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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published December 18, 2012

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Later start may allow more anglers to enjoy the "first-ice bite"

MADISON - Anglers are finding that ice is in short supply on most Wisconsin lakes and rivers, delaying the start of their "hard water" season but likely increasing their chances of getting to fish early ice when the season finally arrives, state fisheries officials say.

"One advantage of later ice is more people will likely be done with all of their holiday travel and commitments and might still be able to catch the first ice bite," says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin's fisheries director.

"Early ice" can offer some of the best fishing for a lot of species, especially on those lakes that are shallow and weedy. The fish seem to be accessible and biting more early.

Until more lakes and rivers across the state freeze, however, anglers may have to focus on smaller lakes or lakes farther north that have already frozen, Staggs says.

Or, if they haven't put their boat away for the winter, they can try fishing the open water. "Those fish are down there and they are probably in the spots where you'd find them if you were ice fishing," he says. "There is no need to wait for the ice."

Anglers venturing out on any ice now need to use extreme caution and follow the ice safety tips below whenever they are on the ice, Staggs says.

"Safety's got to be the top consideration," Staggs says. "After that, we encourage every veteran ice angler to consider taking someone new ice fishing. Our new $5 first-time buyer's license is a great way to get family and friends out on the ice."

Also new this year, everybody can fish for free on Jan. 19 and 20, when Wisconsin celebrates its first winter Free Fishing Weekend. During this weekend, residents and nonresidents alike can fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp.

Ice fishing by the numbers

An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites 16 and over report that they ice fish, up from 479,900 in 2000, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment.

A separate, earlier statewide survey of Wisconsin anglers estimated they caught 14 million fish in the winter and kept close to half of them, or about 6.6 million fish, in 2006-7. That compares to 88 million fish caught across the entire year, and 33 million harvested, or about one-third of the total.

In winter, as in summer, panfish are the most frequently caught, the 2006 survey found. Anglers caught about 11.7 million panfish during the ice fishing season and kept a higher proportion of them, nearly half, than in the open water season. The same pattern held true for walleye, northern pike and bass.

Take steps to prevent going through the ice

In many parts of Wisconsin, open water abounds. Where ice has formed or is starting to form, DNR Recreation Safety Chief Todd Schaller encourages anglers to check in with local bait shops "so you know ice conditions before you go," Schaller says. "That holds true every time you go out, but particularly during early ice."

He provides these other tips for staying safe on the ice during the coming "hard water" season.

How to dress:

Before you go:

When you go:

Watch out for this:

Traditional Panfish Fillets

Submitted by: Kurt Welke of Madison


  • 12-16 scaled bluegill fillets, rinsed
  • 2 eggs (1 more egg if 16-20 fillets)
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • Canola oil
  • Sea salt and pepper

Preparation and cooking instructions:

  • Rinse fillets and pat dry on paper towels.
  • Beat eggs in a deep bowl. Add fillets to egg wash and mix so all surfaces are coated.
  • Crush corn flakes in plastic bag or between two sheets of wax paper using a rolling pin. Add crumbs to shallow pie plate. Place dredged fillets in crumbs and coat both sides of the fillets until completed covered.
  • Heat ¼" of oil in deep cast iron skillet until very hot. Put fillets into hot oil (the surface should sizzle immediately). Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side, maintaining heat. Place on paper towels to drain off excess oil and keep warm in the oven until all fillets are cooked.
  • Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Veteran fish managers offer fishing tips for pike, panfish and walleye

Panfish, pike and walleye - those are the big three targets in winter, the surveys show. Veteran DNR fish managers Skip Sommerfeldt in Park Falls, Terry Margenau in Spooner and Kurt Welke in Fitchburg pass on their tips for how to catch these fish, including where to fish, baits to use, bait placement and other considerations, on the ice fishing pages of the DNR website (search for fishing and click on the link for ice fishing) .

Welke says that panfish are a great ice fishing target for anglers of all ages. He advises anglers to "use all tools" at their disposal -- fish locators, local online forums, and cell phones once on the ice -- to find the fish - and then to move if the fish aren't biting. "Take a walk and see if others are enjoying any success. Hole-hopping, even small distances, can produce fish," he says.

Most importantly, Welke says, "GO ! Stop wishin' and go fishin'!"

Sommerfeldt goes fishing for walleye just about every chance he can get. He keeps a detailed dairy and last year, fished 87 days of 91 possible and caught 140 walleye, 69 percent of which he released. Read his 2011-12 diary - and see his graphics - chronicling his hard water fishing from last year and previous years on DNR's ice fishing pages.

Margenau doesn't get that walleye fixation. "I've never understood why so many anglers willingly freeze themselves in the coldest part of a winter day (as the sun sets) then gather up their equipment in the dark for a walleye," he says. "Northern pike are the ultimate winter sport fish, the "People's Fish". Any angler worth their salt will admit a northern pike has saved many fishing trips from being a skunk."

He favors pike because they are common in Wisconsin, found in more than 2,000 inland lakes, rivers, and flowages as well as in the Mississippi River and the bays of Lakes Michigan and Superior. They can provide trophy opportunities, but more importantly in his mind, food. "Northern pike fillets in a skillet are second to none," he says, and advises people to check DNR's website for proper filleting techniques to remove those troublesome "Y" bones.

"Northern pike are active and bite all day. Show up at noon and you are good to go. No more of that putzing around in the dark. You should be on your way home by then."

He also advises parents that pike are the perfect winter fish for kids. "Drill a few holes in the ice, put in some tip-ups, sit back and have a cup of coffee, let the kids play, and when a flag goes up, everybody runs. That's good living in a Wisconsin winter."

Take steps to prevent going through the ice

In many parts of Wisconsin, open water abounds. Where ice has formed or is starting to form, DNR Recreation Safety Chief Todd Schaller encourages anglers to check in with local bait shops "so you know ice conditions before you go," Schaller says. "That holds true every time you go out, but particularly during early ice."

"Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, carry a cell phone, and go prepared with some basic equipment to help yourself or others should something happen, like wearing a float coat or carrying picks and a rope," he says.

More ice tips can be found on Wisconsin's ice fishing page.

Check the fish consumption advisory and try these healthy recipes

Because more anglers keep and eat the fish they catch during the winter, DNR recommends that anglers check the fish consumption advice for the water they want to fish to reduce their exposure to mercury and other environmental contaminants found in the fish.

Check DNR's new online query tool for specific advice for a lake or river, or find general consumption advice and view the full fish consumption advice booklet by going online to DNR website, and searching for fish consumption advice.

And try this bluegill recipe found in "Healthy Dishes with Wisconsin Fishes," a cookbook of recipes submitted by anglers that will be available for free online in Spring 2013. The cookbook will be previewed in the February 2013 issue of DNR's Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

$5 license for first-timers and other discounted options

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 annual license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75.

People buying this discounted license can get recognition for the person who introduced them to fishing. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter three or more times within one license year are eligible for a discount on the license of their choice the next year.

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.

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: 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.

First free fishing weekend set for Jan. 19 and 20, 2013

Also new this year, everybody can fish for free on Jan. 19 and 20, 2013, when Wisconsin celebrates its first winter Free Fishing Weekend. During this weekend, residents and nonresidents alike can fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep, and any closed season for species, such as for musky.

Follow rules to prevent spreading fish diseases

Ice anglers eager to start the hard water season are reminded to take steps to prevent spreading VHS and other fish diseases and aquatic invasive species, including buying bait from Wisconsin bait dealers and following other bait rules, such as using leftover minnows only on the same waterbody if water or fish were added to the bait container.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a virus that can infect several dozen fish species and cause them to bleed to death, was confirmed in 2010 in fish from Lake Superior. The disease has now been confirmed in all of the Great Lakes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Welke (608) 273-5946; Terry Margenau (715) 635-4162; Skip Sommerfeldt (715) 762-1357



Holiday hunt in CWD Zones starts Monday, Dec. 24

MADISON - Gun deer hunters have one final opportunity this year to harvest a deer in the chronic wasting disease management zone of south central Wisconsin. The season, called the Holiday Hunt, runs Dec. 24 through the end of the ongoing late archery hunt, Jan. 6, 2013.

Hunters can fill unused antlerless tags, unused Gun or Archery Buck Carcass Tags or CWD Deer Carcass Tags. Bonus buck rules apply. Deer can be harvested with the use of any legal firearm, bow or crossbow. Archery hunters must meet legal blaze orange requirements during this open firearm season. This includes the wearing of at least 50 percent blaze orange outer clothing above the waste. The goal of the holiday hunt is to provide additional hunting opportunity as well as herd control.

Surveillance of CWD continues in the CWD management zone. However, DNR has met its overall sampling goals for the year due to high levels of hunter service testing within the management zone and will no longer require hunters to have their deer sampled in targeted CWD units. Though no longer required, sampling will continue be available upon request through the end of the season.

More information on the season structure as well as registration and sampling locations, visit, search keyword "CWD."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Pelej, public affairs manager, 608-264-9248



Gift ideas good year-round

MADISON - Whether still searching for that perfect holiday gift, making resolutions to exercise more in the new year or getting a jump on gift buying for 2013, people can check out eight gift ideas that a study suggests can make the recipient physically and mentally healthier.

These gift ideas from the Department of Natural Resources are good to give at any time of the year, and are good year-round. They range from state park and trail passes, to publications about the outdoors and where and how to enjoy certain activities, to a packet of 300 tree seedlings native tree seedlings and shrubs from the state nursery to give to a friend or family member to plant for reforestation and other conservation purposes.

Many of these gifts can be purchased online immediately. In some cases, you may need to make a call or email someone to secure the gift. And while DNR staff and vendors handling the calls will try their best to turn around the requests quickly, consider letting the recipient know with a card that a great gift is on the way.

A growing body of research, including a recently released study by University of Glasgow scientists, suggests that these outdoors-related gifts can help improve the recipients' physical and mental health.

The researchers looked at natural and non-natural environments for physical activity, including walking, running and cycling, and found that just being around trees and grass lowered brain stress levels, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The study also showed that the positive effect on people's mental health was 50 per cent more than they might expect from going to the gym, the paper reported. Those results add to a growing body of research into the mental and physical benefits of getting outdoors, nicely summarized by Jane Brody, the New York Time's veteran health reporter, in an November 2010 column (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Gaumnitz (608) 264-8942



Environmental officials find good compliance with first year of ballast water regulations

MADISON - Good news on the waterfront: the state's first full year of inspections of ocean-going and Great Lakes ships arriving in Wisconsin ports has found good compliance with ballast water regulations and recent legal decisions have cleared the way to more fully implement those regulations to reduce the risk that ballast water will bring invasive species to Wisconsin, state water quality officials say.

Department of Natural Resources officials have approved general permits for more than 300 vessels that include conditions to protect water quality, such as requiring that oceangoing vessels perform open ocean water exchange or saltwater flushing. And DNR's two inspectors - the only two in the Great Lake States - have inspected more than 130 vessels since May 2011, conducted training for shipping crews, and participated in ballast water research.

Ballast water in the United States is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard, but other Great Lakes states including Wisconsin have put in place their own permits over concerns the federal regulations were not protective enough.

A decision by a state administrative law judge late last month allowed Wisconsin to move ahead to amend its general water quality permit for ballast water discharges for those 300 vessels. The decision also allowed Wisconsin to submit its water quality certification, with additional water quality conditions, to be included in EPA's final federal permit regulating ballast water discharges for large vessels.

"We're pleased with the recent legal decisions supporting our approach as offering the best protection possible given the currently available treatment technology," says Susan Sylvester, who leads the DNR Water Quality Bureau.

Noting that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has identified more than 50 species as high risk for invading and becoming established in the Great Lakes as a result of ballast water, Sylvester says that Wisconsin is "pleased to have these issues settled and turn our attention to fully implementing proactive efforts to reduce the risk of new invaders entering the Great Lakes or existing ones spreading."

National and state wildlife groups had sought contested case hearings against DNR relating to ballast water discharges from vessels to Wisconsin waters. Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey D. Boldt on Nov. 29 rejected arguments advanced by the groups that DNR was required to establish numeric water quality based effluent limitations on ballast water discharges, according to DNR attorney Judy Ohm, the lead attorney on the case.

The judge concluded, among other findings, that DNR's decision to adopt the International Maritime Organization standard and not to impose additional water quality based effluent limitations was reasonable. The IMO standard is included in EPA's vessel general permit, and is the same standard adopted by EPA's Science Advisory Board, the National Academy of Science and the United States Coast Guard. DNR's permit and certification include additional conditions to protect water quality, such as the open ocean water exchange or saltwater flushing, Ohm says.

DNR had originally set limits on the number of living organisms allowed in ballast water to be 100 times more protective than the standard proposed by the IMO, but DNR reverted back to the IMO proposed standard after a study group of ballast water experts determined that there was no commercially available technology that could treat ballast water to reach a standard 100 times more protective than the IMO standard and no way to measure compliance with such a standard.

In a separate ruling, Boldt accepted an agreement between DNR and the oceangoing shippers that pushes back the date they are required to install treatment technologies for ballast water, Ohm says. New ships were to have had that treatment technology installed by 2012, and existing ships by 2014; the judge approved pushing back the deadlines to Dec. 1, 2013 for new vessels and to 2016 for existing vessels, the same as required by the U.S. Coast Guard, or sooner if such treatment technology is available and compatible for specific vessels.

Laura Madsen, who coordinates the ballast water program for DNR, says that Wisconsin "is eager to see the Coast Guard start approving ballast water treatment systems so that the systems can be installed on ships, which we want to see happen as soon as possible. It has been frustrating waiting on the technology to be improved!"

In the meantime, the ballast water exchange that Wisconsin requires and that other Great Lakes states strongly support has been very effective at reducing the risk of new introductions of aquatic invasive species, Madsen says. "Since the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation began to require exchange in 2006, there have been no documented cases of a new aquatic invasive species being introduced to the Great Lakes system," she says.

DNR water leaders also continue to work on a regional and national basis to strengthen federal protections to avoid a patchwork of regulation. While there is no one national or bi-national regulatory body for ballast water, there have been efforts to coordinate on a bi-national basis. Sylvester is involved in the Great Lakes Ballast Water Collaborative, and Ken Johnson, DNR's Water Administrator, leads the Great Lakes Commission.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Sylvester (608) 266-1099; Judy Ohm (608) 266-9972



DNR seeks public comments on four businesses applying for Green Tier

MADISON - Four more companies are slated to join the state's innovative Green Tier program, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on their applications. Eden Stone Company; Empire Screen Printing, Inc.; Milwaukee Brewing Company and Precision Color Graphics, Ltd., have each applied for Tier 1 of the program, designed to encourage innovation, collaboration and new environmental goal setting.

To join Green Tier an applicant must have a good environmental record, a willingness to exceed regulatory requirements and a commitment to a formal Environmental Management System or plans to adopt one.

Public comments on the Green Tier applicants will be taken through Jan. 16, 2013. Specific information on these applicants and the Green Tier program can be found on the Green Tier public comment page.

Comments may be directed to the DNR Environmental Assistance Coordinator listed for each applicant, or to Mark McDermid, Wisconsin DNR, CO/5, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921 or by email to, 608-267-3125.

While the requirements for eligibility are the same for all applicants, the specific sustainability actions to achieve superior environmental performance are established by the participant. This allows participants to commit to an environmental strategy that is sensitive to their unique strengths and opportunities.

Eden Stone Company, located in the Eden, Valders, Chilton and Oakfield communities of Wisconsin, uses 100 percent of its natural rock product with zero waste. Scrap and waste rock is used as fill, berm material and road building material, or is occasionally crushed into aggregate and used in a variety of applications.

Empire Screen Printing in Onalaska is an industry leader in sustainable screen print methods. They are the first company to introduce and develop breakthrough technology using ultraviolet light-emitting diode curing technology for screen printing. This technology eliminates ozone emissions and lowers energy consumption by replacing previously used mercury lamps with LED lamps.

At Milwaukee Brewing Company in Milwaukee, the boiler system is partially fueled by bio-diesel that is made from waste vegetable oil from local restaurants. This allows them to directly offset their carbon from traditional fuel sources. They are also installing an array of solar panels to pre-heat brewing water which is a renewable source instead of carbon based fuels.

Precision Color Graphics in Franklin is the first company to bring the fully compostable Ecoterah™ branded multi-wall bag to the market. In Ecoterah products, petroleum-based plastics are replaced with plant-based biopolymers, making the material safe for recycling, composting and landfills.

For more information, search the DNR website for keywords Green Tier.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark McDermid, DNR, 608-267-3125



Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact donation to help update regional LANDFIRE maps

MADISON -- Crucial maps necessary for identifying wildfire potential in three upper Midwest states are about to get important updates by Department of Natural Resources scientists and foresters thanks to a $100,000 donation from the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp called the donation a "generous" contribution that will support agency collaboration and will bring benefits with improved customer service to Wisconsin and to two Midwest neighbors.

"These dollars will be used to update information about what is growing and could burn in areas susceptible to wildfires. It also will be well-used information for places used for prescribed burns," Stepp said of the donation received at the Wednesday Natural Resources Board meeting. "This type of updated scientific information is vital when it comes to emergency responses to a wildlfire - as well as when making decisions about keeping prescribed burns safe. This is a very generous donation from the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact and it is very much appreciated."

The dollars will be used to help update an interagency mapping program known as LANDFIRE (exit DNR). The updates will apply to the maps for Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The donations will be used to support forest fire research work by two DNR divisions working collaboratively - Science Services and Forestry. Jack Sullivan of the Bureau of Science Services and Chief Forester Paul DeLong say their two programs will work jointly to implement the fresh information during the coming two years.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota work together to prevent and to contain costly and sometimes deadly wildfires as members of the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact. The Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (exit DNR) was developed to share resources for forest fire prevention, training and suppression across the region to benefit each participating state and province. So far in 2012, Wisconsin has had 1,496 wildfires that have burned just more than 2,805 acres statewide.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tricia Knoot, Research Scientist of DNR Wildlife and Forestry Research - Bureau of Science Services, 608-516-5978; Jim Barnier, Fire and Law Enforcement - Division of Forestry, 608-253-6714; Joanne Haas, Public Affairs - Bureau of Law Enforcement/Division of Forestry, 608-267-0798.



Winter weather brings reminder about burning used oil in space heaters

MADISON -- Now that the cold and wintry weather has finally reached Wisconsin, commercial and industrial facilities are being reminded about the necessary steps to properly burn used oil in space heaters.

"These guidelines are in place to protect public health and the state's natural resources," said Ann Coakley, Waste and Materials Management Program director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "If businesses burn used oil in a space heater, there are requirements and limitations they should know about."

Coakley said that, while many companies burn used oil to save money on purchasing new fuel, they must comply with state and federal regulations, especially when burning used oil from outside sources. A business or facility may accept used oil from other sources only if testing has shown the sources are "on-spec," which means they meet the specifications outlined in the regulations.

These regulations are summarized in a DNR Burning Used Oil in a Space Heater fact sheet [PDF] and cover such chemicals as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and total halogens (halogens are contaminants found in used oil).

"We limit the sources of used oil that go into space heaters because those units are not equipped with air pollution control devices," added Coakley. "Space heaters must also be well maintained for proper burning. Black smoke is a sign that the space heater is not burning the used oil sufficiently."

Facilities are exempt from the more stringent used oil marketing and burning requirements if all of the following conditions are met:

If all of the above four conditions are met, the space heater is considered "exempt."

However, used oil from households collected by a second party, such as a municipal collection center, is no longer considered "household generated used oil" and is subject to stricter used oil regulation, including testing the oil for contamination levels, processing and/or burning it only in permitted units.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Amy Walden, 608-266-0272 or a regional DNR hazardous waste specialist



EDITOR'S ADVISORY: online chats Dec. 19 on animals surviving winter and Dec. 21 on snowmobiles

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: The DNR will host two upcoming online chats. At noon on Wednesday, Dec. 19. a how animals survive the winter chat with Bill Smith, heritage zoologist, Rori Paloski, conservation biologist, and Rich Staffen, assistant zoologist, to answer your questions about endangered resources and how animals survive the winter in Wisconsin. At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21. there will be a chat about snowmobiles with Gary Eddy, conservation warden and snowmobile safety administrator, and Diane Conklin, snowmobile grant manager. To participate, visit the DNR home page,, and look for the advertisement or search the phrase "ask the experts."


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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