March 24, 2003

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USFWS releases Cormorant Management Plan

Feds publish new proposal in March 17 Federal Register

On March 17,2003 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed program on double-crested cormorant (DCCO) management in the Federal Register (68 FR 12653). This proposed rule is the latest step in a sequence of events associated with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was released in December 2001.

 

Essentially, the proposed rule presents the preferred alternative ("Alternative D: public resource depredation order") in a more detailed manner than did the DEIS. Here is a link to the rule:

 

http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar200108

00/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-6174.htm

 

The USFWS will accept comments on the proposed management plan for double-crested cormorant through May 16. Comments may be e-mailed, faxed or mailed to Chief, Div. of Migratory Bird Mgmt, USFWS, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr, Room 634, Arlington, VA 22203.

 

Submit comments until May 16, 2003 by email to cormorants@fws.gov ; by fax to 703/358-2272, or by mail to USFWS Div. Migratory Bird Mgmt, 4401 N. Fairfax D, MS-MBSP-4107, Arlington, VA 22203.

The proposed rule is a draft regulation for implementation of the preferred alternative ("Alternative D," public resource depredation order) that was selected in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published in

December 2001.  Alternative D is intended to enhance the ability of resource agencies to deal with cormorant damages in an effective and timely manner by giving them more regulatory flexibility.  Essentially, the proposed rule: (1) establishes a new public resource depredation order (50 CFR 21.48) that would allow State fish and wildlife agencies, Tribes, and USDA/Wildlife Services in 24 States to take double-crested cormorants in order to protect public resources such as fish (including hatchery stock), wildlife, plants, and their habitats; and (2) revises the 1998 aquaculture depredation order (50 CFR 21.47) to give USDA/Wildlife Services in 13 States the authority to control double-crested cormorants at winter roosts in order to protect aquaculture stock.

   "The purpose of this depredation order is to reduce the occurrence and/or minimize the risk of adverse impacts to public resources (fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats) caused by double-crested cormorants."

 

   The depredation order will: (1) Apply to 24 States (those States where Interior and Southern DCCO populations present the greatest risk to public resources); (2) apply specifically to State fish and wildlife agencies, federally recognized Tribes, and APHIS/WS, rather than to 'State, Tribal, and Federal land management agencies' as stated in the DEIS, in order to streamline cormorant control activities and give more responsibility to APHIS/WS, the primary Federal agency responsible for alleviating wildlife damage conflicts; (3) apply only to land and freshwater (not saltwater), since all of the documented fisheries impacts occur in freshwater; and (4) allow egg oiling, egg and nest destruction, cervical dislocation, shooting, and CO2 asphyxiation instead of 'shooting, egg oiling or destruction, and nest destruction.''

 

"This depredation order applies to all lands and freshwaters in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin."

 

The USFWS welcomes serious consideration of the proposed rule by all those interested in the management and conservation of double-crested cormorants. Once the public comment period for this proposed rule is closed, their next step will be to complete and publish a final rule and final EIS.  FWS says "We anticipate a Record of Decision being issued by fall of 2003."

 

We urge you to submit your comments, and be a part of the process.  Your voice does count.

 

Dan Thomas, President
Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council

 

Ice out. Fish on! - Lake Michigan spring fishing

   Indiana DNR fisheries biologists report Lake Michigan's shoreline ice is breaking up, and anglers are beginning to catch fish in Michigan City's harbor.

 

   "People fishing near the DNR office in Michigan City Harbor are catching coho, browns and steelhead," said Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert. "If ice break-up continues, fishing boats will be on the lake by late March."

 

   March through April has traditionally provided bountiful fishing for Indiana anglers, as pan-sized coho salmon swarm along Indiana's warm southern Lake Michigan shore to feed. Lake harbors and tributaries also fill with migrating steelhead trout seeking spawning streams. "Fresh runs of steelhead are entering lake tributaries," said Breidert.

 

   Most of the lake's spring fishing activity in Indiana occurs within a two-mile band along the shoreline, with coho salmon contributing close to 95 % of the catch.

 

   These delectable, silver salmon gain weight rapidly in Indiana's Great Lake waters. A 2-pound March coho will weigh 5 pounds in May, when coho migrate further offshore.

 

   Last year, Indiana anglers caught 107,000 coho salmon, and 80,000 of these were harvested during spring.

 

Shoreline fishing

   "The Michigan City NIPSCO electrical generating station fishing area is now open for the season," said Breidert. Several other industrial warm water discharge areas also provide good early season coho fishing.

   The State Line Generating Station on the Indiana-Illinois state line is open if weather allows, and British Petroleum

allows fishing at its water discharge near Whiting.

 

   In the East Chicago area, good shore fishing can also be had at the Hammond and Pastrick marinas' outer break walls. In the Port of Indiana, fishing is available at the public fishing site only. Shore fishing is not allowed from "The Port" walls.

 

   In the Michigan City area, shore fishing is popular on the Washington Park pier and the public access site next to the DNR Lake Michigan Fisheries Research office, as well as the NIPSCO warm water discharge fishing area.

 

   Spring shore anglers cast for coho using artificial lures such as fish-imitation plugs, spoons or spinners. Nightcrawlers, spawn, waxworms or squid are also often used as bait.

 

Boat Fishing

   Chunks of lake ice are still blowing around along Lake Michigan's shoreline, and several harbors remain icebound, but charter fishing fleets and boat anglers are usually on the lake by late March.

 

   Anglers fishing from boats catch spring coho by trolling fish-imitation plugs, spoons, spinners, or dodgers and flies in harbors or within a mile of shore.

Boat anglers also cast lures into warm water plumes in early spring when the lake temperature is around 40 degrees.

 

   Cold water and spring weather can be dangerous. "Keeping an eye on the weather and lake conditions may be a matter of life or death," said veteran Lake Michigan conservation officer Gene Davis.

 

   Davis says children on deck under the age of 13 are now required to wear a life jacket on Lake Michigan boats. "A marine radio or cell phone is also a good idea," said Davis.

Lake Michigan Salmon fishing best in decades

Wisconsin DNR creel surveys confirm angler reports

PLYMOUTH, Wis. – Lake Michigan creel surveys confirm what charter boat captains and sport anglers reported last summer: trout and salmon fishing on the big pond was the best in nearly twenty years!

 

"The 2002 trout and salmon fishery was absolutely phenomenal -- the catch rate for the overall salmon fishery was about 18 fish for every 100 hours of fishing, and that’s the best catch rate over the entire 18 years of data," says John Kubisiak, Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan fisheries biologist.

 

"We had a strong near-shore brown trout fishery up and down the lakeshore in April and early May. The wind blew for the last three weeks of May, and when it calmed down, the coho and chinook fishery just took off."

 

Kubisiak recently completed compiling and analyzing data from a year’s worth of surveys of anglers fishing Lake Michigan. DNR creel clerks survey anglers at Lake Michigan boat landings , piers and tributary streams to learn how many fish they caught, the size, and the time they devoted to their pursuit.

 

These trout and salmon statistics tell the tale:

  • Anglers caught 527,027 fish of all species of trout and salmon, up from 378,798 in 2001. That placed 2002’s catch among the top four in Lake Michigan since 1986.

  • The overall catch rate for trout and salmon, 17.9 fish, was the highest in more than 18 years; the next highest was 16, with catch rates of nine to 10 more common during slow years.

  • Charter boat captains averaged 10.5 fish per trip, up from eight during 2001.

  • Chinook and coho fishing fueled the frenzy: anglers caught 275,454 chinook, the highest total since 1987, and reeled in 102,313 coho, up from 47,474 during 2001.

  • The chinook harvests during 2001 (191,378) and 2002 (275,454) were the highest since 1987. The coho harvest of 102,313 was also right up there with the better years.

  • Anglers who fish from piers or the shores also benefited from the abundant salmon, with the highest harvests since 1995 for pier and 1988 for shore anglers

"At times, it was as if the fish were biting no matter what the anglers were doing," Kubisiak says. Typically, anglers target coho in late spring and early summer, and then the chinook fishing really gets going in July, after a good thermal structure sets up and the fish start to follow a pattern.

 

"In June 2002, the creel clerks would come in with reports of boats fishing everywhere from 40 to 250 ft of water, using every lure color and variety imaginable, from the surface to 80 ft down, at every port on the lake -- and they were all catching chinook and coho," he says. "The fish were scattered, but the anglers were still catching good numbers. Once the thermocline was established, it just got better."

 

Steelhead and lake trout fisheries were in line with the last few years – the catches were average or a little below normal, which Kubisiak thinks reflects the good salmon fishing than a lack of steelhead or lake trout.

 

Nearshore catches increased in 2001 and 2002, encouraging after a decade of decline in those fisheries. The stream fishery was dominated by an extremely abundant chinook run; low water flows, which tend to make the chinook easier to target, aided anglers’ success. The stream harvest of chinook was the highest of the 18-year period, and is reflected in the high catch rate in the table below.

Number of fish caught per 100 hours of fishing

 

Ramp

Pier

Shore

Stream

coho

6.4

2.3

2.6

4.5

chinook

15.9

4.5

10.5

30.6

rainbow trout

4.5

2.1

1.6

5.3

brown trout

4.3

5.1

8.9

2.5

lake trout

3.7

2.9

3.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total trout/salmon

34.8

16.9

27.3

42.9

 

Wis. DNR forecasts for Lake Michigan

2003 shaping up as another strong year

   The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports salmon and trout fishing was excellent in Lake Michigan and tributary streams during 2002-- the catch rate for the overall salmon fishery was about 18 fish for every 100 hours of fishing, and that’s the best catch rate over the entire 18 years of data.

 

   Chinook fishing during the last two years was the best in 15 years, fueled mainly by an extremely abundant year class that was stocked in 1999. The chinook harvests during 2001 (191,378) and 2002 (275,454) were the highest since 1987. Most of the 1999 fish have finished their life cycle. With average-size year classes providing the fishery for 2003, catches of chinook should be good, but we won’t see the phenomenal catches of 2001 and 2002.

 

   During 2002, the abundant adult chinook population out-competed other species for food, as evidenced by small sizes of coho, steelhead and 1-year-old chinook. A reduced chinook population will increase forage and produce larger fish of all these species.

 

   Coho were abundant: the harvest of 102,313 was also right up there with the better years, but average size was somewhat down during 2002. Coho size may be below average in spring 2003, but less competition with chinook should allow rapid growth. Spring coho fishing can be some of the fastest salmon action on Lake Michigan, with multiple strikes common. Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coho fishery begins in the south (Kenosha and Racine) in April and May. The coho fishing gradually moves north as water temperatures rise, typically reaching Milwaukee in May and Port Washington and Sheboygan by June.

 

   Despite sparse rainfall and low fall flows in the tributaries, record numbers of chinook were seen at all the egg-collection facilities. The Root River egg-collection facility handled 1,303 steelhead during March and April 2002. The spring stream fishery saw good catches of steelhead during the same period.

 

   During fall, a record number of chinook salmon were passed at the Root River facility, and 250 Skamania-strain steelhead were collected for our propagation program. As 

always, the tributary fishery depends on water temperature and flow conditions, which trigger upstream migration of the salmonids.

 

   We expect a good tributary fishery in 2003 if the weather conditions are favorable. One additional rainbow trout strain, the Arlee, was stocked on an experimental basis in 2001 and 2002. It is hoped that this strain of rainbow trout will provide a nearshore fishery in the coming years.

 

   Catches of brown trout in the spring of 2002 were the best in recent years. Browns provide a consistent nearshore fishery during the cold months, especially at warm-water discharges and near river mouths. We see dependable returns on domestic brown trout, while the fast-growing, hard-fighting Seeforellen strain continues to add excitement to the brown trout fishery. We annually stock about 90,000 Seeforellen and 400,000 domestic brown trout in southeast Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan.

 

   The lake trout season was good in 2002 when anglers chose to target them. We believe that recent stockings of nearshore sites have contributed to the strong lake trout fishery, and this trend should continue in 2003.

 

   Although the yellow perch population in Lake Michigan continues to be depressed, fishing from the piers and shore was very good at times in spring and summer 2002. The 1998 year class continues to support more than 90 percent of the harvest, but their numbers are declining as time goes on. Average size of perch has increased dramatically as the 1998s continue to grow. There appears to have been a successful perch hatch on Lake Michigan and Green Bay during 2002. If these fish carry through the winter, they will begin to provide a fishery by late 2003 and 2004. Perch fishing continues to be closed from May 1 to June 15 to protect mature females before spawning.

 

   Many of our harbors have seen habitat improvements over the last decade. This has translated into increasing populations of smallmouth bass and northern pike, two native species to Lake Michigan. Fishing for these species has increased as more anglers have learned to target them.

               

   Walleye are stocked in the Milwaukee River as part of a walleye restoration plan. The walleye have shown good survival and high growth rates.

Major WI fishing regulation changes for 2003-2004

   The complete 2003-2004 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations is available at DNR offices and license agents. It also can be found in portable document format (.pdf) by visiting www.fishingwisconsin.org , then look under the "Fishing in Wisconsin" for "Regulations" or contact the Bureau of Fisheries Management and Habitat Protection at (608) 267-7498 for more details.

 

   The following new major rule changes take effect April 1, 2003, unless noted:

 

Major rule changes

Trout Regulations Simplification

   The entire trout regulation category system was simplified, with the changes effective March 1, 2003. Category 1 waters, those which had no minimum length limit and a 10 fish daily bag limit, were eliminated, and the number of waters listed in categories 2, 3, and 4 were reduced. This change resulted in 546 fewer waters needing to be listed in the trout regulations. The different types of special regulations, category 5, were reduced from 12 to 8, affecting 50 waters. An additional 55 waters now have special regulations. To check on specific changes, please see the Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations and Guide, 2003-2004.

 

Cisco (lake herring) and whitefish in the Great Lakes

   The daily bag limit for cisco, lake herring, whitefish, and their hybrids has been changed to 10 fish in total on all Great Lakes waters.

 

Muskellunge in Green Bay and Lake Michigan

   The minimum length limit for muskellunge has been increased to 50" on Green Bay, Lake Michigan and Lake Michigan tributaries in the northern muskellunge zone (north of Waldo Boulevard in the City of Manitowoc).

 

Yellow perch in Lake Michigan

   The closed season for yellow perch has been changed to May 1 through June 15 on Lake Michigan and tributaries.

 

Salmon in Lake Superior

   The 15" minimum length limit for salmon on Lake Superior has been eliminated.

 

Brook trout in Lake Superior

   The minimum length limit for brook trout on Lake Superior has been increased to 20" and the daily bag limit has been reduced to 1.

 

Unattended fishing lines

   During the open-water portion of the fishing season, anglers will be required to remain within 100 yards of all their lines at all times.

Sturgeon spearing

   The deadline for registering a sturgeon speared from Lake Winnebago system waters has been permanently changed to 1:30 p.m. on the day speared and the closed hours for sturgeon spearing have been changed to 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. the following day. This rule went into effect as an emergency rule for the 2002 spearing season.

 

Special regulations by county

   Size and/or bag limits that differ from the statewide rules have been established on the following waters:

 

Bayfield County – A catch and release only season has been established for brook trout on Whittlesey Creek, the Bark River, and their tributaries.

 

Green Lake County –The gamefish season on Big Green Lake has been changed to the statewide open season and is now open from the first Saturday in May until March 1.

 

Kenosha County – The minimum length limit for bass has been increased to 18", the daily bag limit for bass reduced to one in total, and the daily bag limit for panfish has been reduced to 10 in total on Vern Wolf Lake.

 

Langlade County – The minimum length limit for bass on Greater Bass Lake has been increased to 18" and the daily bag limit reduced to one in total.

 

Oneida County – The minimum length limit for muskellunge on Clear Lake has been increased to 50".

 

Sawyer County – The minimum length limit for muskellunge on Moose Lake has been increased to 40". The minimum length limit for muskellunge on the Chippewa Flowage has been increased to 45". The daily bag limit for panfish on Sissabagama Lake has been reduced to 10 in total. A 14-18" protected slot limit with only one fish longer than 18" allowed has been established for walleye on Winter Lake and the Brunet River upstream from Winter Lake to the Lake Loretta dam. The minimum length limit for walleye on Black Dan, Clear, and Island lakes has been increased to 28" and the daily bag limit reduced to one.

 

Vilas County – The minimum length limit for walleye on Escanaba Lake has been increased to 28" and the bag limit reduced to one effective May 3, 2003.

 

Walworth County – A 14-18" protected slot limit with only one fish longer than 18" allowed has been established with a daily bag limit of three in total for bass on Lulu Lake.

 

Waukesha County – A 14-18" protected slot limit with only one fish longer than 18" allowed has been established with a daily bag limit of three in total for bass on Eagle Spring Lake.

Anglers catch nearly 49 million fish in 2000/2001

   Results from the first statewide mail survey of Wisconsin’s licensed anglers in recent times has revealed that anglers caught an estimated 48,809,470 sport fish and kept about a third of them -- 19,256,962-- in the fishing season that began May 5, 2000, and ended March 3, 2001.

 

   Wisconsin’s 1.4 million licensed anglers spent an estimated 33,885,154 hours fishing during that 2000/2001 angling season, according to Dee McClanahan, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate student who conducted the survey.

 

   Bluegills remained the most popularly caught fish: anglers hauled in an estimated 18,088,986 from April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001, but only took home 8,788,416 of them.

 

   Yellow perch and crappie followed in second and third in popularity, with walleyes in fourth. "Anglers caught an estimated 5,321,877 walleye and kept 1,332,109 on their stringers," he says.

 

   Mike Staggs, Wisconsin DNR's Fish Chief, said the survey results provide reliable estimates of statewide harvests by anglers. Such information is vital to allow

fisheries  managers to provide sustainable fisheries

and ecosystems and assure recreational opportunities for anglers. But generating statewide estimates of anglers’ catch has been difficult in the past without interviewing large number of anglers, an expensive and time-consuming process.

 

   Development of DNR’s automated licensing system in the late 1990s allowed the agency to easily access large number of anglers to survey, and DNR contracted with the U. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to conduct the survey and use its results to estimate the statewide catch.

 

   McClanahan, under the direction of Michael Hansen, a UWSP professor, used names selected at random from the licensing database to survey about 2,500 licensed anglers every two weeks about their fishing experience. He sent a questionnaire to a total of 53,312 people over the 2000/2001 angling season, asking them to complete the survey based on how long they fished, how many fish they kept, the fish they pursued, and where they fished during a previous two-week period.

 

   "Even though the survey is not specific to particular waters, it will be a great tool in the future to help us track general trends in what anglers catch," McClanahan says. DNR hopes to repeat the survey in future years.

Anglers spent more days and more money fishing in Wisconsin in 2001

National survey finds state continues to buck national trend of declining numbers

MADISON – More than 1.4 million anglers 16 years and older spent 22 million days fishing in Wisconsin in 2001, helping generate $2.3 billion in economic activity and $90 million in state tax revenues to help pay for critical services such as education and health care, according to recently released results of a national survey of wildlife-related recreation.

 

   The results from the 2001 USFWS 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation indicate that Wisconsin bucked national trends of declining time spent fishing and declining expenditures on fishing. Nationally, about 16% of adults fished in 2001, down 3 % from the previous 1996 national survey. U.S. anglers spent 17 % less on fishing-related trips and gear in 2001 than in 1996.

 

   Wisconsin results from the national telephone survey estimated that:

  • 1,412,000 anglers 16 years and older fished 22,042,000 days in Wisconsin in 2001 and spent $1.22 billion. That compares to 1,474,000 anglers spending 17,130,000 days fishing and $1 billion in Wisconsin in 1996.

  • Anglers fishing in Wisconsin included 941,000 Wisconsin residents 16 and older, or 23 % of the adult population. That’s down about 1% since 1996.

   DNR Fish Chief Mike Staggs found good and bad news in the USFWS survey results.  "The good news is there’s a reversal in a long-standing decline in the number of days people fished, and I’d like to think it’s because we’ve been doing a lot in the last three to five years to promote fishing and make fishing better, both at the state and national levels," Staggs says. "Also, the total expenditures and economic output attributed to sport fishing is up even despite a tough economy."

 

   The total economic impact of sportfishing to Wisconsin’s economy was $2.3 billion, sixth highest in the nation and up from $2.1 billion in 1996.  In addition, sport fishing in 2001 provided more than 26,000 jobs in Wisconsin and brought in $90 million in sales and income tax revenue for the state’s general purpose fund, less than 1 % of which the Legislature returned to DNR to support fisheries management.

 

   The bad news, Staggs says, is that the proportion of Wisconsin residents who fish dropped from 24 to 23 %, even as the number actually increased slightly from 936,000 in 1996 to 941,000 five years later. "We’re concerned about that percentage and what that will mean for the future of fishing and the future of our natural resources," he says. "Anglers are traditionally strong supports of resource conservation programs, and we need active, concerned anglers to help protect our fisheries resources in the future."

 

Wisconsin sets fish/wildlife rules hearings - April 14

Elk season, musky size limits among issues to be voted on

MADISON – Establishing an elk hunting season framework and changing the size limits for muskellunge on northern lakes in Wisconsin are among the proposed rule changes the public will have an opportunity to address at the 2003 Department of Natural Resources Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings.

 

   The hearings are held annually in every county of the state at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of April, which this year is April 14, to gauge public opinion on proposed changes to rules pertaining to fish and wildlife in Wisconsin.   

 

   Another component of the hearings is the annual county Wisconsin Conservation Congress meetings and elections. The Conservation Congress was established by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1934 as a citizen body to advise the Natural Resources Board (NRB) on fish and wildlife management issues and policy.

 

   To better accommodate citizen participation, business of the greatest importance to the most participants will be addressed early in the meeting agendas. The first item of business will be the election of county delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Election of delegates will be done on ballots provided to residents of the county in which the hearing is being held. To vote for Congress delegates, people must be 18 years old and provide identification along with proof of residency in the county.

 

   The second part of the hearing will be the DNR’s proposed fish and wildlife rule changes affecting the management of fish and wildlife in Wisconsin. There is no age or residency requirement to vote on any of the questions in the spring hearing questionnaire. New this year, all counties located in the DNR Northeast, Southeast and South Central regions will have written ballots to fill out in answer to the hearing questions. The goal is to eventually have written ballots statewide.

 

   Two of the most notable fishery management questions relate to changing the date when the gamefish season closes, and changing minimum length limits for muskellunge on selected northern lakes, according to Steve Hewett, who leads the DNR fisheries management section.

 

   Most fishing seasons end on a specific date each year rather than a floating date. For example, the general open season for gamefish closes on March 1. "There has been support from the public, as well as from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, to change the closing date to the first Sunday in March so that the season closes on a Sunday every year," Hewett says. "We want to gauge public support for closing the gamefish seasons on the first Sunday in March rather than March 1."

 

   The muskellunge question seeks to learn whether anglers will support trophy size limits on 17 lakes or chains of lakes in Vilas and Oneida counties. Musky are Wisconsin’s state fish and are widely sought after as a "trophy" fish. Wisconsin currently has "trophy" regulations on about 1 percent of its musky waters, or eight of the more than 800 musky lakes. Regulations on these lakes set a 45-inch minimum length limit or larger or are catch and release only.

 

   The proposal would increase the percentage of muskellunge waters managed for trophy status to 6 percent, or 46 of the more than 800 musky lakes, Hewett says. "We want to provide a reasonable proportion of waters with true trophy musky potential to anglers," he says.

 

   A committee charged with looking into the issue developed a list of muskellunge lakes in Oneida and Vilas counties that have the potential to produce trophy muskellunge fishing opportunities if DNR affords them adequate protection, Hewett says. The 17 lakes and lake chains on the proposed list are characterized by low muskellunge density, abundant forage, and good growth rates based on lake size and depth, forage species present, growth data from surveys and surveys of angler catch and harvest rates.

 

   Other fisheries management questions relate to regulations including bass size and bag limits on the Lower Wisconsin River, sturgeon fishing, Mississippi River walleye and sauger regulations, and tagging of fish by the public

 

   Some of the key wildlife rule changes proposed by the DNR center around shaping a future elk-hunting season. Other items for discussion include a modification of

southern mink and muskrat harvest zones and modifications to the Metro unit gun deer season dates and bag.

 

   In January 2002, the Wisconsin Legislature authorized the department to develop an elk-hunting season framework. Questions the public will be asked to respond to include defining elk management zones, adopting weapon, hunting season, hunter safety and kill reporting requirements and setting population goals for management zones.

 

   Earlier, the Natural Resources Board approved an Elk Management Plan that proposed the opening of an elk-hunting season when the elk population reached 150 animals. The public will be asked if they prefer increasing that season-trigger level to 200 animals. Department biologists are proposing this change to limit the disruption to Wisconsin’s elk herd during these initial years of population growth. Any change to the existing management plan would require action by the Natural Resources Board at a future meeting.

 

   People may testify for the record on any of the proposals. The portion of the hearing concerning DNR rule proposals will be conducted by an authorized DNR hearing examiner, usually a conservation warden.

 

   There are also a number of statewide advisory questions that DNR staff would like the public to address. If these advisory questions receive public support, they may be brought back at next year’s hearing as proposed rule changes.

 

   This is followed by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings, where county delegates will present resolutions created by Congress committees for votes. Results of the votes are presented to the DNR in the form of advisories indicating the support that a resolution may or may not have among the people attending the meeting. Frequently, but not always, a successful resolution may appear as a proposed rule presented in the DNR portion of the meeting a year or two later.

 

   Wisconsin Conservation Congress advisory questions include whether to:

  • ask the Wisconsin congressional delegation should to oppose legislation prohibiting the use of bait for hunting bear on federal lands.

  • modify the current season guidelines for Zone T antlerless deer hunts.

  • allow bow and arrow hunting during the regular gun season and require bowhunter education in the future.

  • support state purchase of the Crandon ore deposit and expand DNR authority over high capacity wells.

 

   The public has the opportunity during this portion of the hearings to suggest fish and wildlife rules changes they would like the Conservation Congress to propose to the NRB in the future. This resolution process has also changed this year, and anyone submitting resolutions must submit two copies of their resolution on typed or printed 8 1/2 by 11 white paper. This change was approved by the Congress to allow easy reproduction and distribution to the Congress delegates.

 

   The complete 2003 Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearing questionnaire and list of meeting locations are available on the DNR Web site. (Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view and print the document (PDF) file. To download Adobe Acrobat for free, please see the DNR Download Page.)

 

Written comments accepted

   Written comments on any of the DNR proposed rule changes will be accepted if postmarked by April 15, 2003.

 

   Written comments on fisheries rule changes should be addressed to Patrick Schmalz, Bureau of Fisheries Management and Habitat Protection, PO Box 7921, Madison WI, 53707-7921; comments on wildlife rule changes should be addressed to Kurt Thiede, Bureau of Wildlife Management, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921.

 

   Written comments are not counted as votes but are presented to the Natural Resources Board along with the vote totals from those attending the meetings. Both the hearing votes and the written comments are only advisory to the NRB. The board must then vote on the proposals separately. If approved, there is then a review period during which the legislature could decide to take up and possibly act on any proposed rule changes.

 

   The hearings will be held on Monday, April 14, 2003 at 7 PM

 

Telemarketing in minutes

   Seems like a lot of people don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers.

 

   Nearly 80,000 people - about 6,000 people fewer than the population of Duluth - had registered for Minnesota’s Do Not Call list on the first day of registration. 

Telemarketers were required to remove numbers registered on that list on Jan. 1, 2003.  Minnesotans who want to reduce the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls can register by telephone or on the Internet. To register, call 800-921-4110. Or do it on the web site at www.commerce.state.mn.us.

Leftover spring turkey licenses available

   Michigan DNR officials announced results of the 2003 spring turkey lottery drawing, noting that nearly 99,000 hunters applied this year for one of the licenses available for the hunter-limited hunt periods during the April 21-May 31 season. In addition, hunters purchased more than 39,600 licenses for the Guaranteed Hunt Period during the month-long application period.

 

   Drawing results are available on the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr  . All applicants, except those who applied online, have been mailed a postcard. Persons who are unable to locate their drawing information on the DNR Web site or did not receive a notification card by Feb. 24

should call 517-373-3904 for assistance.

 

   Hunters who were unsuccessful in the lottery drawing may purchase one leftover license in person on a first-come, first-served basis at any of the 1,700 authorized license dealers throughout the state. This year, there are 43,881 leftover limited-quota licenses available.

 

   Rather than purchase one of these leftover licenses, unsuccessful applicants may purchase a license for Hunt Number 234, May 5-31, which includes all areas open to spring turkey hunting except public land in southern Michigan Hunt Unit ZZ.

 

Norton Kicks Off 100th Anniversary Celebration of Wildlife Refuge system

Administration Highlights Commitment to Conservation

   Sebastian, FL -  Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton was joined by thousands of wildlife enthusiasts, members of Congress and notable conservationists to celebrate the Centennial of the National  Wildlife Refuge System, the only federal system of lands dedicated to conserving wildlife.  Sebastian, Florida is home to Pelican Island, the first National Wildlife Refuge, created by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903.

               

   Secretary Norton presided over a special ceremony on march 14, 2003, at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge to honor the entire Wildlife Refuge System by installing the final plank in the Centennial Boardwalk, leading to a new viewing tower overlooking Pelican Island.  Each plank in the Boardwalk is inscribed with the name of a wildlife refuge created in the past 100 years, 540 in all.  The site was rededicated as a national historic landmark.

               

   "President Bush is committed to carrying on the 100-year conservation legacy of President Roosevelt," said Secretary Norton.  "On this historic occasion, we invite every American to discover a wildlife refuge near their home and to join with us in protecting these natural treasures for the next 100 years."

   Centennial celebrations occurred simultaneously at wildlife refuges across America, and will continue

throughout the year.  National Wildlife Refuges are open to the public, with many having new facilities such as the observation tower at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The new observation tower offers, for the first time, views of the pelicans for which the island was named.

               

   "The USFWS is using this historic occasion to put the welcome mat out to every American.  There is a wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour's drive of most cities," said Steve Williams, Director of the FWS.  "Wildlife refuges are unique because we have struck a balance between the needs of wildlife and people. Wildlife refuges offer unprecedented opportunities for wildlife observation, school education programs, and fishing and hunting."

               

   A special Centennial Commission, created by Congress and comprised of a group of distinguished private-sector individuals, oversees Centennial campaign activities and is charged with rallying public support for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

               

   "As we celebrate the first 100 years of wildlife conservation we now turn our attention to the next 100 years," said Centennial Commission Chairman William Horn.  "All throughout this year we will reach out to outdoor enthusiasts from across America to hikers, hunters, anglers,  birders, photographers and educators to build and strengthen support for the National Wildlife Refuge System."

Commissioner speaks out

Tough times in Minnesota

   In these tough budget times, it is tempting to focus only on those things we are losing, the things we can no longer afford. It is important to pause to remember, however, that we still have the things we value most. That is especially true when we think about Minnesota’s great outdoor heritage.

 

   Typically, when governments are forced to reduce their budgets they slice last year's budget from the bottom and sides until a dollar goal is met. This is akin to taking a 20-foot fishing boat and hacking it into a 16-foot canoe. Will it float? Perhaps. But it is no canoe. 

 

   The course we have set at the DNR—at the direction of Governor Tim Pawlenty—is to build our canoe from the ground up, by identifying our most important tasks and making sure we’re doing them well. We will continue to provide high demand public services, such as our state parks and parks campgrounds. We are maintaining the integrity of dedicated funds, including hunting and fishing license fees, to ensure that money is spent as intended. We are mindful of public safety, as we retain adequate funding for things like wildfire suppression.

   Another priority in these tough economic times is to preserve those programs that impact our economy, such as timber sales. Many jobs depend on forest products, especially in northern Minnesota. So we’re taking steps to ensure that adequate timber stands will continue to be available for harvest.

 

   In the short time since this administration began, we’ve already made many important decisions, but our budget is still a work in progress—because we have an obligation to be as thorough and thoughtful as possible. Will there be pain? Yes. We estimate that at least 100 DNR employees will face layoffs. We are proposing modest increases in some user fees, where those fees don’t currently cover the cost of those services.

 

   As we make these tough choices, I pledge, as the governor has, to make them openly and candidly. A task as important as preserving the long-term health of Minnesota’s cherished natural resources requires nothing less.

 

Gene Merriam

DNR Commissioner

February 27, 2003

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