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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 15, 2012

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New online system aims to reduce permit wait while better protecting environment

MADISON - Applicants for some state water-related permits can now use a new online system that state water protection officials say will cut paperwork and deliver quicker, more consistent permit decisions and provide better information to the public about proposed projects.

People can access and register for the online system by searching for "water permit" on the Department of Natural Resources website.

"We see this new system as a win-win for everybody," says Pam Biersach, who leads the Bureau of Watershed Management. "We think it will allow for quicker and better decisions on permit applications, reduce workload for our staff and ensure projects get a more consistent and comprehensive review to better protect our lakes, rivers and wetlands. It will also be much more transparent for the public, who will be able to follow an application online."

The online permit system has a number of different parts that are being phased in over the next year. Right now, applicants will find 72 of the nearly 100 water-related permit applications on the same web page for the first time, and applicants for three of the most popular permit types can now fill out their applications online, pay any fees online, and track the progress of their application online.

Three or four more water permits will be added every quarter until all of water-related program permit applications can be handled online, Biersach says.

The three permit types available for online processing at this time are individual permits for wetland and waterway projects; permit applications for wastewater pit trench de-watering, and permit applications for aquatic plant management on private ponds. Last year, DNR received applications for more than 2,000 individual permits for wetland and waterway projects alone. More complicated projects require individually tailored permits instead of the "general permits" that prescribe general standards avoid harming the environment with lower risk projects.

Biersach says the online permit system will enable applicants to not only fill out and pay their permits online, it also will allow the information to be shared with external customers and partners while giving the applicant round-the-clock access to track where the application is in the process.

For proposed projects where law requires that neighbors and others be notified of the proposal, email notifications will automatically be sent to people who sign up for such notifications through a subscription service called GovDelivery. Public notices will still continue to be published in the legal sections of state newspapers.

That automation will decrease workload for DNR staff, as will the online tracking system, which should reduce how long staff spends on the phone updating applicants on their permit status.

"We see a significant savings to DNR staff in time, paper supplies and mailing costs, and think the result will be that staff can focus on high priority work such as reviewing individual permits, which involve more complicated projects with potential for environmental impacts, and inspecting sites afterward to make sure applicants did what they said they'd do to protect lakes and rivers and wetlands," Biersach said.

Margie Damgaard, the project leader, says the online system has a check-off to assure applicants turn in the necessary pieces information for a complete submittal, something that hasn't always happened in the past and that has significantly slowed permit review times.

Damgaard says the online system also has programmed in "checks and balances" so that all review steps must be completed before the permit decision is issued. That check will assure that the appropriate staff with information regarding a permit application and its potential impact will be able to provide input, whether that involves pulling in a fisheries or wildlife biologist in addition to the regulatory staff who normally review the permit applications.

This new system will provide better overall protection of natural resources where projects are proposed, will provide more consistent decisions across DNR regions and water-related programs, and will help eliminate duplication of effort by staff.

"We've very excited to have this first phase of the permitting system come online and look forward to working with our staff, partners, and applicants to make sure it works well for everybody."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pam Biersach, - 608-261-8447; Margie Damgaard - 608-266-0738; or Lisa Gaumnitz, DNR Office of Communications - 608-264-8942

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Northern zone musky season opens May 26

Recovered from spawning, fish "ready to chase just about anything"

HAYWARD - The northern zone musky season opens May 26 and anglers are likely to find good prospects for catching the official state fish, now that water temperatures are finally climbing and making the fish more active, state fisheries biologists say.

49-inch musky
Big fish are waiting: DNR fish crews in northern Wisconsin captured this 49 inch, 36-pound musky during spring 2012 musky surveys.
WDNR Photo

"The start of the 2012 northern musky fishing season should be timed perfectly with an increase in fish activity now that water temperatures have warmed into the mid- to upper 60s throughout most of northern Wisconsin," says Dave Neuswanger, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor based in Hayward.

"Most muskellunge completed their annual spawning ritual weeks ago during an early warming period, so they have long since recovered and will be ready to chase just about anything that moves!"

Neuswanger says that jerk baits and even spinners with bucktails should provide good action. "Anglers will find healthy musky populations in traditional waters, but do not overlook some of the smaller, out-of-the-way lakes and streams that often have surprising numbers of fish between 36 and 44 inches long," he says.

Fish in these waters tend to be more na´ve than those in heavily pressured lakes, so they are more likely to be encountered and caught. Multiple-fish days on some of the less-pressured lakes and streams are not uncommon. "Also, this is the time of year when anglers targeting bass with spinner baits are subject to surprise attack by muskies, so using a wire leader and keeping some hook-out tools and gloves in the boat are good ideas," Neuswanger says.

Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor based in Woodruff, reports that musky in his area spawned at least two weeks ahead of "normal," with the peak right around mid-April.

"Water temperatures have been steady and cold for several weeks now, but they are finally beginning to moderate a bit, a trend that should continue through the musky opener. That will make the musky active. Look for them near newly emerged weeds with deeper water nearby -- the transition from weeds to deep water on the edges of bays are key spots."

Weedy open flats that are 5 to 9 feet deep also make for nice "drifts" while casting, Vogelsang says. "Early in the season anglers may also want to scale down the size of their baits a bit -- it's not always necessary to throw those big tandem bucktails or 12-inch jerk baits. For the first couple weeks of musky fishing, smaller bucktails and 6-inch twitch baits can work equally well if not better.

Terry Margenau, fisheries supervisor stationed in Spooner, says that now is an exciting time to be a musky angler in Wisconsin. "Twenty-five years ago our musky populations were growing in numbers but many fish were mid-sized, or 32-36 inches long. However, with the continued practice of live release by sport anglers and more restrictive regulations, there has been a shift toward more larger fish -- what the musky angler wants."

That growing catch-and-release ethic has made a big difference that anglers this year will enjoy, he says. "Over the past several years our crews are seeing more and more 30-plus pound fish in our nets, not to mention that occasional 40 pounder and larger. Some of our populations in the north have more than 50 percent of the adult musky population over 40 inches.

"This is an exciting time to be a musky angler in Wisconsin -- expect some big things with a little hard work in 2012!"

Wisconsin Muskellunge Waters book updated

Anglers can rely on the new version of an old "friend" -- the 2012 version of the Wisconsin Muskellunge Waters book [PDF] -- to help lead them to the waters offering the potential to catch a monster musky or the prospect of lots of action.

The 35-page booklet is available online and can be downloaded and printed off. Hard copy versions are available by contacting a local DNR service center and asking for a copy of publication FH 515 (2012).

The printing of the booklet was paid for by the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, along with its individual member clubs. Funding was also provided by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration program.

Tim Simonson, the DNR fish biologist who chairs DNR's musky committee and edited the book, says the update is the first since 1996. Some smaller, minor lakes have been taken off the list of musky waters as well as some lakes that had been stocked in the past but hadn't produced fisheries.

The book also updates the status of waters as far as whether they are Class A, the premier musky waters providing the best musky fishing, Class B, waters that provide good fishing, or Class C, waters with musky present but not of major importance to the overall fishery.

About 47 percent of the 667 classified musky lakes in Wisconsin are Class A Waters and 29 of the 100 classified river segments are Class A.

"By all measures, musky fishing has continued to improve," Simonson says. "The percentage of large fish -- over 45 inches continues to increase in our sampling surveys."

Season regulations

A new 40-inch size limit is in effect statewide and applies to 94 percent of musky waters in Wisconsin, Simonson says. There are 41 waters that continue to have either lower size limits or higher size limits. Waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan north of Highway 10 carry a 50-inch minimum size limit. The daily bag limit for muskellunge is 1 on all waters statewide, except Yellowstone Lake, Lafayette County (daily bag limit is 0), and Escanaba Lake, Vilas County (no daily bag limit).

The Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations lists the wrong size limit for musky on those waters. Otherwise, consult the guide for information about specific waters or check DNR's new online regulation database to find size limits on the inland lake you plan to fish for musky.

Simonson says the new size limit, increased from 34 inches last year, will allow musky populations to better reach their full biological growth potential. "Angler harvest is low, but even low harvest of the larger fish still impacts the average size of fish in a musky population," he says.

The growth potential of muskellunge easily exceeds 40 inches on the vast majority of muskellunge waters in the state, except in a few, high density, slow-growing populations typically found in smaller lakes, Simonson says.

Creel surveys indicate that the length of muskellunge harvested over the last few years have averaged 38.7 inches, with 62 percent of harvested fish less than 40 inches. The new 40-inch size limit will reduce musky harvest by up to 60 percent statewide every year, which is expected to continue to improve the size-structure of populations, Simonson says.

A recent evaluation of the 40-inch minimum length limit on 24 lakes in Wisconsin over a 15-year period showed a significant increase in fish 34 inches and larger, as well as a significant increase in the percentage of fish 40 inches and larger, compared to lakes that had remained under the 34-inch minimum length limit in place statewide until this year, he says.

Down the road, the increased size limit also will help better meet the expectations of musky anglers in Wisconsin in terms of the size-structure of populations. State mail surveys of anglers indicate that most anglers consider a trophy musky to be 50 inches or greater. Among avid musky anglers, the proportion considering 50 or greater a trophy has increased from 44 percent in 1989, to 62 percent in 1999, and to 77 percent in 2011, Simonson says.

More information on musky can be found by searching for "musky fishing" on the DNR website.

Musky fast facts

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Simonson (608) 266-5222; Dave Neuswanger (715) 634-9658 x3521; Mike Vogelsang 715-356-5211

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Study of state hatcheries' capabilities released

10-year plan to address water supply, building, production issues

MADISON - Wisconsin's hatchery system is in need of upgrading and modernizing to meet current demand, according to a comprehensive study of Wisconsin's hatchery system by the nation's leading hatchery consultant.

Doing nothing, according to the study, will result in a reduction of fish stocking statewide and will affect businesses benefitting from the $2.75 billion in economic impact that fishing generates in Wisconsin, the 30,000 jobs it supports, and the $196 million in local and state tax revenues it provides, the consultant, HDR Engineering Inc. of Springfield, Ill., told state Natural Resources Board members during an April 25 presentation to the board.

Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Director Mike Staggs said the study was the most extensive statewide evaluation Wisconsin's ever done of its hatchery system and it highlights some very significant infrastructure, water quality and production issues.

"The challenge is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done," Staggs says. "The good news is the study gives us a vision and a plan to systematically address those issues."

The consultants concluded that major renovations are needed at all but one of the 17 facilities. The Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery, a century old hatchery that was renovated starting in 2006 and had new cool-water and cold-water facilities built, is the only hatchery that didn't need upgrades.

Although the consultants also called for construction of three new production facilities to meet stocking goals through 2019, DNR will maintain focus on carrying out a 10-year-plan to address the most critical needs at existing fisheries, Staggs says.

DNR to focus on 10-year plan to address most critical needs at existing facilities

Staggs and Al Kaas, head of DNR's fish culture program, are meeting with fishing groups to discuss the study results, gauge support for moving ahead with the 10-year-plan.

"Making these investments will allow our hatchery system to continue to stock hundreds of Wisconsin waters," Kaas says. "They also will bring the facilities up to state building codes and environmental standards and will address the water supply and production issues that have been hampering production in recent years."

The top item to address is the hatcheries' water supply issues, with the first step to conduct groundwater and surface water studies to assess the availability of groundwater. Such studies need to look at the flow, quality, and impact on neighboring uses of new or increased pumping to supply groundwater to hatcheries.

"Groundwater is the most secure and controllable water supply, which is exactly what fish hatcheries need to minimize problems and maximize production," Staggs says.

The consultant recommended that wherever possible DNR use groundwater in its hatcheries instead of lake or river water because groundwater is not exposed to the potential threat of viral hemorrhagic septicemia and other viruses and disease that may potentially be found in fish swimming in lakes or rivers, or in those surface waters themselves.

At the same time, some hatcheries where DNR has long used groundwater, or has moved more recently to groundwater since VHS fish disease was discovered in Wisconsin, are facing potential water quantity issues that make it difficult to properly operate them. In many cases, the hatcheries were originally built with more raceways and ponds than the available water supply could sustainably support. In other cases, during recent droughts, some hatcheries, like Kettle Moraine Springs Hatchery in Sheboygan County, have had trouble with water shortages, which affect the number and health of fish produced.

Other components of the 10-year plan seek to:

More information about the 10 year plan, the executive summary of the consultants' report, a factsheet and more information about DNR's hatchery system can be found online. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search for "hatchery study."

The vast majority of Wisconsin waters produce fish naturally, but stocking provides fishing opportunities in hundreds of lakes and rivers where there is no or little natural reproduction and, perhaps most importantly, Lake Michigan, where chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout do not reproduce naturally.

DNR also stocks in waters to supplement low natural reproduction, hoping to build the population into a self-sustaining one. Other stocking priorities include stocking where there have been fish kills, stocking urban fishing ponds to provide fishing opportunities for kids, and stocking for research purposes. Last year, DNR raised and stocked more than 7.6 million fingerling sized or larger fish.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs - 608) 267-0796; Al Kaas -608-267-7865; or Lisa Gaumnitz, DNR Office of Communications - 608-264-8942

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A view inside the secret life of wood ducks

Wood duck project

Students and staff setting up boxes for nesting ducks.

Wood duck project
Wood duck eggs inside the box.

Wood duck project
Camera catches a duck taking up residence in the new box.
Contributed photos

BRILLION Wis. -- A group of students at Brillion High School has taken science, technology, engineering and math to a whole new level with a project that's been five months in the making. The end result is an inside look at the life of a wood duck that anyone can watch over the Internet.

Nearly a dozen students divided up into three teams as part of project TrailerCAM: bio-interfacing, information technology, and power management. Their task was to create a wood duck habitat equipped with a video camera capable of streaming live video worldwide.

"This is an ideal example of how learning and using science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the same time can be both highly effective and very engaging for both students and their teachers, "said Ryan Peterson, one of two Brillion High School teachers spearheading this project.

Two weeks after the new homes went up at the Brillion Wildlife Area, a hen moved in and laid a dozen eggs. Now everyone is watching to see when the babies hatch and literally jump into their new world.

"We all enjoy watching our hen," explained Peterson, "but the duck in the box is not what this was about. The students have a good understanding of the layers upon layers of complex problems that needed to be solved and continue to be monitored."

"This program is a wonderful opportunity for the Department of Natural Resources to team up with educators to give students an opportunity to learn about the world around them," said Dick Nikolai, a DNR wildlife biologist. "They not only learned the technical aspects of this, but also the wildlife and habitat of these ducks which live in right here in their community."

The young wood ducks are expected to hatch between May 14 and May 17 and will jump out of their home less than 24 hours later. All of it will be broadcast online Brillion STEM wood duck project (exit DNR) for anyone to watch. That doesn't mean an end to the TrailerCAM project, though. With the help of more than a dozen groups like the Natural Resources Foundation, the school hopes to use the equipment in a variety of ways from broadcasting events from around the community, to creating virtual field trips where the camera brings the location into the classroom without the travel.

"The learning that took place to get us this far was our primary motivation," Peterson explained, "and now we are mostly sitting back and enjoying the results."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dick Nikolai, DNR wildlife biologist - 920-832-1804 or Trish Ossmann, DNR public affairs manager - 920-662-5122 or Ryan Peterson, STEM instructor, Brillion High School - 920- 716-2492

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Great Lakes photo contest winners announced

MADISON - Nine photographers from Wisconsin earned top honors for their entries in the Department of Natural Resources' fourth annual "Wisconsin's Great Lakes" photography contest. Their photos will be featured in a calendar available this summer at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Rob Wiener of Eagle River, Tracy Martinez of Madison, Roy Radosevich of Gilbert, Ariz., and Cheryl Toeller of West Chicago, Ill., won first place honors in the contest's four categories.

Jonah Agpoon of Wauwatosa, David Herrick of Spooner, Matthew John George of Milwaukee, Kevin Naze of Algoma, and Marc Ponto of Milwaukee won second place for their photographs. Ponto, Herrick, Wiener and George also submitted photos that received "honorable mention" awards.

Their photos will be featured in the 2012-2013 sixteen-month calendar that DNR's Office of the Great Lakes will give out at the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Aug. 2-12, 2012, according to Jo Temte, the Great Lakes office water specialist who coordinates the contest.

Photographers from across Wisconsin as well as from Minnesota, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona submitted more than 350 photographs. "We were overwhelmed by the response again this year," says Steve Galarneau, who directs DNR Office of the Great Lakes. "These stunning photos help us show what spectacular resources Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are for Wisconsin."

DNR also coordinates a "Wisconsin's Great Lakes" Writing Project and this year received 18 poems, which can be found on DNR's Great Lakes webpage. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search for Great Lakes. Poems by Marilyn Zelke-Windau and Georgia Ressmeyer of Sheboygan Falls and Connie Pelton of Waunakee will be featured in this year's calendar.

DNR's Office of the Great Lakes will begin accepting photos for next year's contest starting Aug. 1, 2012, Temte says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jo Temte - 608-267-0555 or Lisa Gaumnitz, DNR Office of Communications - 608-264-8942

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 15, 2012




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