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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

October 2004

Readers Write

Fish Parasites
Surfin' the Inland Sea
Who Owns Shipwrecks?
Crex Meadows Effect
An Enthusiastic Fan
Bittersweet Confusion

Fish Parasites

I have a question. What are the black specks that I am finding on some perch? I haven't seen them on any other species, just the perch. Are these fish edible? Thank you, you've been a world of information.

Pepe Cadena
Green Bay

DNR Fish Health Specialist Sue Marcquenski replies: Thanks for your question about black spots on fish. The black spots are larval stages of parasites that form a cyst in the skin or muscle of fish. Birds such as kingfishers and gulls are infected with the adult stage of the parasite. The parasite's eggs pass from the birds and enter the water where they hatch and infect snails. Larval stages develop in the snails, leave the snails and swim in the water until they find a fish. They burrow into the skin or muscle and a cyst forms around the parasite. When the bird eats the fish, the larvae become adult parasites in the birds and the cycle begins again.

The parasites cannot infect people and cooking kills the larvae. In the past 8-10 years, the fish-eating bird populations have been very high in the Midwest, so it is not surprising to see more fish infected with this parasite. Until there is a change in the bird, fish or snail populations, fish will continue to carry these parasites.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Surfin' the Inland Sea

As a Wisconsin native now living in California, I look forward to receiving each issue of "Wisconsin Natural Resources" magazine. And, as a life-long "beach person" who spent my childhood summers at the Zoo Beach first jetty in Racine, I particularly enjoyed the special Reach the Beach section in the June 2004 issue.

In that special section I was pleased to see you mention surfing in Sheboygan and the Dairyland Surf Classic that Lee and Larry Williams organize each Labor Day weekend. For far too long, surfing on Lake Michigan has been a little-known mystery to all but the fortunate few who have had the opportunity to enjoy its pleasures.

I don't get back to Wisconsin very often anymore, so most of my surfing now is done in San Diego and here on the California central coast, where surfing is popular all year long. But I can tell you that most of my fondest surfing memories are from the uncrowded surf spots on Lake Michigan, such as Zoo Beach and Wind Point in Racine and the numerous individual spots in Sheboygan that begin at North Pier and extend more than a mile northward to the Sheboygan Water Treatment Plant. Although the lack of crowds in the fresh water is a big advantage over most salt water surf spots, I can tell you that, as with a lot of things in life, much of the enjoyment of an activity relates to the people that you do it with.

And that's where surfing on Lake Michigan reveals its biggest advantages – the people. Because of the limited number of people who surf the Great Lakes, the surfers tend to know each other. But when they see someone "new" for the first time, they extend their greetings and are eager to welcome and get to know the new surfer. This has always been particularly evident in Sheboygan, which has the three-fold advantage of great surf spots, a long and rich surfing history, and great people who love to share their lifestyle (don't call it a sport!) with other and new people.

My wife and I are both Wisconsin natives, and we've subscribed to "WNR" for about 25 years. Since we moved out here to California many years ago, the magazine has been a much-valued link to our roots and memories of our summers "Up North" when we were growing up. I know that Wisconsin spends much money each year competing with the other Great Lakes states for tourism, and I've long felt that the state could gain an edge over its competitors by promoting awareness of surfing in its coastal waters, including the chilly shorelines of Lake Superior.

An integral part of such awareness would be printing photographs of people actually surfing along Wisconsin shorelines. I have seen other previous references to surfing in prior issues of "WNR", and an old photograph of several of us with our boards on North Beach in Sheboygan in the August 2002 issue. But I think some photos of Wisconsinites actually riding the waves of Lake Michigan would really send the message that this is something that anyone can do right in their own backyard, and they don't have to spend a lot for a trip to California or Florida to do it. Such photos could prompt some people from inland states to visit Wisconsin to try surfing, but probably even more would be curious enough to go to Wisconsin just to watch.

By the way, I'm sitting here writing to you now (rather than surfing) because our lifeguards spotted a great white shark at our beach earlier this week. Another reason why fresh water surfing is better than ocean surfing!

So, how about printing some Lake Michigan surfing photos in a future issue?

By the way, I am in that photo from the August 2002 issue, at the far left end (as you look at the photo) with the yellow and green Stewart surfboard.

You're correct in your assessment of Lee and Larry Williams. They're really great guys, and they personify the mellow surfer community in the Great Lakes area and in Sheboygan in particular. Did you see them in "Step into Liquid"? If not, it's out on video now, so you can rent it and see the great bits that they did in the film. The main Sheboygan bit in "Step..." is about 10 minutes into the film, but Lee and Larry also do a great bit at the very end of the closing credits – that's worth the price of rental all by itself.

Also, the October issue would be perfect timing if you plan to print my letter. October is actually the peak of the surfing season on the Great Lakes, so that would be a terrific opportunity to prompt people to go down to some of the prime surfing spots to watch surfing right in their own backyards.

Dave Cole
Morro Bay, California

Who Owns Shipwrecks?

The question of who owns abandoned shipwrecks, cargoes and artifacts found in a state's territorial waters of the Great Lakes and oceans has been addressed by Congress on several occasions. It has been resolved in favor of the state in whose waters the submerged objects are located, but it is based on older law.

English common law rules that "title and dominion of all lands and objects found therein below the high water mark" belonged to the King of England. This rule became part of American common law subsequent to the Revolution and applies equally to all 50 states [Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U.S. 1 (1894)].

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 gave what are now Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio title to their respective bottom lands of lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently determined that the Great Lakes were factually and legally "inland seas" and subject to federal admiralty jurisdiction.

The Submerged Lands Act of 1953 gave states title to bottomlands within territorial waters to be held in an active trust for the benefit of all citizens.

Congress' latest declaration of ownership of objects on a state's seabed was the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 that directed where a shipwreck situated on a state's submerged lands has been abandoned and deserted by its owner (thus relinquishing ownership) the state has title to the shipwreck. The wreck site is to be managed by the state for educational and recreational benefit of the public. The courts have ruled that it is within a state's obligations to encourage the diving public to view, explore, study and enjoy our American shipwrecks. However, damaging, stealing from or otherwise injuring historic wrecks violates federal law and the laws of many states.

A U.S. Court of Appeals case for the Seventh Circuit last June affirmed that the State of Wisconsin owned the historic shipwreck MV Roscinco off Kenosha in Lake Michigan and bolstered state efforts to protect the wreck from looting by treasure and artifact hunters as well as commercial salvors. Wisconsin successfully argued that wrecks are publicly owned and neither wrecks nor their artifacts can be privately held. The decision restricts only divers who are selfish or greedy. The beneficiaries are the thousands of divers who respect shipwrecks as valuable cultural resources and who take nothing but pictured and leave nothing but bubbles.

Hank Whipple

Crex Meadows Effect

I was surprised that anyone remembered the "Crex Meadows Effect" (Saving the best of the best, April 2004). In the spring of 1958 Drs. John T. Curtis and Henry C. Greene visited Crex Meadows and Northwest Wisconsin as part of Curtis' research in preparing his book "The Vegetation of Wisconsin." They were astonished to find extensive tall grass prairies at Crex Meadows being restored by the burning and clearing scrub oak forests by Game Manager Norm Stone. At that point, the rough draft of the book did not recognize the existence of prairie vegetation that far north in Wisconsin.

When I returned to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the summer of 1958 after serving in the Korean War, Dr. Curtis assigned me to find out where the prairie plants were coming from and to learn more about the effects of fire on the vegetation. After learning to identify prairie flowers and grasses in their nonflowering or vegetative states, I soon discovered that the entire prairie flora lay dormant under the canopy of the oak forest.

The forest invaded and grew up with the prevention and cessation of wildfires and farmland burning starting in the 11920s to 1930s. When Norm Stone reintroduced prescribed burning in the 1950s, the removal of the oaks and their shade as well as the fire stimulation of the understory plants resulted in instant prairie in all its blooming glory; a "land of living color," as Norm Stone called it.

Richard J. Vogl
Professor Emeritus
Biology Department
Cal. State University, Los Angeles

An Enthusiastic Fan

I just got through skimming through my new issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources and it is, as usual, a super good publication. It reminds me of the day in the late 1970s when I was still on the Natural Resources Board in which we made that fateful decision to change from a black and white publication to a full-color pay-as-you-go magazine. We thought the decision to make the change was correct and we did it, although all of us had some concerns about how things would go. Fortunately, the circulation continues to increase and the quality of the magazine improves with every issue, though there is little room for improvement left.

I have a suggestion. Encourage readers to do two things: 1. Send a gift subscription to a friend (I send four every year to siblings and relatives.) and 2. Join the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

Thanks again for doing an excellent job.

Daniel T. Flaherty
La Crosse

Bittersweet Confusion

I'm even more confused than ever about American bittersweet. The exchanges in the last issue (Readers Write June 2004) did not make clear whether both varieties are considered invasive or just the Celastrus orbiculatis. I planted a few hundred seeds of Celastrus scandens on my Wisconsin farm this spring. The primary purpose was to cover unsightly piles of bulldozer spoils – primarily old box elder trees and brush – along the edges of fields that also border woodlands. Do I need to worry about C. scandens invading woodlands and choking off desirable trees such as oaks and walnuts? Should I consider stifling these plants before they seed then plant a variety of ivy or some other vine that would be less invasive?

John Thurston
Irving, Texas

Celastrus scandens is considered the native, noninvasive form here in Wisconsin. It spreads naturally, but not in the invasive manner of C. orbiculatis. C. scandens is an excellent choice for landscape plantings since it is both attractive and serves as a first-rate wildlife food source. C. orbiculatis is also widely sold here as a landscaping plant, but it is definitely more aggressive, can choke off native vegetation and its seeds are widely spread by birds.

I was always told that it was illegal to cut or damage the bittersweet plant, that it was a protected species under Wisconsin state law. Is this true?

Pat McQuillan
Eau Claire

Bittersweet is not a protected species. It can be picked on private lands with the owner's permission. Please distinguish between the two bittersweets as described in our June letters and do not spread the more invasive form.