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2017 nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 18

MADISON – Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 18, and Department of Natural Resources staff are enthusiastic about the prospects for 2017.

“We are coming out of a third straight mild winter and a good summer growing season, so as expected we are seeing good to excellent deer numbers throughout most of the state,” said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. “The public and County Deer Advisory Councils are also recognizing the increase as is evident by increased antlerless tag availability, especially in some northern counties. So, in general, we are anticipating an overall increase in deer registration this fall.”

In 2016, far northern portions of Wisconsin saw an overall gun season increase of approximately 30 percent, while the total deer harvest, including gun, crossbow, and archery, increased by roughly 22 percent.

Sample Caption and Alt Text
Archery and crossbow hunting in Wisconsin has continued to become more popular with deer hunters.
Photo Credit: DNR

“In the past, the majority of the annual deer harvest came during the nine-day gun season,” Wallenfang said,” but for decades there has been a growing percentage of the total fall harvest coming during the early archery seasons. That trend continues as more and more people are turned on by the early archery/crossbow seasons when they can hunt for many more days and in nicer weather, plus during the peak of the rut when the deer are very active.”

Wallenfang also noted that hunters need to become familiar with the new deer tagging requirements, baiting restrictions, new treestand rules, and a reduction in the number of buck-only units.

This year marks the third year of electronic deer registration through GameReg. Many hunters who used it in the past are realizing the simplicity and convenience of registering by phone or on their computer or smartphone. Hunters are reminded that registering their deer after harvest is required by 5 p.m. the day following recovery. Those who have not yet used GameReg are encouraged to use a number of resources available to learn more about it and prepare for success. More GameReg information is available online.

Wisconsin’s four Deer Management Zones and county-based Deer Management Units have not changed in 2017. DMUs follow county boundaries in most cases, and nine DMUs are split by zone boundaries. DMU and land type-specific antlerless permits are intended to help manage deer populations more closely on each land type with the hope of enhancing hunting experiences on public land.

With each deer hunting license (archery/crossbow and gun), hunters receive one Buck Deer Tag valid statewide. In addition, each license includes one or more Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Tag(s) that must be designated for use in a specific zone, DMU and land type (public access or private) at the time of issuance.

Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless tags may not be used in the Northern Forest or Central Forest zones, but bonus antlerless tags may be available for specific DMUs within these zones.

All Bonus Antlerless Deer Tags are zone, DMU and land-type specific. Bonus tags cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents and $5 for youth (ages 10 and 11).

In 2017, four county DMUs, in whole or in part, are designated as buck-only units and include Ashland, Eau Claire, Iron, and Vilas counties within the Northern and Central Forest zones. Only the Buck Deer Tag issued with each deer license is valid in these DMUs, with some exceptions for youth, Class A and C disabled and military hunters.

Hunters are no longer required to validate paper carcass tags or attach them to harvested deer. It is also no longer required to keep the tag with the meat. However, hunters must carry one of the forms of proof of a deer tag. Hunters may show proof of having a valid, unfilled deer tag by providing a conservation warden with their Go Wild card, their authenticated driver’s license, paper copies, or an electronic copy on their cell phone. Keep in mind that even with electronic forms of proof of deer tags available, hunters will need the unique tag number to begin the harvest registration process.

For more helpful information, including the following documents, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “deer”:

  • What’s new for the 2017 deer hunt? [PDF]
  • Deer 2017 Pocket Guide [PDF]
  • Where can you find a place to hunt? [PDF]
  • 2017 Deer Hunting Forecast [PDF]
  • Tagging Changes FAQ – What You Need to Know [PDF]
  • 2016 Registration Stats [PDF]
  • Go Wild FAQ [PDF]
  • GameReg 101 [PDF]
  • 2017 Deer Season Structure Map [PDF]
  • First Time Buyer Flyer
  • First Deer Certificate
  • Connect with DNR on social media and share your fall experience! [PDF]
  • Wild Wisconsin 2017 [PDF]

County Deer Advisory Councils play key role in management process

County Deer Advisory Councils play a key role in deer management through the development of recommendations based on annual harvest data and management issues specific to each county. These recommendations help department staff determine annual antlerless quotas, antlerless tag levels and season options.

Department staff would like to thank all CDAC members for their continued commitment to playing an active role in deer herd management in Wisconsin.

Learn on the go this fall with Wild Wisconsin

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.

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

Smart reminders to ensure another safe hunting season in Wisconsin

Keep some helpful tips in mind to ensure another safe hunting season in Wisconsin

MADISON – It is no accident Wisconsin is known nationally as one of the safest places to hunt deer for the whole family and friends.

“This state is fortunate to have thousands of volunteer hunter education instructors dedicated to keeping everyone safe while enjoying the outdoors,” Hunter Education Administrative Warden Jon King said. “And you have to credit the hunters who carry on that safety priority during their own hunts and as mentors. This is what makes Wisconsin a great hunting state – the people.”

Wisconsin’s culture of hunting safety started a half century ago when the department launched a six-hour course stressing firearm safety. The course was voluntary, and while the impact was not momentous, the number of firearm injuries during the gun deer hunt began to decline.

Then came more change in 1980 when hunters were required to wear blaze orange during gun-deer hunts – and the number of firearm incidents dropped more dramatically. Five years later came the expanded hunter education certification program, which also became mandatory for all hunters in Wisconsin born or after Jan. 1, 1973. About 24,000 are trained every year – and more than a million since the program started.

In 1966 in Wisconsin, the hunting incident rate was 44 injuries for every 100,000 hunters. Now the rate, based on a 10-year-average, is 4.04 incidents per 100,000 hunters, a reduction of more than 90 percent. Wisconsin has experienced five gun-deer seasons free of fatalities — 1972, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016.

How does Wisconsin keep the safety trend alive? King says more incidents can be prevented by following these four basic principles of firearm safety – known as TABK:

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

For tree stand users, here are some easy tips to follow:

  • Always use a full-body harness.
  • Always unload your firearm while climbing into or out of the stand.
  • Maintain three points of contact during the ascent or descent — two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.

Each deer drive should be planned with safety as the top priority, King said. “Everyone involved in the drive should know and understand the plan.”

If you plan to participate in a deer drive:

  • Review the four firearm safety principles.
  • Reconfirm you have positively identified your target.
  • Reconfirm you have a safe backstop for your bullet.
  • Review and stick to your hunting plan. Make sure all in the hunting party honor it.

Thanks Wisconsin hunters for serving as an example for ethical and safe hunting.

For more information regarding hunter education and tips for safe hunting in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “safety tips.”

Wisconsin DNR adds Instagram to bring hikers, bikers, anglers, hunters and many more closer to our great natural resources

MADISON -Wisconsin’s beautiful state parks, bountiful wildlife and hunting opportunities and world-class fisheries are on full display on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources new Instagram account.

The Instagram account, titled @wi_dnr, gives followers an inside look at what makes Wisconsin one of the premiere outdoor destinations in the country. While many posts will showcase work done by DNR staff in the field, amateur photographers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types are encouraged to submit photos and videos to be shared on the page.

The new DNR Instagram account will feature photos like this six-lined racerunner scurrying around and enjoying life in Wisconsin this summer.
The new DNR Instagram account will feature photos like this six-lined racerunner scurrying around and enjoying life in Wisconsin this summer.
Photo Credit: Rich Staffen

“Social media gives DNR staff an opportunity to interact directly with the public and also creates a venue to share stories and experiences with others from all over the world,” said Erik Barber, DNR social media coordinator. “At the click of a button, we can promote our projects and help our users understand what we do each day to improve their time in the outdoors. Wild Wisconsin, which gives viewers an inside look at deer management, has already been seen more than 80,000 times – we see social media as the future of communicating with the public.”

The DNR will regularly upload new photos to the Instagram account of people enjoying Wisconsin’s state parks, forests trails and recreation areas as well as hunters and anglers out in the field. You’ll also find photos of the state’s abundant natural resources. People can view the DNR’s Instagram page at www.instagram.com/wi_dnr/ (all social media links exit DNR).

Facebook

For a more interactive experience, the DNR Facebook page, which recently surpassed 100,000 likes, features hunting, fishing and state park posts throughout the week, with an opportunity to interact directly with DNR staff.

Twitter

For people who like to get their news on the go, Twitter provides bite-sized updates for a number of DNR programs and events. Check out the DNR Twitter account.

YouTube

For a closer look at some of the department’s most interesting projects and programs, the DNR YouTube channel provides an inside look at everything from tips for deer season to environmental success stories. The department’s most recent video series, Wild Wisconsin, is uploaded there on the featured playlist. Wild Wisconsin provides deer hunters with all the information they need to know before heading to the woods with an exciting web series and information-packed podcasts.

LinkedIn

The DNR LinkedIn page allows the department to distribute job openings to over 5,000 followers at a time. If you’re having trouble finding the ideal candidate for a position, try promoting it here. This platform is filled with job seekers looking for exciting and challenging opportunities.

Stay connected with the Wisconsin DNR and the outdoors by checking out any and all of the Wisconsin DNR social media platforms.

Efforts to aid monarch butterflies take off in Wisconsin

MADISON — Wisconsin efforts to help conserve monarchs are taking off as the iconic butterflies fly to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

The Department of Natural Resources recently learned its Natural Heritage Conservation program has won a $69,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and enhance critical monarch butterfly habitat along the Mississippi River.

The grant and matching funds contributed by NHC, county conservation departments and non-profit conservation groups totaling $109,785 will be used to restore and enhance 700 public and private acres at well-known places including Brady’s Bluff Prairie State Natural Area in Perrot State Park and Hogback Prairie State Natural Area in Crawford County.

“Monarchs have declined by 90 percent since the 1990s and need whatever help they can get from government agencies, private industries, universities, property owners, and volunteers,” says Drew Feldkirchner, who leads DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation program.

“We’re excited this grant will help us restore habitat on the ground and advance our partnerships to help monarchs and many other species.”

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 8 photos

Habitat help for monarchs

Habitat loss throughout the monarch’s breeding range, which includes Wisconsin, is considered the primary cause of the monarch population’s crash, Feldkirchner says.

Many Wisconsin organizations and individuals are taking steps to reduce the monarch’s dramatic decline and increase its chances for future recovery, says Owen Boyle, Natural Heritage Conservation species management section chief. Other recent NHC monarch work includes:

  • Managing and restoring monarch and pollinator habitat on tens of thousands of acres, including numerous State Natural Areas.
  • Joining the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of more than 50 conservation, education, and research organizations from across the United States working together to conserve the monarch migration. Membership increases funding and networking opportunities.
  • Participating in a partnership with 15 other states to create a regional conservation plan for monarchs.
  • Co-organizing the Wisconsin Monarch Summit in May 2017 with the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and Sand County Foundation. This day-long gathering brought together more than 60 stakeholders from government agencies, universities, conservation organizations, and the utility, transportation and agricultural sectors to lay the foundation for a statewide monarch conservation strategy for Wisconsin.
  • Funding four monarch citizen science trainings throughout the state in 2017 with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and The Blue Mounds Area Project. Sixty-five volunteers were trained to collect information on monarchs, with more to come in 2018.

Find more information about monarchs and other native pollinators and how you can help them on DNR’s Native Pollinator webpage, as well as sign up to receive periodic email or text updates about monarchs. Visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “pollinators.”

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.”