MILWAUKEE - After stocking more than 2.6 million fish into the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan in 2015, the Department of Natural Resources is relying on recent harvest data and survey research to implement its Lake Michigan stocking plans for the coming year.
At the same time, the department is employing a variety of techniques and monitoring efforts to ensure that stocked fish have the greatest chance for survival given the challenging predator to prey ratio in Lake Michigan. Brad Eggold, DNR southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, said the department's stocking efforts are part of a strategy that complements natural reproduction in the lake and its tributaries to provide diverse angling opportunities.
"We are committed to sustaining and improving the world-class fishery in Lake Michigan while recognizing that the makeup of the fishery may change over time," Eggold said. "Based on the best available science and our own management experience, we stock strategically to optimize returns while taking advantage of natural reproduction to maximize efficiency. We also work closely with partners in our neighboring states and the federal government to manage the resource in a coordinated way. "
Overall, 2016 Wisconsin stocking numbers are expected to total 2.3 million chinook and coho salmon as well as brown and rainbow trout. Chinook salmon will again represent the greatest number of fish stocked into the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan as plans call for the release of approximately 808,254 chinook, down from 823,496 for 2015.
In 2013, chinook salmon stocking was reduced by 30 percent because of concerns over declining alewife populations. This year's stocking plan continues to reflect those concerns as recent survey data indicates record low levels of alewives and other forage fish due to predation and invasive quagga mussels removing nutrients from the water.
Estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate that natural reproduction currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all chinook in Lake Michigan and the stocking plans by Wisconsin and other states attempt to factor in the impact of these wild fish.
Eggold said the above-average survival rate of chinook stocked by Wisconsin means anglers here benefit both from stocked and naturally produced fish that spend a significant amount of time feeding along the lake's western shore during the summer and from the stocked fish that return to spawn in the fall. DNR continues to review its chinook stocking distribution and is working with stakeholder groups using net pens in five locations and a subset of those to study whether this rearing and release technique improves fish growth and returns.
While chinook account for the single largest number of fish introduced each year, DNR's efforts to stock hundreds of thousands of coho salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout at more than 40 locations along the Lake Michigan coast support diverse angling opportunities, said Dave Giehtbrock, DNR fisheries culture section chief.
"Rearing and stocking salmon and trout are among our most important management activities," Giehtbrock said. "We appreciate stakeholder interest in our propagation efforts as well as the public and private support we've received to improve our hatchery facilities."
For 2016, the department intends to stock 676,637 brown trout (820,954 in 2015), 460,094 coho (539,129 in 2015) and 390,004 rainbow trout (432,665 in 2015). Additionally, some 12,500 Great Lakes spotted musky are being produced and 3,500 lake sturgeon are being reared as part of a reintroduction project in the Milwaukee and Kewaunee Rivers.
In 2016, the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan should also receive about 800,000 lake trout produced by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
MADISON -- Communities across Wisconsin this week are celebrating Forest Appreciation Week and Arbor Day, as declared by Gov. Scott Walker.
In the proclamation, Walker said that "the demands on our forest resources necessitate an increased awareness of their economic, social, cultural, and ecological values."
"In addition to their well-known ecological benefits, trees in our communities provide economic benefits as well," according to Jeff Roe, urban forestry team leader for the Department of Natural Resources. "Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save energy used for heating by 20 to 50 percent."
Roe also noted the social and human health benefits of the trees where we live. "Spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress," Roe said.
To promote the "individual commitment to the study and appreciation of trees and forests" as called for in the Arbor Day proclamation, the DNR Division of Forestry donated 38,000 tree seedlings to Wisconsin fourth grade classrooms for their Arbor Day celebrations this week.
"Not only is learning about the value and benefits of trees important," Roe said, "but planting trees today is also essential for future generations."
Wisconsin celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday of April and April 29, 2016 is the 133rd year of this annual tree celebration in Wisconsin. Visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "Arbor Day" for resources to help your community celebrate trees and forests.
MADISON -- Residents of 21 central and western Wisconsin counties can expect to hear and see loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise, depending on weather conditions, starting in May. Small, yellow planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars. These invasive pests defoliate trees during their caterpillar stage, causing stress and potentially tree death.
"These aerial treatments are the most efficient and effective method to reduce the spread of gypsy moth," says Chris Foelker, gypsy moth control program manager. "Where this insect is well established in eastern North America, it has been a periodic public nuisance and damaging forest pest."
The gypsy moth has a wide range of negative effects on local communities. The cost of removing dead trees around a house can range from several hundred to over one thousand dollars and the loss of mature trees will decrease property values. During the spring and summer, caterpillars shed bristly skin as they grow. Bristles from the cast skins can become airborne and irritate eyes, skin and the respiratory system. People may develop a rash if they come in contact with the bristles.
Spray dates and times are weather dependent. People can sign up to receive email notifications about spray plans at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR). They can listen to a recorded message about spray plans by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line at 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for updates.
Spraying is expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in early May and end in northern Wisconsin during August. Maps of the specific spray areas are available online at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR).
Spraying will be completed by two programs:
For more information about the programs or gypsy moths, visit http://gypsymoth.wi.gov. Or, call the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of current spray plans or talk to staff.
MADISON -- Wisconsin landowners are reminded of an excellent opportunity to help other hunters enjoy Wisconsin's outdoors and sponsor a deer hunt for hunters with disabilities. The deadline for sponsor applications is June 1.
Spending time with family and friends in the outdoors is an important pastime in Wisconsin, but pursuing a deer may seem difficult or unrealistic for some hunters. Each year, this special hunt gives hundreds of hunters an opportunity to take part in this time-honored tradition.
Potential sponsors must have at least 60 acres of land available, and are required to allow access for at least three hunters if they are contacted. In 2016, the disabled hunt will be held Oct. 1-9.
In 2015, nearly 90 sponsors made roughly 100,000 acres available, and close to 400 disabled hunters were given an opportunity to experience the October hunt. Special hunts for disabled hunters began in 1990, with six properties enrolled.
"The disabled deer hunt is an amazing opportunity for those with disabilities to participate in a fall deer hunt," said Mary Annala, DNR assistant big game ecologist. "Department staff are grateful for the sponsors and volunteers who help make this hunt happen each year."
A complete list of sponsors will be available on the DNR website at disabled deer hunt after the June 1 deadline. Sponsors are required to submit a list of participants online or via mail no later than Sept. 1.
To complete an online application and learn more about this hunt, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "disabled deer hunt ." Interested landowners without access to the online application can contact Mary Annala, DNR assistant big game ecologist, at 608-261-7588 or via email at Mary.Annala@Wisconsin.gov.
MADISON - Communities in Clark, Lincoln and Rusk counties will make good use of three Department of Natural Resources brownfields awards to help assess contamination at two former wood-processing plants and a former creamery.
The awards consist of contractor services for the projects, and are valued up to $18,000 each. The services will be used to determine soil and groundwater conditions at the former Owen Manufacturing wood processing plant in Clark County; the former Hurd Manufacturing facility in Merrill (Lincoln County); and at the former Sheldon Creamery in Rusk County.
"Years of manufacturing and production have come to an end at these once-thriving businesses," said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR Brownfields Section. "Now it's time to clean up these properties and find another use for them. These awards will help get that redevelopment process started."
The DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program administers the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) grants, and work is conducted by environmental consultants. The grants provide communities with professional environmental assessments of contaminated or potentially contaminated properties and help prepare sites for redevelopment.
For nearly a century, Owen Manufacturing was one of the area's largest employers, turning out a variety of wood products such as drafting tables and custom kitchen furniture from the 24-acre property. The plant closed in 2004 and has been vacant since that time.
The Merrill property has been a manufacturing site since the late 1800s, and DNR is assisting with the assessment of a one-acre portion of the site used to treat lumber.
The former Sheldon Creamery, on the banks of the Jump River, is a 3-acre site with petroleum contamination.
Department WAM applications require minimal effort by local governments because there is no financial match or project administration involved, making it an attractive opportunity for small communities. In many instances, WAM awards are also leveraged against other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on sites that may have been community eyesores for many years.
Applications can be submitted for a WAM award at any time, although funds are limited. Eligible sites for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing. Gas stations, dry cleaners, salvage yards and agricultural co-ops are not eligible.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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