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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

October 2008

Readers Write

Totogatic River Another Wild Gem
Queen of Fishes | Why I Hunt Public Land
On Tournament Angling
Wild Rose Renovation | Fish Car on a Roll
Great Lakes Compact Signed

Totogatic River Another Wild Gem

Your article on the 40th anniversary of the St.Croix National Scenic Riverway (A wild ribbon of forest and water, June 2008) was a fitting tribute to the highly esteemed Namekagon and St. Croix rivers. Readers may be interested to learn of an initiative through DNR and area legislators to designate the tributary Totogatic River (tuh-TOE-ga-tik) as a State Wild River. A glance at the map shows Totogatic's strategic location tucked between the Namekagon and Upper St.Croix. It matches their landscape beauty while exceeding them in sheer wildness.

DNR's Northern Rivers Initiative (2000) ranked Totogatic in the top two percent (22nd out of 1,494 stream segments), based on its wild character, premier habitat and undeveloped shoreline. The lower Totogatic crosses ecologically rare pine barrens, while the upper river exhibits an unusual "trellis" drainage pattern with whitewater rapids, sharp turns and picturesque waterfalls where it dashes over basalt lava flows on the Minong copper range. Recent scientific studies show that in ancient times native copper was extracted from the upper Totogatic basin by indigenous peoples and worked into tools and weapons. Some of Gordon MacQuarrie's best outdoors stories were cast in the Totogatic pine and wild rice country.

Designating the Totogatic River as a State Wild River will complement the existing St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and help preserve this stream's primal character for generations to come. More Totogatic ecology, lore and photos can be found at Totogatic (Totagatic) River, A New "Wild & Scenic" River for Wisconsin?

Herbert Wagner

Queen of Fishes

In 2006 you ran an article titled Keeping the fight in the king of fishes (August 2006). Wouldn't you have been more correct to say, "queen of fishes?" I'm an interpretive field naturalist and wildlife filmmaker. I'm also an avid fisherman and have taken courses in ichthyology. Most of those big muskies shown are females – egg factories! Really excellent article in spite of the title.

Tom Sterling
Crestwood, KY

Male or female, it's the musky's habits, fight and fury that makes it "the king."

Why I Hunt Public Land

I really liked Make it public about hunting on public land in the August issue. I think it's good to remind people that public hunting can be safe and enjoyable, and with sometimes better results than on private lands.

Of all the hunters I know, only a fraction of them are "trophy" hunters; the majority don't hesitate to take does and fill the freezers. For those of us who love eating venison, the does are just as tasty and public land provides more than ample opportunity to hunt them. Most of us can hunt for does all day long and be happy.

We've hunted public lands for more than 28 years. I have noticed that the hunting tends to be cyclical. Some years there are more deer than you can shake a stick at; other years, the pickings are slim, but counting back all those years, I remember only a handful of times we went without even seeing a deer.

We started with a group of four. As we all aged, two in our group had families, and their sons, their sons' friends, and my friends began to come up. Eventually our group swelled to over 15 some years. Some in our group didn't like hunting on public land. They'd say, "You'll get SHOT!" or "Too many hunters will shoot all the deer. "Well, I am happy to report that none of that has happened and our vehicles have always been brought back intact.

It is interesting to see who and how many show up on opening day when hunting public lands. There have been occasions where one hunter sets up too close to another, but I have never encountered a hostile situation. In my teens, I had approached my ground stand and found a much older hunter sitting in it, smoking. I said hello, and politely informed him that this was my stand. He apologized and promptly left. I have never encountered a bad hunt on public lands, and while I know there are stories that counter this, I think it really depends on how you approach someone. We're all out there to relax and have a good time, we should not be hostile to another hunter who happened to sit too close or in a stand. There're better things in life to get upset about.

I agree with your story that the hardest part of hunting public land is putting in the time to learn the land. Deer use specific "highways" and hide in particular cover. It just takes a lot of hours scouting an area to learn this. That time frustrates many hunters on public land, but I would encourage them to press on. I like the fact that I do not have to ask for permission from a landowner and I know each year will provide opportunities and something different. It took me years to learn "my" area, but now that I know it, I feel confident in the opportunities it presents each year. I know all the other hunters around me, and I wouldn't really want to hunt anywhere else.

David Butcher

On Tournament Angling

Your article in August providing an update on tournament fishing rules caught my attention. I am opposed to tournaments for a number of reasons. In describing the discussions with commercial and sport anglers as well as tournament organizers, your article states that "Tournament organizers didn't like provisions [proposed in the rules] that required participants to submit their boat and live wells to inspection by a conservation warden." What is the problem? I fish for fun, not money, and I do not object to any warden checking to see if I am obeying the safety laws, fishing size limits and daily bag limits.

Jim Cox


Wild Rose Renovation

A grand opening in mid-August celebrated the $15.9 million renovation of Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery.(See our October 2006 story Rejuvenating a reliable workhorse). The project updates the century-old facility that's long been a pillar of Wisconsin's stocking program.

Governor Doyle, DNR Secretary Matt Frank, and federal fish and wildlife officials joined anglers and local residents in viewing improvements in the coldwater hatchery to help produce Chinook salmon, coho salmon and brown trout. In the future, Wild Rose staff will start raising rainbow trout and eventually increase the total amount of trout and salmon produced for Lake Michigan by 15 percent while meeting modern environmental standards.

"This project is critical to Lake Michigan's world-class fishing and to expanding fishing opportunities across the state," Gov. Doyle said.

Construction started in 2006 and was largely completed this spring. Additional renovations will add coolwater facilities to raise musky, walleye, lake sturgeon and northern. Completion on that project is expected in 2010. A third phase will restore the wetland, springs and stream disturbed when the hatchery was originally built in the early 1900s by a private fish farmer.

The new coldwater facilities were paid for by an innovative funding package, including $6 million from environmental restoration agreements reached with paper companies for PCB contamination on the Fox River. About $3.6 million came from Sport Fish Restoration – excise taxes collected on sales of fishing and boating equipment and $1.5 million from Great Lakes Trout and Salmon stamps that anglers buy.

Fish Car on a Roll

Thanks to train fans, conservationists, history buffs and generous grants the Badger No.2 "fish car" will be back on track within about a year.(See our story Across the trestles of time, December 2006). Built by the Pullman Company to the exacting specifications of the Wisconsin Fisheries Commission and put into service in 1912,the Badger No.2 was used to transport and stock fish from the State Fish Hatchery until it was retired in 1945 as better roads and aerated, refrigerated trucks made stocking by truck more economical. The elegant 72-foot steel and wood car boasted 15 fish tanks, an observation deck, salon, galley kitchen and berths for its crew of four. The car was subsequently sold to a rail buff then purchased by the Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society.

The car's renovation is underwritten by a $475,000 match grant from the Jeffris Foundation of Janesville. Fundraising during the last 16 months matched the grant and included publicity at two Gandy Dancer music festivals for the railcar renovation. Our thanks to readers who contributed to the project.

Great Lakes Compact Signed

The eight-state agreement that governs how large-scale water diversions would be jointly considered by Great Lakes states was endorsed at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. in late July. (See our story about compact issues, A firm hand on the spigot, June 2007).The compact received presidential endorsement, and supporters will work for similar quick review in the House of Representatives during the September floor session, perhaps receiving Congressional approval before the fall elections. The President and both presidential candidates have expressed support for the compact.