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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 13, 2015

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Big fish tales fill Wisconsin summer as anglers eye more opportunities for fall

Contact(s): Karl Scheidegger, DNR fisheries biologist and record fish specialist, 608-267-9426,; Adam Nickel, DNR biologist/Fox River gar, 920-424-3059; Bradd Sims, DNR fisheries biologist/Cassville gar, 608-935-1935; Ryan Koenigs, DNR fisheries biologist and sturgeon expert, 920-303-5450; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084

MADISON -- From a pair of record breaking shortnose gar to one giant sturgeon, anglers made the most of their time on Wisconsin waters this summer.

As thoughts turn to a fall filled with big brown trout and monster muskies, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is highlighting several notable successes by anglers during the summer of 2015:

Back-to-back record shortnose gar

Records are made to be broken and this year, the Wisconsin record for shortnose gar fell - twice.

Scott Mathewson credits his son Devin for the record shortnose gar he caught in the Fox River in Kaukauna. Devin's previous scouting trips helped him hone in on just the right spot.
Scott Mathewson credits his son Devin for the record shortnose gar he caught in the Fox River in Kaukauna. Devin's previous scouting trips helped him hone in on just the right spot.
Photo Credit: contributed

On August 3, Colin Esser of Cassville was fishing Pool 11 of the Mississippi River, a widening of the river upstream from a lock and dam in Dubuque, Iowa. The area is home to both longnose gar and shortnose gar. Using a hook and line with live bait, Esser reeled in a 28.25 inch fish weighing 3 pounds, 2.6 ounces.

Esser's fish set a record but it would be short-lived. On August 22, Scott Mathewson bested the effort with a 31.75 inch fish weighing 4 pounds, 5.4 ounces.

Mathewson credits his son Devin for the catch in the Fox River in Kaukauna. Devin's previous scouting trips helped him hone in on a spot that is home to both shortnose and longnose gar. To hear the older Mathewson tell the tale:

"I stopped the truck along the river; Devin got out and walked up and down the river's edge looking for signs of gar. He pointed out in front of him and I parked the truck. I was pretty excited; I never caught a gar before and was looking forward to reeling one in....

"Devin got the rod I was going to use ready. He showed me the correct way to attach the minnow and he cast the first time for me to show me where and how to let the bobber drift. Right off the bat, my bobber starts to bob. Devin quickly started explaining to me how to let the fish take the bait for 15 to 20 seconds before setting the hook. I let time pass, set the hook and Bam! I just caught my first gar. That was fun -- I couldn't wait to get the minnow in the water again.

"It wasn't three minutes and Devin set the hook and pulled his first gar of the day in. We both had bites after that and missed fish, but it didn't matter, we were having fun.... I was on my seventh or eighth minnow when my drifting bobber stopped and started moving upstream. I knew I had one on. I opened the bail, let line pull off, watched and counted as the bobber stayed under the water. Then I closed my bail grabbed the rod tightly and set the hook.

"My rod bent, the line peeled off as I leaned back and reeled like crazy. Devin was really excited, saying, 'The state record, you caught the state record!' I didn't even have it to shore yet but because he has caught so many he could just tell by the way it was fighting. He grabbed the net and scooped it in. Oh man! He was right, it was big and heavy. We high-fived each other three or four times as we stood there in total excitement and disbelief."

The Mathewsons contacted a local DNR fish biologist about the process for recording a new state record fish. The process includes getting it weighed with a certified scale and witnessed, so they took the fish to a Festival Foods store where it tipped the scale at just over 4 pounds.

Scott Mathewson said he has a spot on the wall of his office where he plans to put the mounted fish, but he said it wasn't the idea of chasing a record that took him to the river that morning.

"I am very grateful to my son Devin for not giving up on trying to get me out fishing this year," Mathewson said. "Record fish or no record fish, we really had a great morning together. It's something I will remember forever!"

Big sturgeon swims free

By now many avid anglers will have heard the story of 13-year-old David Jacobson of Garrison, Minn., who caught an 86-inch sturgeon on Yellow Lake in Burnett County on Sept. 12. What some may have missed in the coverage is that the family succeeded in releasing the fish.

Thirteen-year-old David Jacobson of Garrison, Minn., caught this 86 inch sturgeon on Yellow Lake in Burnett County in September. What most people haven't seen is the successful release of the fish, shown here.
Thirteen-year-old David Jacobson of Garrison, Minn., caught this 86 inch sturgeon on Yellow Lake in Burnett County in September. What most people haven't seen is the successful release of the fish, shown here.
Photo Credit: contributed

When the family landed the fish after a half hour battle, they knew it was big but had no idea the state record was 79 inches. Due to the size of the fish and the scale, there was not a good way to get an accurate weight.

"After we landed it, another boat offered to weigh it, but...the weighing apparatus was insufficient for the length of this fish," said David's father, Erik Jacobson. "After talking to some locals that had witnessed our catch, one said he thought it was nearly 200 pounds! After thinking about it, it did take three men to get the fish high enough to get the tail rope on the scale. After the attempt, the fish swam away strong upon release, so we felt really good about that."

The Wisconsin state record hook and line lake sturgeon -- caught in Yellow Lake in 1979 -- was 79 inches long and weighed 170 pounds, 10 ounces. The record sturgeon taken by spearing measured 84.25 inches and weighed just over 212 pounds.

For more information, visit and search "record fish."



2015 Gold Seal Award Winners announced

Contact(s): Patty Loosen, state friends coordinator, 608-264-8994 or Paul Holtan, Office of Communications, 608-267-7517

MADISON - With peak colors rapidly approaching in southern Wisconsin, people looking for some spectacular view may want to consider a trip to southwestern Wisconsin to visit Wyalusing State Park, located 500 feet above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers in Grant County. The park was recently voted "best place to ride/hike in the fall" in the 2015 Gold Seal award contest sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks.

Wyalusing State Park was voted best place to ride/hike in the fall in the 2015 Gold Seal Awards Contest.
Wyalusing State Park was voted best place to ride/hike in the fall in the 2015 Gold Seal Awards Contest.
Photo Credit: Randall Paske, Friends of Wyalusing State Park

And people looking for a good park to see migratory birds may want to consider a trip to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area this fall. The recreation area -- located 8 miles southeast of Burlington in Kenosha County encompassing 4,515 acres of rolling grassland, savanna, wetlands and scattered woodland - was voted "best place to see migratory birds."

Each year the public can vote online at The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks website (exit DNR) for the best park, forest, trail or recreation area in different categories each year. The contest is open to all campers, bikers, hunters, hikers, anglers, and park visitors of Wisconsin.

Other 2015 Gold Seal Awards winners include:

"We suggest that people follow the voters' favorites and go explore for themselves the winning parks," says Patty Loosen, state friends coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The award will be will be presented to a representative for each of the winning categories during the 19th Annual Awards Banquet which will be held at Monona Terrace in Madison on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, from 5-8:30 p.m.

For more information on Wisconsin state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas, search the DNR website, for "parks." To find a specific park or trail, search "find a park."



Waterfowl on the move; head to Horicon for best viewing

Contact(s): Bret Owsley, Bret Owsley, DNR Horicon area natural resources supervisor, 920-210-2451,; or Jennifer Sereno, communications, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,

HORICON, Wis. - Whether you like geese, cranes, ducks or other migrating birds, the viewing is good and getting better every day at Wisconsin's Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area.

Now through the middle of November, popular species including Canada geese, sandhill cranes, mallards, green-winged teal and northern pintail will use the marsh as a rest stop on the way to southern destinations. Some of the birds will have started as far north as Hudson Bay and some will fly as far south as Central America, said Bret Owsley, Horicon area natural resources supervisor for DNR.

This year, viewing is expected to be spectacular as continental populations of waterfowl including mallards and teal are at record levels, ranging some 40 to 50 percent above long-term averages [PDF] (exit DNR), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To help citizens catch the best viewing of their favorite species, Owsley said, DNR is introducing a "migration meter" to help depict when migrations of the various species reach their peak at the Horicon Marsh. The survey data is compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a weekly basis, by conducting roadside and airboat surveys in and along the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.

"In the same way that people will travel to different parts of the state to see peak fall color, we know people are interested in the fall bird migration at Horicon," Owsley said. "The migration meter will help people track the movements of their favorite birds and hopefully, they'll head to Horicon to see and hear the action firsthand."

While visiting the marsh, visitors are encouraged to check out the new Explorium at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. Made possible through a combination of public and private funding including support from the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center, the Explorium features museum quality exhibits, numerous bird and wildlife mounts and historic hunting equipment.

"Fall is a great time to visit the marsh and the new Explorium provides the perfect place to come inside and learn more about the history of hunters and the hunted from the Ice Age down through modern times, before going outside to experience the marsh itself." Owsley said.

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located between Horicon, Wis. and Mayville, Wis. on Hwy. 28. The Explorium is open seven days a week except for major holidays. Weekday hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekend hours run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to the Explorium, the center features an auditorium as well as a conservation learning lab and is well-suited to group visits from schools, community centers, senior groups, civic organizations and more. For a detailed list of all Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center special events, please visit the Friends of Horicon Marsh website at For more information regarding Horicon Marsh education programs, contact Liz Herzmann, DNR educator, at 920-387-7893.

To learn more, visit and search "Horicon Marsh."



Forest Fire Protection Grant recipients announced for forest and wildland fire suppression

Contact(s): Jennifer Feyerherm, DNR financial assistance specialist, 608-266-1967; Chris Klahn, DNR cooperative fire control specialist

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with a correction to the total grant amount issued.

MADISON - There are 221 local fire departments in Wisconsin that will receive a total of $489,439.31 in grants this year for equipment, prevention, and training to enhance their forest fire protection and suppression ability, according to the Department of Natural Resources..

"These grants will enable local fire departments to increase their level of preparedness and ability to respond and protect their communities," said Chris Klahn, DNR cooperative fire control specialist. "Throughout the year, DNR and local fire departments work cooperatively on numerous wildfire suppression efforts. It's an effective partnership and these grants help make it possible."

Local fire departments and county or area fire organizations received funding by applying for grants, which were established in 1997 to strengthen local fire departments' and county or area fire organizations' capabilities to assist the DNR forestry staff in suppression of forest fires.

The grant program provides funds for the purchase of forest fire suppression equipment and training, including: personal protective equipment, forest fire training, forest fire prevention, forest fire tools and equipment, communication equipment, dry hydrant installation, rural fire mapping, and off-road all-wheel drive, initial-attack vehicles.

A complete list of 2015 grant recipients [PDF] is available on the DNR website.

The Forest Fire Protection Grant program is one of over 30 grant programs administered by the Bureau of Community Financial Assistance. To learn more about these programs search the DNR website for "grants."


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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