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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published January 13, 2015

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January hearings provide opportunity to give feedback on final Deer Trustee Report rule package

MADISON - Nine public hearings throughout Wisconsin will provide an additional opportunity for public comment before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requests adoption of the Deer Trustee Report permanent rule package in February.

In October of 2011 James C. Kroll, professor emeritus of Forest Wildlife Management, Stephen F. Austin State University and officially known as Wisconsin's white-tailed deer trustee, entered into a contract with the State of Wisconsin to conduct an independent, objective and scientifically-based review of Wisconsin's deer management practices. The White-tailed Deer Trustee's report was released to the public in July, 2012.

Hunters experienced some of the more prominent rules stemming from the report in 2014, including County Deer Advisory Councils, the Deer Management Assistance Program, and new seasons and management units in 2014. However, these regulations and programs were set up under an emergency rule, and now a follow-up permanent rule package is necessary for the 2015 hunting seasons and beyond.

Public hearing dates and locations are as follows - each will run from 6-8 p.m.:

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Wednesday, Jan. 21

Thursday, Jan. 22

Monday, Jan. 26

Tuesday, Jan. 27

Following public hearings, the Natural Resources Board may adopt the permanent rule package. If approved, it will advance to the state legislature for final review.

Those unable to attend a public hearing are encouraged to provide feedback regarding the proposed rule package through an input form available on the department website beginning Jan. 20.

For more information regarding hearing locations and the Deer Trustee Report, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "hearings" and "deer trustee report" respectively.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Loomans, DNR regulations specialist, 608-267-2452

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Wisconsin's Deer Management Assistance Program now accepting applications for 2015

MADISON - Conservation-minded landowners and land managers throughout Wisconsin are reminded of an opportunity to play a key role in deer and habitat management through the Deer Management Assistance Program.

Landowners with an interest in promoting healthy deer and other wildlife through active management are ideal candidates for DMAP. The program allows for habitat management alongside existing land use activities like agriculture and timber management.

The 2015 enrollment deadline for properties larger than 160 acres is March 1, and landowners are encouraged to apply early. Both public and private lands are eligible to participate in DMAP. Program cooperators at each level will receive immediate access to educational resources and DMAP updates.

"We had a great first year of DMAP in 2014," said Bob Nack, DMAP coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We worked with nearly 300 landowners who are working to improve more than 44,000 acres of land for the benefit of Wisconsin's white-tailed deer and many other forest wildlife species."

Landowners and land managers with properties larger than 160 acres must apply before the March 1 deadline in order to qualify for Level 2 or 3 benefits in 2015. These benefits include all Level 1 benefits, in addition to site visits with local DNR staff, a property management plan and eligibility for reduced-price antlerless harvest tags.

Properties less than 160 acres will be automatically accepted for Level 1 enrollment on a continuous basis. Level 1 benefits include access to DMAP reports and DNR publications regarding habitat and deer management, communication with local DNR staff and an invitation to DMAP workshops.

Neighboring landowners with properties within one-half mile of each other are encouraged to enroll as a group cooperative. Group cooperatives provide an opportunity to share costs and equipment on habitat projects and to benefit deer and other wildlife over a greater area while improving relations and hunting opportunities among neighbors.

Those interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to participate in an informational chat Thursday, Feb. 5 at noon. To view a chat schedule and check out previous chats, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "expert." For more information regarding DMAP and the application process, search keyword "DMAP."

To receive DMAP email updates and other information, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page for "subscribe for updates for DNR topics." Follow the prompts and select the "Deer Management Assistance Program" option, found under wildlife management.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Nack, DNR big game section chief & DMAP coordinator, 608-264-6137

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Hunters register 4,220 turkeys in 2014 fall hunt; spring permit levels set

MADISON - According to preliminary harvest data, Wisconsin wild turkey hunters registered 4,220 birds during the fall 2014 wild turkey season, a slight decrease from 4,633 turkeys registered during the 2013 fall season.

Success rates in 2014 were similar to last year, with 6.8 percent of permits being filled, compared to 7.1 percent in 2013.

"The fall turkey season provides a much different experience for turkey hunters; in particular, those who hunt turkeys with dogs are very passionate about the experience," said Scott Walter, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "Turkey harvest totals reflect a number of factors, including turkey population size, weather conditions, and hunter participation and effort."

Variable weather conditions play a significant role in turkey population dynamics, and the number of turkeys hunters encounter certainly reflects this variable. A severe winter in 2013-14 led to some localized mortality, primarily in the far north. These localized events followed a very poor production year due to wet and cold conditions in 2013. However, turkey populations can increase rapidly during years of favorable weather.

"We were pleasantly surprised with how well turkeys in the north came through last year's severe winter, and field reports suggest production among northern birds was actually greater last spring than in 2013," said Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. "Long-term, variation in spring weather is what nudges turkey populations upward and downward from one year to the next, and hunters can expect that the number of turkeys they see in the field will vary accordingly."

In 2014, 96,700 permits were made available (not including Fort McCoy) - this number was identical to permits issued in 2013. A preliminary total of 62,450 permits were sold for the 2014 fall turkey season, with 54,243 allotted through the drawing and another 8,207 permits sold over-the-counter after the drawing was complete. It is important to note that harvest and permit issuance numbers are preliminary and may change once data are finalized.

The department initiated the first fall turkey season in 1989 as a result of an increase and expansion of turkeys throughout Wisconsin. Since then, hunters have pursued turkeys during both fall and spring seasons.

"Fall hunters have learned that the key to success is to pattern turkey flocks, and are very good at locating roost sites or feeding locations," added Walter. "Hunters that pursue turkeys during both the spring and fall seasons are treated to two very distinctive outdoor experiences, and get to enjoy turkeys during very different phases of their annual cycle."

The 2015 Youth Turkey Hunt, held April 11-12, will signal the start of this year's spring turkey hunting season - the regular season will begin April 15.

When harvest data for the spring 2015 turkey season is available, biologists will assess spring production levels and set permit levels for the fall season. Hunters can expect plenty of opportunity to pursue turkeys in Zones 1 through 5, while permit levels in Northern Wisconsin (Zones 6 and 7) have been held at relatively lower levels as turkey numbers have begun to increase over the last ten years.

The 2015 spring turkey season permit drawing is complete, and successful applicants should receive postcards within the next two to three weeks. Hunters can also check their permit application status online via the department's Online Licensing Center, or by contacting the DNR Customer Call Center, open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463).

More than 100,000 permits were not allotted in the 2015 spring drawing and will be made available for over-the-counter purchase beginning Monday, March 23. For more information, including a list of permit sales dates, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "spring turkey permit."

The number of permits made available in each of Wisconsin's seven Turkey Management Zones is recommended by members of a DNR Turkey Advisory Committee. Committee members consider recent trends in harvest, hunter success, and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and turkey abundance reports from the field.

To learn more about Wisconsin's wild turkeys, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for 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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Sturgeon from early Kewaunee release effort picked up during Milwaukee area fisheries research

This young lake sturgeon picked up off of the shores of Milwaukee hails from the Kewaunee River where it was hatched at the C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility. Just two years old and nearly 18 inches, it outstrips the perch above.This young lake sturgeon picked up off of the shores of Milwaukee hails from the Kewaunee River where it was hatched at the C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility. Just two years old and nearly 18 inches, it outstrips the perch above.

KEWAUNEE, Wis. - Just off the shores of Milwaukee, in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan, a young sturgeon from Kewaunee appears to have found a healthy home.

While the Milwaukee shoreline serves as a proven nursery to sturgeon released nearby through a cooperative rearing program between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Riveredge Nature Center, the discovery of the Kewaunee fish marks the first time DNR researchers have confirmed a young sturgeon recaptured there was bearing a tag from the C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility.

"We're happy to know that sturgeon we are producing in Kewaunee are thriving in Lake Michigan and this finding reinforces the importance of protecting key shoreline habitat," said Mike Baumgartner, manager of the Besadny facility. "By raising the fish in our streamside rearing facility on the Kewaunee River, we believe they imprint on the waters and eventually will return here for spawning. But in the meantime, it's quite a feat for a young fish of this size to travel more than 100 miles to Milwaukee."

The fish originated from a batch of eggs collected from seven females spawning on the Wolf River at the dam in Shawano on April 9, 2012. Just before its release into the Kewaunee River as part of an open house adopt-a-sturgeon event on Oct. 6, 2012, the fish was equipped with a tiny identification tag and measured 7.6 inches long. At that time, it weighed 32.9 grams - roughly equal to a quarter cup of flour.

When it was picked up in a graded mesh net by crew members off the research vessel Coregonus as part of Lake Michigan fisheries research in recent weeks, the fish had grown to 17.9 inches long with a 7.8 inch girth. What is it about the region's habitat that helps young sturgeon and other fish thrive?

"We know the Lake Michigan environment offshore from Milwaukee and in other areas offers important advantages including suitable habitat and food supply for young sturgeon," said Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor. "Although we don't know where that young sturgeon will spend the months and years ahead, we can say it appeared to be very healthy and had found an excellent source of food at the time of capture."

While sturgeon were once abundant in Lake Michigan and key Wisconsin tributaries to the lake, by the early 1900s overfishing and habitat destruction nearly eliminated the Lake Michigan sturgeon population. By some estimates, fewer than 5,000 adult sturgeon remained in the lake prior to the stocking efforts, Baumgartner said.

DNR's stocking efforts have produced 10,735 sturgeon for release in the Milwaukee area since 2006 and 6,903 in the Kewaunee River since 2009. Baumgartner said initial success of the work at Kewaunee will likely be known in about 10 years, when some of the first males are expected to return to the river as they reach maturity. It takes the females more than 20 years before they are ready to spawn.

To learn more about the DNR's sturgeon rearing efforts, visit DNR.wi.gov and search "lake sturgeon rehabilitation."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Baumgartner, C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility manager, 920-388-1025, Michael.Baumgartner@wisconsin.gov; Brad Eggold, Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, 414-382-7921, bradley.eggold@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Rowan Creek improvements to boost fishery, benefit community

Bob Fahey, DNR field operations supervisor, stands near a section of Rowan Creek.Bob Fahey, DNR field operations supervisor, stands near a section of Rowan Creek.

POYNETTE, Wis. - On the surface, the chilly waters of Rowan Creek tumble gracefully between the banks, resembling many other swift moving streams.

What lies beneath the newly created riffles represents something else entirely - a convergence of fisheries science, angler involvement and technical know-how that promises a host of community and environmental benefits, according to project leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The recently completed stream bank improvements, covering a 1,500 foot stretch of class I trout waters near Highway 51 in Poynette, lie just downstream from a 2,000 foot section of improvements completed in 2011.

The latest project builds on habitat restoration work started 25 years ago and includes features ranging from root wads to rocky revetments. Come spring, the late fall removal of invasive buckthorn and the planting of native grasses along the banks will mean improved access to the creek along with stream conditions that support more and bigger fish for anglers.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 4 photos

Thanks to the Rowan Creek restoration project, the addition of rocks, submerged tree roots and other hiding places will help increase the size and number of trout in the stream.

"Over the years, we've had a lot of feedback from anglers, saying the creek was very hard to fish because of all the invasive undergrowth among the trees lining the shore," said Bob Fahey, DNR field operations supervisor. "We wanted to allow the stream to live up to its potential because it really is among the best trout streams in the region. It draws anglers from throughout southern Wisconsin and that in turn benefits the community."

Naturally reproducing populations of brown trout as well as some brook trout find ample forage in the creek thanks to a healthy supply of suckers, chubs, sculpins and insects. DNR also stocks rainbow trout in parts of the creek.

The improvements, which total about $38,000 covered by trout stamp funds, should help the fish find better places to hide while increasing oxygen levels in the stream throughout the year. Led by DNR fisheries team members Nate Nye, Abe Wittenwyler and Aaron Funseth, the effort to remove brush clogging the stream and improvements along the banks also will go a long way toward boosting water quality and reducing erosion.

Fahey said the careful placement of root wads - securely anchored and submerged tree roots - and cave-like structures that tuck under the banks represent proven ways to increase the size of trout inhabiting the stream. The use of large boulders and underwater rock piles called revetments help direct the stream flow and ensure better spawning opportunities.

"We're fortunate to have the scientific knowledge needed to develop plans that complement existing attributes of the stream as well as the technical skills to deploy natural materials to achieve our goals," Fahey said. "With continued support from local groups including Trout Unlimited, this work should keep Rowan Creek accessible to anglers for the next 30 years. And if the stream lives up to its potential, within a few years we should see consistent catch rates of more than 2,500 brown trout per mile, with an increase in the proportion of fish larger than 9 inches."

Currently, more than 75 percent of the trout captured during survey work are smaller than 9 inches.

DNR's Rowan Creek Fishery Area is a 651 acre property that drains the surrounding 60 square miles before flowing into Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River. The upper four miles of Rowan Creek are designated as a class I trout stream. To learn more, visit DNR.wi.gov and search "Rowan Creek Fishery Area."

CONTACTS: Bob Fahey, DNR field operations supervisor, 608-275-3251, Robert.Fahey@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan see first experimental teal season as success

MADISON - In 2014, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan were given authority by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to implement an early teal duck hunting season, with an initial experimental period lasting three years.

USFWS will require Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan to jointly conduct and report their findings in each of the experimental period's first three years. The first of these reports is now available, and results show that hunter harvest was focused on desired teal ducks.

"We are pleased we could provide this new duck hunting opportunity in Wisconsin in cooperation with our flyway partner states and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.' said Tom Hauge, Wisconsin DNR wildlife bureau director.

To help evaluate compliance and duck identification, trained observers from each state observed duck flights and hunter behavior during teal hunting seasons. Within the range of an observed hunting group, the species and number of ducks in each flock and whether the ducks were shot at or hit was recorded. In total, 88 trained observers evaluated the performance of 160 hunting parties, and these observations helped generate statistically valid conclusions.

A total of 699 non-teal duck flocks came within range of hunting parties, with only 44 shot at resulting in a non-target attempt rate of roughly 6.3 percent. This was well below the threshold deemed necessary by USFWS to protect other duck species not targeted by this early season.

"The early teal season provided Wisconsin hunters with a new opportunity and our first year results give us confidence in promoting this opportunity for hunters' again next season." said Kent Van Horn, Wisconsin DNR migratory game bird ecologist.

Wisconsin and Michigan held early teal seasons from Sept. 1-7, while Iowa's season was held Sept. 6-21.

Blue-winged teal are an early migrating duck, so many teal have left prior to opening day of regular duck hunting seasons. As a result, USFWS approved special early teal hunting seasons for some states in the 1960's. Four states within the Mississippi Flyway (Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota) were excluded initially, due to concerns that hunters would shoot too many non-teal ducks.

However, recent record-high duck populations and a desire for more equitable harvest opportunity distribution led to analyses of the potential for adding early teal seasons in additional states.

After working with state agencies to evaluate harvest potential, USFWS authorized the implementation of early teal seasons on an experimental basis in Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. Following public input processes, each state established an early teal season based on biological and social factors, with an additional focus placed upon communication and hunter education materials.

To receive email updates regarding the early teal season and other waterfowl related information, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page to subscribe for updates for DNR topics. Follow the prompts and select the "ducks" option, found under hunting.

For more information regarding the first year of the experimental three-year early teal hunting season, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

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Snowy owls return to Wisconsin in large numbers for second consecutive year

Snowy owl sitings are on the rise agiain in Wisconsin (photo by Scott Weberpal).Snowy owl sitings are on the rise agiain in Wisconsin (photo by Scott Weberpal).

MADISON - For a second consecutive year, snowy owls are returning to Wisconsin in large numbers.

Ryan Brady, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources research scientist, has been tracking this year's irruption and reports that approximately 239 different owls have been reported statewide, compared to 224 as of this date last year. Both totals are far above average.

A map of this year's sightings can be found here.

"Many Wisconsinites recall the winter of 2013-14 as one of the best on record, so it's surprising that we are seeing similar or even slightly better numbers this winter, " said Brady, who also serves as bird monitoring coordinator for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. "We usually see one irruption event every three to five years, but Wisconsin has experienced three in the past four winters."

According to Brady, the reason for these periodic influxes into the state, also known as irruptions, is not well known. Traditional thought suggested that a temporary shortage of the owl's primary prey in the Canadian arctic, a mouse-like rodent known as a lemming, pushed owls southward. However, more recent evidence suggests nearly the opposite. It is believed that an abundance of lemmings may allow birds to raise large families - these young owls then disperse southward into the region by the hundreds.

Snowy owls face many challenges during their time here and, like many birds, a significant proportion of them, especially young ones, will not survive. Primary mortality factors include collisions with vehicles, electrocution, secondary rodenticide poisoning, disease and illegal shooting.

However, snowy owls in Wisconsin tend to fare no more poorly than other avian visitors.

"A common myth is that the majority of these birds are starving in an unfamiliar landscape," said Brady. "However, decades of data and experience indicate this is not true."

Many snowy owls find exactly what they need in Wisconsin and neighboring states, and generally seek out open habitats similar to the arctic tundra they call home. Common habitats include coastal beaches and harbors, open grasslands and agricultural fields, wetland complexes, airports, and vast expanses of ice-covered water bodies. Snowy owls are not averse to civilization, however, and are often found in suburban or even urban settings.

Given their preference for lemmings in the arctic, owls in Wisconsin tend to focus on voles, mice, shrews, and other small rodents for food. Snowy owls are also known to pursue rabbits, weasels, pigeons, and ducks.

Finding a Snowy Owl

Snowy owls are currently being seen in most non-forested areas of the state. To find one, Brady recommends consulting a map of sightings from Wisconsin eBird. Hotspots include airports and farm country from Green Bay to Appleton, Collins Marsh State Wildlife Area, Horicon Marsh, the Antigo area, the city of Superior, Dunn County, Milwaukee lakefront, and the Highway 29 corridor between Wausau and Eau Claire. However, Brady noted that there are certainly new birds to be found, and all suitable habitats are worth exploring.

While snowy owls can be seen during the day, the dawn and dusk periods often provide a better chance of success. Interested bird watchers are encouraged to explore area roads and all potential perches carefully, including ground-level, haybales, fenceposts, telephone poles, breakwalls, silos and other buildings.

Snowy owl sightings should be reported through the Wisconsin eBird website, and if you discover a bird that appears sick or injured, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "rehab."

Viewing Considerations

It is important to take great care in viewing snowy owls and help make sure the bird's safety is not placed in jeopardy.

Some general recommendations for observing snowy owls include:

"In many cases, you may not be the only person to see an owl, and the cumulative impacts of these actions can be especially harmful," said Brady. "If, for example, you flush an owl trying to get a photo and another person comes along and does the same, that owl has wasted precious energy and will be less equipped to survive."

Snowy owls are expected to maintain their Wisconsin residence through March before beginning their northward migration back to arctic Canada.

"These are magical creatures - stunning in appearance, unpredictable, mysterious, and the epitome of wild," said Brady. "I may never visit their remote haunts thousands of miles to the north but seeing one here brings a sliver of that wilderness to me."

For more information regarding birding and bird conservation, search keyword "birding."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Brady, DNR research scientist, 715-685-2933

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DNR hires Bart Sponseller as AWaRe Division deputy administrator

MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced the hiring of Bart Sponseller to serve as the deputy division administrator for the Air, Waste and Remediation & Redevelopment Division.

Sponseller has been with the DNR since 2004. He replaces Sue Bangert, who retired in early January and was deputy administrator for the past seven years.

"Bart is one of our leaders - intelligent, innovative and consistently willing to reach out to our customers," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We are very excited for him to take over such a dynamic position."

Sponseller was appointed the agency's Air Management Program director in January 2012. As director his duties included oversight of the statewide air management program, including air permitting, policy development, compliance and ambient monitoring. Prior to becoming director, Sponseller led the agency's air monitoring program.

Sponseller is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and chair of the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium Board. He holds a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences as well as a master's degree Air Resources Management.

"Bart is well respected and has done an excellent job leading the Air Program," said Pat Stevens, AWaRE administrator. "I'm looking forward to his leadership and input on the many environmental issues we work with in the agency as he takes a larger role in our division."

The AWaRe Division helps protects human health and the environment by working in partnership with citizens, communities, businesses and other stakeholder groups.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew Savagian, 608-261-6422

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DNR fisheries experts set for online chat on ice fishing, Free Fishing Weekend events

MADISON, Wis. - An online ice fishing chat set for noon Thursday, Jan. 15, will offer experts and novices alike tips and techniques for enjoying the hardwater fishing season.

In addition to discussing ice fishing action throughout the state with Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists, Theresa Stabo, angler education director, will highlight upcoming Winter Free Fishing Weekend activities on January 17 and 18. With events scheduled around the state, DNR is encouraging participation through its tackle loan program.

Ice fishing gear is available at 19 loaner sites, eight of which are at state parks with fishing access. Call ahead to verify equipment is available, with numbers listed on the DNR.wi.gov website by searching "fishing equipment for loan."

While you can fish without a license or Great Lakes salmon stamp on all Wisconsin waters during the Free Fishing Weekend event, state park entrance stickers are required and other fishing rules still apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish anglers can keep.

To join the ice fishing chat, which runs until 1 p.m., visit dnr.wi.gov and look for the box on the right to enter the chat, or search the phrase "ask the experts." Or, enter via DNR's Facebook page by clicking the "Cover it Live Chat" box at the top. The online chats are archived and available for viewing after they are held.

To learn more about the on DNR's Free Fishing Weekend web page. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "Free Fishing Weekend."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Theresa Stabo, DNR angler education director, 608-266-2272, theresa.stabo@wisconsin.gov

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Last Revised: Tuesday, January 13, 2015




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