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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published March 1, 2011

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Deer Management Unit information forums to be held around state

MADISON - A series of deer management public information forums are scheduled across the state in March. These forums are for anyone interested in deer and the most up to date deer management unit information.

Topics will include 2010 harvest summaries and recommendations for 2011 season frameworks, increasing hunter survey participation and new deer research progress. Local wildlife biologists will be on hand at each meeting to provide information on local deer management units and answer questions.

The meetings are intended to share information with the public about Wisconsin deer management and how it is applied in the local areas where they live, hunt or farm.

The local wildlife biologist will provide a brief presentation followed by a question and answer period. Some meetings may also have an open house format, allowing attendees to stop in anytime during the scheduled time.

People are encouraged to attend the meetings that cover the deer management units they are interested in (see the list of deer management unit meetings in the DNR Hearing and Meeting Calendar), but are welcome to attend any of the meetings. People who are unable to attend any of the forums also have an opportunity to discuss the units with DNR wildlife staff at the Wisconsin Sport Show in Eau Claire, the Deer and Turkey Expo in Madison, the Wisconsin Deer Classic and Hunting Expo in Green Bay, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show in West Allis.

Additional information about is available on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Hirchert, Madison (608) 264-6023, Bob Manwell (608) 264-9248 or area wildlife biologists listed for the meeting locations in the meeting calendar.



Dozens of trout meetings set for March, April

Sessions seek feedback from trout anglers

MADISON -- Trout anglers can attend one of more than 30 meetings across the state in late March and early April to give feedback on inland trout fishing now and express their hopes for the future.

Help shape inland trout fishing for the future at more than 30 meetings statewide in March and April.
Len Harris Photo

The public meetings, part of Wisconsin's review of inland trout fishing, come as recent studies are showing increased brook and brown trout populations, more trout streams, and changes in angler attitudes and habits.

"As secretary I hope all people will take full advantage of this opportunity to help the department better manage this critical resource," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "I am very interested in seeking your ideas on DNR program improvements that matter to the citizens of Wisconsin. We can't do this without your help."

Twenty years ago when the Department of Natural Resources switched to its current category system of regulation, fisheries officials said the department would review the trout regulations every 5 to 10 years. Those were internal reviews, and they led to some changes, like eliminating one of the original five categories of regulation established in 1990.

"Trout fishing in Wisconsin has changed a lot in recent times and we want to hear from anglers if they've changed their trout fishing habits, preferences and hopes for the future," says Scot Stewart, the southern Wisconsin fisheries supervisor who is helping lead the effort.

"This time around, our trout team was putting together some ideas for possible changes for our 2010 review when we decided we needed to take a step back," says Marty Engel, a veteran fisheries biologist for Dunn, Pepin, Pierce and St. Croix counties.

"We realize that the trout world has changed significantly since we moved to the category system and last asked anglers what they wanted from their trout fishery," he says. "We think it's crucial to understand more about those changes before we go any further with our review."

Participants at the meetings will have a chance to tell DNR fish biologists what they like about trout fishing now, and what they think could be improved. Participants will also be asked to fill out a survey to give more specific feedback on everything from where and how often they fish, how often do they harvest fish, and what size, and what streams they consider good.

DNR biologists also will present information about a recent statewide analysis of trout populations, and other important trends.

Feedback and survey answers will be used to help fine tune a statewide mail survey of randomly selected trout anglers scheduled for fall.

"Our trout team also will be reviewing the feedback, along with the mail survey results, as part of Wisconsin's trout review. We'll bring the results back out to you next year at this time, and then ask you to help us set management goals."

The survey given at the meeting also will be available for anglers to take online. The interactive survey will start early this month and run through the end of the early trout season.

The good news, Engel says, is Wisconsin is starting from a very strong foundation. DNR staff past and present, conservation club members, and individual anglers have worked hard to improve fishing in Wisconsin. "We want your help to make it even better."

A full listing of meetings and other information are found on the DNR's Trout Fishing Review web pages. Anglers can sign up to receive e-mail notices or mobile alerts when new information is added to this page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Marty Engel (715) 684-2914 ext. 110; Scot Stewart (608) 273-5967



2011 Winnebago System spearing season

OSHKOSH -- A record number of fish weighing more than 100 pounds, a full 16-day season, and difficult travel conditions were the stories during the 2011 Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season that wrapped up Feb. 27.

Spearers harvested 1,426 fish, close to the average of 1,405 since the harvest cap started in 1999, but the fish were bigger than they've been since the 1950s.

"This year, 6.6 percent of the fish harvested were over 100 pounds, compared to less than 1 percent 20 years ago," says Ron Bruch, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh.

Bruch says the big fish -- 94 in all -- are reflective of a shift in the population to include more older and larger fish. "It appears that the strategies we began putting in place in the early 1990s to increase the number of older females in the population are working -- and the male sturgeon are benefitting from this as well," he says.

DNR and the Lake Winnebago Citizen Sturgeon Advisory Committee recommended a series of changes in the 1990s -- 22 in all -- to ease harvest pressure on vulnerable adult female fish and stabilize the fishery. Female lake sturgeon, which can live more than 100 years, don't start spawning until they are 20 to 34 years old, and then spawn only once every three to five years.

Those measures appear to have done their job well. Their implementation began to have an impact on the sturgeon harvest just as the size and age structure of the Winnebago sturgeon population was coming back from excessive legal and illegal overharvest during the 1930s to 1950s, Bruch says.

A third factor was at work as well: a big forage base. "Sturgeon weight can go up and down like a yo-yo," Bruch says. "In the mid-2000s, poor food resources kept weight down. Now food resources are abundant, and the fish ballooned up. Abundant gizzard shad populations are floating this whole thing."

Full 16-day season the fourth to run that long

While the Upriver Lakes season closed Feb. 24, the Lake Winnebago season ran the full 16 days allowed by law, the fourth time since the harvest cap system was put in place.

The length of the season helped push up the harvest after an opening weekend when spearers were slowed by travel problems. Heavy snow and drifting before opening day made moving around on the lake difficult for the record 12,423 people who had purchased spearing licenses. Warm weather, snow melt, and deteriorating travel conditions on the ice the first week of season forced a majority of spearers to pull their shacks off the lakes, dropping the shanty count by the second Saturday of the season 59 percent on Lake Winnebago and 81 percent on the Upriver Lakes

"A lot of spearers got off the lake and never got back, so for some of them, it may have been a disappointing season," Bruch says. "But for the diehards and the people who were able to get back out there -- these people are saying it was a fantastic season."

The overall success rate was 9 percent for Lake Winnebago, below the average of 13 percent for that waterbody. Success rate on the Upriver Lakes was better, as it usually is, at 66 percent.

"With the travel problems, the success rate wasn't what it's been in past years, but even so I think there are a lot of happy people, and the source of that happiness is not only knowing they can go sturgeon spearing and have the fun they do with their families and spearing buddies, but because the program we have here was built with the public," Bruch says. "They own this. This is something they take great pride in."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch, fisheries supervisor, (920) 424-3059; Kendall Kamke, Winnebago fisheries biologist (920) 424-7880



Deer captures to continue through March

MADISON - Wisconsin deer researchers have succeeded in capturing a total of 187 deer in two study areas as part of a multi-year effort designed to answer concerns hunters have voiced over population estimates that in part determine deer hunting season structure. Capture efforts are expected to continue through March 2011.

Spread across two study areas, one centered around Sawyer County representing a northern forest habitat, and one centered in Shawano County representing a farmland-forest habitat, the studies will take the closest look yet at the actual percentage of deer dying at the hands of hunters compared to all other causes of death from vehicle collisions to disease, to weather and importantly, to predators. Reproductive rates and causes of death in fawns are also being explored.

"The outpouring of offers to help and assist with providing access to land and deer trapping activities from hunters, landowners and conservation groups has been phenomenal," said DNR research scientist, Chris Jacques. "Without their help it would be very difficult to pull this off and with that help, we can make this a better study that will accomplish more in answering their questions and addressing their concerns"

Captured deer have been fitted with radio collars and ear tags so that researchers can follow them to determine cause of death. New born fawns will also be located and collared for the same purpose. One important question hunters and researchers are trying to learn more about is the percentage of deer, both adult and fawns that are lost to predators such as black bear, bobcat, coyote and wolf.

Two primary methods have been used to date for capturing deer. Ground traps, which are either wooden boxes or netted frames, both with trap doors, and recent efforts to capture deer using nets shot from a low flying helicopter.

Like any statistical survey, as the size of the sample increases (the number of deer captured in this example) the more confident researchers can be that what they observe in the sample accurately represents the population as a whole.

"Capturing as many deer as possible at the start of this project is important," said Jacques, and helicopters have proven to be the most efficient way to capture large numbers of deer in a short amount of time."

Due to on-going mechanical problems, the company contracted for the helicopter work has suspended operations for the remainder of this capture season and returned to their base in Utah. The contractor did not have a replacement helicopter available to pick up the work.

Capturing wildlife by helicopter is a proven wildlife management technique used by biologists around the world. This is the first time is has been used in Wisconsin and it turns out, Wisconsin's varied landscape adds some difficulty to the process.

Capturing wild deer can result in unintended mortality. Every animal captured represents an investment in the project in time, effort and expense so researchers take every possible precaution to keep mortality as low as possible. In the case of helicopter capture, keeping pursuit times and transport distances short and limiting handling time from the moment the net drops till the animal is released are important to survival.

Usually, less than 5 percent of captured animals die. Death can be due to physical injury such as broken bones or to capture myopathy, a disease resulting from capture-related stress. Mortality rates currently are running at 7.3 percent (9 mortalities in 123 captures) at the Shawano County study site and 4.5 percent (8 mortalities in 179 captures) at the Sawyer County site.

Eight of the 17 mortalities to date have been related to helicopter capture. Necropsies will be performed on the eight to determine cause of death.

"We try very hard to handle deer carefully to minimize stress, but there is really no other way to answer the questions hunters are asking about our population estimating process that doesn't involve capturing and marking these deer and then following them to determine how they die," said Jacques. "Our research partners the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Whitetails Unlimited, Safari Club International, UW-Madison, UW-Stevens Point are aware of this and we are all working to keep research losses as low as possible.

"We will continue ground trapping efforts through the end of March and at that time we'll review all our notes and data related to both ground and helicopter trapping efforts to increase our deer trapping efficiency and reduce mortalities in future years," said Jacques.

More inforamation on deer research studies is available on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher Jacques (608) 575-3874



Volunteers needed for bear population study

MADISON -- Are you knowledgeable about the outdoors? If so, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources needs your help with an upcoming bear population study.

It's easy, fun - and purposeful.

Participants will help DNR scientists update the state black bear population estimate. Last completed in 2006 by the DNR with help from the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study is used to sustainably manage the bear population.

Here is how to get involved -- and what you'll be asked to do as part of this important study:

The baits are loaded with food containing the antibiotic tetracycline. Tetracycline leaves a mark on bone tissue. During the bear hunting season, hunters will be asked to provide a rib sample which will show if the bear ate the tetracycline. DNR scientists will use information on the number of baits eaten by bears, bears harvested and harvested bears marked tetracycline to estimate the population.

The 2006 study showed the bear population was much larger than other studies had suggested. In an effort to keep current on bear population trends, the DNR's bear management plan calls for repeating this population study every five years. The final results of this upcoming study will be available in 2013.

The DNR sends an early thanks to the Wis. Bear Hunters Association whose members already have volunteered to set and to check baits as part of this spring's study. They also will build about 4,000 bait boxes and help find baiting material. Their participation was critical to the success of the 2006 research, and the DNR looks forward to working with the group and - and the new volunteers -- again this year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave MacFarland - 715-365-8917



Public hearings set for commercial fishing trap net changes

MADISON - Proposed changes to rules governing when and where commercial fishers can set trap nets in southern Lake Michigan, and how such nets should be marked in that water as well as in Lake Superior, are the topic of public hearings in mid-March in Sheboygan and Bayfield.

The proposed changes respond to two related citizen petitions filed last summer after the fishing gear of a recreational fishing boat became entangled in a commercial trap net marker buoy line in Lake Michigan near Sheboygan, says Mike Staggs, fisheries director for the Department of Natural Resources.

The boat capsized and one of the fishermen subsequently died of a heart attack. This incident raised awareness of a long-standing controversy regarding where and when commercial trap nets should be allowed in southern Lake Michigan.

Currently commercial trap nets are prohibited from June 29 through Labor Day, except in two designated areas.

To address the petitions, the rules would:

The proposed rules and fiscal estimates may be reviewed and comments electronically submitted through the Wisconsin Administrative Rules website or may be obtained from Bill Horns, DNR Fisheries Management, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921or email: [].

Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted via email or U.S. mail to William Horns at the above address. For more information contact Bill Horns at (608) 266-8782.

The hearings will be held:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Horns (608) 266-8782; Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 01, 2011

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