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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 4, 2014

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Ice and water clarity conditions updated for sturgeon spearing season

OSHKOSH - With just days to go before the 2014 Winnebago lake sturgeon spearing season opens Feb. 8, state fisheries officials report that water clarity and ice conditions, the best in a decade and the keys to spearing success, continue to improve.

DNR fisheries biologists checked water clarity earlier this morning, Feb. 4, and found water clarity had increased from several weeks ago even.

"The current water clarity conditions of 14-16 feet of visibility are the best we've seen since the 2008-2010 spearing seasons, which were all very successful spearing seasons lasting four to eight days," says Ryan Koenigs, Winnebago sturgeon biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Koenigs forecasts an exciting 2014 season due to favorable water clarity and ice conditions making it easier for spearers to get around on the ice and also for them to see sturgeon underwater.

"Given the clear water, we are anticipating a relatively short season that will likely be highlighted by the harvest of many trophy sized fish," he says.

The prospects of really big fish are also raising expectations for the season. A record 9.5 percent of the sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago during the 2013 season weighed more than 100 pounds and DNR staff have routinely observed fish larger than 200 pounds in recent spring surveys.

Learn more about lake sturgeon and the unique winter spearing season in DNR's "Sturgeon Week" series of web features, including today's feature on record fish.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs, 920-303-5450

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Hunters register 4,633 birds in 2013 fall wild turkey hunt; spring permit levels set

MADISON -- Wisconsin wild turkey hunters registered a total of 4,633 birds during the fall 2013 wild turkey season, a decrease of 34 percent from the 7,054 turkeys registered during the 2012 season. Success rates also decreased, from 12.9 percent in 2012 to 7.1 percent during the 2013 season.

"The late spring and wet June last year translated into poor overall reproductive success for turkeys, so with fewer young birds out there we expected to see a bit of a drop in harvest during the fall season," said Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "However, the magnitude of the decline from the 2012 harvest was somewhat surprising. We'll be looking at the results of our fall hunter survey to see if hunter participation rates or effort may have played roles in the drop in harvest."

Variable weather conditions play a significant role in turkey population dynamics, and turkey populations can increase rapidly during years of favorable weather, according to Walter. The past two years provide nice examples of how variable annual production can be, with near-record levels of poult production in the very early, dry spring of 2012 followed by very poor production during the cold, wet spring of 2013. "Long-term, this variation in spring weather is what nudges turkey populations upward and downward between years, and hunters can expect that the number of turkeys they see in the field will vary accordingly."

Permit availability remained unchanged in 2013; not including Fort McCoy, the total number of permits available statewide for the fall 2013 season was 96,700, identical to 2012. A total of 64,983 permits were sold for the 2013 fall turkey season; 55,711 were allotted via the drawing, and another 9,272 permits were sold over-the-counter after the drawing had been completed.

The number of permits available to hunters in each of the state's seven Turkey Management Zones is recommended by members of the Wild Turkey Advisory Committee. The committee monitors recent trends in harvest, hunter success, and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and field reports of turkey abundance.

DNR first initiated a fall turkey season in 1989 with the increase and expansion of turkeys throughout the state. Since then, hunters have been able to pursue turkeys in the fall and the spring.

"Hunting turkeys in the fall is quite different from taking part in the spring hunt, where hunters use the breeding behavior of gobblers to call one into range," said Walter. "Fall hunters learn that the key to success is to pattern turkey flocks, and are adept at locating roost sites or feeding locations in order to get close to turkeys.

"Hunters that pursue turkeys during both the spring and fall seasons are really treated to two very distinctive outdoor experiences, and get to enjoy turkeys during very different phases of their annual cycle," added Walter.

The spring 2014 turkey season begins with the Youth Turkey Hunt, April 12 and 13. The regular season begins April 16.

"Although the poor production in 2013 certainly doesn't help boost our state's turkey population, we had a huge cohort of birds hatch in 2012," said Walter. "Males from this group are now adult gobblers, so hunters should still expect to hear plenty of gobbling activity in the woods this spring. As well, we had lots of reports of late-hatched broods in 2013 that were probably overlooked by fall hunters as the birds were noticeably smaller than normal; these birds will help lessen the population impact of the poor spring conditions last year."

Once harvest data for the spring 2014 season is available and biologists can assess spring production levels, permit levels for the 2014 fall season will be set, with the announcement made later this summer. Hunters can expect plenty of opportunity to pursue turkeys in Zones 1 through 5. However, fall permit levels in northern Zones 6 and 7 have been held at relatively lower levels, as turkey numbers have begun to build in these areas only in the last decade. There is less of an agricultural food base in these two zones, and they are subject to more severe winter weather; lower permit levels thus afford turkeys in these areas some added protection.

The drawing for the 2014 spring season has been completed, and successful applicants should have already received their postcard notification. Hunters can also check on the status of their permit application online through the DNR's Online Licensing Center or by calling the DNR Customer Call Center from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463).

A total of just more than 100,000 permits were not allotted in the 2014 spring drawing and will be made available for over-the-counter purchase in mid-March. For more details, including a list of sales dates, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for "spring turkey permit."

To learn more about Wisconsin's wild turkeys, go to dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458.

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New online outdoor air monitoring map and data for industrial sand mines and processing plants

MADISON - The public can now view outdoor air monitoring data from industrial sand mines and processing plants on a new map available through the Department of Natural Resources website. The interactive map displays a facility's location and the quality-assured particulate matter data for that facility.

"We are working hard to make this data more accessible to the public," noted Bart Sponseller, director of the DNR Air Management Bureau. "It's important to reassure the public that we are reviewing the data and ensuring that there is compliance with permit requirements."

The particulate monitoring data is public record. In the past, the data could be obtained from the DNR with an open records request. The new interactive map and data on the web will get information to interested parties quicker.

Operating an outdoor air monitoring system for particulate matter may be required by rule or permit, at certain affected sources. These monitors are source-specific and are not a part of the air monitoring network maintained by DNR to measure air pollutant concentrations around the state.

To date, 740 valid PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometers in size) samples from sand mines have been reported to the DNR and quality assured by DNR staff. None of the 740 reported values has been over the federal 24-hour PM10 standard (150 micrograms per cubic meter).

In addition to quality assuring the data, DNR staff work with the industrial sand facilities to provide technical assistance for any required monitor sites near the facilities. DNR field personnel also perform both start-up and annual audits of the monitoring equipment. The monitoring data collected by the industrial sand facilities is done using filter-based methods approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and analyzed at a laboratory. Data is submitted to the DNR monthly for quality assurance and compilation. Plots of the quality assured data, as well as a spreadsheet of data, will be uploaded to the new webpage approximately 60-90 days after the end of each calendar quarter.

For more information, or to view the map search the DNR website for "silica sand mining," and click on the tab for air monitoring.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gail Good, DNR chief, air monitoring section, 608-266-1058

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Coldwater fish staying warm inside state's fish hatcheries

WILD ROSE, Wis. - Baby, it's cold outside - but Wisconsin's next generation of Great Lakes trout and salmon are safe and warm inside the state's fish hatcheries and growing bigger by the day -- for the day when they'll be stocked into Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

"Most people only see the hatchery at work when it comes time to stock fish," says Al Kaas, propagation chief for the Department of Natural Resources.

"But those fish have to start with spawning, incubating and rearing, and that's what's going on now to help provide great fishing opportunities in the future."

State fish hatcheries play a vital role in maintaining fishing opportunities in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and their tributaries. Now is when much of the behind the scenes work happens that produces the Great Lakes fish that will be stocked in the spring as well as inland trout to be stocked in lakes and rivers where natural reproduction isn't sufficient, Kaas says.

Pacific salmon (chinook and coho), brown trout and steelhead originally stocked decades ago to control invasive alewives are now popular among anglers but the fish do not reproduce in great enough numbers in the wild in Wisconsin's Great Lakes tributaries.

So every fall, DNR fish crews collect eggs from chinook and coho salmon and brown trout, and those fish are hatched, incubated and raised for stocking later. In the spring DNR crews collect eggs from steelhead, walleye and musky.

Chinook salmon do naturally reproduce in the wild in Michigan in substantial and growing numbers, helping supply more than half of the chinook caught in Wisconsin waters during the summer months, but stocking of chinook is important to provide the fall spawning runs along the tributaries.

This past year, DNR again met its egg collection goals for Lake Michigan trout and salmon, with state fish crews meeting goals for egg numbers and reporting high numbers and good size chinooks, larger than average coho, and one of the latest Seeforellen brown trout spawning periods in recent memory.

"We had a fairly slow start with low river flows and warm temperatures, but ended with high numbers and good size chinooks returning to all three of our egg collection facilities with Strawberry Creek having the most impressive return," says John Komassa, who oversees operations at the three facilities.

DNR operates egg collection facilities on Lake Michigan tributaries - Strawberry Creek in southern Door County, the Besadny Anadromous Facility on the Kewaunee River, and the Root River Steelhead Facility, on the Root River in Racine County.

Coho returned to the Kewaunee facility and Root River facility, with the Kewaunee site seeing high numbers and larger coho when compared to the average, Komassa says.

Seeforellen brown trout were collected on the Root River and Kewaunee with all the fish taken to the Kewaunee egg collection site. The Root River provided more fish than the Kewaunee. The number of adults was down and spawning activities ended later than normal, he says.

Those eggs were taken to Wild Rose for incubating and hatching. Now, some of the partially developed eggs at the "eyed" stage are carefully packaged up and sent to other DNR hatcheries for rearing before they are stocked out in the spring.

Other fish are also inside DNR hatcheries as well now. Inland trout that will be stocked out in the spring before the fishing season are being raised at several DNR hatcheries and about 1,200 yearling Wisconsin River strain lake sturgeon are spending the winter at Wild Rose and will be stocked in the spring.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Komassa, 608-275-3315

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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine shakes off winter with a return to water sports.

MADISON -- The February/March issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine finds paddlers shaking the dust off their canoes, kayaks and boards and getting out.

February Wisconsin Natural Resources

A feature, "Going full circle," follows a kayaker as he lives his dream to paddle the waters around Rock Island. "Take a stand" explains the stand up paddling phenomena that is taking Wisconsin by storm. "A streambank clock" ticks along The Mecan River terrain and tells the unique history of the resource. Meet the staff of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine at Canoecopia March 7-9 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison (visit canoecopia.com).

This issue also launches a new column, "Back in the Day," which highlights historic images from DNR's photo collection and the story behind the photos.

"Growing up on the ice" is a remnant of winter as a young woman recaps lessons learned from ice fishing with her dad.

"Bitten early by the trout bug" finds a longtime Wisconsin trout angle ready for the early trout season and reliving his reasons to smile on the stream in any season.

Thinking about camping? Why not try campground hosting. "Concierges of the campground" explains the role of campground hosts in state parks and the benefits to volunteering.

"To the rescue" gives props to those who helped in loon rescue. "A birds-eye view" takes readers right in eagle nests along with the researchers who scale trees to get up-close.

The "Traveler" column has been expanded with this issue and features March "Museum" Madness around the state and kicks off a recipe feature.

Three inserts to the magazine round out the issue. Learn about the Natural Heritage Conservation program (formerly Endangered Resources), the Conservation Patron License program, and how your Fish and Wildlife Account dollars are spent.

Remember to consider Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine as a thoughtful and inexpensive gift that gives all year. Share what you value about the outdoors with family, friends, customers and professional colleagues. Six colorful issues are delivered to reader's doors all year for less than $1.50 a copy. Year-round the magazine shares ways and place to enjoy the Wisconsin outdoors for only $8.97. Subscribe toll-free at 1-800-678-9472, online at www.wnrmag.com or by mail. Subscription blanks and single issues are also available from our circulation office at P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Natasha Kassulke at (608) 261-8446.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 04, 2014




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