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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 13, 2010

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First sturgeon stocked from renovated Wild Rose Hatchery

Four waters stocked to open new era in restoration

WILD ROSE - Wisconsin's efforts to restore lake sturgeon to inland waters took a leap forward last week as the renovated Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery sent its first sturgeon out the door to new homes in four Wisconsin waters.

On July 7, DNR fisheries crews stocked more than 6,100 tiny sturgeon in the Baraboo River in Baraboo, returning the prehistoric species to that water for the first time since the 1800s, when dams built on the river, along with overfishing and water pollution, helped doom their populations. An audio slide show recording this historic return is available on the Department of Natural Resources website.

On July 9, another 7,400 sturgeon, spawned from fish from the Yellow River in northwest Wisconsin and raised at Wild Rose, were returned to that river, to the Clam River Flowage in Burnett County, and to Minong Flowage in Douglas County.

"This is really good news," says Ron Bruch, DNR senior sturgeon biologist and co-leader of the agency's statewide sturgeon team. "We have the Wild Rose facility online and staff have shown they can produce the quality and quantity of lake sturgeon we need to really look well into the future for our population restoration needs."

The second phase of renovating Wild Rose State Hatchery is about complete, giving anglers and the Wisconsin's fisheries program state-of-the-art facilities for raising cool-water fish including lake sturgeon, northern pike, walleye and musky.

Now, the sturgeon can be raised entirely inside tanks in a climate controlled building where water temperatures, dissolved oxygen, food and others aspects are carefully monitored by staff and by computers.

"It's like going from the stone age to the space age," Bruch says. "Before, we had little tanks outside, and little ability to control water temperatures and other factors. It was terrible. Those guys did a really good job considering what they had to work with, but this renovated facility really is state of the art and we expect it will let us stock more waters with more fish."

The renovated hatchery and the staff who run it are already having an impact. Sturgeon weren't scheduled to be stocked out of the facility until this fall, but so many sturgeon hatched and survived that some needed to be removed from the tanks to allow the remaining fish more room to grow, says Steve Fajfer, hatchery supervisor.

"The staff have done a fantastic job learning a whole new system and producing more fish, bigger fish and healthier fish," Fajfer says.

About 60,000 lake sturgeon remain at the hatchery and will be raised to the more normal sizes for stocking, about 6 to 9 inches for fingerlings, and 10 to 14 inches for yearlings. The fingerlings will be planted this fall, and the yearlings next spring, Fajfer says.

Waters planned for stocking from Wild Rose are the Menominee River in Marinette County, the Wisconsin River in Marathon County, the Wisconsin River flowage at Stevens Point in Portage County, Upper St. Croix Lake, Eau Claire River, and St. Croix Flowage, all in Douglas County, and the Namekagon River and Trego Lake, both in Washburn County.

Other waters being stocked with sturgeon in 2010-2011 include the Milwaukee and Kewaunee rivers, which will receive fish raised at streamside rearing facilities along those waters, and the Fox River in Marquette County from the UW-Milwaukee Water Institute, and the Manitowish River, which will receive fish from DNR's Woodruff Hatchery.

Lake sturgeon are living fossils, relics from the Upper Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, and they rank as Wisconsin's largest and oldest fish, confirmed again this winter when an Appleton man speared a 212-pound, 3.2 ounce lake sturgeon that stretched 84.25 inches on opening day of the 2010 Lake Winnebago lake sturgeon spearing seasons.

Historically, lake sturgeon were found throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin. They flourished in Wisconsin's boundary waters including the Mississippi, Wisconsin and Menomonee rivers, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Dams, pollution, habitat degradation and overharvest dramatically reduced lake sturgeon populations in some Wisconsin waters over the past 100 years, and eliminated them entirely from other stretches of water. Because female fish don't reproduce until they are 20 to 25, and then spawn only once every three to five years, lake sturgeon populations are very vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to rebuild.

"Wisconsin's Lake Sturgeon Management Plan" (pdf) calls for restoring lake sturgeon to many waters in its historic range. DNR will be updating the plan this year and seeking input from people outside the agency interested in sturgeon management. Wild Rose Fish Hatchery will play a key role in that plan, along with protective regulations, research, dedicated funding for sturgeon restoration, and other factors, says Karl Scheidegger, a DNR rivers biologist and co-leader to the state sturgeon team.

"The new Wild Rose cool water propagation facility will give the fisheries program the ability to restore multiple sturgeon populations for many years to come," Scheidegger says. "And that, we hope, means that down the road more people will be able to experience these remarkable fish."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Fajfer about Wild Rose (920) 622-3527; Karl Scheidegger about statewide sturgeon restoration (608) 267-9426



Turtle season opens July 15

MADISON - Turtle season opens statewide July 15 and runs through Nov. 30. The open season does not include those species that are listed as endangered or threatened. The ornate box turtle, Blanding's turtle and the wood turtle are protected and may not be taken at any time.

Anyone who collects or possess native Wisconsin unprotected aquatic turtles must have one of the following licenses: Fishing, Small Game, Sports, Conservation Patron, Setline, or Set or Bank Pole. See the turtle Wisconsin Amphibian and Reptile Regulations (pdf) pamphlet for more information.

There are also reports in the northern part of the state that turtles are nesting later than the usual May-June period, and motorists are urged to be on the alert for turtles crossing roads and highways.

When turtles are nesting they begin the journey from their aquatic habitat near lakes, wetlands and streams to drier habitats where the female will deposit her eggs.

Although most turtles will stop moving when they feel or see an approaching vehicle, motorists are encouraged to do the following during nesting season:

Turtles are up against tough odds even without highway mortality. Three of Wisconsin turtle species are listed as either threatened or endangered species. As few as 5 percent of eggs laid survive to hatch and of those, only very few may survive to reproductive age. Natural predators of turtles and turtle eggs are many and include raccoons, skunks, fox, opossums, herons, egrets, seagulls, cranes, crows and others.

For more information on turtles in Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin reptiles page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rori Paloski at (608) 264-6040



Hunters and chefs: More alike than you may think

Skills shown in Learn-to-Hunt classes good life lessons

MADISON - The skill set found in successful hunters is not limited to the duck blind or tree stand, but also can be witnessed in some of the greatest chefs, professional musicians and prize-winning photographers.

At the foundation of all these activities are things such as dedication, persistence, patience, knowledge and physical skills. Music, for example, long has been referred to as one of life's great disciplines. It takes development of many skills to accomplish with any degree of success. Hunting is the same.

Hunting is one of life's great disciplines. I am a better cook, better photographer, better camper, better hiker, knowledgeable about orienteering, better conservationist and simply a very happy person because I hunt. Hunting gives me the desire to learn more about our natural world. It creates opportunities where I can share time with family and friends...or be alone. It's also one way I have of being and feeling self sufficient.

Success at hunting first stems from taking the time to learn: knowledge of the animal being hunted, their life cycle, habitat, mating ritual, behaviors and anatomy. This includes the knowledge of the equipment being used to pursue the animals, and the skills necessary to perform safely and responsibly. And being prepared - preparing a plan and following it.

And two ways to learn these life skills are at a Learn to Hunt class or Hunter Safety Education class.

Safety education classes can fill up fast, so it's best to check online for a course well before the season you wish to hunt. To find a course, check the Safety Education Courses page of the DNR Website and click on the "upcoming courses" button.

For the novice hunter -- that's anyone between ages 10 and 100-plus with two or less years of hunting -- consider the popular Learn to Hunt program. This program couples the novice hunter with mentors.

Applications for participation are available on the Department of Natural Resources website at For questions, please contact the Learn to Hunt Coordinator, (608) 444-1244 or e-mail questions to:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lawhern (608) 266-1317



Register now for fall hunter education course

MADISON - Wisconsin hunters planning for the late-year seasons should register now for required hunter education certificate courses to avoid being sidelined this fall.

"Nearly all of the volunteer hunter education instructors are hunters themselves and enjoy hunting in the fall," says Conservation Warden Tim Lawhern, who also serves as the state's hunting education administrator. "The hunter education program offers about 1,200 courses every year, but very few of them are offered from October through December."

Every year Lawhern fields calls two weeks before the gun-deer season with hunter-hopefuls looking to fulfill the mandatory hunter education course. "More than 99 percent of our courses have already been offered by that time," he says.

Anyone born on or after Jan.1, 1973, must have completed a hunter education course and show the certificate to purchase any hunting license in Wisconsin. Also, recreational safety students are required to obtain a Wisconsin DNR Customer ID Number before the completion of any recreational safety class and must provide that Customer ID Number to the instructor.

To find a course, visit the Department of Natural Resources Web site. Look under the heading of Recreational Safety Course - Upcoming Classes. If unsuccessful, check back as courses are added to the listing as instructors alert the DNR.

"In Wisconsin, we've reduced hunting accidents by 90 percent since the hunter education program began," Lawhern says. "Hunting is safe -- and getting safer -- because of the volunteer instructors who teach hunter education and the number of our hunters who have now graduated from our courses. Sign up now while courses are being offered in your area.

"Remember, safe hunting is no accident," he says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lawhern (608) 266-1317


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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