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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 25, 2010

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Free Fishing Weekend June 5-6

MADISON - People of all ages can fish free in Wisconsin on June 5 and 6, the state's Free Fishing Weekend.

More than two dozen free fishing clinics statewide during that weekend - and free loaner equipment available from 50 state parks and offices will help make it even easier for people to take advantage of this opportunity, state aquatic education officials say.

"We want everybody to give fishing a try, and Free Fishing Weekend's a great time to do it," says Theresa Stabo, DNR's aquatic education coordinator.

"Every day is free fishing day for kids 15 and under, so it's nice for their parents, friends and older teenagers to take advantage of Free Fishing Weekend to fish for the first time, or return to it."

All waters of the state are open, including Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and rivers bordering Wisconsin. Residents and nonresidents of all ages can fish without a fishing license (or trout or salmon stamps) over these two days. However, all other fishing regulations apply, including how many fish anglers can keep and limits on the minimum size of fish they can keep.

More than two dozen fishing clinics offered

Free fishing clinics - some aimed at kids and some intended for the whole family - are set for more than two dozen locations across the state. Some of the clinics are sponsored by Wisconsin State Parks, but most are put on by local fishing and conservation clubs.

"We're really excited that there are more clinics than usual, and that some of them are targeted at families," says Rachel Piacenza, DNR aquatic education associate. "If you're an adult new to fishing, don't feel embarrassed to attend an event! This weekend is really about introducing people of all ages to fishing. If you're an avid angler, consider taking an adult who has never fished before. Share your passion with someone else; you're sure to remember that smile when the first fish is reeled in."

Fishing rods and reels available for loan from 50 DNR locations

Many of the fishing clinics provide all the equipment people need to fish. But people who cannot or do not want to attend a clinic can borrow fishing equipment from dozens of DNR state parks and offices. Call ahead to the listed contact people to make sure equipment is available, and to arrange to pick the equipment up as DNR service centers are open limited hours.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rachel Piacenza (920) 662-5401; Theresa Stabo (608) 266-2272



State Park Open House June 6

Free admission to all state parks, forests and trails

MADISON - Enjoying Wisconsin State Parks, Forests, Trails and Recreation Areas is always a good value but on the first Sunday of June they are an exceptional value, as entrance to any state park, forest, trail and recreation property is free.

"Open House Day gives us the opportunity to share our unparalleled natural resources with people who haven't visited recently or who are new to Wisconsin," says Dan Schuller, Wisconsin State Parks director. "From viewing a sunrise over Lake Michigan at Whitefish Dunes or Kohler-Andrea state parks to watching the sun set over the Mississippi River at Perrot or Merrick state parks, people across the state can take in a full day of hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, or just relaxing at some of the most scenic spots in Wisconsin."

Reservable campsites in Wisconsin state park and forest campgrounds are generally in high demand for the Memorial Day weekend, but there are often campsites available for the weekend of State Park Open House at many parks and forests. Camping fees do still apply on state park open house day. People can check campsite availability or reserve a site (minimum two nights) through the State Parks Web site [].

With opportunities for bicycling, hiking, canoeing, boating, fishing, and horseback riding at various locations statewide Wisconsin boasts unique and diverse landscapes to interest all travelers.

On State Park Open House Day, no admission stickers are required on vehicles entering state parks, forests and recreation areas, and trail passes are not required for bicyclists, in-line skaters, or horseback riders using state trails that normally require a trail pass. In addition, Saturday, June 5 is National Trails Day and fees are waived to use all DNR-managed state trails on that day as well.

The event also coincides with Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin, so no fishing license is required to fish at the many lakes and rivers located in state parks and forests. Several parks are sponsoring free fishing activities, along with other special events.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Wisconsin State Parks - (608) 266-2181



Prolonged drought having severe impact on some northern lakes, flowages

SPOONER - Eight straight years of drought in northern Wisconsin is causing many people to ask what is happening to the fish, wildlife and recreation dependent on water.

A 12-month drought cumulative effects scale -- known as the Palmer Drought Index (exit DNR) -- shows below average precipitation again for 2010. The May index has northern Wisconsin in the moderate to severe drought category.

Deep Lake
Water levels are down 15 feet on Deep Lake in Washburn County.
WDNR Photo

The water deficit crosses most of the northern part of the state. Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Manager Dennis Scholl said the Rainbow Flowage in Oneida County is down 13 feet while Deep Lake in Washburn County is down 15 feet, one of the worst examples of the lack of precipitation. Most water bodies in the north are affected.

While no one can control the weather, Department of Natural Resources staff say low water cycles are a natural occurrence, and that there are different ways that fish, wildlife and humans adapt to the cycles. Shoreline owners have a key role in protecting fish and wildlife when water levels drop.


DNR Fisheries Biologist Dave Neuswanger says a primary adverse impact of the drought on fish is that clearer, weedier water favors largemouth bass over walleye, which are competitors for food and also prey on each other.

Wisconsin anglers prefer walleye over largemouth bass by an almost 2:1 margin. But during drought conditions, lakes can become clearer, as surrounding wetlands dry up, because wetland filtration tends to leave a dark stain to the water discharged to lakes. These conditions favor largemouth bass over walleye. Walleye do best in shaded low-light conditions and so in clear, shallower lakes walleyes have less habitat with a comfortable light level. This makes walleye less efficient as predators and more vulnerable to predation by largemouth bass, which thrive under clear-water conditions.

Even some former waters renowned for walleye production like the Chippewa Flowage will become largemouth bass lakes if a change is not made in angler harvest patterns in response to the drought and new environmental conditions, Neuswanger added.

As for fishing, fish managers say it does not necessarily become easier to fish as fish are squeezed into less water, because an angler's bait must compete with the prey species, minnows and bug life that also are squeezed into that dwindling waterway. However, in other cases, such as trout streams, low water levels can concentrate fish in deeper pools, which can make them more vulnerable to exploitation. Fish manages look to anglers to exercise restraint in such cases, especially in Class 1 trout streams with naturally reproducing fish populations, where future fishing opportunities could be harmed by overharvest.


The drought is having both positive and negative effects for wildlife according to Mike Zeckmeister, DNR Northern Region wildlife expert.

Droughts expose lake bottoms and dry up muck that has accumulated. Seeds sprout on exposed lake bottoms and desirable vegetation expands into deepwater portions of lakes and rivers, and.

"Depending on the lake, the amount of vegetation can increases significantly around a lake," Zeckmeister said. "This provides a valuable food source for resident wildlife and migratory birds."

However, other plant production is limited during droughts. This is especially true for plants favored by wildlife such as blackberry, mushrooms and low bush blueberries. Oaks produce fewer acorns or may not produce acorns at all during periods of drought.

Native reptiles and amphibians adapt to periodic droughts and occasional wildfires. Droughts and fires can cause elevated mortality of reptiles and amphibians, but most populations recover quickly when rainfall returns to normal levels.

Although we may not like them, Zeckmeister said, droughts are a natural, normal and recurring process. Many ecosystems are dependent on this cycle to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Piping plovers, federally and state listed endangered species, nest along sandy shorelines that are free of vegetation. They were documented nesting on Lake Superior gravel beaches in the mid 1970s through early 1980s, but then breeding pairs of these rare birds disappeared from the western shore of Lake Superior. Now in the last few years, there have been a few nesting pairs in Wisconsin, in part due to lower water levels along Lake Superior.

Other shoreland birds are finding more nesting habitat as shorelines increase. Any vehicles or equipment should be kept off these newly dry areas during low water levels to prevent destroying nests of birds that lay their eggs. The eggs and nest, by nature, are made to blend in with the rocks and shoreline debris and are hard to see.

As the drought continues, homeowners should use native plants or plants that do not need watering for landscaping. Motor vehicles should keep off shorelines to protect nesting birds and newly emerging plants.


Willow Flowage
Boating is becoming challenging on waters like the Willow Flowage because of low water levels.
WDNR Photo

Most stream levels are down to about 30 per cent of their normal flow and many lakes have dropped from 3 to 15 feet depending on water source. Some human-made flowages, like the Willow and Rainbow reservoirs, are down to their original stream channels.

Canoeists and kayakers will find some streams much more difficult to navigate. Some stream stretches are so low that travelers are forced to get out and drag their canoes over the shallows. Recreational safety specialists recommend canoeists and kayakers go light with gear and plan on getting feet wet. Bring an extra paddle if one gets ruined on the rocks.

Motorboat users must take extra caution with low water levels. More than a few propellers and lower units have been ruined by boaters running at high speeds through what was once a safe travel area. If unfamiliar with the waterway, check locally with a resort or bait shop on where the shallow water areas, rocky shoals, stump fields or other submerged obstacles are. Boaters should carry an extra propeller. Check a lake map for water depths or use a depth finder, and take it slow.

Operation of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) is prohibited on the on the exposed bed of any navigable water, including exposed lakebeds in front of private property, with only a few exceptions, such as to launch a watercraft or to reach the frozen surface of a lake.

Shoreline owners

"Shorelines play a vital role in providing habitat for fish and wildlife," said Daniel Houston, DNR water regulation and zoning specialist. With the continued drought and dropping water levels, DNR staff has been getting many questions about what citizens can and cannot do to clean up shorelines.

"Shoreline property owners get to enjoy the use of these exposed areas but also have the responsibility of ensuring their activities do not impact the lakes and rivers that belong to everyone. Most of the exposed areas are below what is called the 'ordinary high water mark,' which is the dividing line between private property and the publicly owned lakebed," Houston said.

Most activities conducted on the exposed lake bed including beach grooming and cutting or chemically treating vegetation are regulated by the DNR, and most require a permit.

Shoreland property owners should learn what plants are growing on lake beds, and determine whether they are native plants, whether they provide wildlife habitat or food, or are possibly invasive plants, and then contact a DNR aquatic plant coordinator (look under waterfront permit contacts) to get advice on plant control.

If the plants are native vegetation -- except for wild rice -- some minor vegetation management activities may be done by hand without a permit from the DNR. Shoreland owners may manually cut and rake aquatic plants within an area no more than 30 feet from any piers, boatlifts, swim rafts and other recreational and water use devices.

Non-native and invasive species may be removed by hand in an unlimited area without a permit: They include phragmites (see also phragmites fact sheet [PDF, 66Kb]), Eurasian water milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, and purple loosestrife. All plant fragments must be disposed of outside of a waterway or wetland.

Removing vegetation from an area larger than 30 feet wide, driving a motor vehicle on the lakebed, depositing any materials, tilling, and chemically treating vegetation if the area is wet all require a permit. The law considers roto-tilling the exposed beach a dredging activity that requires a permit. The permits are designed to assure that the activity does not damage the lake or the sensitive exposed habitat.

"If you have plans for your lakeshore, be sure to find out if permits are required. It's good for your lake, and the penalties for not getting one can be steep -- up to $186 for driving on an exposed lakebed and $1,318 for illegal dredging, which includes activities such as tilling and disking," Houston said.

More information on waterway permits can by found on the DNR website.

Although humans cannot do anything to avoid a drought, people can learn some valuable lessons from dry periods that guide responsible use of water. Whether we have a drought or not everyone should always conserve water and treat the natural resources with respect.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Jerow, DNR Northern Region Water Leader (715) 365-8901



New firewood rule to take effect June 1

Firewood brought onto state managed lands must now come from no more than 25 miles away

MADISON - Beginning June 1 only firewood gathered or purchased from a vendor who cut it from within 25 miles of a state managed property, or state-certified wood, may be brought onto the property. This change is being done to reduce the risk of bringing in destructive forest diseases and insects.

A previous law had allowed firewood cut or gathered up to 50 miles from a state property to be brought in but a newer study by forest health experts led to the adoption of the more protective 25 mile distance. The 2010 Memorial Day weekend will be the last weekend before the newer firewood restrictions go into effect.

DNR will have maps illustrating a 25 mile radius from Wisconsin state campgrounds on state parks and forests available after June 1.

"Invasive species threaten the health of our forests," said Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR forest health specialist. "Insect pests such as emerald ash borer and gypsy moth and diseases like oak wilt and Dutch elm disease spread to new areas easily in firewood. Collectively, these invasive species have already killed millions of trees in Wisconsin."

Wood from vendors certified by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is exempted from this law. Wood from state certified vendors may enter any state property regardless of where the wood was harvested. This is because to be certified, vendors must treat their wood to kill pests or diseases that might be within it. For a list of certified vendors and more information on the certification program and how to become a certified vendor, go to [exit DNR] and select Firewood Regulations, and see the section on "What is Acceptable Firewood?"

People planning to camp in a Wisconsin state park or forest this year, should get firewood locally, advise DNR property managers. Most parks and forests have local firewood available for sale on site or from vendors nearby the property. Using local firewood helps to ensure the health of the parks and forests that are so much a part of living in Wisconsin. To learn more about firewood availability at your destination, contact them directly. A list of phone numbers for parks is available online at:

For more information on forest health including links to the state's emerald ash borer and gypsy moth control efforts visit the Department of Natural Resources website.

"A campsite surrounded by healthy, mature trees is basic to a quality camping experience, and so is having a campfire." says Diss-Torrance. "If we are going to enjoy both, we need to take some precautions to prevent introducing invasive pests and diseases to the parks and forests we love the most. By using wood from trees grown nearby, you help prevent such introductions."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR forest health educator, (608) 266-2172 or Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Forest Health Specialist, (608) 264-9247



New Web page to highlight deer research projects

MADISON - Staying on top of developments and progress in Wisconsin's $2 million investment in deer research is only a mouse-click away at a new "White-tailed Deer Research Projects" page on the Department of Natural Resources website.

To register for updates, people can go to the DNR homepage at [] and click on the White-tailed Deer Research Projects button under the features column, then click on the link for "subscribe to deer research projects," enter their e-mail address and follow the sign up instructions. When the subscription list appears scroll to the bottom and check "Wisconsin Deer Research."

When the White-tailed Deer Research Projects page is updated, subscribers will receive an e-mail alerting them to new information posted on the page.

The White-tailed Deer Research Projects page will keep subscribers up-to-date on four research efforts designed to improve the accuracy of estimating Wisconsin's deer population and gain a better understanding of hunter population trends. The projects were requested by hunters and a scientific review panel of North American wildlife experts.

The four research projects include: estimating the survival rate of bucks; predator impacts on deer populations; aerial deer survey techniques; and human dimensions research to better understand factors contributing to declining hunter numbers. Details on other deer-related research projects will be posted later as they are planned.

Researchers from DNR, University of Wisconsin-Madison - Department of Wildlife Ecology, UW's Applied Population Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are all involved in parts of the research. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Whitetails Unlimited are also involved in the effort.

Additional volunteers are needed to build deer traps, participate in deer capture, placing radio collars on captured deer, and monitoring survival status and seasonal movements of collared deer. DNR and University researchers are also interested in working directly with landowners within the study areas willing to allow researchers on their property to conduct research activities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher Jacques, DNR research scientist - (608) 221-6358



ATV safety reminder message for Memorial Day weekend

Most crash victims were not wearing helmets

MADISON - People planning on hitting the trails on an all-terrain vehicle this Memorial Day weekend should play it smart by protecting their heads with a safety-approved helmet, according to a state recreational safety specialist.

"The ATV trails will be busy during the holiday weekend," says Gary Eddy all-terrain vehicle safety administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. "It is hard to imagine that anyone would think about riding without a helmet, but a disturbingly large percentage of fatal ATV crash victims were not wearing helmets."

Eddy says the majority of ATV fatalities are adults, with only a small number of ATV users under the age of 18 killed each year.

"Parents and other adults are usually good about making sure children are wearing helmets, but often they don't wear helmets themselves," Eddy says. "Adults should be role models by wearing helmets."

Eddy adds that people should make sure the helmet is one that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"You can't anticipate a crash, but when it happens, be prepared by wearing a helmet," he says.

Here are other important ATV safety tips:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy - (608) 267-7455


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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