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August 31, 2010

New video, radio spots alert boaters to potential hazard posed by nets

MADISON - Boaters and anglers recreating on Lake Michigan in the Sheboygan and Manitowoc/Two Rivers area will want to keep an eye out in coming weeks for the flags and buoys that mark commercial fishing trap nets, as restrictions on where they can place those nets change after Labor Day.

"The nets may be moving after Labor Day when the restrictions end," says Wisconsin's Fisheries Director Mike Staggs. "We want to make sure that people are on the look out for the flags and buoys that mark the nets and avoid them, wherever they are. There's a lot of water out there. Let's share it safely."

Trap nets are large underwater nets used by commercial fishers to catch whitefish in the Great Lakes. They are preferred to gillnets and trawls because sport fish that are accidentally caught in the nets can be released alive, however, the nets can pose a potential risk to boaters and anglers because boat downriggers, fishing lines, and propellers can get caught in the nets or anchor ropes.

Commercial fishers do not set trap nets near Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine or Kenosha harbors, but the nets have historically been set in other parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior from late spring into the fall.

In Zone 3, the area south of Sturgeon Bay, from June 29th through Labor Day, commercial trap nets are limited to two small areas: one south of Sheboygan harbor and one between Manitowoc and Two Rivers harbors. After Labor Day, trap nets may be found anywhere in that area. Commercial fishers can increase the number of nets they set from three each to 12 each after the time, but historically have decreased their fishing effort after Labor Day, Staggs says.

Commercial and recreational fishing are both authorized under state law and the Legislature's policy calls for DNR to manage for "an economically viable and stable commercial fishery and an active recreational fishery."

New efforts to alert boaters to commercial fishing trap nets

New informational tools are being used to help alert boaters and anglers to watch for, and steer clear of, flags and buoys that mark commercial fishing trap nets on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

"We want to create a safe and enjoyable fishing environment for everybody on the Great Lakes," says DNR Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark. "A big part of that is awareness and vigilance, and we hope these new informational efforts by DNR and the National Weather Service will help do that."

Radio and television spots and a revamped web page, Trap Net Safety on the Great Lakes, are among the new outreach efforts from the Department of Natural Resources.

The Milwaukee/Sullivan National Weather Service Forecast Office has posted a Trap Net Hazards to Boaters (exit DNR) story on its web site [], issued a Public Information Statement through its wideband network and recorded a public service announcement on its NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards stations serving our marine community from Sheboygan to Kenosha.

"The National Weather Service is pleased to partner with other government agencies including the Wisconsin DNR in spreading the word about potential hazards," says Marc Kavinsky, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan.

The new materials supplement longstanding outreach efforts by UW Sea Grant, [] (exit DNR) the DNR and fishing organizations that alert anglers and other boaters to watch for the flags and buoys that mark the commercial fishing trap nets and steer clear to avoid getting tangled in them.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Warden Supervisor Chris Groth (920) 662-5449; Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; Marc Kavinsky, NWS, (262) 965-5063

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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