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Public meetings set for Northern Lake Michigan Coastal regional master plan

Public comment period open through Nov. 28

STURGEON BAY, Wis. – The public will have an opportunity at two upcoming open houses to learn more about the department’s regional master planning process for properties located in the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape. The region includes properties in four counties — Door, Oconto, Marinette and Shawano.

The Niagra escarpment, shown hear along Peninsula State Park, is a dominant feature of the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal landscape.
The Niagra escarpment, shown hear along Peninsula State Park, is a dominant feature of the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal landscape.
Photo Credit: DNR

A master plan, guided by Chapter NR 44, Wisconsin Administrative Code, establishes the level and type of resource management and public use permitted on department-managed properties.

Under the regional planning process, department staff will develop a plan for all properties located within a defined region. The regions are based on 16 previously defined ecological landscapes in Wisconsin. The Natural Resources Board approved the regional planning process at the June 2017 board meeting.

Northern Lake Michigan Coastal region includes approximately 30,000 acres of DNR-managed lands and contains a wide-variety of habitats, key characteristics including the Niagara escarpment, and important natural communities including the Great Lakes beaches and dunes. Located within the region are numerous properties that provide year-round recreation opportunities, including: five popular state parks — Newport, Peninsula, Potawatomi, Rock Island and Whitefish Dunes; prominent State Natural Areas; and popular fisheries and wildlife areas.

People can learn more about the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal regional master planning process by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for keywords “master planning” and select “Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Region.”

Two public meetings will be held in November for the public to learn more about the planning process and to submit comments on the properties’ future management and use. Both meetings run from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be held:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 14, Sturgeon Bay: Stone Harbor Resort and Conference Center, 107 North First Ave.
  • Wednesday, Nov 15, Crivitz: Community Center, 901 Henriette Ave.

“The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the meeting and share their suggestions for future management and use of these properties,” said Diane Brusoe, Property Planning Section Chief.

In addition to the meetings, people may submit comments to the DNR by mail or email or through a questionnaire that will be available Nov. 14 to fill out online through the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal region planning page of the DNR website. The public comment period for the first phase of planning is open through Nov. 28, 2017.

For additional information regarding this master planning process, contact Ann Freiwald, DNR planner, at 608-266-2130, via email at ann.freiwald@wisconsin.gov, or via US mail at Ann Freiwald, Wisconsin DNR, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707-7921.

Fall musky fishing heats up, along with chance to set new state record

MADISON — While Wisconsin’s first catch and release record has been established for musky, there’s plenty of time left in 2017 for anglers to better that mark and enjoy some of the best fishing for the famed fighter and Wisconsin’s official state fish.

The northern zone musky season runs through Nov. 30 on inland waters north of U.S. Highway 10 excluding Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters. The southern zone musky season stays open another month beyond that, closing Dec. 31, 2017, on inland waters south of U.S. Highway 10.

Jacob Holmstrom claimed the first catch and release musky record in Wisconsin with this catch last June.
Jacob Holmstrom claimed the first catch and release musky record in Wisconsin with this catch last June.
Photo Credit: Submitted

Jacob Holmstrom of Danbury reeled in his place in Wisconsin fishing history by claiming the first catch and release record in Wisconsin for musky. Holmstrom caught the 53-inch musky on Warner Lake in Burnett County on June 24, 2017, around 6:30 p.m.

The fish was measured and photographed with Holmstrom before being released.
The fish was measured and photographed with Holmstrom before being released.
Photo Credit: Submitted

The fish was measured, photographed on its side on a measuring board with Holmstrom, and released, according to Karl Scheidegger, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist coordinating the catch and release records program and the traditional by-weight records program.

“We’re excited for Jacob and excited to have our first record established for one of our marquee species,” Scheidegger says.

“It’s a big fish but there are bigger fish out there. We want anglers to know that just because there’s a record, don’t stop fishing. Late fall fishing is some of the best for musky and records are made to be broken!”

Zachary Lawson, inland fish biologist for Iron and Ashland counties, says recent weather patterns have now ‘flipped’ many lakes, creating conditions where anglers may want to turn attention to deeper rock structure, hard bottom areas, and steep breaking shorelines.

“Anglers are taking advantage of prime time for trophy specimens, with muskies up to 50-inches being reported,” he says. Lawson himself caught and released a heavy 48.5-inch musky earlier this fall.

Zach Lawson caught and released this 48.5-inch musky this fall in northern Wisconsin in an area with steep slopes, hard bottom, and adjacent to very deep water.
Zach Lawson caught and released this 48.5-inch musky this fall in northern Wisconsin in an area with steep slopes, hard bottom, and adjacent to very deep water.
Photo Credit: DNR

Wisconsin has about 775 lakes and streams with thriving musky populations. The statewide regulation sets a daily bag of one fish with a minimum length of 40 inches but special fishing regulations are in effect on some waters in an effort to bring back the trophy muskellunge Wisconsin is clearly capable of producing.

Find a list of all musky waters and trophy musky waters by going to dnr.wi.gov and searching “musky.”

To see fish biologists’ forecasts for musky for 2017 based on fish survey results, read the 2017 Wisconsin Fishing Report.

Live catch and release records recognize anglers without killing the fish

DNR’s live catch and release record program started earlier this year to promote the conservation of fisheries resources and quality fishing by encouraging the careful release of trophy-size popular sport species.

To see the application to fill out and the procedure to follow to submit a possible record, go to dnr.wi.gov and search “record fish.”

Anglers interested in pursuing a record are encouraged to follow these live release tips to minimize stress on the fish as much as possible during the photo process.

  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible before releasing it.
  • Gently place the fish back in the water. Do not hang the fish on a stringer or hold heavy fish by the jaw as this may damage the jaw and vertebrae.
  • Hold large fish horizontally and support its body. Use wet hands or wet cloth gloves to handle the fish.
  • Have the camera ready before landing the fish to minimize air exposure. If necessary, revive the fish by holding it upright in the water and moving it back and forth, forcing water through its gills.

New podcast and web series, Wild Wisconsin, gives hunters ability to learn on the go this fall

[EDITOR’S ADVISORY: This news release was previously issued to statewide media.]

MADISON — Scouting, buying your license, sighting in your rifle – the basics. But, how can you take your hunt to the next level?

Easy access to information is the key to a successful hunt, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is excited to announce the launch of a new podcast and web series – Wild Wisconsin.

The future of deer hunting is here, with Wild Wisconsin.
The future of deer hunting is here, with Wild Wisconsin.
Photo Credit: DNR

Easy access to information is the key to a successful hunt, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is excited to announce the launch of a new podcast and web series – Wild Wisconsin.

Whether you prefer to watch all segments at once, catch one or two on the move, or listen to podcasts during your commute, Wild Wisconsin has it all. Topics range from public land hunting strategies to CWD and what it means for Wisconsin’s deer herd.

Sponsors for Wild Wisconsin include Legendary Whitetails, Vortex Optics, and Mayville Engineering Company. Together, we are working to change how we communicate with hunters.

Wild Wisconsin episodes – watch when you want, where you want:

  • Ep. 1: Passport to Pursuit
  • Ep. 2: Deer Hunting Rules and Regulations
  • Ep. 3: Why Wisconsin?
  • Ep. 4: Habitat Helper
  • Ep. 5: Preparing For Success
  • Ep. 6: Deer Hunting Forecast
  • Ep. 7: Handling the Harvest Pt. 1
  • Ep. 8 (1/2): Handling the Harvest Pt. 2 – Deer processing tutorial
  • Ep. 8 (2/2): Handling the Harvest Pt. 2 – Deer processing tutorial
  • Ep. 9: Deer Hunting Makes Life Better

Check out these “Off the Record” podcasts:

  • Ep. 1: How can I get into deer hunting in Wisconsin? It’s easy with “R3”
  • Ep. 2: How do DNR conservation wardens work with hunters?
  • Ep. 3: Deer hunting myths: Let’s “bust” a move
  • Ep. 4: What can active habitat management do for your deer hunt?
  • Ep. 5: Good gear means more deer (with Legendary Whitetails)
  • Ep. 6: Wisconsin, get ready for another great deer hunt!
  • Ep. 7: CWD is serious business for Wisconsin’s deer herd
  • Ep. 8: What do WI DNR staff do to improve your deer hunt?
  • Ep. 9: Reloading ammo is quick and easy (with Mayville Engineering Company)

All segments and podcasts, along with wild game recipes and much more, can be found at dnr.wi.gov, keywords “Wild Wisconsin.”

Be sure to follow DNR’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter pages for more Wild Wisconsin as we get closer to the gun deer opener.

Warm temperatures deliver anglers two walleye bites: shallow and deep

MADISON — Fall walleye fishing is typically some of the most productive for ole marble eyes, and this year, anglers are getting a bonus bite thanks to a warm fall thus far, state fish biologists say.

“There are two bites going on right now,” says Steve Gilbert, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Woodruff. “Good walleye fishing can be found in both shallow and deep transitional areas.”

Fall is a good time to fish for walleye, as Alex Bentz shows with 30-inch walleye caught last week on the Wisconsin River.
Fall is a good time to fish for walleye, as Alex Bentz shows with 30-inch walleye caught last week on the Wisconsin River.
Photo Credit: DNR

Fish are in shallow water hanging out by the last green weeds, feeding on little perch and bluegill, he says. “Many of the shallower lakes have turned over and the lager deep lakes are close. This will start to get walleye going to deeper water over harder bottoms.

“Our creel surveys show lakes get a bump in walleye fishing success in October. With the warm weather this fall the bite should continue into early November.”

Gilbert’s own fishing was good over the weekend and advises anglers to find a walleye lake with a good population, use a quarter-ounce jig and minnow on the bottom or use stick type crank baits in perch patterns for the shallow water bite. Be ready to move and switch up baits and tactics.

“Once you locate fish on a spot they will be schooled up this time of year. “With walleye fishing, it can change in a minute.”

Zach Lawson, a DNR fisheries biologist stationed in Mercer, says anglers “are taking advantage of prime time for trophy specimens, with walleyes in the upper 20-inch range being reported.”

“The prolonged warm weather in much of Wisconsin delayed the turnover process on many lakes through mid-October, keeping gamefish tight to vegetation and setting up an awesome shallow water bite for walleyes in many of the lakes in our area,” he says.

While many anglers were wondering when the transition to the deep water fishing was going to happen, recent weather patterns have now “flipped” many lakes, creating conditions where anglers may want to turn attention to deeper rock structure, hard bottom areas, and steep breaking shorelines, especially in lakes with a cisco forage base, Lawson says.

In southern Wisconsin, anglers are catching some nice walleye in shallow water, reports David Rowe, fisheries supervisor in Fitchburg.

“It’s a good time of the year for big fish. Walleye and musky are putting on the feedbag,” he says. “Recently one of our technicians caught a 30-inch walleye on Lake Wisconsin”

This time of fall shore anglers can have as good a chance as boat anglers at catching large fish; Rowe recommends fishing shallow water where rivers enter lakes with a slip bobber and a large minnow fished near the bottom. Trolling crankbaits on the outside edge of the weed lines can also be productive for those larger trophies in fall.

Wisconsin represents the heart of the national distribution of walleye; they are found naturally in larger lakes and rivers and excellent walleye angling opportunities exist in the Mississippi River; the Wisconsin River and its impoundments; Lake Winnebago; the Wolf and Fox River systems; and larger lakes all over Wisconsin, especially in northern Wisconsin.

Anglers looking for new waters to fish for walleye can consult DNR’s “quality walleye fishing waters list” or the walleye forecast in the 2017 Wisconsin Fishing Report.

Fall electrofishing underway

While anglers are busy fishing this fall, state fisheries crews are busy “electrofishing,” using specialized boats to conduct night-time surveys statewide to assess how well young walleye hatched earlier this year have survived until fall.

Fall electrofishing efforts in Iron and Ashland County consistently documented a walleye year class (hatched this spring, currently 4 to 8 inches), but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our naturally reproducing waters.
Fall electrofishing efforts in Iron and Ashland County consistently documented a walleye year class (hatched this spring, currently 4 to 8 inches), but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our naturally reproducing waters.
Photo Credit: DNR

Watch these videos taken last week on Lake Mendota in Dane County to see how fisheries staff use boom shocking boats to deliver an electric current to water that briefly stun the fish so they can be netted and measured. Biologists use information from the fall electrofishing to estimate the amount of recruitment or how many young fish are coming into a population. (all links exit to DNR YouTube Channel)

Why Electrofishing? https://youtu.be/VTEqenSTCkI

Live from the boat: https://youtu.be/dxTNykGp7ok

Data Recording: https://youtu.be/ODnM9DhQX7Q

Lawson says that electrofishing in Iron and Ashland county consistently documented a walleye-year class but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our natural reproduction systems.

“These fish are not quite up to a harvestable size, but anglers are catching good numbers of them now, and this bodes very well for the future of these fisheries,” Lawson says.

Oct. 31 deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses

2017 surveys show plenty of big fish for unique winter fishery

MADISON — The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2018 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime while enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

“Getting together with family and friends is what keeps people coming back year after to year, but spearers will be happy to know that our 2017 assessments once again show there are a lot of really large fish out there to challenge them,” says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist.

“We handled nine fish greater than 75 inches and 65 fish over 70 inches this spring,” he says. “The biggest fish we measured was 81 inches, so it should be a really exciting year for everyone enjoying this unique winter event.”

The Winnebago System is home to one of the largest populations of lake sturgeon in North America. DNR’s careful management of that population, in conjunction with citizens and conservation groups, allows the continent’s largest recreational harvest through a unique winter spear fishery dating to the 1930s.

The 2018 spearing seasons open on February 10, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by lottery.

The seasons run for 16 days or until harvest caps are reached; those harvest caps for 2018 will be set on Oct. 18 when DNR biologists meet with the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee, which helps set the harvest caps.

Gerald Peterson's 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon.Sandra Schumacher's 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
The 2017 season included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson’s 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher’s 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
Photo Credit: DNR

Deteriorating water clarity and ice conditions as the 2017 season wore on combined for a lower total harvest but included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson’s 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher’s 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish. Thirteen fish weighed in at 130 pounds or larger.

A total of 847 fish were harvested during the 2017 seasons, 552 from Lake Winnebago and 295 from the Upriver Lakes. This total is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over the 2016 season total of 703 fish, Koenigs says.

Again this year, 12-year-olds are eligible to purchase a license and can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their tags to youth ages 12-17, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased by visiting GoWild.Wi.gov or any license sales location. To find a license agent near you, go to dnr.wi.gov and search with key words “license agent.”

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2017, and the last day of the 2018 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17) and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2018 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing.”

Southeastern Wisconsin group wins volunteer award for Chiwaukee Prairie work

MADISON – The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has long played an integral role in preserving the largest remaining prairie and wetland complex in southeastern Wisconsin, helping buy the first 15 acres of Chiwaukee Prairie in the 1960s to controlling garlic mustard and 24 other invasive plants there today.

Now that length and depth of service has won the citizen group the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award from the Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas Program. Group members received the award Sept. 30 during a volunteer appreciation picnic at the Mukwonago River State Natural Area in Waukesha County.

DNR's Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
DNR’s Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund and its leadership have been one of our cornerstones in protecting and conserving Chiwaukee Prairie for future generations,” says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau.

“Their commitment has only strengthened over the years, and especially so in the last 5-10 years with their increased efforts to recruit more volunteers, to engage more with partners to leverage funding, and becoming active in acquiring land,” adds Sharon Fandel, the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation district ecologist who works with the group.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has been working for more than 50 years on behalf of Chiwaukee Prairie, a one-time subdivision that in 2015 was named part of a wetland of international importance. That honor, and the preservation group’s role, is described in the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine May 2016 story, “Ecological Treasures.”

Fifty-two years ago concerned local citizens like Al Krampert and Phil Sander mobilized when the subdivision started to be developed, and in 1965 joined forces with The Nature Conservancy to purchase the first 15 acres of land within Chiwaukee Prairie. Two years later, Chiwaukee would be designated by DNR as a State Natural Area and as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund was officially incorporated in 1985. Now, the group holds monthly work days. Many of their volunteers are certified to apply herbicides, use chainsaws, and even assist on prescribed burns. Volunteers put in more than 1,000 hours of work in 2016, much of it removing or controlling invasive plants.

Key volunteers also work closely with NHC rare plant experts and Plants of Concern, a regional rare plant monitoring program of the Chicago Botanic Garden, to identify which species of rare plants need to be monitored and submit their data to the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.

More recently, starting in late 2016, the group has been working directly to acquire additional vacant parcels.

“CPPF stepped up to the plate and chose to pursue several vacant lots where we had interested landowners anxious to sell their land,” said Fandel. “They are truly our ‘eyes and ears’ at Chiwaukee Prairie when it comes to keeping us informed on various fronts, including new invasive species populations, road or trail issues, and partnering opportunities. They are among Chiwaukee Prairie’s strongest advocates and, as such, are very deserving winners of the Steward of the Year Award.”

State Natural Areas¬†protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.

Since its start in 2011, Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include 36 volunteer groups that devoted 5,820 hours in 2016 to 43 state natural areas. Learn more about the volunteer program and find a listing of upcoming volunteer workdays by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “SNA volunteer.”

Stocking advances spotted musky reintroduction project in Green Bay

WILD ROSE, Wis.¬†— Efforts to establish a self-sustaining population of spotted musky in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters got a boost this fall when 7,000 musky fingerling averaging 17 inches were stocked into the Fox River, several Green Bay tributaries, Lake Winnebago and three inland lakes.

The fingerlings were raised for a year in cool water ponds at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. They now weigh about a pound and average 17 inches in length, although some were pushing 19 and 20 inches.

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Department of Natural Resources fish crew members stocked roughly 1,350 fish into the future broodstock lakes of Anderson and Archibald Lakes in Oconto County and Elkhart lake in Sheboygan County, according to Jesse Landwehr, hatchery supervisor. The three inland lakes will serve as the source of brood stock in future years. Beginning in 2019, DNR tentatively will spawn spotted muskies in an effort to ramp up production in the hatcheries.

Historically, spotted musky were native to Lake Michigan and its tributaries in Wisconsin but habitat destruction, pollution and over-exploitation during the early to mid-1900s decimated their populations. DNR in cooperation with several local musky clubs and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin started to reintroduce the Great Lakes strain musky into Green Bay waters of Lake Michigan in 1989.

They stocked fish that were hatched from eggs collected from Michigan waters where spotted musky still are found, and raised them at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. Those stockings have helped create a popular fishery in Green Bay with anglers reeling in many 50-plus-inch fish but the ultimate goal of the project–creating a self-sustaining population–has been elusive.

DNR staff have worked in recent years to diversify the genetic pool in hopes of seeing better natural reproduction. Michigan had been providing 5- to 6-inch fingerlings to Wisconsin hatched from disinfected eggs and Wisconsin has been sending northern Wisconsin musky fingerlings to Michigan in return. Creating broodstock lakes will enable Wisconsin to spawn its own fish.

All the fish going into the three brood lakes were fin-clipped and PIT tagged so DNR can identify individual fish and their parentage. “This enables us when we are spawning on the brood stock lakes in the future to maintain genetic diversity,” Landwehr says.

For the rest of the fish going into the Green Bay system, 20 percent were tagged and clipped to help local biologists identify individual fish and assess their growth rates.

October public meetings will gather feedback regarding outdoor recreation in Wisconsin

MADISON – The public will have an opportunity at a series of upcoming meetings to provide input on two draft chapters of a Department of Natural Resources Recreation Opportunities Analysis and begin the process of examining opportunities in three other regions of Wisconsin,

The Recreation Opportunities Analysis is examining existing outdoor-based recreation opportunities and future recreation opportunities in eight regions throughout Wisconsin.

The initial drafts identify recreation opportunities in the Great Northwest (Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Polk, Barron and Rusk counties) and Upper Lake Michigan Coastal Regions (Marinette, Oconto, Manitowoc, Brown, Kewaunee and Door counties) and the potential role of DNR-managed properties in helping to meet these opportunities.

In August, the department held open house meetings asking for public input about these regions. Feedback was also received through an online public input opportunity that was open in August and early September. Using this input, the department developed a draft chapter for each region describing future needs unique to each part of the state and the potential role DNR-managed properties play in helping to meet those needs.

Comments are welcome on the draft chapters through Oct. 27. Open house meetings are scheduled from 4-7 p.m. in each region where department staff will provide an overview at 5:30 p.m.:


  • Tuesday Oct. 17, De Pere – Brown County Library – Kress Family Branch, 333 North Broadway Street,
  • Wednesday Oct. 18, Rice Lake – City of Rice Lake Building, 30 East Eau Claire St.

Next regions to begin study for Recreation Opportunities Analysis

The next regions to be studied are the Mississippi River Corridor, Western Sands and Lake Winnebago regions. The counties included in these regions are as follows:

  • Mississippi River Corridor: Buffalo, Crawford, Dunn, Grant, La Crosse, Pepin, Pierce, St Croix, Trempealeau, and Vernon
  • Lake Winnebago Waters: Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Menominee, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, and Winnebago
  • Western Sands: Adams, Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Marathon, Monroe, Portage, and Wood

The public is invited to participate in this analysis by providing information through the online input opportunities found by searching the DNR website for keyword “ROA.” The public can provide feedback online or print out the questionnaire and send completed forms to the department. Public input opportunities for these three regions are open through Nov. 17.

Later this month, the department will host public open house meetings to gather additional input to the Mississippi River Corridor, Lake Winnebago Waters and Western Sands regions. The open houses will be held from 4-7 p.m. in the following dates and locations:

  • Oct. 23, Altoona – River Prairie Center, 1445 Front Porch Place
  • Oct. 24, Stevens Point – Holiday Inn, 1001 Amber Ave.
  • Oct. 25, Onalaska – Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 3060 South Kinney Coulee Road
  • Nov. 1, Appleton – Fox Valley Technical College (Bordini Center), 5 Systems Drive

While the ROA process is underway in these counties, additional public meetings in other regions will be held as the process moves forward. The analysis process will generally describe recreation opportunities for each region.

To receive email updates regarding the ROA process, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled “subscribe for updates for DNR topics,” then follow the prompts and select “Recreation opportunities analysis,” found within the list titled “outdoor recreation.”

For more information regarding the recreational opportunities analysis, search keyword “ROA.”

2017 Wisconsin ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 14

MADISON – The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. The season will run through Dec. 31, with the possibility of being extended until Jan. 7, 2018.

The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Photo Credit: DNR

Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. Like pheasant, the bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at 9 a.m. The ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.

Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations booklet for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.

“Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to experience the outdoors, and it complements the other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well,” says Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources. “Pheasant hunting offers the chance to explore landscapes and habitat types you might not otherwise see.”

Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern and western Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Witecha.

Witecha says hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush, intermixed with cropland, hay and idle grasslands which provide food and nesting cover. It will be important for hunters to identify areas with high-quality habitat, concentrating their hunting efforts in those areas.

During the 2016 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 43,520 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 307240 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Waukesha and Kenosha.

Regulations

A 2017 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide, as well as a valid small game license. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on the hen/rooster areas are no longer required. The daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season, with a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit. More information is available in the 2017 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations, available online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “regulations.”

Pheasant Stocking Program

This fall, DNR wildlife staff plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on 91 public hunting grounds. These numbers are a similar to 2016 stocking efforts. State game farm production goals will remain at 75,000 birds moving forward. In addition, pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will also be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.

Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2017 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “pheasant.” In addition, hunters can use the DNR’s gamebird mapping application, FFLIGHT, to locate and explore properties stocked with pheasants (along with ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat and managed dove fields). FFLIGHT also allows hunters to use aerial maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make their trips more productive and enjoyable. To learn more about FFLIGHT, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword “FFLIGHT.”

Pheasant Hunting Opportunities through the Mentored Hunting Program

2017 marks the ninth year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all of the requirements under the program. For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword “mentored hunting.”

“Pheasants are a popular gamebird, and they offer a great hunting experience to both novices and experienced hunters,” said Witecha. “I wish hunters safe and successful trips this fall.”

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Releases Third-Season Findings

Volunteers document 220 bird species breeding in Wisconsin, including rare marsh birds

MADISON — After the third year of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey, volunteers have documented 220 bird species breeding in the state, most recently including a family of rare and secretive marsh birds called king rails. With this addition, 12 new species have been observed nesting in Wisconsin that weren’t found during the first Breeding Bird Atlas survey two decades ago.

Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)
Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)

“A few of these king rails were reported in the first atlas but none were confirmed as nesting here,” says Ryan Brady, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and science coordinator for the Atlas. “So it’s exciting to see wetland management efforts having positive benefits for a species that requires high-quality marshes to successfully raise its young.”

Good wetland management by state and federal wildlife management staff have also contributed to another Atlas finding — that trumpeter swans are undergoing an impressive expansion in range and numbers since the last survey from 1995-2000, Brady says.

Trumpeter swans were decimated by overhunting by the late 1800s, and the species was mostly absent from Wisconsin until DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program and partners began reintroducing the species in 1987.

“Even a decade ago, most breeding pairs kept to the more remote northern lakes,” Brady says. “Good wetland management and protection have allowed trumpeters to use unoccupied marshes and increase their numbers to over 5,000 birds.”

Volunteers have documented them breeding across the north, northwest, and central regions and birds have even colonized the Lower Wisconsin River.

Volunteers Still Needed to Accurately Reveal Trends in Birds

The purpose of the five-year atlas effort is to document all bird species that breed in Wisconsin, from common year-round residents like northern cardinal to species of high conservation interest like Connecticut warbler. Some of these species may be vanishing, while others are holding their own, or even increasing, but only a statewide effort will reveal these trends, says Nicholas Anich, Breeding Bird Atlas coordinator for DNR.

“The project has already amassed records of 4.9 million birds but we still have a ways to go,” Anich says. “We need more volunteers to survey priority areas so we get a complete picture of what’s going on with our bird populations and how we can help them moving forward.”

More than 1,400 volunteers have contributed to the survey so far, but more are needed to survey remaining priority areas, particularly in northern, central, and western regions of the state.

Getting Involved

Volunteers collect data by observing birds, and enter their sightings online, where the information is reviewed by Anich, Brady, and other ornithologists from organizations leading the project: The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and DNR.

All Wisconsin residents are encouraged to participate, especially those who live or travel to priority areas like northern, central, and western Wisconsin. “It’s easy to participate and you don’t have to be an expert birder to help,” says Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, “We’re constantly hearing from people how rewarding atlasing is, and we welcome participants of all ability levels.”

To volunteer, visit the project website at wsobirds.org/atlas. Training sessions and field trips will take place throughout Wisconsin in 2018. When the project is completed, the data will be published in a hard-copy book and online for use by researchers, land managers, conservationists, and citizens interested in birds and their habitats.