Brady's Bluff State Natural Area
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What a pleasure it was to view the back cover of your February issue and see the exact same spot on Brady's Bluff where I stood in spring 1952! I was nine years old and on a hike with my father (since deceased) and mother, now 93 years old. I remember every detail of that day as though it were yesterday – the spring wind, the goat-prairie steepness, the realization that when I thought I'd reached the top, I still had half the bluff to climb! Every time I head up or down US Highway 61 in the beautiful Hiawatha Valley, or drive up Highway 35 to Trempealeau, I remember that glorious day in Perrot State Park.
I read with interest your article on backyard birds (Creature Comforts, December 2008). I lived in Wisconsin my whole life until moving to north central Texas in 2004, after retirement. I live in the country and checked my backyard after reading the article. That day I saw a Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, blue jay, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, bluebird, cardinal, meadowlark, grackle, robin, cedar waxwing, goldfinch, the ever-present vulture and even a road runner. Ground nesting birds are fairly rare because of fire ants.
In February, you printed a letter about trapping rusty crayfish. I have a related question. While I lived in Howard in the 1950s, a favorite snack in the area was "fresh bay crabs" (native crayfish). Many taverns and restaurants served them boiled or refrigerated after cooking. My brother-in-law used to get a license to go "crabbing" in Green Bay, and there was always a good market for his catch. Fishermen tell me almost all the native crayfish are gone from the lower Green Bay area.
Has anyone determined if rusty crayfish are as edible and tasty as the old Green Bay "crabs?" They were just boiled in salt water and dill weed until red and then served that way. If the flavor is the same, maybe making people aware would encourage more people to find instructions for trapping them and making a dent in the population of this unwanted species.
DNR conservation warden staff replies...
Rusty crayfish can be caught (fishing or small game license required), and they are good to eat, though their tails are much smaller than the native crayfish and there is not a lot of meat in each one.
Read up before you start to harvest and make sure you have reviewed the regulations. See page 16 of the Guide to Wisconsin Spearing, Netting and Bait Harvest Regulations 2009-10.
Also review rules found in NR 19.27 that prohibit possession of live crayfish on any inland waters unless the person is removing the crayfish from that water and is not releasing them or introducing them elsewhere. Crayfish also may not be used as bait. (There are some specific exemptions for the Mississippi River.) It is also illegal to place, deposit, throw or otherwise introduce live crayfish into any waters of the state unless a permit authorizing introduction has been issued by the department.
I live in Winnebago County in the town of Nekimi in a pretty good pheasant location. I really enjoyed your article (Raising ringnecks and outdoor opportunities, February 2009) and it brought back a question. Last spring a young man and his father from the Waupun area came to purchase my truck. After I told the father how many pheasants we had calling from "their areas" he explained something to me. He said he had long been on a team with a program to bring back pheasants in the area. In fact, he said, we probably don't have any "native" birds left in the area. He explained that all the birds they had planted were a "Manchurian" breed, which has the little white stripes on their heads. In fact, we have watched now and indeed most all have these little white stripes on the head. However, we have seen at least one without the stripes. Could we have native birds here still surviving? Is there a way to tell differences on the hens?
Game Farm Director Bob Nack replies...
The DNR participated in releasing Manchurian pheasants from the Jilin Province in China in the early 1990s. Both the Manchurian strain and the Chinese Ringneck strain we currently release can have white stripes on the head above the eye. The Manchurian pheasants will have a small tear-shaped white spot below the eye. A Manchurian-Ringneck cross can also be purchased from some game farms in Wisconsin. Often, but not always, these birds will have the white spot under the eye. The white stripes on the head alone are not useful in determining the difference between a Manchurian-Ringneck cross and our native ringnecks. If you have good pheasant habitat, odds are that you have native pheasants on the property.
I was fishing in late March and caught and released a small sturgeon on the Wisconsin River, south of Mosinee. We launched off of Beans Eddy. I had caught four large catfish and numerous small walleye and expected to find another catfish on the end of my line when I pulled up the small sturgeon, about two feet long. I had no idea that there were sturgeon in the Wisconsin River. Another boater near us said some anglers caught a number of sturgeon the previous day. It really made my day!
DNR has an active program to restore lake sturgeon to their traditional range including a stocking/recovery program midstate on the Wisconsin River. It's one of six major sturgeon rehabilitation projects underway as we reported in our February 2009 story, A strong base for broad recovery. It sounds like you had a great day of fishing!