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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 21, 2015

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Bigger fish, better bag limits should set stage for strong season opener

Historic walleye numbers seen in Green Bay area fishery surveys

MADISON -- With less than two weeks to go until the general season fishing opener Saturday, May 2, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries experts are reporting many reasons for optimism.

Statewide trout populations appear healthy, largemouth bass numbers remain strong and an anticipated three fish daily bag limit for walleye in Ceded Territory waters will mean new opportunities for anglers in all regions of the state. DNR fisheries biologists say the warmer weather so far this spring has moved up the timetable for spawning activity statewide, with several rivers flowing into Green Bay reporting historically strong runs of walleye that have drawn early season anglers from throughout the Midwest.

Peshtigo River
Dozens of anglers take to the water or wait for an opening to try their luck during early season walleye fishing on the Peshtigo River, April 10, 2015. - DNR Photo
WDNR Photo

"During our electrofishing surveys, in an hour and a half we were getting 250 walleye and the average size was 22 inches at least," said Mike Donofrio, a DNR fisheries team supervisor based in Peshtigo. "We've been seeing similar numbers and size structure on the Menominee, Peshtigo, Oconto and Fox rivers - these are historically high numbers and continue a trend we've seen for the past five years. People have been lining up along the shores and given the low gas prices, people are driving from Iowa, Minnesota and all over Wisconsin. Local hotels have been filled."

The early season on major tributaries to Green Bay started March 2 and runs to May 1 with a one fish daily bag limit, but the action has been drawing anglers eager for the experience. After spawning, the fish typically move out of the river and begin looking for food - good news for anglers who will be working the shoreline in the weeks ahead.

Rodewalds
Cory Rodewald, along with sons Tyler and Jake, experienced some good brown trout fishing recently on Green Bay. - DNR Photo
WDNR Photo

"These fish are voracious predators and they put on the feedbag after spawning," Donofrio said. "In addition to the walleye, we are also hearing reports of very good brown trout fishing on Green Bay (where the season is continuous). Between the walleye and the brown trout, it's shaping up to be a great spring and summer."

Anglers also have much to look forward to in northern Wisconsin, where a new three walleye daily bag limit is anticipated to be in effect for the first time on most lakes and rivers in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory. The rule replaces the previous system of annually adjusted bag limits with equally protective minimum length and slot limits to manage angler harvest of adult walleye at levels that can be supported over time, said Mike Vogelsang, DNR's north district fisheries supervisor.

"On most lakes, the three bag daily limit includes a 15 inch minimum combined with a protected 'slot' of fish between 20 and 24 inches and one fish greater than 24 inches,'' Vogelsang said. "The idea behind the protected slot is to help conserve walleye that are just entering their prime spawning years. The three bag limit was developed in response to angler feedback seeking more consistency throughout the Ceded Territory."

The daily bag limits of three walleye apply to an individual lake. An angler can go to another water and harvest an additional two fish to meet the total daily bag limit of five in Wisconsin waters. However, the angler cannot have more than three fish in their immediate possession and must take the three fish harvested from the first lake back to a house or cabin before traveling to the next lake.

In west central and southwest Wisconsin, anglers interested in trout will find larger fish this year, although overall numbers are down from their recent historic highs, said Heath Benike, a DNR fisheries operations supervisor based in Black River Falls.

"The streams are in really good condition," Benike said. "We had a period of probably eight to 10 years where we had super high densities and the past several years the numbers are down just a bit but the size structure is going to be better because of this. There are still a lot of fish out there."

Bass anglers also will have reason to cheer as largemouth bass populations are running at or near historic highs, Benike said.

"If you are a bass angler, the largemouth bass populations have never been stronger," he said.

Largemouth bass populations have become so abundant in some waters that largemouth bass fishing regulations have been liberalized in an effort to encourage harvest of small, surplus fish in the population. It should be noted that there is a catch and release season for smallmouth bass in parts of northern Wisconsin that runs from May 2 to June 19.

The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 2, 2015 to March 6, 2016, however a variety of local and species specific rules may apply. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "fishing regulations." For a complete calendar, search "fishing season dates."

Anglers can find fish species information, boat access sites, shore fishing areas, lake information and regulations by downloading the free Wisconsin Fish & Wildlife mobile app, which includes a full array of fishing information.

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Buying a license is easy and convenient over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website at all authorized sales locations, or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

CONTACTS: Mike Donofrio, DNR fisheries team supervisor, 715-582-5050, Michael.Donofrio@wisconsin.gov, Mike Vogelsang, DNR northern fisheries supervisor, 715-356-5211 Ext. 239, Michael.Vogelsang@wisconsin.gov; Heath Benike, DNR fisheries operations supervisor, 715-284-1447, Heath.Benike@wisconsin.gov, Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Wisconsin's Coolest Fish Facebook Contest

MADISON -- It's no secret that Wisconsin's fishes are cool, but which fish is the coolest? The "Wisconsin's Coolest Fish Contest" is underway and 64 fish are vying for the public's vote. The contest runs from April 20 through June 8. Every five days there will be a new bracket of contenders.

Casting votes is easy! Just head over to the DNR Facebook page (facebook.com\WIDNR), click the "Coolest Fish Contest" tab on the left hand side of the page and fill out the entry form. Votes can be cast once per day. One person will be randomly selected from all the entries to win a custom-made, wall-mount fish sculpture of the winner's choice. The winner and the winning fish species will be announced on June 9.

More information about the Coolest Fish contest and how to enter are available by searching the DNR website for "Coolest Fish."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger, DNR fisheries, 608-267-9426 or Trish Nitschke, office of communications, 920-360-3252

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Recent 'red flag warnings' underscore National Wildfire Prevention Week message

MADISON -- On the heels of Wisconsin's early and active wildfire season that included the largest widespread red flag warning in decades, state fire control experts welcome Wildfire Prevention Week April 19-25 as a well-timed reminder for homeowners to delay burning when spring clearing their properties.

"Fire season is here and it came with a vengeance, quickly and widespread across the state," said Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Once that snow cover disappears and we see a short stretch of warm and windy days, our vegetation dries out and that puts us on high alert for wildfires."

Wildfire Prevention Week is a national annual observance when state and federal wildfire protection programs remind citizens of the dangers of wildfire and how to help prevent them.

Prevention was the message of the day on April 15 when 39 Wisconsin counties were under extreme fire danger and a red flag warning was implemented. This happened again on April 18, but limited to five central counties. All burning permits within areas of the state where DNR has primary fire control responsibility were suspended and the DNR asked the public to avoid introducing any fire in the outdoors due to the dangerous conditions.

"This was the largest widespread declaration of this type in decades," Koele said.

In addition, the DNR has been proactive and suspending DNR burning permits off and on in recent weeks, depending on the conditions.

"Burn permits are a proven fire prevention tool," Koele said. "They encourage the public to burn legal materials, such as leaves, brush and pine needles, when conditions are safe."

Each day's fire threat determined early

Koele says wildfire experts gather early to consider the day's risks statewide.

"Each morning, the weather forecast comes in and we assess the moisture levels of the fuels and vegetation on the ground, which is tied to recent rainfalls," Koele said. "This allows us to make decisions about the fire danger level and whether to allow the general public to burn vegetative yard waste with DNR permits."

Anytime fire is set outdoors, Koele said, it places lives, property and natural resources at risk. And, it's not the only option. The DNR recommends considering alternatives to burning or waiting until conditions improve.

All it takes is one ember to start a wildfire

Jolene Ackerman, DNR wildland-urban interface specialist said the theme for Wildfire Prevention Week focuses on ember awareness. Embers left behind from debris piles, campfires or hot coals from woodstoves or fireplaces can all rekindle and start a wildfire.

"Embers can remain hot for days, even weeks so it's important to make sure fires are completely out," Ackerman said.

The campaign also encourages the public to take the necessary steps to improve their home's chances of survival, without firefighter intervention, in the event of a wildfire.

"Maybe you don't burn, which is great," she says. "But, it's important to remember that a wildfire can happen as a result of a downed power line or sparks from a railroad, and if you live in a fire prone area, your home and property could be at risk."

In the unfortunate event a wildfire does occur, tiny embers carried by the wind can rain down on a home like an ember blizzard. They seem harmless, but embers are a real threat. Managing the area around the home plays a big role in the likelihood of it surviving a wildfire.

"With the nicer weather, more people are headed to their cabins nestled in the woods, getting outside and cleaning up around their properties and possibly burning those materials," Ackerman said.

Is your home or cabin wise to fire?

Ackerman said taking deliberate steps to make a home or cabin "firewise" can sound like a daunting task, but that the key is to create defensible space around all the buildings on the property by limiting the amount of flammable vegetation, debris and man-made objects that can become 'fuel' for a wildfire.

"Focus on the little things, like cleaning debris from your roof and gutters and under decks, moving your firewood pile away from the house, raking the lawn and removing all dead vegetation. A simple way to approach the work is by prioritizing by season and focusing on the things that you can do in any given weekend."

People can find out if a home would survive a wildfire by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "ember" to take a homeowner self-assessment. For the most current fire danger and burning permit restrictions, enter keyword "fire."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist, 715-356-5211 x208 or 608-219-9075; Jolene Ackerman, wildland-urban interface specialist, 608-267-7677 or 608-575-9846

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This Arbor Day, plant a tree and help the urban forest canopy grow

MADISON -- The public is invited to attend the planting of a large red oak tree near the corner of Main Street and Pinckney Street on the capitol square in Madison at noon on April 24, 2015 to mark the 132nd celebration of Arbor Day in Wisconsin.

"People often ask when is the best time to plant a tree?" said Jeff Roe, urban forestry team leader with the Department of Natural Resources. "My standard answer is 'yesterday,' but if you didn't plant one yesterday, plant one on Arbor Day."

Wisconsin celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, the same day Arbor Day is celebrated nationally. The first Arbor Day was declared in 1872, when Nebraska newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton convinced the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture to accept a resolution by him "to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit." Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states and around the world.

"Wisconsinites take pride in the forests where we live and play--from the majestic white oak in your backyard to the vast pines of the Northwoods. The tree canopy where we live provides many benefits, including reducing storm water runoff, lowering air temperatures, reducing air pollution, enhancing property values, improving health and wellbeing and the aesthetic benefits," Roe said.

"Threats to the urban forest posed by the emerald ash borer mean that the urgency to plant trees and continue to receive all of these benefits is exponentially increasing," Roe said. "The management of this pest is resulting in the removal of many ash trees in urban and rural environments."

State Forester Paul DeLong and other special guests will be on hand at the Capitol as The Bruce Company uses a tree spade truck to plant the large red oak. Smokey Bear will make an appearance to remind school children and other event participants that "Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires!" Madison musician Ken Lonnquist will also be on hand to lead the crowd in songs celebrating the benefits of trees.

The public is invited to join in celebrating Arbor Day by participating in a tree planting ceremony--either at the state capitol or at one of the hundreds of local Arbor Day ceremonies that will be taking place throughout the state on April 24 -- or by planting a tree on their own property.

For more about Arbor Day, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "Arbor Day."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Dierickx, DNR urban forestry specialist, 608-275-3227

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Healthy forests fuel Wisconsin's wood and paper products industry

MADISON -- If you're looking for an example of a "growth" industry, look no further than Wisconsin's wood and paper products sector, which is benefiting from a steadily increasing supply of state-grown timber. April, dubbed Forestry and Paper Products Month by the Legislature, offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the positive impact of Wisconsin's 17 million acres of forested lands and its millions of urban trees. Together, the trees enhance our quality of life, help protect our waters, improve the soil, provide a wide range of wildlife habitat and supply the raw material for one of the state's most important economic drivers - the forest products industry, said Paul DeLong, chief state forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

What many people don't realize is that Wisconsin forests grow one and a half times more wood than what is harvested each year, even with saw timber volume increasing by 140 million cubic feet annually. In 2014, for example, state forests contained 21.4 billion cubic feet of timber and grew by another 560 million cubic feet while timber harvests totaled 315 million cubic feet. The annual saw log growth alone represents enough wood to frame 105,000 homes, DeLong said.

Apart from providing wood headed to home builders and furniture makers, Wisconsin's forests help propel our paper mills to the No. 1 spot in the nation - a title the state has held for more than 60 years. "The papermaking industry took root here three years before Wisconsin achieved statehood and today our papermakers employ some 31,000 people who earn more than $2.6 billion in annual wages," DeLong said. "Beyond these current economic benefits, 7.2 million forested acres including county, state, tribal and privately held lands are independently certified as sustainably managed, meaning they are managed in a way to produce environmental and economic benefits for generations to come. Most of these public and private forest lands are also open for public uses including hunting, hiking, bird-watching and other recreational activities, so there are a variety of community benefits as well."

In addition to the state's papermaking prowess, Wisconsin's workforce is strengthened by 24,669 lumber and wood products employees who earn more than $1.2 billion annually. At the same time, the state's 4,242 forestry and logging workers earn more than $176.4 million annually, said Julie Ballweg, DNR forestry economist.

"Wisconsin leads the nation in millwork production and we are also a major source of veneer output for furniture," Ballweg said. "With 1,292 companies in primary and secondary forest products businesses, the forest products industry touches every corner of the state. We're fortunate to have longstanding public and private partnerships that encourage reinvestment in the industry and ensure a steady supply of timber." To learn more, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "forestry and the Wisconsin economy."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie Ballweg, DNR forestry economist, 608-267-9570, Julie.Ballweg@Wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Gypsy moth aerial spraying to start soon

MADISON -- Residents of many western Wisconsin counties can expect to see and hear loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise starting in early- to mid-May. Small, yellow planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars, invasive and destructive pests that feed on the leaves of many species of trees and shrubs.

Stay updated

Spray dates and times are weather dependent. Sign up to receive e-mail notifications about spray plans and view maps of specific spray areas online at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR). You can listen to a recorded message about our spray plans by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line at 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for updates. Spraying is expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in early May and end in northern Wisconsin in August.

Spraying will be completed by two programs:

Know what to expect

Timing

Spraying depends on favorable weather conditions -- calm winds, no precipitation and high humidity. Planes may start spraying as early as 5 a.m. The planes fly very low and loudly over treatment sites and surrounding areas. Planes will continue spraying until the completion of the day's spray plans and as long as weather conditions remain favorable. Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon.

Spraying could occur any day of the week, including weekends.

Spray Treatments

Most sites will be sprayed with Foray, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars when they ingest it.

Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during nearby spray activities or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.

The formulation of this bacterial insecticide used by the state's cooperative gypsy moth program is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute as acceptable for use in certified organic food production.

In areas with endangered species of butterflies and moths, a gypsy moth-specific product called 'Gypchek' will be used instead of Btk.

The Slow the Spread program will also spray a mating disruptor to additional sites in western Wisconsin between mid-June and mid-August. The pheromone in the mating disruptor makes it difficult for male moths to find female moths in low, isolated populations, preventing reproduction.

For more information about the programs or gypsy moths, visit the website gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR). Or, call the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of the programs' current spray plans or talk to staff.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR 608-266-2172 or Rick Hummell, DATCP 608-224-4591

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18th Annual Bird Festival May 8-11 at Horicon Marsh - an ultimate birder adventure

HORICON, Wis. - The public is invited to grab a pair of binoculars and bring a friend to the 18th Annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival where they can experience the sights, the sounds and the natural beauty of birds at the peak of spring migration.

At more than 33,000 acres Horicon Marsh is one of the largest fresh water cattail marshes in the United States. It provides habitat for endangered species and is a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating songbirds and waterfowl.

"Horicon is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance and as both a State and Globally Important Bird Area," said Liz Herzmann, Department of Natural Resources wildlife educator at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. "Over 300 bird species have been identified here with 166 species identified during the 2014 festival events. It is a remarkable place for wildlife of all kinds and especially for birds."

Hosted by the Horicon Marsh Bird Club (exit DNR) the festival has something for everyone from backyard birders to world travelers over four days of adventure by boat, bus and bicycle. There will be also plenty of activities to keep children busy as well.

A variety of both free and fee programs are scheduled throughout the four-day festival. Find more information on outings on the Horicon Marsh Bird Club webpage by clicking the Bird Festival link. (exit DNR).

The festival kicks-off with Habitat Birding Bus and Boat Tour--an all-day two-part tour by bus and pontoon boat (fee). Other popular favorites include Hot Spot Birding Bus Tour & Hike--attempt to see as many species as possible based on earlier sightings (fee), Bird Banding and Birding Adventure Boat Tour--a two hour narrated pontoon boat outing (fee) among the 20-plus tours and activities planned by the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.

New for 2015, the Bird Festival will be offering a Hummingbird Banding demonstration. Join Mickey O'Connor, Wisconsin's only licensed hummingbird bander, and her banding volunteers to see these tiny migratory birds close up and in the hand as they are captured, banded and released for study.

The Birdchick (exit DNR), also known as Sharon Stiteler, will present Smartphone Birding. This covers the many ways a birder might use a smartphone in the field, including accessing maps and field guides, submitting sightings to eBird, alerting others to rare birds and even taking fantastic photos.

The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge "Loop of the Refuge" Bus Tour and Hike (fee) will feature traveling Dike Rd. across the marsh to its west side, then across Highway 49 and returning to Horicon NWR headquarters, hitting wetland, forest and grassland habitats along the way.

Ever wonder what the steps are during the banding process? Experience it first- hand through Bird Lab. Kids will get an opportunity to go through the banding process by getting caught in a net, going through some of the standard measurements taken from captured birds, and seeing how they measure up to real birds. They of course will be sent on their way newly "banded" and will receive a certificate of banding. Every kid will want to be banded at Horicon Marsh!

For the early morning birder, First Light Birding - a field trip by bus and by foot designed for birders who want to add as many species as possible to their bird lists. There will be some walking but it is rated easy offers a glimpse of the birds at sunrise (fee). Alternatively, Screeches, Squawks, and Squeals of the Marsh occurs at sunset.

Throughout the Festival, the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Marsh Haven Nature Center and Horicon Marsh Education & Visitor Center will be abuzz with interactive displays, programs and opportunities for viewing birds at their observation areas. This is a family-friendly event.

To plan your birding adventure, visit www.horiconmarshbirdclub.com (exit DNR) and click on the Bird Festival link for complete list of events, descriptions and registration information. You may also contact Wildlife Educator Liz Herzmann at 920-387-7893. Many tours require advanced registration and fees.

Partners for this event include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marsh Haven Nature Center, Horicon Marsh Boat Tours, Friends of Horicon NWR and Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Liz Herzmann, wildlife educator, 920-387-7893 or Bob Manwell, DNR office of communications, 608-2758-3317

Mark your calendar for the August 22, 2015 Grand Opening of the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center's Explorium. The Explorium is a new interactive, museum-quality, diorama built on a theme of, "The Great Hunting Grounds." The exhibits depict how humans and wildlife have interacted and impacted Horicon Marsh since the last great glacier to present day.

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'Spring Aboard' DNR launches reminder for boaters to take a boating education course

MADISON -- During the week of April 20-26, 2015, the Department of Natural Resources encourages boaters to Spring Aboard by enrolling in a boating education course. Online boat safety education course providers will offer incentives or course discounts for students who enroll in or complete a course during the Spring Aboard campaign.

"An informed and knowledgeable boat operator is much more likely to recognize hazardous conditions on the water and avoid a boating mishap," said Roy Zellmer, Wisconsin's boating law administrator. "Classroom courses are offered through local boating safety organizations, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons. Online courses are available 24/7 and provide state-specific boating education information. Completion of a course increases your chances for having fun on the water."

Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. For a summary of Wisconsin's regulations and available courses, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "boat safety."

"The Spring Aboard campaign is a unified effort to remind boaters to complete the course now, prior to or during spring break, in preparation for the boating season," Zellmer said. "With today's wide variety of courses available, there's a course for everyone's schedule!"

2013 U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that, when the level of operator education was known, 80 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction. Many states require completion of a course verified by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators as meeting the national boating education standard for powerboat rental or operation. To ensure your course qualifies, look for the 'NASBLA-Approved' logo.

For more information see the NASBLA "Spring Aboard" (exit DNR) campaign website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Penny Kanable, 608-228-9352

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 21, 2015




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