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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

February 2006

Readers Write

Reader Disputes Success Of Walleye Fishery
Other Perspectives On Northern Initiatives
What Goes Around Comes Around
Hawaii Could Learn From Wisconsin
Bring Back Recycling
Old Classic Hits Home
UPDATE: Feral Pigs On The Increase

Reader Disputes Success of Walleye Fishery

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While I view this article (A generation of shared rights and shared responsibilities, August 2005) as an attempt to smooth over some of the issues brought about by the 7th Court of Appeals ruling, I wonder what you truly are trying to say. Spearing of any spawning fish is not a good practice for any resource. This practice has resulted in stocking fish in places where natural reproduction was doing great by itself.

The quality of the speared fish is going down. This means the cream of the crop has already been harvested. When the elders talk to their grandchildren they will refer to 1985 and several years after as the "good old days of harvest." We are creating a put-and-take fishery. The spawning adults are becoming a "mono" class of fish. No more will you see a great diversity in the age of the spawning fish. To harvest more fish we will need to plant more fish to make up for the lack of numbers on the spawning beds and in the natural systems. And now we [stop] taking bass in these northern lakes until June 15th. This is to help that fishery expand and take the place of the walleye.

How long does it take for a walleye fry to mature into a spawning adult? Tell us how long it takes for that fry to become a first-year spawning walleye or grow to 20 to 30 inches long? Disturbing the fish spawning on the beds will cause the young fish not to spawn that year. The drive to spawn is not as strong as it would be in the older class of fish. Will the younger fish have the amount of eggs that the older fish will have? Is this to be the "Legacy of the Ojibwe on Northern Wisconsin Walleye Fishery?" We all are witnessing firsthand what 20 years of harvesting the spawning walleyes has done.

My personal solution now is to harvest walleye in other states and countries that have ample bag and possession limits. My days of catching walleyes, filleting them on a canoe paddle and dropping them into a frying pan are now a time of the past. This elder will now tell this story to his children's children and wish they could experience the same. You may still find me in your neighborhood dipping a paddle in the cool water, sliding along the undeveloped shoreline, watching the mink look out from among the logs or otters playing with each other. I may still hear the clack of an eagle as I get too close to where it is fishing, but you won't find me catching any walleye.

Art Chevrier
Sheboygan, WI

DNR's Treaty Fisheries Coordinator Patrick Schmalz and Fisheries Policy Chief Steve Hewett respond: DNR staff set harvest quotas based on the best fish population data available in the state. Safety factors built into that system are designed to prevent the harvest from exceeding safe levels. In northern Wisconsin, loss of habitat due primarily to development most likely has had a much more dramatic impact on natural reproduction than spearing.

It is because fish are vulnerable during spawning that the DNR limits angler harvest in a closed season and regulates the tribal fishery. Walleye populations are not put at risk. A variety of safety factors are included in the calculations for safe harvest by the tribal members. Most tribal spearing harvests males rather than females (about 10 percent of the harvest is female walleye). The DNR does not stock walleye to replace tribal harvest and has not had to increase stocking to lakes that had natural reproduction before the fishery. The best walleye waters in the north are those that are maintained by natural reproduction and those lakes form the majority of the waters that are jointly harvested by tribes and anglers.

The assertion that new bass regulations on northern lakes are a reaction to walleye populations is simply not true. We still have a fantastic naturally reproducing walleye fishery in the north. Fish stocking will never make up for a lack of numbers in naturally reproducing lakes. The bass season structure was designed to protect bass during the spawn, as are all of our season dates, and has nothing to do with walleye populations. In some waters where walleye populations have declined, bass populations have increased. There is no evidence to suggest the two are linked. Walleye are native to river systems and still do best in rivers and flowages in Wisconsin.

The proportion of large fish harvested by the tribes has stayed remarkably consistent through all the years of tribal harvest. The average length of tribal harvested walleye has been about 15 ½ inches for the 21 years of spearing. The percentage of fish that are speared that are over 25 inches has also been consistent at 0.8 to 1 percent of the harvest since the current safe harvest system was established. Our walleye fishery is not put-and-take and it is not a mono class of walleye.

Walleye mature at two to five years for males and five to seven years for females, depending on the water body. In the ceded territory, males probably mature between three and six years and females over six years. Walleye can reach 20 inches by age six and rarely reach 30 inches. Those that do take well over 10 years.

Over 100 waters are sampled each fall by DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) to determine year-class strength and speared lakes often have some of the highest young-of-year catches. There appears to be absolutely no impact of spearing on spawning numbers or the number of young walleye produced in a lake.

The shared fishery has led to many positive things, including a monitoring system that is second to none. We now have much more data by which to manage fisheries in Wisconsin. The truth is that the exploitation rate on walleye populations has gone down from the days of less restricted angler fishing before 1985. Many populations were being over-harvested, well in excess of 35 percent, before tribal fishing began.

Since then the current management system of tribal quotas, angler bag limits and size limits has kept the risk at less than one chance in 40 that walleye exploitation rates will exceed the court mandated level of 35 percent.

There are still ample opportunities to harvest walleye in Wisconsin. Anglers harvest more than 200,000 walleye in the ceded territory annually. Angler harvest in the ceded territory has ranged from 132,067 to 385,144 since 1990 when the current management system went into place, compared to tribal harvest of 24,002 to 30,367 in the same time period.

Other Perspectives on Northern Initiatives

Keeping the North the North in the October 2005 issue was a very interesting article about a subject of concern to many people in Wisconsin. The article seemed skewed toward recreation and tourism, and the authors could have broadened their sources of information beyond the DNR employees and people engaged in tourism and preservation.

The primary employer in most northern counties is the timber industry, not the tourism industry, yet the timber industry perspective was missing from your article.

Contacting the timber industry could have saved the authors at least one misleading – if not downright incorrect – statement. The authors stated, "Wood and other products sold from certified forests earn a premium price." A DNR forester is then referenced as having said that "certified forest lands make Wisconsin's wood products more valuable in the global marketplace."

That has been the hope, but it does not reflect reality. I challenge the authors to find one professional logger who has consistently been paid more for producing certified wood. I further challenge the authors to find one retail lumber outlet that will verify that certified wood commands a higher price in the marketplace.

The struggle about Wisconsin's rivers could easily have been improved by contacting any of the river "friends" groups that have formed in the last few years, as well as the development interests they are confronting.

Keeping the North the North means different things to the people who live there versus those who only play there. It's unfortunate that an article by the same name dealt primarily with those who only visit and play.

Dave Wester

Author James C. Bishop responds: Certification may not consistently get loggers and processors more money, but the certification process promotes good logging practices that verify the safety, health and welfare of workers and the forest. It's a bit like buying clothing from places that certify good working conditions instead of potentially buying from sweatshop operations. Some fiber buyers want to show customers that they buy wood from well-managed sustainable forests that also guarantee loggers are equally concerned about the resources and the land they came from.

I agree that wild rivers chapters could have been handled differently.

The authors who wrote this piece equally have lived and worked in the north for decades, if not their whole lives. Whether we leave home to recreate or stay nearby, we are visitors who are concerned about the overuse and abuse of northern Wisconsin resources. We're concerned about maintaining the quality of those resources and both the article and the Northern Initiatives program attempt to address those issues.

Who pays the taxes on the thousands of acres of land purchased under the Northern Initiative (Keeping the North the North, October 2005)? My family and I own land in northern Wisconsin, none of which is accessible. Our taxes have gone up 1,000 percent in the last few years. Is this because of the "Initiative?" If this land is taken off the tax rolls it seems to me the private landowners in the Northwoods are getting a raw deal. If this "Initiative" wants all this land for public use there should be stiff use fees to pay for the taxes on the purchases. There is also a question with open hunting on these lands. I saw nothing in the article addressing this. If these lands are shut off to sportsmen and women there will be a bigger problem with deer overpopulation, which accounts for millions of dollars in insurance costs per year due to accidents. Is the "Initiative" going to add to this cost by not allowing hunting on these lands?

Bryan Hatleback
Denver, CO

You raise good questions. We tried to be clear that the goal of Northern Initiatives is not to buy up every available parcel. We work with communities to decide where lands warrant protection and what form that should take through reasoned zoning, incentives to landowners, planned development and occasionally purchase. When purchases ARE considered, communities discuss which parcels may be purchased, which will be protected through conservation easements or other land use tools, which the communities want to protect for other purposes and which will be zoned for future development. The object is to take deliberate looks at what we need to do to protect the character of rural communities and create green space near developing areas.

For lands purchased since 1992, the Department of Natural Resources compensates local government for the full amount of property taxes that would have been paid had the property been privately owned. This applies to lands purchased for parks, hunting grounds, fish hatcheries, game farms, natural areas and other land for recreation. For lands bought before July 1969, DNR pays 88 cents per acre. On lands bought between 1969 and 1991, DNR pays the full property tax the first year, then taxes are reduced by 10 percent each year for 10 years. Thereafter, the state compensates locals at 10 percent of the first year's payment or at least 30 cents per acre. Further, the private land surrounding these public purchases typically goes up in value because the owner knows that surrounding properties will not be developed and development will not encroach on these lands.

You might also take a look at a feature story we carried back in 1999 explaining the host of tax incentives provided to sustain the local tax base when public land purchases are contemplated. Good value, just compensation was published in our February 1999 issue and is still available on our website or for purchase as a back issue.

As for hunting, lands purchased with public funds are usually open for public recreation. Lands on which the state provides tax incentives, like the Managed Forest Law program, provide greater tax relief to those landowners who choose to make their property available for public hunting and recreation.

What Goes Around Comes Around

While on active army duty this past year one thing that continued to plague my thoughts, other than the usual worries of a man separated from his family, was the fear that my oldest son Zachary would not be able to attend hunter safety training due to limited space and the high demand for these workshops. Luckily I live in an area where hunter education is not just an after-thought but a priority by dedicated individuals using an innovative approach for injury/accident reduction.

After contacting the DNR to locate hunter education offerings, I was referred to John Walsh, Director of Trauma Services at the Affinity Health System, Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh. John's aggressive approach to injury prevention through education was evident by the innovative approach of offering public safety courses at a health care facility! Enrollment went smoothly and the entire experience was positive from start to finish.

The class itself was very interesting and well attended by students' parents who were encouraged to participate as well, a refreshing change from hunter safety programs I attended in the past in Montana and Texas. A new twist to the class this year was a PowerPoint presentation purchased with a grant from the Mercy Health Foundation that made the information more understandable, fun to watch and easy to digest, even for the parents! I understand that Mercy has generously donated this program throughout the state to aid other communities and agencies in hunter education.

The hands-on experience was very valuable to get firearms in the kids' hands as much as possible to ensure familiarity. The class was run to emphasize discipline and stress the gravity and serious nature of the paths these students were about to embark upon. I was so inspired I volunteered my time for the next program and am in the process of becoming certified as an instructor.

The proof is in the pudding! Three days after completing both the hunter and the bowhunter education offerings at Mercy, Zach and I had the pleasure of experiencing the youth waterfowl hunt. DNR's youth waterfowl and big game offerings are a terrific opportunity for kids and their parents to experience these magical first outings without the stress and competition of typical opening day trials and tribulations. Zach not only shot four ducks, but most importantly was always safe and frequently recited the basic rules of firearms safety, even pointing out some safety flaws of his father. It gets better! On the next day we went bowhunting and Zach shot a beautiful mature whitetail doe. Not only was this a magical experience to witness, but to watch how he handled himself was beyond words.

If what goes around truly comes around, the people at Mercy, John Walsh and his group of instructors must truly have bright futures.

William Beck, RN
Captain US Army Reserve

Hawaii Could Learn from Wisconsin

I'd like you to know Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine has no equal when is comes to well written, informative, descriptive and entertaining articles. Your breadth of coverage in every issue is outstanding and keeps me looking forward to the next one. I've received your magazine for over 20 years while traveling worldwide serving with the Air Force. I was born and raised in Superior and your magazine keeps me in touch with my home state and what's happening there. Wisconsin has so much to offer anyone who lives there and your magazine helps to ensure a great quality of life. Keep up the fantastic work!

I currently live in Oahu, HI. This island could learn a lot from Wisconsin on preserving, conserving and stewardship of all natural resources. Recycling programs are lacking with oil and antifreeze absorbed or put in the trash with magazines and alkaline batteries. There is no curbside pick-up program. There is also no control of illegal dumping around the island and abandoned cars along roadways and parks are standard here. For an island of limited land resources they could stand to improve in all these areas. They do have some limited programs in the works and are trying in other areas with minor success but seriously need to get up to par like many other states and educate the population for buy-in and participation.

We recycle the few items allowed (newspapers, cardboard, containers and green waste) by taking them to collection sites, but most do not. I see all these items sticking out of trash cans everywhere during pick-up days. At the work place it's no different; very few participate. It's not convenient for most people.

I'll get off my soap box. Again thanks for your excellent publication and keep it up. We're looking forward to them for years to come.

Gary Smith
Ewa Beach, HI

Bring Back Recycling

I sure do believe in recycling too. At our home in the Beloit area we recycle everything; but unfortunately at our summer home on the west end of the Chippewa Flowage, only paper is recycled. Metals, plastics and glass recycling containers used to be available, but no more since spring of 2005. It all goes in the garbage! We bring ours back to Beloit, not wanting to add to the landfills. Isn't there a way to bring back to the greater Hayward area a more complete and comprehensive recycling program so our north country can last a few more years? And I certainly do agree with your header on the pull-out on your October issue: Wisconsin – where recyclables are too valuable to waste!

Steve Karstaedt

Recycling Team Leader Cynthia Moore responded: Thank you for your interest in recycling. Businesses and individuals like you have helped Wisconsin's recycling program avoid new construction or expansion of between five and eight landfills since 1990.

Wisconsin's Recycling Law delegates responsibility to local government units (or responsible units) to implement municipal recycling of materials banned from Wisconsin landfills, like newspaper, office paper, cardboard, glass/aluminum/steel/plastic beverage containers, and yard waste. Rural communities of less than 5,000 or a population density of less than 70 persons per square mile may provide some or all of their recycling services through a drop-off center. It may be that the responsible unit for your summer home only collects paper through a curbside program and uses a drop-off center for the other materials. Your best bet is to contact your local town chairman, village clerk or treasurer for drop-off center information.

Old Classic Hits Home

Life is ironic. My husband and I were on a two-week road trip last September and I had gotten an old classic book on tape, "Old Yeller," from a local library. I thought it would be entertaining to hear it again. One of the exciting parts of the book was when Old Yeller fights the feral pigs. Little did I know that Wisconsin had feral pigs. It was only reading the August issue of your magazine (Wild hogs in the woods, August 2005) that night, that it all came together. I read with interest the article and could relate to a 50-plus-year-old classic. Thank you for your timely and interesting article.

Pat Pamperin


Feral Pigs on the Increase

Before last fall's deer hunting season, DNR wildlife officials urged hunters encountering wild pigs to shoot them on sight. With the population on the rise and sightings reported in at least 29 counties across the state, the goal is to aggressively remove feral pigs from the landscape.

Wildlife Manager Bryan Woodbury says that besides the self-sustaining population in Crawford County, there are a significant number of pigs in Douglas County, largely due to escapes from a game farm. "The number of sightings of small groups – between one and six pigs – has increased in other counties as well," says Woodbury. "These pigs are most likely escapes, either intentional or unintentional."

Woodbury and his colleagues in west central Wisconsin distributed and posted "Wanted" posters to call the public's attention to the threats of feral pigs and asked people to report sightings. Rooting by feral pigs has resulted in damage to agricultural and forest land. They also cause serious soil erosion and water pollution and have a negative impact on wildlife species.

Feral pigs are considered unprotected wild animals and may be hunted year-round without limit. Landowners may shoot feral pigs on their own property without a hunting license. Other hunters need only a small game license and landowner permission.

For more information on feral pigs, see fact sheet.