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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 8, 2011

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Water clarity improving for sturgeon spearing season opener

Link to Video

Get the latest news about the 2011 Lake Winnebago System Sturgeon Season. [VIDEO Length 0:54]

OSHKOSH - With just days to go before the Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing seasons open Feb. 12, two conditions important for spearing success were headed in different directions: water clarity had improved but last week's snowfall has made travel on the lakes more challenging.

"Two weeks ago we had 12 feet of water clarity, now it's improved to 13 feet to all the way to the bottom," says Ron Bruch, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh. "The best water appears to be in the south and along the east shore."

That increased water clarity will make it easier for spearers to see the sturgeon more quickly to throw their spears.

The biggest change in the last couple of weeks is the increase in snow on the ice, Bruch says. Additional snow and drifting will make travel more difficult, but fishing clubs have been out aggressively plowing the road and laterals off the roads for spearers to get to different places on the lake.

"I'm quite confident that by the time we get to Thursday, they will have things in good shape, but it won't be easy for people to pick up and move someplace else during the season."

Bruch says that people who want to move around from day to day will need a four-wheel drive with a high clearance and a possibly a plow attached.

Get free mobile alerts and e-mail updates on sturgeon spearing numbers

People can sign up to receive free wireless alerts or e-mail updates to learn the day's sturgeon harvest totals and to get other Winnebago sturgeon spearing updates. Visit the Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Season 2011 page on the DNR website to sign up. Look for "Fishing Updates" and place a check mark in the box by "Sturgeon Spearing" to get the updates. Updates will include a daily summary report from Bruch, daily (and running) system harvest totals, and miscellaneous news from the day.

More sturgeon spearing season notes

One question Bruch's been fielding from reporters is whether the record number of spearers for the Lake Winnebago season raises concerns about limiting future participation on the lake through a controlled lottery to ease harvest pressure on fish. The Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing season, which also opens Feb. 12, has a drawing for the 500 spots available for that season.

"At this point, I don't see a lottery in the near future on Lake Winnebago. The harvest cap system we have works quite well and we'd only consider a lottery as an option if the harvest cap system fails," he says.

The Lake Winnebago season does not limit the numbers of spearers that can participate beyond requiring that all spearers purchase their spearing license by Oct. 31 of the previous year, but it does limit the number of sturgeon that can be speared.

The 2011 Lake Winnebago season runs from Feb. 12, 2011, through Feb. 28, 2011, or until the pre-set harvest cap for Lake Winnebago is reached, OR the pre-set harvest cap for the entire Winnebago System is reached, whichever comes first.

Bruch says that controlling spearer numbers on the Upriver Lakes is necessary because spearers' success rate on those lakes -- Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan -- is much higher. Success rates are 66 percent for the Upriver Lakes compared to 13 percent for Lake Winnebago.

There is a much higher concentration of fish on the Upriver Lakes and the lakes are much smaller, so DNR, with input from the sturgeon citizen advisory committee, moved to a lottery system in 2007 to limit pressure on the fish populations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kendall Kamke, Winnebago fisheries biologist (920) 424-7880; or Ron Bruch, fisheries supervisor, (920) 424-3059



Winter Severity Index monitors health of northern deer herd

SPOONER Wis. - State wildlife staff are again monitoring the effects of winter on the state's northern deer herd using as system known as the Winter Severity Index - and so far things look pretty good. The index uses a combination and accumulation of cold temperatures and deep snows that historically have proven to affect the health and population of deer.

Biologists and other department staff add the number of days with daily low temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit (F) and the number of days with 18 inches or more of snow on the ground. Up to 50 combined points at the end of the winter is considered mild, from 51 to 80 is considered moderate, 81 and over is considered severe, and any totals over 100 points are considered very severe.

To date, most of northern Wisconsin has snow depths that allow good deer movement, according to Mike Zeckmeister, Department of Natural Resources northern region wildlife biologist.

"About half of our stations are reporting winter points over 20, the other half are 20 or less," Zeckmeister said. "What stands out this winter is that it started early. We have had below average low temperatures, and snow depths have just hovered below the 18-inch reporting level at many stations up to the end of January."

Zeckmeister said that with a little more snow, most stations will be adding snow days to their reporting. "Depending on what happens for the rest of the winter, we could go either way. We will factor all of this in, including the final Winter Severity, when we set deer quotas later this spring," he said.

The north's 2010 deer population was in good shape and hunters helped reduce deer numbers going into the winter, and this will help them survive. Last year's winter was considered mild, the biologist said, "and we saw a very early spring green-up that provided sustenance for pregnant does, insuring a healthy fawn crop."

Zeckmeister said that last summer's ample rainfall provided good growth of summer vegetation that helped deer build up fat reserves for this winter.

"Our November deer harvest trimmed the herd in most areas and that means fewer deer having to compete for winter forage," he said. Too many deer going into a winter can seriously degrade winter browse and cover that can take years to recover and hinder overwinter survival of deer.

Listed below are indexes (combined below zero temperatures and 18 or more inches of snow) and snow depths as reported by department staff:

StationWSISnow Depth
Eagle River1616
Park Falls2216
Summit Lake2017

Wildlife managers are currently studying deer populations and planning for the 2011 deer season. Public meetings will be held in March with citizens to discuss the condition of the deer herd and prospects for next fall's season. Zeckmeister said that people interested in deer and proposals for next fall's deer seasons should watch for announcements of these local meetings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Zeckmeister (715) 635-4090



February Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine looks at options to curb light pollution

MADISON - The February issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine takes readers through a mix of stories about outdoor experiences, natural resource progress and environmental successes.

The story, The fading universe, takes a look at options communities can use to curtail stray night lights and take back a view of the evening sky. The story features striking images of night skies impacted by city lights and those that have escaped light pollution impacts.

A feature story, A small window for a big opportunity, follows a family, friendships and tradition that bring winter sturgeon spearers back to the ice each year on Lake Winnebago. Fun photos by Michael Kienitz show the success.

A lifetime of skiing promotes cross-country skiing as a great workout and a way to see Wisconsin parks and forests. The story comes just as skiers around the world prepare to come to Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner. But you don't have to be a marathon skier to appreciate a quiet day on skis with friends.

As a bonus, the issue contains two inserts - a four page reminder to Conservation Patrons potential license buyers that it's time to think about buying 2011 licenses, and a brochure telling the public how the DNR spends license dollars and uses the Fish and Wildlife Account to provide a positive experience using Wisconsin's natural resources.

Consider the magazine as a thoughtful gift that you can share throughout the year. Six colorful issues are delivered to readers' doors all year for less than $1.50 a copy. Year-round the magazine shares ways and places to enjoy the Wisconsin outdoors for only $8.97. Subscribe toll-free at 1-800-678-9472, online at or by mail. Subscription blanks and single issues also are available from our circulation office at P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Natasha Kassulke, editorial, at (608) 261-8446 or Karen Ecklund, circulation editor, at (608) 267-7410.



Stamp funds available for habitat work to benefit turkey, pheasant and waterfowl

MADISON - Applications to fund habitat work by conservation organizations and government agencies to benefit wild turkeys, pheasants, and waterfowl are now available from the Department of Natural Resources. The applications are due March 28, 2011, for work to be done in 2012 and 2013.

Funds raised through the sale wild turkey, pheasant, and waterfowl stamps and a portion of the Conservation Patron license are made available to conservation organizations and units of government. Eligibility information and criteria, application guidance, and more information can be found on each of the species pages on the DNR website at Funds may be used only for developing, managing, preserving, restoring and maintaining the wild turkey, pheasant, and waterfowl populations and their habitat in the state.

"Since their inception, millions of dollars of wild turkey, pheasant, and waterfowl stamp funds have been awarded to conduct habitat management, research, and outreach that benefits the species, their habitat, and the people who enjoy hunting and viewing them," said Scott Walter, the Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "These funds have been instrumental in providing critical habitat and species management across the state."

Currently, 60 percent of pheasant stamp funds are directed to the State Game Farm, which annually produces pheasants for release on public hunting grounds. The program provides additional pheasant hunting opportunities for bird hunting enthusiasts. One-third of waterfowl stamp funds is directed to Canada in a cooperative species management effort that preserves waterfowl habitat and benefits Wisconsin hunters.

"All Wisconsin residents have benefitted from the waterfowl habitat work that has been funded by the sale of Wisconsin waterfowl stamps," said Ricky Lien, DNR's wetland habitat specialist. "Wetland habitat work accomplished through the money raised by waterfowl stamps not only benefits hunters but also provides waterfowl watching opportunities for non-hunters, provides clean water, and helps to control flooding by slowing the release of floodwaters."

A stamp is required to hunt wild turkeys, pheasants, and waterfowl in the state of Wisconsin. Many stamp collectors also purchase the stamps, and stamp design contests are held each August to determine the design of the upcoming license year's stamps. On average, the wildlife stamps receive annual revenues exceeding $300,000 for pheasant, $750,000 for wild turkey, and $550,000 for waterfowl.

To learn more about how to apply for funds from Wisconsin's wild turkey, pheasant and waterfowl stamps to benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat in Wisconsin, visit Wisconsin Wildlife Stamp or contact Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, at (608) 264-8963 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Krista McGinley, (608) 264-8963



Green and Healthy School workshop offered

MADISON - Southeast Wisconsin teachers and school staff can learn about making their schools green and healthy for students and staff at an upcoming day-long workshop. The Green and Healthy Schools Program is conducting a day-long workshop on March 25 at Havenwoods State Forest Environmental Awareness Center in Milwaukee. The workshop will provide area school staff, teachers and administrators with training on how to incorporate Green and Healthy Schools program into their schools. The Green and Healthy Schools workshop will provide an in-depth introduction to the program, specifically focusing on the topics of: Workshop participants also will have the opportunity to connect with area businesses, nature centers, non-profit organizations and local governments. Schools will leave with a plan for making their individual school green and healthy. Substitute teacher costs will be covered by the DNR thanks to grants from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the Townsend Foundation and the Wisconsin Energy Foundation. Participants are encouraged to register early because space is limited.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Werner at (608) 267-7622


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 08, 2011

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