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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 30, 2014

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DNR fisheries veteran and sturgeon expert named Wisconsin fisheries director; Ron Bruch takes over May 5

MADISON - Wisconsin's next fisheries director takes over May 5 and is already well-known at home and abroad for nurturing Winnebago System's lake sturgeon into the world's largest population that supports a unique winter spearing season.

Ron Bruch
Ron Bruch
WDNR Photo

Ron Bruch, a Wisconsin native with family ties to Butternut in Ashland County and Milwaukee, and a 37- year veteran of the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Management program, takes over from Mike Staggs, who retires after 17 years at the helm.

"I'm really humbled and honored to follow in a long line of directors that includes the likes of Mike Staggs, Lee Kernen, Doc Schneberger and James Nevin," he says. "Mike's leadership took our fisheries program to a high level. It's my task to build on that and try to take it to the next level." Bruch says he looks forward to working with DNR staff and management, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the tribes, fishing groups, citizens and businesses with an interest in fishing, to expand outreach efforts and recruitment and retention of anglers. "We all share a common interest - making fishing great in Wisconsin."

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is excited about Bruch's appointment and strong connections with the fishing public, particularly as DNR focuses on developing statewide management plans for panfish, walleye, trout and bass and revising the Lake Michigan fisheries plan. "Ron has a proven track record of outstanding customer service," she says. "He is an accomplished professional in his field and is able to lead teams with differing perspectives towards a common goal. We are very fortunate that he has accepted this position and we look forward to the next great things he will accomplish."

Bruch was chosen from a deep field of candidates and impressed the broad panel of partners who served on the interview panel, says DNR Water Division Administrator Ken Johnson, who led the search for Staggs' replacement.

Representatives from the Conservation Congress, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission and a fisheries management staff member were among those serving on the interview panel, Johnson says.

As fisheries director, Bruch will lead a staff of 226 people and a budget of $27 million. Wisconsin's fisheries management program and fishing traditions are among the nation's strongest. Nearly 40 percent of adults 16 and older report fishing, and anglers catch an estimated 88 million fish a year and keep about one-third of them. Sport fishing generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits every year, supports 22,000 jobs, and generates $148 million in state and local tax revenues. Wisconsin ranks third, behind Florida and Michigan, in luring nonresident anglers to their waters.

Over his DNR career, Bruch has worked at every level in the fisheries management program from field and habitat technician, fisheries biologist, supervisor, to fisheries bureau section chief. He most recently was statewide planning director, working on projects including the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative plan to boost walleye populations statewide.

Although he has worked on both inland and Great Lakes fisheries, Bruch is most well-known for his service from 1986-2012 as the Winnebago sturgeon biologist and Oshkosh fisheries supervisor, where he led the assessment and public involvement efforts for the internationally respected program managing the Winnebago System's lake sturgeon population and winter spear fishery.

As a strong advocate for public involvement in resource management, Bruch has worked extensively throughout his career with anglers and other fisheries interests in the state including the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, recently joining forces with the Congress to create and launch the new Wisconsin Fisheries Advisory Council.

Bruch has a Bachelor of Science from UW-Stevens Point, and master's and doctorate degrees from UW-Milwaukee, all in fisheries science. He is author or co-author of numerous peer review publications, as well as the 11-time national award winning book "People of the Sturgeon, Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish."

Bruch currently serves as co-founder and president of the Wisconsin-based North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society, and as co-founder and secretary general of the Germany-based World Sturgeon Conservation Society.

Bruch and his wife Kathy have two married children and four grandsons.




Anglers to find a mixed bag of fishing conditions for 2014 opener

MADISON - That old Wisconsin saying - wait a minute and the weather will change - is playing out across the state this week as anglers get ready for the Saturday, May 3, 2014 fishing opener as they enjoy a beloved tradition and catch some new fish stories.

As of Tuesday, April 29, Balsam Lake in Polk County, where the Governor's Fishing Opener will be held on May 3, was ice-free thanks to two days of rain. But it's a mixed bag elsewhere in northern Wisconsin, with the best pre-season advice being to check in with local bait shops before venturing out. Southern Wisconsin waters are open but water temperatures are still in the 40s and low 50s in most places.

"My earlier predictions for northern Wisconsin were optimistic, it appears," says Steve Avelallemant, longtime fisheries supervisor for northern Wisconsin, who two weeks ago predicted that anglers would find mostly open water on opening day.

"As of now (4/28) it is most likely that most lakes will still have ice cover in north-central Wisconsin on the opener including the larger flowages like the Rainbow and Willow. Very few will be solid enough to ice fish on but you won't get a boat in either. The northwest part of the state I expect will have more lakes open. They are a week or so ahead of the north-central part of the state generally."

Anglers are encouraged to prepare for cold weather conditions, take steps to stay safe and dry, and use the kind of techniques and bait that worked last year, when opening day dawned with many lakes still covered by ice, Avelallemant says.

Some fish supervisors in northern Wisconsin filed short reports on Monday, April 28, sharing quick updates on what to expect in their areas.

Ashland and Bayfield counties

The water in the rivers is very high and is probably going to stay very high. The forecast is for rain off and on all week with highs in the low 40s. The fields are open, but there's still a lot of snow in the forested areas in Bayfield County. I went for a walk in the National Forest north of Drummond on Saturday. Some places the snow was only 4-6 inches deep, but there were spots it was over my knees. It'll continue to melt with continued runoff all week. As for the lakes..... the ice is generally starting to pull away from the shores, but virtually everything is still ice covered. The rain and the wind will be taking a toll on the ice, but I don't want to go out on a limb and try to guess what percentage of lakes will be open by the weekend. Conditions could change dramatically in the next five days. - Mike Keniry, supervisor, Western Treaty Fisheries Assessment Team, Ashland

Lincoln, Vilas, Onieda counties

As of Sunday (4/27), there is still a fair amount of ice fishing occurring around the Woodruff area. Anglers are reporting solid ice conditions and panfish are biting well. However, getting onto the ice near shorelines is getting difficult with each passing day. Some of the smaller lakes in Lincoln and southern Oneida County may start to open up this week, but there is no question ice will be problematic for the fishing opener, that is, if you're planning to launch a boat. The weather forecast this week shows lows in the upper 20s and highs in the low 40s with overcast conditions - this will put us in a holding pattern through the weekend with little loss of ice. - Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor, Woodruff

Marinette and Oconto counties

The flowages on the Menominee and Peshtigo are ice free. Water levels are high so anglers should use caution when fishing those waters. The best local place to fish the opener for walleye would be the lower Peshtigo, Oconto, Menominee and Fox rivers. If Green Bay becomes ice free in the next five days then walleye fishing should also be good on the Bay. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor, Peshtigo

Dane County

Madison lakes should be in the upper 40s or low 50s. Panfish are in and out of the shallows depending on the daily weather, they like to find the warmer water when the sun shines. The walleyes and northern pike are finished spawning and should be transitioning from the near shore spawning areas to deeper water. However, they should be eating to replace those energy reserves spent in spawning. Trolling to find congregations of fish and then dragging live bait should be effective for walleyes. Anglers should consider casting bigger crankbaits and spoons on flats that drop off to deeper water to target pike. Area streams will likely have higher flows and dirty water but there are plenty of trout. The Lower Wisconsin River is high and flows are very fast so use caution but the walleyes are still congregated at the dam and will be migrating back down river soon. - Dave Rowe, fisheries supervisor, Fitchburg

Lake Winnebago

Walleye are done spawning on the upper Fox and Wolf Rivers should be on their way back to or already in the upper lakes of Winnebago System. Cooler water temps are keeping bass and panfish from spawning yet, so these species are still in pre-spawn locations and patterns. - Kendall Kamke, fisheries supervisor, Oshkosh

Burnett, Polk and St. Croix counties

Water temperatures in many lakes will still be in the mid- to upper 40s so anglers should adjust their approach accordingly. Heavy rains have resulted in heavy runoff jeopardizing fishing potential for area trout streams and the St. Croix River on the opener. If anglers are planning to fish an area stream or river they are advised to check out local conditions on before the opener! - Terry Margenau, supervisor, Spooner

Waushara and southern Waupaca counties

Stream water levels will more than likely be running a little high for opening trout. Multiple rain events the week before combined with a later than average spring will mean cooler water temps as well. This cooler water can cause fish to be less reactive or less aggressive. Anglers should fish spinners/bait/streamers slowly and concentrate on pools and deep water edges. If water is stained or cloudy from runoff or rain, try higher visibility patterns in gold or chartreuse. Good Luck! - Shawn Sullivan, supervisor, DNR Regional Field Operations, Wild Rose

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CONDITIONS CONTACT: The fish biologist in the county you are interested in



More than 329,000 anglers already have their ticket to fishing fun and relaxation

MADISON - Fishing license sales for Saturday's fishing season opener are looking very similar to last year's, another year when cold spring weather left many northern lakes covered in ice as well.

Through Tuesday, April 29, 329,333 anglers had purchased fishing licenses and 76,270 trout stamps. That's a bit behind last year at the same time, when 335,639 anglers had purchased fishing licenses and 75,856 trout stamps. It compares to 448,472 at the same point before the 2012 season, which followed the warmest spring on record statewide.

Karl Scheidegger, fisheries outreach leader, expects sales to pick up in coming days. "People are tired of the long winter and will gladly venture outside to enjoy the opening day tradition."

And he notes that last year's license sales caught up to the normal levels by mid-summer. Typically, 1.3 million to 1.4 million anglers buy Wisconsin fishing licenses.

Anglers have three easy ways to buy their license: 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).

New veterans' program, discounts make it easy to share the fun

Recently returning Wisconsin resident veterans may receive a one-time free annual fishing license under a 2013 law.

Veterans who wish to receive a free license must first contact the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to determine their eligibility for this program. Such eligibility-related questions should be directed to the Veterans Benefits Resource Center via web chat [ (exit DNR)], email or phone 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

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. The discounts are automatically applied when the license is purchased. Residents' discounted license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

Anglers who recruit new people into the sport can get rewarded for their efforts. 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.

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.

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.




Ice cover delays stocking of some catchable trout

OSCEOLA - A late spring thaw is again delaying stocking of catchable trout in some northern inland waters, state hatchery officials say.

"This year we're again experiencing some delays in stocking due to ice cover in the northern part of the state," says David Giehtbrock, Department of Natural Resources statewide fish production manager. "As soon as Mother Nature thaws things out, we will get the rest of the fish into the water!"

DNR stocks catchable size trout in inland waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction; such waters are a small subset of Wisconsin's more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water. More than 5,400 miles of trout water are Class 1, supporting naturally reproducing populations. Find forecasts for many of these naturally reproducing waters in the 2014 Wisconsin Fishing Report trout forecast.

This year, DNR had planned to stock more than 316,000 catchable size trout in dozens of inland trout waters across Wisconsin before the May 3 inland fishing season opener. Nevin State Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg has been able to stock all of the waters on their list, mostly more southern waters where the ice has been off for several weeks now.

However, some stockings are delayed of fish from St. Croix State Fish Hatchery and Osceola State Fish Hatchery, which supply fish mainly to northern waters. Stocking of brown trout will be delayed to Stormy Lake in Vilas County, brook trout to waters in Ashland, Bayfield, Oneida, Vilas and Waukesha counties, and to waters in Ashland, Florence, Iron, Oneida, Rusk and Sawyer counties. Bradley in Chippewa County and Camp Lake in Washburn County also will receive fish after the opener.

DNR fisheries crews have been raising the rainbow, brown, and brook trout at Nevin, Osceola and St. Croix Falls state fish hatcheries. They've also been working with fishing club volunteers, students, and others to help stock the fish raised under 21 cooperative rearing agreements with DNR.

More than 100,000 of the fish were stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing.

The rest of the trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury - more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Giehtbrock, 608-266-8229



Tips for boating safety during the early fishing season

MADISON - With low water temperatures statewide and many northern Wisconsin waters still thawing, boating safety officials are encouraging anglers to take special precautions to make sure they stay safe on their early season fishing trips, recreation safety officials say.

Water temperatures in southern Wisconsin lakes were reported in the 40- and 50-degree ranges and anglers were still ice fishing in the Woodruff area the last weekend in April.

Roy Zellmer, conservation warden and boating safety administrator with the Department of Natural Resources, says that such conditions mean that anglers who fall into the water or have their boat flip will have less time to get to safety because hypothermia sets in quickly.

Hypothermia can occur when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees. "The loss of body heat results in loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness and eventually loss of life," Zellmer says. "Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air."

View more boating safety videos on our recreation safety playlist.

Zellmer encourages anglers to check in with local bait shops to find out what water temperature and ice conditions are and to follow these boating safety tips.

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