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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 3, 2015

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Thick ice, above average water clarity likely to greet 2015 sturgeon spearers

John Skahen with his 161.0-pound, 77.1_inch sturgeon speared in 2014.John Skahen with his 161.0-pound, 77.1_inch sturgeon speared in 2014.

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- With cold snouts full of wiry barbels and a row of bony plates called scutes along their backs, lake sturgeon aren't exactly cuddly.

But they'll get plenty of love this Valentine's Day when sturgeon aficionados from around the world shower attention on the Lake Winnebago system as the 2015 sturgeon spearing season gets underway. In fact, sturgeon spearers will begin demonstrating their devotion to the majestic fish starting Feb. 12 and 13 when they cut large, rectangular openings in the ice of Winnebago system waters and move their shanties into place.

"Water clarity is the best predictor of spearing success and 2014 brought the best clarity conditions we've had in five years," said Ryan Koenigs, senior fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Water clarity this year looks even better, so based on current conditions, we are expecting a relatively short, busy and successful season. But realistically, spearers love to be out where the fish are and they'll be happy regardless of season length."

Guided by rows of old Christmas trees that local fishing clubs set up to aid navigation on the lake ice, the spearers are expected to use more caution than ever this year as they venture out with a variety of vehicles in pursuit of their beloved quarry. DNR law enforcement officials warn that ice is never safe and despite its apparent thickness in most places, fluctuating temperatures and windy conditions occasionally cause heaves that leave the surface buckled and potentially weak.

Yet for the lucky holders of the 13,134 licenses purchased for spearing this year, Koenigs said the 2015 season offers particular reason for optimism. DNR carefully monitors the sturgeon population and thanks to continued strong reproduction and prudent management, this year's harvest cap for adult female sturgeon has been raised to 878, up 6 percent from 828 a year ago. For adult males, the harvest cap increased to 1,250 from 1,200; for juvenile females the cap is up to 430 from 400 a year ago.

To reach the legal harvest size of 36 inches, the fish that are taken will be at least 10 years old, while fish at the 100 pound mark are at least 45 years of age. In 2014, a record 106 fish weighing 100 pounds or more were taken. The largest sturgeon registered was a 161 pound, 77.1 inch fish taken by John Skahen and registered at Quinney on the Eastern shore of Lake Winnebago.

"Going back all the way to 1941, 10 of the 11 heaviest fish ever taken have been harvested since 2004 and nine of the top 11 have been speared since 2008," Koenigs said. "In looking back at that 70-plus year history, these are the 'good old days.'"

So, what do spearers do with a 100 pound fish once they've landed it and completed registration at one of DNR's 11 check-in stations? While some cooking websites boast of grilled sturgeon accompanied by citrus-infused chili sauce and others talk of pan frying sturgeon nuggets, many families in the Oshkosh area will smoke their fish, Koenigs said. The firm texture of the flesh and marbling of fat that runs throughout make smoked sturgeon a delicacy.

"Many of the families that participate have done so for generations and everyone has their own sturgeon spearing traditions," Koenigs said. "We're pleased that sound, long-term management of the fishery has produced so many social and economic benefits for the region. There are definitely many reasons to love sturgeon."

To learn more about the upcoming harvest on the Lake Winnebago system, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Winnebago system sturgeon."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs, DNR senior fisheries biologist, 920-303-5450, Ryan.Koenigs@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Efforts underway for Wisconsin Bikeways Project

The Bikeways Project will evaluate existing roadways and trails to identify priority bikeway routes across Wisconsin.The Bikeways Project will evaluate existing roadways and trails to identify priority bikeway routes across Wisconsin.

MADISON -- The public will have an opportunity through a variety of public participation efforts to help identify, create and promote a network of mapped bicycle routes in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in coordination with other state agencies, and the Wisconsin Bike Fed are partnering to work on a statewide Bikeways Project. Toole Design Group has been hired as a consultant on the project. A bikeway is a road, street or path that is specifically designated for bicycle travel, may be designed for bicycle travel and may be shared with other modes of transportation or recreation.

"The Bikeways Project will evaluate existing roadways and trails to identify priority bikeway routes across Wisconsin," says Brigit Brown, DNR state trails coordinator.

The focus will be on establishing recommendations and turn-by-turn directions for Wisconsin segments of the United States Bicycle Route System, a network of long-distance bicycle routes across the country linking urban, suburban and rural areas through a variety of bicycling facilities.

Brown said the project will develop recommendations, methodology and guidelines for identifying, designating and signing regional, intrastate and interstate bikeways. It will focus on fulfilling goals outlined in the existing Wisconsin Trails Network Plan [PDF] and supplementing the statewide bicycle condition maps (exit DNR) already available.

Some of the benefits of state bikeways, Brown said, will be to increase access and options for long-distance bicycle travel, increase safety for bicyclists, and to promote physical activity. Environmental and economic benefits would include cost savings through energy conservation and pollution reduction, and increasing tourism and increasing public awareness.

According to a 2010 UW-Madison study, bicycle recreation and tourism contributes $924 million per year to the state's economy, $533 million of which is annual direct spending by both resident and non-resident cyclists on bicycle trip-related expenses such as food, lodging, entertainment, and taxes.

Two sets of public open houses that will be scheduled this spring and fall and a public comment period are planned, with the project expected to be completed by the end of this year.

For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "bikeway."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, 608-267-7517

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Wisconsin launches largest statewide bird survey in history

MADISON - Birders are grabbing their binoculars and getting ready to count birds for a good cause as Wisconsin launches its most comprehensive bird survey ever. The effort, known as Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, will last five years, enlist thousands of citizen scientists and help shape bird conservation efforts for the next generation, according to organizers.

"This project represents a unique opportunity for citizens to be a part of conservation efforts in our state," said Nick Anich, breeding bird atlas coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Anyone can participate in the survey. Whether they're an expert birder or just starting out, we'll provide them the tools they need to successfully document the birds across the state."

The project, which runs through the end of 2019, is a cooperative effort between DNR and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. The survey will aim to document breeding bird numbers and diversity throughout the state.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 8 photos

View the slideshow to see fun facts from the first atlas.

"The Breeding Bird Atlas is crucial to helping us understand changes and trends in bird populations statewide," said Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. "This project and the information collected by our partners will be used for numerous conservation programs at work now and into the future."

The first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas was initiated by WSO in 1995 and represented the largest coordinated field effort in the history of Wisconsin ornithology. During the six-year survey period, field observers documented 237 bird species, with 226 of those listed as confirmed breeders in the state.

"With the help of three new lead organizations, we'll be able to further build on the strengths of the first atlas as well as capitalize on advancing technology to increase participation and collect even more information for the second atlas," said Kim Kreitinger, WSO president.

Not only will the second atlas be the largest avian citizen science project ever in the state of Wisconsin, but it will also be the first in the country to utilize eBird, a popular bird reporting and analysis website. Results of the atlas will help guide future bird conservation efforts and land management planning.

"The efforts of volunteers who will donate their time and energy over the next five years will allow us to achieve much more than we ever could alone. The support is truly invaluable," said Erin Crain, director of the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation bureau. "The data collected by volunteers will play an integral role in the management of Wisconsin birds, which speaks to the importance of our dedicated partners."

Breeding Bird Atlas Survey seeking volunteers

The success of the atlas will rely on the help of countless volunteers. Whatever your skill level and wherever you bird, everyone is welcome to participate. You can make an impact by carefully observing birds and documenting their breeding activities starting this spring. To sign up to volunteer and help conserve Wisconsin birds, visit wsobirds.org/atlas-email-signup (exit DNR).

Attend the spring kickoff meeting on Feb. 27

Join bird enthusiasts from around the state at the atlas kickoff meeting at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Rothschild, Wis. The meeting will run from Feb. 27- March 1 and features a full agenda including field trips, training workshops and presentations. For a complete list of events and speakers, visit wsobirds.org/atlas-kickoff-meeting (exit DNR).

To learn more about how you can support or participate in the survey, visit wsobirds.org/atlas (exit DNR]. For a more detailed look into the survey, check out the February issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Nick Anich, DNR breeding bird atlas coordinator, 715-685-2930; Bill Mueller, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory Director, 414-698-9108.; Kim Kreitinger, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology President, k.kreitinger@gmail.com; Ryan Brady, WBCI bird monitoring coordinator, 715- 685-2933

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Start a new year of adventures with Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine's February issue

A photographic pilgrimage to the Apostle Islands ice caves is featured in the February issue. Photo by Karen McFadzenA photographic pilgrimage to the Apostle Islands ice caves is featured in the February issue. Photo by Karen McFadzen

MADISON -- Winter is a great time to catch up on reading and Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine has a collection of stories in its February issue that will get readers ready for adventures in all seasons in 2015.

The cover story, "Amazing ways animals out-fox winter" shares fascinating survival skills that animals use to toughen it out in the coldest season. "Back in the Day" continues the winter theme with a look at historic Wisconsin deep-freeze sports. "A photographic pilgrimage in the coldest of days" beautifully showcases the Apostle Islands' ice caves. The American Birkebeiner is featured in "Wisconsin Traveler."

Magazine staff will be at Canoecopia in March in Madison and to get psyched for that, this issue features several stories that will appeal to paddlers including "A river, a kayak, a friend" reliving friendship on the Willow Flowage and Tomahawk River, as well as a solo adventure in "When the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway calls."

Wisconsin's Breeding Bird Atlas II will be the largest avian citizen project ever in the state and you can learn more in "A historic bird survey." Learn about another historic process in "Trading ruffed grouse for wild turkey."

The Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund recaps its first year of success in "What we cherish the most" and "Wisconsin's Deer Management Assistance Program" looks at that program's first year with an invitation to get involved this year. "Fox (Illinois) River Summit is a start" thanks partners who are finding solutions to environmental challenges in a heavily populated part of the state.

Get ideas for spring and summer projects with "Anatomy of a wetland restoration." Then learn join the author as he gets a surprise while hunting in "An unlikely discovery." Learn about other discoveries - fossils - in "Digging Irma Hill and the Krukoswki Quarry."

Wisconsin Natural Resources

The February issue includes the annual Fish and Wildlife brochure sharing important ways the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources invests Wisconsin's fish and wildlife dollars. A highlight of issue is a 16-page insert on the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative with stories from anglers, business owners and researchers relaying the importance of this statewide stocking effort.

WNR magazine also has an e-newsletter "Previews and Reviews" to keep our readers informed about upcoming stories and past articles. Sign up to receive the e-newsletter and other email updates.

(Under the Publications box, select Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine).

Not a subscriber? Here's what you are missing:

Already a subscriber? 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. 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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Online Deer Management Assistance Program chat Feb. 5

MADISON - Landowners and land managers with an interest in deer and habitat management are encouraged to participate in an online chat Feb. 5 at noon to learn more about the Deer Management Assistance Program.

People can participate by going to the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword "chat" to submit questions and view responses from DNR experts. People can also view past chats and sign up to receive email notifications.

DMAP enrollment can help enhance habitat for deer and other wildlife, and provides for habitat management alongside existing land use activities like agriculture and timber management.

In 2015, both public and private lands are eligible to participate in DMAP. Program cooperators at each level will receive immediate access to educational resources and updates.

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. Properties less than 160 acres will be automatically accepted for Level 1 enrollment on a continuous basis.

For more information regarding DMAP and the application process, search the DNR website for keyword "DMAP."

To receive DMAP email updates and other information, visit dnr.wi.gov and select the email icon near the bottom of the page to 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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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 03, 2015




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