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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 19, 2013

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Wisconsin early inland catch-and-release trout season opens March 2

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with the correct closing date for the 2013 early trout season. The season closes April 28.

EAU CLAIRE -- Getting psyched up for the early catch-and-release trout season in Wisconsin - which runs 5 a.m. March 2 to midnight April 28 this year - is a late winter survival tactic for some anglers.

At the Badger Fly Fishers Spring Opener held earlier this month in Madison, hundreds of fly casters gathered to stock up on materials and gear, spend outrageous sums of money on chicken feathers, learn from a room full of master fly tiers and trade in their most precious commodity - stories of battles won and lost on the fast-flowing, cold-water streams that hold trout, waters so beautiful they sooth the mind and nourish the spirit.

brown trout
A brown trout caught on a March afternoon, the banks of the trout stream still encased in snow and ice. The stone fly imitation that fooled it is still in its jaw. It was quickly photographed and released unharmed within seconds of being caught.
Ed Culhane Photo

Of course not everyone is itching to be on the water before dawn on March 2, when temperatures could be below freezing.

"I don't start in the early, early spring," said Rich Mlodzik of Princeton, an otherwise hardcore fisherman who attended the event. "I get out around the first of April. I'm a 50 degrees kind of guy."

The early season is for anglers who like to fool their prey with artifice rather than bait. It's for people who think how they hook a trout is as just as important as actually catching it. These fall into two main groups - spinner fishers and fly fishers. Each style has its advantages. Spinner fishers, for instance, can reach into deeper pools on small, alder-choked streams that defeat fly casters.

While the best early-season fishing generally does occur in mid to late April, there are some golden opportunities in March. Some hardy fishermen will be out on opening day no matter the weather, anxious to hunt trout that haven't seen an artificial lure for at least five months.

Stone fly
Stone flies can be spotted on the snow bordering streams.
WDNR Photo

Others will watch for those mid-March days when the sun burns hot, the ice begins a rapid melt and black stone flies can be spotted on the snow bordering streams with rocky substrates. These insects flitter moth-like across the water and trout will actually leap out of the water to catch them. Even larger brown trout that normally don't approach the surface midday will chase them with seeming abandon. A angler with the right fly can have a blast.

Until the snow melts, the best time to fish is from noon to 4 p.m. when the water temperatures are higher. Then, as the early season progresses, the fishing just gets better and better. Wooly buggers (generally a larger fly) and scuds (a small fly) are good choices for going below the surface when there isn't activity on top.

"After the snow melts, trout activity increases," said Heath Benike, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources at Eau Claire. "Some of the biggest trout of the season are caught in mid-April as the fish become more active and aggressive."

Most trout streams are open to early fishing with the exception of most Lake Superior tributaries and the majority streams in northeast Wisconsin. To find the open streams, check the printed current trout fishing regulations pamphlet for specific waters. Anglers are required to use artificial lures and flies; barbless hooks are not required. The daily bag limit and possession limit for trout during this time is zero - all trout caught must be immediately released.

An inland trout stamp is required in addition to a Wisconsin fishing license.

Biologists and others who study trout populations say that these are the good old days of trout fishing. Trout populations have generally increased statewide, and the number of fish in all sizes examined have increased, since 1950, according to a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point analysis released in 2011 and discussed in "A Trout Treasury," an April 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article.

Readers can also find an interesting discussion on spinner fishing [PDF] on the fishing Wisconsin pages of the DNR website.

The best fishermen, probably out of some sort of psychological necessity, are optimists. They remember their best days on the water and expect better days ahead. But they are also pragmatists and are careful to plan for all contingencies.

Online maps and interactive maps will make all of the trout waters easier to find and provide other information to increase anglers success. The maps, along with other information to help you find easy public access to trout waters and some new places to fish, are available by searching the on DNR website for inland trout fishing.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Culhane - 715-839-3715 or Heath Benike, 715- 839-2877

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Now is time to plan for summer waterfront projects

Online system makes applying for some permits easier

MADISON - Landscaping your waterfront lot? Planning a pond? Need road and culvert repairs?

Now is the time to start planning for such projects and many people who need a permit to proceed with their project will be able to apply electronically in order to completely avoid expensive and time consuming paper submittals, state waterway officials say.

"As always, we recommend potential applicants start early to find out if they need a permit for their project and how best to design it to minimize impacts to the environment," said Pam Biersach, who directs the Department of Natural Resources watershed management bureau. "Such information may help people avoid needing a permit altogether or it may help speed the process, particularly if the project allows for them to use our new online application system."

DNR launched an electronic permitting system for water-related projects a year ago and it can be used for projects that would have an impact on wetlands or waterfronts and require an individual permit. Fish cribs and other habitat structures, shore stabilization, swim rafts, grading, and putting in a pea gravel blanket are among the kinds of activities for which applicants can file and pay online.

"Our online system allows applicants to save dollars track the progress of review for an application, get quicker decisions on permit applications, and helps ensure projects get a more consistent and comprehensive review to better protect Wisconsin lakes, rivers and wetlands," Biersach says. "We encourage those who can to apply online."

The online permitting system is found by searching the DNR website for keywords "water permits." As with other internet-based services, there's a quick and easy process for project proponents to set up an account with a password before beginning the application process, she says.

Right now, many waterfront projects requiring customized "individual permits" are available for online permitting, as are applications for the treatment of aquatic plants in certain waters and pit-trench dewatering general permits. In coming months, online application processes will be available for more activities potentially affecting Wisconsin waters.

Common construction activities, when done near lakes, streams or wetlands, can have unintended side effects, including flooding nearby property, degrading downstream water quality, and harming fish and wildlife habitat.

To protect against these impacts and harm to fish and wildlife, recreational activities, and scenic beauty, Wisconsin water laws require DNR permits for all construction projects on or near a waterway or wetland. A permit may also be required from the zoning department in the county in which the property is located, and from the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

"By getting started now on planning waterfront and wetland projects now and using our online system where it's available, people can get the answers they need in a timely way and in a way that protects what drew them to the lake or wetland in the first place," Biersach says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pam Biersach, 608-261-8447

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Cast your ideas into improving fishing in the Driftless Area

MADISON - Anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts are invited to share their ideas about improving fishing access and management of state lands in Wisconsin's Driftless Area at nine public meetings in March.

People attending the meetings also will be able to see a decade's worth of information showing fish populations in the affected streams, view maps of existing public access, and learn how climate change is projected to impact the future distribution of trout and bass throughout the Driftless Area, the western and southwestern portion of the state that escaped the last glacial period and as a result is characterized by rugged topography, springs, cold-water streams and rock outcroppings.

"We want to hear from anglers what influences where they like to fish and what makes a high quality angling experience," says Paul Cunningham, the Department of Natural Resources fish specialist who co-leads the effort. "We've laid out the best science-based data and models available and want to get the public's perspectives on how best to apply this information so that we spend our limited dollars and staff time wisely."

The public meetings are part of a long-term master planning process for more than 200 properties that will guide DNR's habitat management and land acquisition efforts in the Driftless Area over the next 15 years. Most of the properties are narrow strips along some of the most desirable trout and smallmouth bass fishing waters in Wisconsin, says Steve Hewett, who leads the DNR fisheries management section.

DNR currently owns about 28,000 acres in the Driftless Area and holds easements on more than 8,000 acres of land that allow anglers access to more than 300 streams.

"Report card" on trout and bass in different watersheds now available

As a first step in the development of the master plan, DNR staff created a background report describing the streams, the size and abundance of trout and bass in different watersheds, the relative resilience of streams to climate change and a host of other issues. The background document uses a "report card" format that grades each of the 94 watersheds in the Driftless Area on a range of different topics. The report is available on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching for "master planning" and clicking on the Driftless Area link.

The Driftless Area is recognized as a premier trout and smallmouth bass fishery and draws people from throughout the Midwest who also enjoy the beautiful scenery and other recreational opportunities, Hewett says. Long-term planning for fish management is challenging because the environment is constantly changing, from how land is used to long-term changes in the climate.

The meetings all run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Hewett, 608-267-7501 or John Pohlman, 608-264-6263

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Applications available for wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp funds, due April 5

MADISON - Applications are available for Wisconsin wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp funds to be applied to habitat work for the 2014 and 2015 Department of Natural Resources funding cycle.

The stamp funds are available to conservation organizations and units of government that work to develop, manage, preserve, restore and maintain habitat for these species.

"Since their inception, millions of dollars of wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamp funds have been awarded to conduct habitat management, research and outreach that benefits the species, their habitat and the people who enjoy hunting and viewing them," said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "These funds have been instrumental in providing critical habitat and species management across the state."

Walter notes funds may only be used for developing, managing, preserving, restoring and maintaining the wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl populations and their habitat in the state. Habitat projects typically involve restoration and management of valuable woodland, savanna, grassland and wetland communities.

"All Wisconsin residents have benefited from the waterfowl habitat work funded by the sale of Wisconsin waterfowl stamps," said Jason Fleener, acting DNR wetland habitat specialist. "Wetland habitat work not only benefits hunters, but also provides waterfowl watching opportunities for non-hunters, provides clean water and helps to control flooding by slowing the release of floodwaters."

Stamp funds are generated through sales of required wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamps to hunters and a portion of revenues from the sale of the conservation patron license. Many stamp collectors also purchase the stamps.

On average, the wildlife stamps receive annual revenues exceeding $300,000 for pheasant, $750,000 for wild turkey and $550,000 for waterfowl. By state law, 60 percent of pheasant stamp funds are reserved for game farm pheasant production, and one-third of waterfowl stamp funds are reserved for habitat projects in Canada where some of Wisconsin's fall ducks are raised.

Eligibility information and criteria, application guidance, funding priorities and further information can be found at dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "wildlife stamps." Applications are due no later than April 5, 2013.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458

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Time is running out to schedule and plan a Learn to Hunt turkey event this spring

MADISON - It will take some last minute planning, but there is still time to put together your 2013 Learn to Hunt turkey events.

Keith Warnke, Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Shooting Sports Coordinator, says that focusing on providing Learn to Hunt opportunities for interested novices who would not otherwise have the chance to explore hunting is key to successfully preserving our conservation heritage.

"Many adults who did not come from hunting families are interested in hunting, but don't know how to get started," said Warnke. "Learn to Hunt events are a great way for them to learn in a controlled environment with an experienced mentor."

"The composition of Learn to Hunt events has continued to evolve, with more females and adults participating in recent years," Warnke said. "Compared to 2011, last year's number of females participating in Learn to Hunt events increased by 53 percent."

Learn to Hunt events may be scheduled before, during or after the six spring turkey time periods; however, most are held in late March and early April. Interested individuals and clubs will want to get started now to complete the necessary steps.

The department has made it easy for sponsors to organize Learn to Hunt events with on-line applications, reimbursement opportunities, assistance in finding event insurance and event advertising on the DNR's website.

Sponsors will need to submit a completed application form to the local wildlife biologist for approval, and should make sure at least one of the event instructors is a certified Hunter Education Instructor. Mentors assisting in the event will need to submit an application to be a mentor. Following the event, sponsors must submit a report of event participants and may apply for a $25 reimbursement per participant to assist with event costs. In addition, Warnke says the program will help advertise events by posting them on the DNR's Learn to Hunt web page and the Hunter's Network Facebook page.

More information on the Learn to Hunt program is available on the DNR website, keyword "LTH."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, (608) 576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, (608) 267-0798

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 19, 2013




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