NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 3,936 days

ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 24, 2012

All Previous Archived Issues


Inland fishing season opens May 5

Early warm-up means many fish done spawning and ready to feed

MADISON -- The early ice-out across Wisconsin lakes and rivers is good news for anglers venturing out for the May 5 inland fishing season opener: many game fish are done spawning or wrapping up and ready to take the bait, state fisheries biologists say.

"This has been the most extended spawning season I've experienced in nearly 30 years as a fish biologist," says Terry Margenau, Department of Natural Resources fish supervisor based in Spooner. "This year the water temperatures hit 45 degrees and went backward. The result was a greatly protracted spawning period for fish in many lakes. Regardless, I expect that by the season opener fish will be active and feeding and we'll see a very good opener."

The 2012 Wisconsin Fishing Report gives anglers a line on the size and numbers of fish populations in many of their favorite waters, but anglers may need to change tactics and where in that water body they fish.

Anglers may need to look in deeper water for walleye and in shallower water for bass than normal at this time of year, says Bob Hujik, fisheries supervisor for west central Wisconsin. "We got so warm and then everything stabilized and spawning dragged on," he says. "But my gut is telling me our fish are still two weeks earlier than normal.

"The walleye are done spawning so they'll be feeding heavily and the bass waters warmed up and the fish are moving around in the shallows," Hujik says.

Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor based in Woodruff, agrees that anglers may have to change up tactics and look for fish in a little deeper water and near newly emerging weeds.

"Given that everything is about three weeks ahead, it would not be surprising if crappies are already in spawning mode so they may be an alternative fish to target if the walleye don't cooperate," he says. "They will be found in shallow bays with weeds, or in areas of rushes which provide spawning habitat."

Scot Stewart, district fisheries supervisor for southern Wisconsin, says that "fish populations are terrific in most waters." Anglers should plan on fishing in the exact same waters they would normally fish in, but to expect fish to be advanced compared to a normal season.

Randy Schumacher, district fisheries supervisor for northeastern and southeastern Wisconsin reports that walleyes and northern pike are through spawning in northeastern Wisconsin. Muskellunge have just begun their spawning cycle. Musky anglers fishing southern zone waters may still find some muskellunge in spawning condition.

Largemouth bass fishing should be excellent as abundant sunny days have increased their metabolism, Schumacher says. Look for largemouth on the northern ends of lakes especially over dark-bottomed weedy areas, he says. Bluegills and crappies should be taking advantage of these early spring zones of warmer water temperatures and early food production as well.

Trout anglers in northeastern Wisconsin will find a mixed bag of water levels with the Northwoods streams of Marinette and Oconto counties exhibiting flows below normal while streams in the central sands of Waupaca, Waushara and Marquette counties are closer to water levels expected for the spring opener, Schumacher says.

Lower water levels in the north may make some smaller trout streams harder to fish by concentrating trout in deeper pools and increasing their awareness of angler movement along stream banks. Trout anglers may want to check out recent trout stamp habitat projects on the Mecan River downstream of Highway 21 and the Waupaca River in the City of Waupaca.

In southeastern Wisconsin, the early ice out has contributed to vegetation growing early which gets insects growing early, Schumacher says. "The bass have been drawn into the shallows earlier, especially when the sun is high in the sky. The bluegills and bass are feeding so it should be a really good opening day if anglers can find these patches of early growing vegetation."

Season dates and major new regulations affecting musky anglers and others

The hook-and-line game fish season opens May 5 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 5, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 5 through June 15, with the harvest season opening June 16. Statewide, the harvest seasons for bass have a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.

Musky season opens May 5 in the southern zone and May 26 in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line. New this year is that the statewide minimum length limit for musky has increased to 40 inches from 34 in order to help boost natural reproduction. Research suggests muskellunge are more successful at producing young after their second or third year of maturity (up to 40 inches in length). The greater protection afforded by a higher length limit will allow more muskellunge to spawn more than once before they are vulnerable to harvest.

Also new this year, anglers must use a quick strike rig or a non-offset circle hook if they are fishing a minnow 8 inches or longer. When using a quick strike rig and a minnow 8 inches or longer for bait, anglers must immediately attempt to set the hook upon indication of a bite to avoid deep hooking the target fish.

The seasons for rock, yellow and white bass, panfish, bullheads and rough fish, catfish, cisco and whitefish are open all year. Check the "2012-2013 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations" for special regulations listed by county, for regulations on the Great Lakes and boundary waters, and for tributary streams to Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The complete guide is also available at DNR offices and license agents.

New discounted license seeks to lure back anglers

New this year anglers who have never purchased a fishing license -- or who haven't purchased one in 10 years -- can get a discounted "first time buyers" license. Lawmakers created the discounted license earlier this year and both residents and non-residents can take advantage of this opportunity. Residents' discounted license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

There are also incentives for anglers to get new people to go fishing.

Also, for the second year, 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.

"It's a good entry level license that lets you do everything but fish for trout and salmon, where stamps are required," says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin's fisheries director. "It's a great way to introduce a friend or family member to the fun of fishing."

The one-day license is good until midnight on the day it is purchased. People can buy these new licenses and the 20 other different fishing licenses DNR offers in three convenient ways:

Over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

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 reminded of rules to stop the spread of VHS and other invasive species

Anglers can help keep Wisconsin fish and lakes healthy by following rules to avoid spreading the fish disease viral hemorrhagic septicemia, aquatic invasive species like Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels, and Asian carp like those strays that were documented in the Lower Wisconsin River and the Mississippi River in 2011 and 2012.

For more information search the DNR website for "VHS" and learn about steps that all water users can take to prevent its spread.

Fish consumption advice the ticket for healthy eating

Fish caught from Wisconsin waters are a good, low-cost source of nutrition and a brain booster to boot, but make sure that those who eat the fish are following Wisconsin's fish consumption advisory to reduce their exposure to environmental contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.

Videos about the general consumption advice are available in English, Spanish and Hmong and can be found on DNR's YouTube channel fishing playlist. Inland waters are covered by the same general advice with the exception of 150 waters where more stringent advice applies because mercury or PCB levels are higher in those waters.

Governor's Fishing Opener in Washburn County

The 47th Governor's Fishing Opener, officially kicking off Wisconsin's big game fishing season, takes place May 5 at Trego Flowage, a 450- acre impoundment of the Namekagon River in Washburn County that is famous for its walleyes, northern pike, smallmouth bass, musky and panfish. Gov. Scott Walker has been invited to see if he can reel in a fish and break what's been mostly a string of tales about the fish that got away since Gov. Warren Knowles started the event in 1965. The angling event is held at various locations in western and northern Wisconsin each year and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Indianhead Country Tourism group. This event is also by invitation only to media and state and local government officials.

Fishing Wisconsin by the numbers
  • Wisconsin anglers catch an estimated 88 million fish and keep about 33 million of them, or a little more than one-third. While walleye is the top target, panfish are the most frequently caught and consumed.
  • Fully 53 percent of the adults responding to an October 2009 statewide UW-Madison Badger Poll said they fish, although they may not do so every year.
  • About 1.4 million licenses are sold each year to adult anglers in the state and Wisconsin trails only to Florida in the number of days nonresident anglers spend fishing here.
  • Anglers have 15,000 inland lakes, 42,000 miles of streams and rivers plus the Great Lakes shoreline and 260 miles of the Mississippi River to fish in Wisconsin.
  • Sportfishing generates $2.75 billion in economic benefits, supports 30,164 jobs, and generates $200 million in state and local tax revenues.
  • FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796 or your local fish biologist



    Third highest coho harvest on record, best since 1982

    MILWAUKEE -- Lake Michigan anglers in 2011 recorded the highest harvest of coho salmon in three decades and the third highest on record since the state started stocking salmon and trout in the 1960s, according to recently released results from angler surveys.

    "Coho fishing for Wisconsin anglers on Lake Michigan last year was the best it's been since 1982," says Brad Eggold, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor for Southern Lake Michigan. "Boaters were fishing hard for coho from April to early August and focused on these abundant and easily catchable fish."

    The 2011 season for coho salmon ran much longer than previous years and the fish were close to shore and easily accessible by most boat anglers, Eggold says. Those factors helped propel this year's estimated harvest to 157,367 coho, more than triple the 42,445 coho harvested the previous year.

    The coho harvest total also was the third highest ever recorded in Wisconsin since DNR started stocking Pacific strain salmon and trout in the 1960s to control populations of alewife, a nonnative species that was washing ashore and collecting in huge, rotting piles on Lake Michigan beaches.

    Angler harvests of rainbow trout and lake trout were also up in 2011, while chinook and brown trout harvests were down from 2010. Wisconsin anglers in 2011 harvested 75,442 rainbow trout, up from 49,121 in 2010, and 17,788 lake trout, up slightly from 17,483.

    The chinook harvest was down with 169,752 fish caught in 2011, about half of the previous year's harvest of 315,294 and lower than the 10-year-average of 300,000 fish, Eggold says.

    "Since the coho salmon fishery was so successful in 2011, many anglers opted to fish for them instead of for chinook salmon, which were found in deeper water farther offshore," he says. "Once anglers located the chinook in mid-August, most of the summer fishing season was over and that contributed to the lower harvest."

    Eggold says that the number of chinook returning to the weir DNR operates on Strawberry Creek in Door County was above average, and in fact was up almost 100 percent from the previous year, which indicates that fewer fish were harvested by anglers.

    The lower harvest also reflected in part that there are fewer chinook in the lake. Stocking reductions lakewide were implemented in 1999 and 2006 to better match the number of chinook in the lake with available forage.

    May 1 and May 8 meetings to address concerns over forage base and stocking

    While the lake-wide chinook stocking reductions have helped better balance game fish and prey fish populations, biologists believe those reductions have not been enough and are concerned that the forage base is weakening. The need to keep the number of predators stocked in line with available forage will be the topic of public meetings in Milwaukee May 1 and Green Bay on May 8.

    Recent surveys indicate that older alewife are becoming scarce in Lake Michigan, the year-class produced in 2011 was not good, and computer modeling done by Michigan State University researchers predicts a potential mismatch into the future, Eggold says.

    Despite such concerns, however, the near-term fishing prospects look good, Eggold says. "Early fishing reports for 2012 are showing that anglers are catching good numbers of brown trout, coho and chinook salmon, so the fishing season is off to a good start," Eggold says. "We're asking anglers now to help us make some decisions to keep their fishing strong in the future."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold - 414-382-7921; Bill Horns - 608-266-8782 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942



    Open house meetings set on revisions to Wisconsin's endangered species list

    MADISON - The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the process used to revise the "list of species designated as endangered or threatened in Wisconsin at two public open house meetings May 7 and 9.

    Sixteen birds, plants and other animals are proposed to be removed from the state's list of endangered or threatened species, while eight species are proposed to be added to the list.

    Information on the species and the proposed list revisions will also be presented at the open houses, which will run from 5 to 7 p.m., with a presentation and question and answer period from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on:

    Under Wisconsin's Endangered Species Law it is illegal for people to kill, transport, possess, process or sell species that are listed as endangered or threatened. The law requires the Department of Natural Resources to review and, following public input, revise the endangered or threatened species list as needed. Since the first list was developed in 1972, it has been revised 10 times, most recently in 2011 to add cave bats due to the imminent threat of white-nose syndrome.

    The DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources began a comprehensive scientific review of rare species in Wisconsin in 2010, with staff reviewing scientific data for 3,000 plants and animals and recommending full comprehensive status reviews for 331 species.

    "This is the most comprehensive review ever conducted by the department of the status of Wisconsin's plants and animals," said Kurt Thiede, who leads the DNR Land Division, which includes the endangered resources program.

    Biologists from a variety of state and federal agencies, organizations, and universities, as well as naturalists throughout the state with taxonomic expertise provided new or updated information on the population condition and distribution of rare species in the state.

    That review determined some species have responded well to protections given to listed species and management efforts to increase their populations and that others were not as rare as once thought or no longer occur in the state, according to Rebecca Schroeder, acting director of the endangered resources program.

    The proposal recommends removing seven animals from the list: greater redhorse (fish), barn owl, snowy egret, and Bewick's wren, pygmy snaketail (dragonfly), Blanding's turtle and Butler's gartersnake. The proposal recommends nine plants also be removed from the list: American fever-few, bog bluegrass, Canada horse-balm, drooping sedge, hemlock parsley, prairie Indian-plantain, snowy campion, yellow gentian, and yellow giant hyssop.

    Schroeder says the review also found that eight other species have declining populations in the state and are in need of greater protection by being listed as endangered or threatened. Those species include: three birds -- black tern, Kirtland's warbler, upland sandpiper; one freshwater mussel -- fawnsfoot; and four insects -- beach-dune tiger beetle, ottoe skipper, a leafhopper (Attenuipyga vanduzeei), and an issid planthopper (Fitchiella robertsoni).

    Specific information on each species and why it is being proposed to add or remove it from the state list can be found by searching the DNR website for "ET list."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Rebecca Schroeder 608-266-5244 or Paul Holtan - 608-267-7517



    Born wild: Animal babies best left in nature

    Mom is often nearby; Drive with care during animal rush hours

    EDITOR'S ADVISORY: - An audio public service announcement on leaving wildlife in the wild is available in MP3 format for downloading.

    MADISON -- A human mother stays close to protect her infant most hours of a day, and people take comfort in seeing the baby's caretaker present and in action.

    Like their human counterparts, wild animal mothers share the dedication to protect, to feed and to care for their babies. But state wildlife officials say people should know that wild animal mothers do this in different ways.

    "Unlike humans, one way an animal mom protects her baby is to conceal it and leave it hidden from predators under natural vegetation," said Amanda Cyr, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources

    The mother returns to feed the babies, but often under the cover of darkness or brush, Cyr said, adding this is something people may not understand because it is so removed from what a human mother does.

    "The well-intended person may attempt to rescue or to feed a wild animal baby because, in the human world, we perceive the baby as being afraid, alone and abandoned," Cyr said. "It usually is not. Its mother is following natural behavior instincts to help the babies survive and thrive. Human interventions, while done with good intentions, instead can damage the health and well-being of the baby animal."

    Too much human or domestic animal disturbance or activity near a baby animal also could cause the mother to shy away from the area. She also advises to keep a close watch on pets so they don't disturb a nest of baby animals. To prevent a wild animal from making a nest near your home or in the chimney, vent, window well, Cyr suggesting placing caps or covers on those areas. "Seal any unintended opening or hollow," she said.

    Cyr also warns feeding a wild animal with human foods can cause more damage to the wild animal because their digestive systems are different. Wild animals require different foods and nutrient levels that cannot be met with human diets.

    Born without body scents for a reason; fawn's spots for survival

    Fawns are rarely abaondoned.
    Photo courtesy of Bob Wright

    Some wild animals are born with little body scent. Their protection from predators, Cyr says, is for them to remain motionless and concealed within the environment.

    "Their mothers are keeping watch from afar," Cyr said. "The mother returns a couple of times each day to quickly feed the babies. After feeding, the mother will quickly hide them again from the predators."

    Cyr says this is the natural behavior of white-tailed deer and fawns.

    "Fawns have little scent to attract a predator and their spots help them blend in to the environment," she says. "They move very little in their first weeks while they are alone in a place the mother selected. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and not disrupt the area."

    Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The baby rabbit's best protection from predators is to remain in their nest which is concealed with grass or vegetation.

    "The mother will come back to the nest in the morning and evening to feed the babies," Cyr said.

    Don't touch - call for help; Watch for animals on the move dusk and dawn

    If you find a baby wild animal, Cyr says the best policy is to leave them alone. "A good option to really help the animal is to call the DNR Call Center (1-888-936-7463, 1-888-WDNRINFo). We can evaluate the situation and determine if you should be connected with a wildlife rehabilitator in your area."

    "Animals tend to be on the move during specific times during the day and the hours around dusk and dawn are especially busy," Cyr said. When driving in more rural or woods areas slow down and watch for animals on the move. Just like humans, animals start getting more active when the weather makes a transition into the warmer temperatures.

    What is the law on assisting wildlife?

    State and federal laws prohibit the possession of live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A permit from the USFWS is required to possess all native birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

    If it is absolutely necessary to help a young orphaned wildlife animal that is injured or its mother has been killed, a person may legally have the animal in their possession for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

    To get the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the DNR Call Center (1-888-WDNRINFo / 936-7463) or Bureau of Wildlife Management (608-266-8204). You can also visit the DNR's online directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at, search "wildlife rehabilitator."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Amanda Cyr, DNR wildlife biologist - 715-359-5508 or Joanne Haas - 608-267-0798



    Wisconsin and Michigan team up to boost Lake Michigan sturgeon population

    PESHTIGO, Wis. - Eggs fisheries biologists collected from sturgeon spawning below the Peshtigo dam are now on their way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan under a cooperative effort between Michigan and Wisconsin to boost a naturally reproducing lake sturgeon population in Lake Michigan. There the fertilized eggs will be raised into fingerlings and released this fall into two rivers that tributaries to Little Bay de Noc, on the northern end of Green Bay.

    Collecting sturgeon eggs

    Biologists from Michigan and Wisconsin harvest sturgeon eggs under a cooperative effort to increase Lake Michigan's lake sturgeon population.
    WDNR Photo

    Biologists from Departments of Natural Resources in Michigan and Wisconsin harvested eggs and milt from adult sturgeon that had migrated up the Peshtigo from Lake Michigan to spawn last week. They collected about a cup of eggs from each of four female sturgeon, which was then mixed with the milt collected from numerous males to help create a more diversified population.

    "The eggs we collect here go to streamside trailers, one on the Cedar River and one on the Whitefish River," explained Ed Baker, Michigan DNR fisheries research biologist. "The rivers historically had a sturgeon population but don't have much anymore and we're trying to fix that."

    This is the third year of the program, which Baker says has a goal of raising and transplanting 1,500 sturgeon into Michigan waters of Green Bay. Biologists hope the sturgeon will implant on their new home and return to the rivers to spawn when they reach maturity, which for males takes about 15 years and for females takes 24 to 26 years.

    "They (Michigan) were without an egg source from the Lake Michigan drainage so they originally went to the Menominee River," said Mike Donofrio, Wisconsin DNR fisheries supervisor, "but they had trouble getting eggs because the number of sturgeon spawning there wasn't large. So we identified the Peshtigo as a good system where there is easy access to the fish and there's a nice sizable population. About 300 to 400 fish spawn here."

    For more information about Wisconsin's sturgeon population search the DNR website for "lake sturgeon."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Donofrio - 715-582-5050 or Trish Ossmann, DNR public affairs - 920-662-5122



    Green Bay's sturgeon go high-tech

    PESHTIGO, Wis. -- Nearly two dozen sturgeon are now equipped with high-tech transmitters as biologists continue to try and learn more about the prehistoric fish.

    Technology used in fish finders and submarines is now being applied to tracking sturgeon movements.

    While on the banks of the Peshtigo River, state fisheries staff performed a surgery of sorts on some of the larger sturgeon netted below the dam.

    Sturgeon transmitter implant
    Fish are placed belly up into a pocket full of water so they can continue to breathe normally during the procedure to implant the transmitter.
    WDNR Photo

    Biologists hope it will help them better understand spawning patterns and whether the fish always return to spawn in the same river or vary their patterns, explained Mike Donofrio, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Peshtigo.

    "We're using transmitters that are about the size of a magic marker, so it's based on the weight of the fish as to whether we can put the transmitter in," Donofrio said.

    The tube-shaped device is about 4 inches long by about three quarters inches wide. Sonar stations set up along the Fox, Oconto, Peshtigo and Menominee Rivers detect the sounds emanating from the transmitters.

    From 2005 to 2009 roughly 60 fish were given the transmitters but those only lasted three years. The new transmitters are expected to last eight years.

    "We're hoping to get two spawning cycles from these transmitters so four years from now we can find out if that fish spawning in the Peshtigo or is it going to spawn the Oconto or another river?" explained Donofrio.

    A grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will enable DNR staff to implant transmitters into 105 fish over the course of the next two years and continue to monitor their movements in the four Green Bay rivers.

    For more information about Wisconsin's sturgeon population search the DNR website for "lake sturgeon."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Donofrio - 715-582-5050 or Trish Ossmann, DNR public affairs - 920-662-5122



    State officials urge proper recycling of electronics this spring

    MADISON -- This April, bright spring flowers aren't the only things popping up in Wisconsin's ravines and roadside ditches. Department of Natural Resources wardens, local law enforcement officials and residents have been finding a growing number of computers, televisions and other electronics along roadsides and in farm fields and natural areas. While illegal, dumping electronics is also a waste of valuable materials and dumping pollutes Wisconsin's landscapes and waterways.

    "Illegal dumping of electronics is not only harmful to the environment, it's completely unnecessary," said Brad Wolbert, DNR recycling and solid waste section chief. "There are many legitimate places for responsible citizens to take their unwanted electronics. Farmers and taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to clean up someone else's discarded electronics."

    Since Wisconsin's electronics recycling law took effect in 2010, Wolbert said, more than 150 electronics collectors have registered to be a part of the E-Cycle Wisconsin program. These collectors host more than 400 collection sites across Wisconsin. The sites take old electronics from households and schools for free or a small charge as part of a manufacturer-funded recycling program.

    To find the list of collection sites go to the DNR website and search E-cycle. Many collectors will be holding special one-day collection events in the next two months, in addition to the permanent drop-off sites they operate.

    Businesses, institutions and local governments may also use the DNR website to find a registered recycler.

    "Businesses should be aware of 'too good to be true' deals from people claiming to be legitimate electronics recyclers," said Ginger Hooper, DNR environmental enforcement specialist. "Make sure you're using a responsible recycler. If illegally dumped items can be traced back to a business, they will have to pay twice for the items to be taken care of."

    DNR recycling staff recommend that businesses or others recycling a large number of electronics talk to at least two or three recyclers to get a sense of the prices and services the recyclers offer. Anyone recycling electronics should ask questions about how data on the electronics will be removed and where materials from the electronics will go.

    With an ever-increasing number of electronics in the waste stream, Wolbert added, it is everyone's responsibility to make sure flowers are the only items Wisconsin residents see along our roadways this spring.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Wolbert - 608-264-6286 or Bill Cosh -608-267-2773



    A golden opportunity to plant a legacy

    MADISON -- Olympic gold medalist Casey FitzRandolph has planted his legacy on the ice - and now he is planting a legacy on the Wisconsin landscape.

    "When I was speedskating, we were all over the world and living in other places," FitzRandolph said. "But I always knew I wanted to move back to Wisconsin. Family is here, which is important, of course, but also the great outdoors. I always looked forward to the day when I would become a Wisconsin landowner."

    DNR's YouTube channel video clip of Casey FitzRandolph sharing more about what his forest land means to him and his family.

    In Wisconsin, nearly 60 percent of the forest land is owned by some 362,000 private individuals and families, and FitzRandolph is one of the 2,347 Wisconsin landowners who purchased tree and shrub seedlings from the state forest nursery program for planting on their property this spring.

    Tree planting, caring for the land and enjoying the natural resources means family time for the FitzRandolphs.

    "I've created so many of my favorite memories on the family farm with my dad, my grandpa, and now - in the last couple of years - with my little guy, who's now 5 years old, out helping plant trees," said FitzRandolph.

    Like many other forest landowners, FitzRandolph's land management focus is on recreation and wildlife habitat. The 14,000 seedlings the family is planting now includes spruce, pine, various hardwoods and shrubs, selected in consultation with a professional forester to maximize wildlife habitat.

    "My goals for the land are to make it a place that our wild creatures here in Wisconsin like to live. And of course we will enjoy them along the way, harvest some and videotape others. But I want to see everything from bucks to bluebirds, and turkeys to pheasants. We want to come out and make memories with family and friends for decades to come," he said.

    Although the 2012 tree planting season will be drawing to a close soon, FitzRandolph encourages other landowners to plan now for planting in 2013.

    He says, "Think about why you own your property. What are your priorities and why do you want to plant trees? Once you have those things clear in your head, talk to a forester. Have them come out and walk the property with you, and share your ideas with them because, from my experience, they're very willing to work with you. They'll probably tell you things that'll save you time, energy and money down the road."

    Sales for DNR tree and shrub seedlings to be planted in spring 2013 will begin in October 2012. Landowners can visit the DNR online at and search "tree planting" to learn how to plant a legacy for future generations. Resources on the DNR Website include contact information for foresters, a guide to developing a personalized tree planting plan and tips for preparing the site for planting.

    Wisconsin's state nursery program has also grown a legacy, having provided more than 1.5 billion seedlings over the past 100 years that were planted throughout the state, in addition to those produced by private nurseries.

    "I really hope that if I were to be so bold as to say what one individual leaves behind on one or two farms is called a legacy, then I would want my legacy to be that I left the farms in better condition than when I purchased them -- ten-fold! 'Cause I'm pretty ambitious," FitzRandolph said.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Held - 608-264-6036 or Bob Manwell - 608-264-9248



    Eastern tent caterpillars are feeding on trees early this spring

    MADISON -- State forest health specialists report that populations of the native eastern tent caterpillar are active at least three weeks early this year in southern and central Wisconsin, due to warm weather.

    Eastern tent caterpillar
    Eastern tent caterpillar
    WDNR Photo

    Eastern Tent Caterpillar

    Eastern tent caterpillar populations have been high in southern and central Wisconsin for several years. Their thick, white "tents" or "webs" are already visible in trees this spring and the young caterpillars are already growing and eating tree leaves.

    "Eastern tent caterpillars are often confused with gypsy moth or forest tent caterpillars, but they are easily distinguishable," says Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist at the Department of Natural Resources. "It is the only one of these species that makes a tent."

    Eastern tent caterpillars have a distinctive white stripe down its back.

    Caterpillar tent
    Eastern tent caterpillar tent.
    WDNR Photo

    The tents made by the caterpillars are found at the base of branches and are most often seen on roadsides or fencerows, or on open-grown trees. Eastern tent caterpillars favor crabapple, apple, wild cherry and wild plum trees though it also feeds on oak and some other deciduous trees. The caterpillars are typically done feeding by mid June but their tents will be visible until rain and wind eventually break them down.

    Caterpillars are already active this year so now is the time to find and kill them when their tents are still small. The easiest, least expensive method is to put on a pair of rubber gloves or use a rake and scrape the caterpillars and tent into a bucket of soapy water. Do this in early evening after most of them have returned to the tent. The next morning discard the soaked tent and dead caterpillars. If the tent is out of reach or if you prefer, tear up the tent with a stick and spray the area with insecticidal soap (not dish soap) or a contact insecticide. Another alternative is to spray a Btk based insecticide on the leaves around the tent. When caterpillars leave the tent to eat the leaves they will ingest the Btk.

    "Don't cut branches off of your tree to remove the tents. This causes much more damage to your tree than the caterpillars ever would," says Mark Guthmiller, forest health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Also, do not burn the nets or webs out of the tree. This is dangerous and also kills the branches."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT forest health specialists in the following locations: Linda Williams, Green Bay, 920-662-5172; Mike Hillstrom, Wisconsin Rapids, 715-421-7825; Mark Guthmiller, Madison, 608-275-3223; Brian Schwingle, Rhinelander, 715-365-8908 or statewide forest health educator Colleen Robinson Klug, 608-266-2172



    Fawn research intended to answer hunters' questions about deer mortality

    MADISON - Dozens of volunteers assisted state wildlife researchers in capturing and placing radio-collars on 132 yearling and adult deer in January, February and March. Now the call is going out again for volunteers to help locate fawns born to does that were fitted with implant radio transmitters designed to signal when fawns have been born in mid- to late May.

    "With the whitetail birthing season just around the corner, volunteers are again needed to sweep the woods looking for the newborns," said Chris Jacques, Department of Natural Resources research scientist. "When located, fawns will be fitted with expandable radio collars so we can follow them through their first year of life to determine causes of death, whether it be due to nutrition, environment, vehicle, hunters or predators. This is real applied research and last year's volunteers found the work rewarding."

    Some hunters have questioned assumptions about fawn recruitment used by wildlife biologists for estimating deer populations. Recruitment is the net addition of new fawns to a population each year and is an important input in estimating deer population numbers. At the end of this three-year effort to monitor fawns, researchers hope to fine tune their inputs to population estimates based on real-world data collected in this research effort.

    Volunteers will be assigned to search teams working in the vicinity of Shiocton in Shawano County and Winter in Sawyer County. When transmitters have been expelled (presumably when a fawn has been born), a search team will form a line and comb the woods, somewhat similar to a deer drive, in search of bedded fawns. Opportunistic searching in high quality fawning habitats also will be conducted across both study areas. Captured newborns will be fitted with a radio collar of their own and left for the doe to raise normally.

    If a fawn dies, the collar will emit a unique signal that researchers will again use to locate the animal to determine cause of death. The collars are designed to expand as the deer grows and eventually drop off as the animal approaches its first birthday.

    Impact of predators on deer populations of special interest to hunters

    "Determining causes of death in fawns is vital to the accuracy of our deer population estimates," said Jacques. "Of special interest is the impact of predators on fawn deaths. We have a suite of predators in Wisconsin, including black bears, bobcats, coyotes, and gray wolves, that may have some impact on yearly fawn production. What we are less certain of are the relative roles that each of these predators may play on fawn recruitment over the course of an entire year."

    During 2011, thanks to the help of volunteers across the state, researchers enjoyed tremendous success capturing fawns. A total of 104 fawns, including 68 (48 radio collared, 20 ear-tagged) in the Shawano area and 36 (30 radio collared, six ear-tagged) in the Winter area, were captured.

    "Though we have collected just one year of field data, preliminary evidence indicates that predation (primarily by black bears and bobcats) is likely having some measurable impact on fawn survival across northern Wisconsin, having accounted for 14 of 22 (64 percent) deaths during the first month of life," according to Jacques. "The predation impact across east central Wisconsin appears to be considerably lower, having accounted for just six of 18 (33 percent) recorded fawn deaths. Vehicle collisions and fawn abandonment appear to be primary causes of death, accounting for half of all recorded fawn deaths in the eastern farmland region. Fawn survival through December 2011 in the northern and east central study areas was 27 and 63 percent, respectively, indicating that the northern forest region is a much tougher place to scratch out a living for fawns than the eastern farmland region of Wisconsin."

    This work is possible only with the involvement and work of dozens of volunteers representing hunting groups such as the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Safari Club International and Whitetails Unlimited, the University of Wisconsin- Madison and UW-Stevens Point, the AFL-CIO Union Sportsmans Alliance, and hundreds of Wisconsin citizens.

    "Anyone who has looked for newborn fawns or been startled to discover a fawn lying motionless in the forest or field next to them knows what a challenge it is to find them," says Jacques. "They have excellent natural camouflage and instinct to remain absolutely still when approached. The transmitters will give us a better idea of where they are but it will still take time on the ground to locate them."

    For more information and to sign up as a volunteer search Deer Research on the DNR website.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Jacques - (608) 221-6358 or Bob Manwell - (608) 264-9248



    DNR's retired Hunt brothers are now hall of famers

    STEVENS POINT, Wis. - Two brothers - innovative scientists who retired after brilliant careers with the state Department of Natural Resources - were simultaneously inducted Saturday into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame.

    Robert "Bob" Hunt, 78, of Waupaca, and Richard "Dick" Hunt, 85, of Fall River, were joined by large extended families at the well-attended ceremony.

    Hunt brothers

    Retired DNR biologists Bob Hunt, left, and his older brother, Dick, were inducted Saturday into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in Stevens Point. Both conducted ground-breaking research that profoundly improved natural resources management in Wisconsin.

    In presenting for Bob Hunt, DNR bureau of fisheries director Mike Staggs described him as "Wisconsin's preeminent trout stream biologist." Hunt's ground-breaking research dramatically changed the management of trout, and trout habitat, not only in Wisconsin but across the country. He has received numerous national honors, including the prestigious A. Starker Leopold award presented once every three years at the Wild Trout Symposia in Yellowstone Park.

    "There is absolutely no doubt that trout fishing in Wisconsin is far, far better today than it was when Bob Hunt started his work," Staggs told a large audience Saturday in Stevens Point.

    Hunt joined the Wisconsin Conservation Department, later the DNR, in 1959 when Wisconsin's trout program consisted mainly of stocking hatchery fish ill-equipped for survival or reproduction. The streams themselves, degraded by cattle grazing, erosion and other factors were often too wide, too shallow and too warm for trout to grow and survive. Silt covered gravel substrates needed for reproduction.

    Leading a research team at the Lawrence Creek station in the 1960s, Hunt was able to prove conclusively that fixing the stream - restoring and stabilizing its banks, narrowing channels, installing rocks and raised half logs that provided cover - would produce more trout and better trout, leading to superior fishing than stocking could ever provide.

    The reshaped streams meant faster flows that scoured away silt and dug out deeper holes where large trout could thrive. It meant colder, cleaner water enriched with higher levels of dissolved oxygen.

    Hunt's research changed the direction of Wisconsin trout management and was a key factor in the creation of the trout stamp in 1977 that raises segregated funds for stream rehabilitation. More than 900 miles of degraded streams in Wisconsin have been reclaimed for trout because of this work.

    Hunt will be remembered for his oft-quoted admonition to "manage first for wild trout."

    "Bob's choice of the preposition "for" carries great importance," Staggs said. "People tend to say management of fish, rather than management for them. But wild fish know perfectly well how to manage themselves, if we conserve and, where needed, restore the natural conditions they require."

    Older brother Richard Hunt joined the Wisconsin Conservation Department in 1952 and spent his career studying and managing for wild geese and other waterfowl at the Horicon Marsh. He played a key role in efforts to sensitize wildlife managers and sportsmen to the dangers of lead poisoning of waterfowl, especially Canada geese and tundra swans, said presenter James March.

    Dick Hunt collected hundreds of dead and dying geese that were analyzed at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. As a result, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to switch to non-toxic shot for waterfowl hunting.

    Hunt also saved taxpayers the large expense of building a captive-reared mallard release program by designing and conducting research that proved the effort would be of little value.

    Serving on the technical section of the Mississippi Flyway Council, Hunt influenced waterfowl and research well beyond state boundaries. He was able to secure sufficient goose quotas for Wisconsin, showing that geese around Horicon were causing unacceptable crop damage.

    Aware that wardens and others were not always adept at identifying duck species, Hunt worked with a taxidermist to mount ducks with one wing extended, so that all the important markings were easily visible. For effectiveness of presentation, these were mounted on short poles. The course was popular among wardens who called it "ducks on a stick" training. They are still in use today.

    Two other men were inducted posthumously into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame.

    Nils Folke Becker (1891-1962) was a Swedish immigrant, scientist and Rhinelander paper industry executive, honored Saturday as a dedicated conservationist and a leader of the forestry movement in the 1920s. He championed the reforestation of northern Wisconsin through constitutional and legislative action. Becker was the founder and first president of Trees for Tomorrow and was influential in the development of science-based, citizen-led resource management in Wisconsin.

    Phil C. Sander (1906-2006) lived his entire life, six months short of a century, in his beloved Des Plaines River Valley in Kenosha where he is known as "Mr. Conservation." A hunter and wanderer as a boy, he developed a deep love for the land and helped form a network of conservation leaders in the 1930s. In 1984, he was part of a citizens group that founded the Des Plaines Wetlands Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving 1,100 acres of ponds, marshes and uplands and two miles of scenic river corridor.

    The Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame is located in the Schmeeckle Reserve Visitor Center at 2419 North Point Drive in Stevens Point. For information, visit (exit DNR) or call 715-346-4992.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683 or Mike Staggs, DNR director fisheries bureau, 608-267-0796


    Read more: Previous Weekly News

    Last Revised: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Need an expert?

    The Office of Communications connects journalists with DNR experts on a wide range of topics. For the fastest response, please email and the first available Communications Specialist will respond to you.