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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published June 8, 2010

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7 state fishing records fall in first five months of 2010

MADISON - State fishing records are falling fast -- literally with a "thunk" -- as anglers have been hauling in a boatload of true lunkers.

By June 1, seven new state fish records had been confirmed in 2010 in the "alternate methods" category. The fish ranged from 4 pounds to more than 200 pounds, and the longest stretched more than seven feet long. Six of the seven were taken with a bow and arrow, one with a spear, and one new record was only on the books for a month before it was eclipsed.

A monster fish - a quillback-river carpsucker hybrid - has also been harvested in recent weeks from Wisconsin waters but didn't qualify for a record because the state no longer accepts records for hybrid fish.

"Bowfishing seems to be growing in popularity and our record books are starting to reflect that trend," says Karl Scheidegger, the DNR fish biologist who coordinates the state record fish program.

"More people are learning about the alternate methods category and seem to be targeting those records."

Bowfishing involves using specialized archery equipment to target carp, drum, burbot and the like during an open season that coincides with the statewide spearing seasons. The Guide to Wisconsin Spearing, Netting, and Bait Harvest Regulations 2010-2011 can be found on the fishing regulations page of the DNR website.

The parade of record fish, and the people who landed them, are listed with the most recent first (following links exit DNR to WiscFish website, a collaborative effort by the Wisconsin DNR, University of Wisconsin Center for Limnology and University of Wisconsin Sea Grant):

Wesley Babcock of Pardeeville hauled in an 18-pound, 2.7 ounce, 29-inch quillback-river carpsucker hybrid from the Castle Rock Flowage, a fish that nearly doubles the weight of the state record quill back and carp sucker records. He received an "Exceptional Catch" certificate from DNR for his efforts.

What to do if you think you've caught a record fish

If you think you or someone else has caught a fish that may be a state record, here's what you need to do:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger (608) 267-9426



After 18,000 fish, bowfisher lands a world record

MADISON - It's hard to say what's more impressive over the sweep of Wesley Babcock's 40 years of bowfishing: the more than 18,000 carp and other fish he's taken with a bow and arrow, or the eye-popping lunker he hauled in last month from the Castle Rock Flowage.

Babcock, a biology teacher for the Pardeeville School district for 33 years, shot the quillback/river carp sucker hybrid while bowfishing on the Castle Rock Flowage.

He's been bowfishing since he was in middle school, keeping his dad company on trips to the Rock River. It was pretty low-tech, but lots of fun, back then. "We used to tape a coffee can to our recurve bow and wrap line around it," Babcock recalls. "The arrow was tied to this string. You could not shoot very far."

Next, they moved on to a 3-foot circumference hoop they shot through the middle of and wrapped line around. Now they use a bottle reel which allows longer shots and fast retrieval of the line after shots.

"Carp shooting has always been a fun pastime for me," he says. "I used to only shoot as many as I could bury in our garden for fertilizer, and then had to stop because of no way to dispose of them. This was normally 100 to 200 a year."

Eight years ago, when the Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association began offering a 50-cent bounty on each carp shot with a bow, Babcock and his 14-year-old son, Aaron, started shooting over there every chance they got.

"The first year we shot more than 900," he says. "The next year, it was 2,700-plus, and the third year, we topped 2,300."

Aaron died suddenly on August 26, 2004.

The elder Babcock continued to find peace and relaxation in bowfishing, shooting more than 2,000 every summer since. The total is now over 18,000. "I plan to back off after reaching hopefully, 20,000," he says.

A day he'll never forget...

Babcock was on the Castle Rock Flowage shooting carp and buffalo when he shot the carp sucker hybrid.

"I saw two fish swim in front of the boat in cloudy water. Thinking they were buffalo, I shot at one," he says. "It took out a lot of line and got tangled in the boat motor. When I managed to get it in, I was shocked to see it was actually a sucker. I thought it was a quillback, but now find out that it was a quillback/river carpsucker hybrid."

He knew it was huge for a sucker and started checking. The Bowfishing Association state record was 11 pounds and the official state record for quillbacks was 10 pounds plus change.

Wesley Babcock
Wesley Babcock with the 18.17 pounds quillback/river carpsucker hybrid he shot bowfishing.

The fish weighed in at 18.17 pounds at a local grocery store.

John Lyons, a longtime DNR researcher with an encyclopedic knowledge of fish and a mission of updating George Becker's seminal Fishes of Wisconsin, a compendium of information about fish species in Wisconsin, indeed had never seen a bigger carpsucker. He looked at the frozen fish and sent photos and a small fin clip to a Tulane University expert, who concurred that the fish was the hybrid.

But Lyons said it was far larger than any of the thousands of hybrids he has personally observed. That was pretty exciting."

"This carpsucker is huge," Lyons says. "Based on my own field experiences and my quick review of the literature, this may be the largest carpsucker ever recorded anywhere.

"I've handled thousands of carpsuckers of all three species found in Wisconsin and various hybrid combinations from all over the state and elsewhere, and I've never seen one more than about 8-9 pounds. Becker lists the largest carpsucker he was aware of from Wisconsin, a river carpsucker, at just over 10 pounds. Other literature sources from other states list the maximum size of carpsuckers in the range of 9-12 pounds; the angling record is a 12-pound quillback, the largest carpsucker I can find in the literature. So this fish, at 18.17 pounds, shatters all records."

Babcock hasn't decided whether he will have the fish mounted or have a replica made. In the meantime, he's back out there bowfishing.

"I have always enjoyed being outside and observing other things in nature as I hunt or fish. No two days are the same. Seeing things like an eagle stealing a fish from a pelican, an osprey diving into the water and catching a fish, muskies swimming around where I shoot, or having an otter get in the boat and eat a carp while I was away shooting in the canoe," he says. "I also enjoy the hunting experience without the hassle of owning land. I enjoy the peace and quiet and escape from every day work related stress."

Advice for new bowfishers

His advice for novice bowfishers is to invest in a bottle reel and good arrows.

"They will get frustrated with losing fish and poor shot accuracy with inferior equipment. Also, don't worry about getting a fancy bow. Any used bow with a lower draw weight (45 pounds or less) will work. You will hopefully be shooting a lot of times and often must shoot quickly, so a bow that is easy to pull back works better."

One more thing, he says, "Make sure you have arrows equipped with 'slides' to prevent dangerous line tangles on the bowstring when you shoot. Never tie the line directly to the arrow. I used to do that and almost lost an eye when a loop formed on my bowstring and the arrow snapped back, missing my eye by about an inch. I've used slides ever since."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Lyons - (608) 221-6328



Give the gift of fishing this Father's Day

Printable certificate for a future fishing trip with Dad

MADISON - Children looking for that perfect gift for a father or grandfather this Father's Day can forget the tie and give a present their dad or granddad will really love - a gift certificate to go together on a fishing trip.

Kids of all ages can download the gift certificate from the Department of Natural Resources EEK! - Environmental Education for Kids! website, print and fill it out, and give it to their fathers to cash in later.

"We hope the gift certificate can help solve that age-old dilemma of what to give Dad," says Karl Scheidegger, Department of Natural Resources fisheries outreach leader. "Fishing is a simple, inexpensive way of getting back to what matters most - family. It's an opportunity to build memories that will last a lifetime."

Fisheries teamed up with EEK!, the DNR's Web site designed for children in grades 4-8, to offer the gift certificates. EEK! provides information about plants, animals, and the environment and receives more than 100,000 visitors a month.

"Kids and fishing naturally go together, so we thought this was a perfect opportunity to encourage kids to take someone important in their lives outside for a day of fishing and fun," says Carrie Morgan, EEK! editor.

"Have a great time, and remember to take a camera and send us a picture, and a big fish story," she says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger (608) 267-9426; Carrie Morgan (608) 267-5239



Updated fish consumption advice available

MADISON - Fish consumption advice has been updated for 2010 and the few minor changes made are reflected in "Choose Wisely: A Health Guide for Eating Fish in Wisconsin [PUB-FH-824, PDF 1.25MB]," now available online and at Department of Natural Resources service centers, state fish contaminant officials say.

DNR and the Department of Health Services jointly issue the advice to help anglers and their families enjoy eating fish they catch from Wisconsin waters or purchase, while reducing their exposure to environmental contaminants.

"Everybody who eats fish, whether they're eating what they caught or what they bought at a store or restaurant, should review the updated advice and follow it to reduce their exposure to contaminants like mercury and PCBs," says Candy Schrank, the toxicologist who coordinates the fish consumption advisory for the Department of Natural Resources.

People who frequently eat fish should choose fish species and sizes with the lowest levels of contaminants. Panfish and younger, smaller fish are best; older, larger predator and fatty fish accumulate the highest levels of contaminants.

"Fish are an inexpensive, low-fat source of protein that offer many other health benefits," says Dr. Henry Anderson. "People should put their fish consumption habits in context with the advice found in 'Choose Wisely.' Most will find they do not have to change their current fish-eating habits."

Because fish from most waters contain mercury, statewide safe-eating guidelines provide the same advice for most inland waters, but there are special exceptions for 102 lakes where higher levels of mercury have been found in fish, and for 49 river reaches where higher levels of PCBs and other chemicals have been found.

To update the advisory for 2010, DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission collected new mercury data from 58 sites and new data for PCBs and other chemicals for 31 locations, Schrank says.

These include the following lakes: Spider Lake in Iron County; Bass-Long Lake in Lincoln County; Three Lakes Chain in Oneida County; White Tail Flowage in Jackson County; and lakes Superior and Michigan. The Fox River between Little Lake Buttes des Morts and the De Pere Dam, the Milwaukee River from Grafton to Estabrook and the Estabrook Dam to the estuary on that river, and Pool 4 of the Mississippi River also have special advisories.

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60,000 children born each year in the United States may be at risk of neurological and learning problems because their mothers eat large amounts of mercury-contaminated fish and seafood during their pregnancy.

Studies have also found that infants and children of women who frequently ate fish contaminated with PCBs may have lower birth weights and be delayed in physical development and learning. PCBs in adults may affect reproductive function and the immune system, and are associated with cancer risk.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Candy Schrank (608) 267-7614; Dr. Henry Anderson, DHS (608) 266-1253


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 08, 2010

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