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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published June 18, 2013

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Yellowstone Lake fishery transformed

BLANCHARDVILLE - Where carp, bullheads and stunted crappie were once the catch of the day and anglers were scarce, a fisheries management project has transformed Yellowstone Lake into a fishing hotspot where anglers regularly land trophy size game fish, including a 57-inch musky.

"It's been 14 years since the fisheries management plan was initiated and the Yellowstone Lake fishery is better than ever with no signs of slowing down," says Bradd Sims, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist based in Dodgeville.

Yellowstone Lake bass
Volunteer Wayne Stietz and WDNR conservation warden Nick Webster show off the smallmouth and largemouth bass that Yellowstone Lake is becoming known for.
WDNR Photo

"We expected a good response, but we didn't expect it to be across the board. Panfish, catfish, walleye and bass have all shown a positive response and are providing great fishing in an area with few lakes."

Recent surveys have shown that walleye are abundant, with more than five adult fish per acre, as are catfish, with more than 20 adult channel catfish per acre. Of the largemouth bass sampled, 56 percent were greater than 16 inches while 24 percent were over 18 inches. Yellowstone Lake also supports a low density quality musky fishery as well that in 2006 produced a catch-and-release world record musky of 57 inches, Sims says.

Located in Lafayette County, Yellowstone Lake was created in 1954. From the beginning, the lake would run a 15-year cycle starting with a desirable sport fishery and ending as a fishery dominated by carp, bullheads, and stunted crappie.

In 1968 and 1983 the lake would be drained and rotenone used to kill off rough fish. "In 1998 the cycle came full circle once again --Yellowstone was dominated by carp and bullheads with a nonexistent sport fishery," Sims says.

Instead of using rotenone again, however, DNR and partners decided to try something different. They created a management plan that included removing carp, stocking predator species and reducing and controlling sediment entering the lake from land draining to the lake. They also sought to improve habitat and, once fish were restocked in the lake, put in place protective regulations to allow the populations to grow.

From 1998 to 2012 the Lafayette County Sportsman Alliance, DNR, private individuals, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lafayette County Land & Conservation Department, implemented the plan of restoring the Yellowstone Lake sport fishery.

Sims says the results have exceeded expectations and the project has drawn calls and visitors from surrounding states' natural resource agencies. "At the time, this kind of a bio-manipulation project was something new," he says. "The results are probably better than we expected," he says.

Recent surveys showed walleye ranging from 10.5 to 27 inches, largemouth bass 6.5 to 22.5 inches, channel catfish 20 to 27 inches, bluegill 2.5 to 8.9 inches and black crappies from 7 to 10.7 inches, Sims says.

John Arthur, superintendent of the Yellowstone Lake State Park, says the lake is the draw to the state park, whether spring, summer, winter or fall.

"The excellent fishery -- thanks in no small part to Bradd -- draws many people to this property," Arthur says. "People come to fish because they catch fish here. Yellowstone is known for its crappies and to a lesser degree, its record book musky."

And ice fishing accounts for 80 percent of park attendance during the frozen water months, Arthur says.




Muskies get a menu change as part of hatchery experiment

Artificial feed early on aims to reduce costs, boost fish production

WILD ROSE, Wis. - Some muskies are getting a new menu at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery as part of an experiment aimed at saving money while boosting production of the state fish.

Starting this spring, Wild Rose staff are raising muskies two different ways, says Steve Fajfer, hatchery superintendent.

Musky fry
Some young muskies at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery, like this one here, will eat manufactured fish food in an experiment aimed at cutting the costs of raising the fish.
WDNR Photo

One group of muskies are being raised in the ponds and fed the traditional diet of zooplankton and minnows. A second group of muskies are being fed manufactured fish food for the first part of their stay at Wild Rose, and minnows for the remaining 60 days before they are stocked into Wisconsin waters.

"Feeding the muskies manufactured food is cheaper than collecting or buying minnows and there is no risk of parasites or diseases that can come in with minnows," Fajfer says.

Having the muskies eat minnows at the end will increase their growth and coloration and will get them used to what they will be eating once they are stocked into lakes, Fajfer says.

Before the fish are transferred to their new homes, DNR staff will mark them with a fin clip to tell the two groups apart in coming years. State researchers and managers in subsequent years will survey the lakes where the muskies are stocked to assess the survival rates of both groups of muskies, Fajfer says.

Mike Staggs, DNR's fisheries director, says that the experiment is made possible by the recent renovation of the hatchery and its increased capacity to raise fish on manufactured food. "We estimate we can save 15 to 30 percent of the cost of raising musky by starting them on artificial feed, but we need to see whether the fish grow to an acceptable size and survive after stocking before we adopt this as standard practice at all hatcheries."

Raising a musky to stockable size -- 10 to 12 inches or what's known as "large finglering" size - is estimated to cost $10 to $11 a fish, recent DNR estimates show. That includes food, labor, hatchery overhead and the cost of retiring debt from hatchery construction and renovation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Fajfer, 920-622-3527 ext. 201 or Dave Giehtbrock, 608-266-8229



Ruffed grouse survey indicates slight population decline

MADISON - Ruffed grouse populations in Wisconsin have shown another slight decline this spring, according to results of the recently completed roadside ruffed grouse survey.

"The index that Wisconsin uses to track ruffed grouse decreased 9 percent between 2012 and 2013," said Brian Dhuey, Department of Natural Resources wildlife surveys coordinator. "This decrease isn't unexpected at this point in the population cycle. Ruffed grouse populations are known to boom and bust over a nine- to 11-year cycle. Grouse populations in Wisconsin tend to be at their peak in years ending in a nine or zero."

The roadside survey to monitor the number of breeding grouse has been conducted by staff from the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964. Surveyors begin 30 minutes before sunrise and drive along established routes, making 10 stops at assigned points and listening for four minutes for the distinctive "thump, thump, thump" sounds made by drumming male grouse. Results from this survey help DNR biologists monitor the cyclic population dynamics of ruffed grouse in the state.

The number of drums heard per stop in 2013 was down 9 percent statewide from the previous year. One of the primary regions for grouse in the state, the central region, showed an 18 percent drop in the number of drums heard per stop, yet the other primary region in the north showed a 2 percent increase.

Intensive surveys were also run on two research areas. The Sandhill Wildlife Area in Wood County showed a decline of 5 percent. The Stone Lake Experimental Area in Oneida County showed an increase of 2 percent.

According to Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, maturation of southern Wisconsin's forest community in recent decades, and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover, has contributed to lower numbers of grouse.

"Ruffed grouse are closely linked to young forest habitats that develop following large disturbances, notably logging activities," Walter said. "While we often focus as hunters on grouse numbers in a single year, it's important to remember that the long-term health of grouse and other early-successional wildlife is dependent upon our ability to create the dense young cover they require. Lacking significant, broad-scale forms of natural disturbance such as fire, we need to ensure that intensive timber harvests remain a component of our forest management activities."

In regard to the slight increase in northern Wisconsin, Gary Zimmer, coordinating biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, points to the weather.

"Weather, especially during the brood rearing period in late May and early June, plays an important role in ruffed grouse numbers," said Zimmer. "The slight increase shown in this spring's northern region drumming counts, even in a downward cycle, can definitely be tied to 2012's excellent brood rearing conditions with its lengthy dry, warm period in June.

"Unfortunately, this spring's weather is not following the same pattern and it is doubtful fall grouse numbers will be comparable to last year in the north woods. However, even with lower populations, Wisconsin still has some of the best grouse hunting in the country," Zimmer said.

Complete survey results can be found by searching the DNR website for " wildlife reports."

For more information, search the DNR website for "ruffed grouse hunting."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861 or Brian Dhuey, wildlife surveys coordinator, 608-221-6342



Survey underway to create comprehensive list of plastic recycling in Wisconsin

MADISON - A voluntary survey on plastics recycling that includes more than 4,000 companies is the latest step in a joint effort by the Department of Natural Resources, the plastics industry and the Wisconsin Manufacturers Extension Partnership to create a comprehensive map of plastics film recycling options in the state.

The online survey is part of Wisconsin's Plastic Film Recycling Initiative, a public-private partnership working to increase recycling of used polyethylene bags, wraps and films - materials found in nearly every household and business.

"Our end goal is for all businesses in Wisconsin to have better access to plastic film recycling options," said Cynthia Moore, DNR recycling coordinator. "Determining the locations of existing infrastructure is an essential step to understanding both the options and gaps currently available to businesses and consumers."

A recent Canadian study estimated that there is excess recycling capacity in North America for plastic film. Plastic film comprises about 35 percent of the packaging stream, but only about 6 percent of plastic film is recycled. Moore said the partners in the Initiative - DNR, the American Chemistry Council's Flexible Film Recycling Group and GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition - have joined forces to turn the situation around, starting with a pilot project in Wisconsin.

Moore said the two year project will lay the ground work and test approaches to increasing awareness of and access to film recycling in a pilot area. A key element in this plan is easy access to resources and recycling opportunities for both businesses and consumers.

The project is nearing completion of its first phase, which involves compiling a comprehensive map of recycling options for industrial, commercial and consumer plastic bags and film in the state. Through the online survey, the group seeks information about the quantities, types and destination of plastic waste generated through their operations.

The survey of 4,000 businesses in Wisconsin will help project planners map out where and how much used bags and film are generated. The project partners hope the Wisconsin experience will serve as a template for expansion to other states.

"The Wisconsin initiative will contact other critical stakeholders including local governments, recycling organizations and educational institutions such as universities to increase consumer awareness about where and how plastic bags/film can be recycled, said Shari Jackson, director of the Flexible Film Recycling Group. "This survey will provide the critical information we need to expand film recycling in Wisconsin - participating in this survey is an important opportunity for the film recycling value chain to be heard."

Moore added that the public is also invited to share their input. "Anyone wishing to provide information or to participate in this project is encouraged to visit the website at (exit DNR). The site identifies drop off locations as well as tips on how to set up a collection program, and has a tool to enter additional drop off locations if yours is not already listed- all free and available for your use at home, in your office or business operation."

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Cynthia Moore, 608-267-7550



State Natural Resources Board to meet June 25-26 in Wausau

WAUSAU, Wis. - The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will conduct its monthly business meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 25-26, in Wausau.

The board, which sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources, will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, at the Jefferson Street Inn, 201 Jefferson St. There will be a public listening session at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Any individuals with any concerns they would like to bring to the attention of the board are welcome to speak. The registration deadline is 11 a.m. Friday, June 21.

To register, contact Laurie Ross, NRB liaison, at 608-267-7420, or by email at The same deadline applies to individuals who wish to address the board during Wednesday's business meeting.

Among topics on the agenda, the board will be asked to reaffirm that hunting seasons in a few state parks that existed prior to implementation of Wisconsin Act 168, which opened most state parks to hunting under NRB guidelines, will remain in effect for future hunting seasons.

There were 14 properties that had previously approved hunting seasons, including muzzleloader deer, early archery deer, small game and migratory bird hunts established in state administrative codes. Neither Act 168, known as the Sporting Heritage Bill, nor the board action implementing the law, repealed the existing park seasons. Parks administrators are seeking confirmation that these season structures will remain in place.

The board is also scheduled to act on a wolf harvest quota and number of licenses to be issued for the 2013-2014 wolf hunting and trapping season.

On environmental issues, the board is being asked to approve a statement of scope for a permanent rule and for an emergency rule, related to the control of mercury emissions. A statement of scope establishes the DNR's intention to begin work on a rule proposal. The board will also be asked to conditionally approve the department's public hearing notice and notice of submittal to the Legislative Council Rules Clearinghouse for the permanent rule.

Approval for the emergency rule scope statement is being requested in the event that the permanent rule cannot be completed prior to Jan. 1, 2015. If the board approves, the department intends to move forward with the permanent rule and only return to the emergency rule process in 2014, if needed.

DNR managers will also ask the NRB to approve a scoping statement for a range of rule proposals for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, Clean Water Fund Program and Safe Drinking Water Act.

More information, including Wednesday's agenda and details about public participation, is available by searching the DNR website for "NRB."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, NRB liaison, 608-267-7420 Kevin Harter, DNR communications, 715-416-2230



Statewide permit may result in the incidental take of rare cave bats

MADISON -- The "incidental taking" of state threatened cave bats in Wisconsin may occur as a result of specific public health concerns, bat removals, building demolitions, forestry activities, bridge demolitions, miscellaneous building repairs and wind energy development projects throughout the state under a broad incidental take permit the Department of Natural Resources proposes to authorize. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

To help protect Wisconsin cave bats from the threat of white-nose syndrome, the state added four bat cave species to the state threatened species list, which makes it illegal for people to kill, transport or possess bats without a valid permit.

Cave bat species covered under the permit and authorization include: little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), eastern pipistrelle (Perimyotis subflavus), and northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). Take will be minimized by following specific minimization measures outlined in the associated conservation plan.

DNR staff concluded that the take allowed for under this permit and authorization is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of the species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action. They also concluded that the take allowed for under this permit and authorization is not likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival or recovery of the species within the state, the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part or the habitat that is critical to their existence.

Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest, and its population of little brown bats in the largest remaining in the world. For the third year in a row, a statewide survey of bat wintering sites has found no clinical signs of a deadly bat disease -- white-nose syndrome -- that has killed upwards of 6.7 million bats in the Eastern United States and Canada.

The disease, white-nose syndrome, has continued to spread to neighboring states, however: Illinois has confirmed the disease in four counties in 2013 and an Iowa cave 30 miles from Wisconsin's border was found in 2012 to have the fungus known to cause white-nose syndrome.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Permit and Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the species are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take and clicking on the tab for "public notice" or upon request from Rori Paloski (608-264-6040) or Heather Kaarakka (608-266-2576). Public comments will be taken through July 18, 2013 and should be sent to Rori Paloski, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

For more information on Wisconsin bats and white-nose syndrom search the DNR website for "Saving Wisconsin bats."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rori Paloski (608-264-6040) or Heather Kaarakka (608-266-2576)


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 18, 2013

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