zone in 2016. Tribal harvest accounted for 30 bobcats.

"Bobcats are managed through a preference point lottery system that allows harvest by trappers and/or hunters with a permit" said Shawn Rossler, furbearer ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Harvest goals and permit levels for each management zone are evaluated annually."

The department's bobcat population estimate research is led by Nathan Roberts, the department's furbearer research scientist.

"We are learning a lot about this elusive animal through active research efforts - in fall 2016, we worked with trappers to place GPS satellite collars on 16 bobcats in the Northern Zone and seven bobcats in the Southern Zone," said Roberts. "We are gathering information that helps DNR staff better understand how many bobcats are on the landscape and what level of take is sustainable."

Over the last three years, 60 bobcats have been collared and monitored. This information will be used to update population models and improve the annual setting of harvest goals.

Annual harvest goals are developed in consultation with tribal and partner agency representatives, and individuals from key user groups. Wisconsin's bobcat hunting and trapping seasons are divided into early (mid-October to Dec. 25) and late (Dec. 26 to Jan. 31) time periods. These early and late seasons for each zone can be closed early to ensure that harvest is within approved goals.

Harvested bobcats must be reported within 24 hours and receive an in-person registration tag from a local conservation warden within five days of the month of harvest. Successful harvesters must provide the bobcat carcass to the department for scientific examination. Department staff use data collected from this examination to monitor population age structure, pregnancy rates and litter sizes. This information is tracked annually to allow immediate adjustments to harvest based on overall size and health of the bobcat population.

For more information regarding bobcat hunting and research in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "furbearers."

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Public comments sought on draft general permit for wetlands associated with certain construction sites

MADISON -- A new general permit that addresses impacts to wetlands that formed in depressions created as a result of grading and construction activities within uplands 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 May 30, 2017.

The proposed general permit, once in place, is valid for five years and will allow applicants to apply for coverage under the permit on up to 2 acres of wetland fill if the project meets all eligibility criteria and conditions.

DNR staff do not anticipate this general permit to result in significant effects on the environment. A previously approved general permit covered projects for residential, commercial and industrial development.

DNR plans to hold two public informational hearings to solicit input on the draft general permit on May 15 at 1p.m. at the DNR Service Center, 625 E. County Road Y, Oshkosh, and on May 19 at 1 p.m. in room G09, DNR GEF 2 building, 101 S. Webster St., Madison.

A copy of the draft wetland general permit for certain construction sites is available on the wetlands page of the DNR website.

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, May 02, 2017

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