Week of May 12, 2008


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Angler bags 92 lb Bighead Carp while bowfishing

Courtesy, Belleville News-Democrat

While bowfishing for gar from the shore in backwater above the Melvin Price Lock and Dam No. 26 on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River near Alton, Darin Opel shot a 92.8 lb bighead carp with a compound bow and arrow.  After fighting the behemoth for 10 minutes, Opel jumped into the muddy water, bearhugged the beast and inched him to the shore.


"It was real heavy, like lifting a refrigerator," said Opel, who ripped his jeans on the arrow sticking from the back of the carp's head during the ruckus. "Once he got out of the water, he started fighting hard. He beat me up pretty good. He definitely got a few licks in."  Opel won the fight -- and the admiration of anglers everywhere who fantasize about landing a monster fish such as his trophy.


Weighed on a certified scale at Worden Food Market in Worden, the huge Asian carp had a 30-inch girth and measured 62" long. It obliterated the previous Illinois bowfishing record for bighead carp of 35.5 lbs set by John Borgers on June 8, 2006.

According to Duane Chapman, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who specializes in carp studies, Opel's catch is the largest on record by a recreational fisherman in the Western Hemisphere.  Chapman said there are only two bigger bighead carp on record in the world. A 93-pounder was captured in a reservoir in northern Texas a few years ago, but it was not caught by an angler and not weighed on a certified scale.


Chapman said a commercial fisherman in Pakistan landed a bighead carp that weighed more than 100 pounds several years ago. The fish now hangs in a museum in that country, where carp are revered.  "Both of those were kind of oddballs," Chapman said. "Other than that, I don't know of any fish that are bigger than his that have been captured anywhere."


Tissue and bone samples are being sent to Chapman to be tested for age and origin. Chapman said he won't hazard a guess on the age of the record fish.  "Any time you get something that's a contender for a world record, it's wild," said Opel, who has been bowfishing for 25 years. "A buddy told me I was just in the perfect place at the perfect time. Everything just came together.




Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for May 9, 2008

Weather Conditions

The Great Lakes basin experienced significant precipitation last Friday, but did not receive notable precipitation afterwards until this past Wednesday's storm. In the past week, temperatures throughout the northern part of the region were slightly below normal, while temperatures in the southern half of the region were slightly above average.   Temperatures that will be slightly below average are expected over the weekend and into early next week for the entire region. Rain showers will arrive to the Lake Erie basin on Friday, while much of the Great Lakes region will see rain on Sunday.

Lake Level Conditions

Currently, Lake Superior is 12 inches higher than it was at this time last year.  Lakes Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Erie, are 1 to 2 inches lower than they were a year ago, while Lake Ontario is 11 inches higher than last year's level.  Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are predicted to rise 5 and 3 inches, respectively, over the next month.  Lake St. Clair is projected to climb an inch the during the next 30 days, while Lakes Erie and Ontario are predicted to fall 1 to 2 inches.  Lake Superior is forecasted to stay above last year's water levels through October, while Lake Michigan-Huron will reach and exceed its levels of a year ago over the next few months. Lakes St. Clair and Erie will remain at around last year's level, while Lake Ontario is predicted to remain higher than last year's levels over the next several months.  See our Daily

Levels web page for more water level information.

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions

Outflows from the St. Marys, St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are expected to be below average for May while outflows from the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers are forecasted to be above average.


Lake Superior is currently below chart datum, but is forecasted to rise above it in June.  Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.





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Beyond the Great Lakes

Court orders American Indian to trial for shooting eagle

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — An American Indian who shot a bald eagle for use in a tribal religious ceremony must stand trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.


A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on May 8 reversed a 2006 lower court ruling that dismissed a criminal charge against Winslow Friday, a Northern Arapaho Indian who has acknowledged shooting a bald eagle in 2005 during the tribe's Sun Dance. In dismissing the charge, U.S. District Judge William Downes of Wyoming said the federal government has shown "callous indifference" to American Indian religious beliefs. Eagle feathers are a key element of ceremonies of the Northern Arapaho and many other tribes.


The appeals court ruled that American Indians' religious freedoms are not violated by federal law protecting eagles or the government's policy requiring American Indians to get permits to kill the birds.  "Law accommodates religion," the court said in its ruling. "It cannot wholly exempt religion from the reach of the law."


Friday declined to comment on the court's ruling. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.  Friday's public defender, John T. Carlson, said the ruling "reflects a failure to grasp the unique nature of the Northern Arapaho religious practice surrounding the eagle." Carlson said he and his client haven't decided how to respond to the ruling. Their options are asking the full appeals court to hear the case, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or allowing the case against Friday to proceed to trial in Wyoming.


John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in

Cheyenne, said the office planned to proceed with the prosecution.


Friday, who's in his early 20s, said last year he didn't know about a federal program that allows American Indians to apply for permits to kill eagles for religious purposes. Lawyers representing him and his tribe have argued that the USFWS did its best to keep the program secret and only grudgingly issued permits.


In his ruling, Downes said it was clear that Friday wouldn't have received a federal permit to kill an eagle if he had applied for one. The judge wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service has encouraged American Indians to apply to receive eagle parts from a Colorado repository that holds the remains of birds killed by power lines and other causes. He said the agency makes no effort to encourage American Indians to apply for permits to kill birds of their own.


The bald eagle was removed last year from the list of threatened species. It had been reclassified from endangered to threatened in 1995. However, the species is still protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.


Kathryn E. Kovacs, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, told the federal appeals court in arguments in December that Friday had no standing to argue about shortcomings of the federal permitting process because he never applied for a permit before killing the eagle. The appeals court agreed. It also rejected Friday's argument that the federal Religious Freedom Restitution Act, which prohibits the government from placing undue burdens on religious practices, should block the federal government from prosecuting him for killing the eagle.


Wingshooting Clinics

The IDNR and partnering organizations are hosting a series of wingshooting clinics for beginning shooters and for more experienced hunters this spring and summer.  Youth/Women’s clinics are free.  Saturday sessions generally provide instruction for girls and boys ages 10 - 15, while Sunday sessions are generally used to provide instruction for girls and women ages 10 and older.  (Youth participants must be at least 4 feet 6 inches tall and weigh at least 75 pounds).  Instructors are certified by the National Sporting Clays Association.  Hunter clinics are designed to enhance the wingshooting skills of those ages 16 and older.  Hunters with wingshooting skill levels from beginner to advanced are encouraged to attend.  A small fee is assessed each hunter clinic participant to cover the cost of clay targets and refreshments.

Upcoming Youth/Women’s clinics (and contact phone numbers) include:

May 17-18 - Des Plaines Conservation Area (Will Co.); phone 217/785-8129

June 14 - Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (Cass Co.); phone 217/452-7741

June 28-29 - St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club, Elburn (Kane Co.), phone 630/363-6180


Upcoming Hunter Wingshooting Clinics include:

May 31-June 1 - Des Plaines Conservation Area (Will Co.); phone 217/785-8129

June 7-8 - Briar Knoll Hunting and Fishing Club (Lee Co.); 815/857-2320

June 21-22 - Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA (Cass Co.); phone 217/452-7741


Tahquamenon Falls State Park Hosts Fishing Tournament on May 15-17

Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Paradise Recreational Sports are hosting a “GO-Get Outdoors” fishing tournament on the Tahquamenon River on May 15-17. 


Prizes for the longest walleye and longest pike will be a Penn rod and reel combination.  The fish caught must be checked daily at Paradise Recreation Sports, and final check-in will be at noon on Saturday, May 17.  There is no entry fee or pre-registration for this tournament. However, entrants must possess a valid Michigan fishing license.


Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located at 41382 W. M-123,

12 miles west of Paradise.  The River Mouth access site for the Tahquamenon River is on M-123, only five miles south of Paradise. For more information about this event, contact the park at 906-492-3415 or call Paradise Recreation Sports at 906-492-3640.


Reservations for camping can be made on-line at www.midnrreservations.com,  or by calling 800-44-PARKS. All motor vehicles entering a park or recreation area must display a Motor Vehicle Permit, available for purchase at the entrance. Cost is $24 for resident annual and $6 for resident daily. A non-resident annual is $29 and a non-resident daily is $8.


DNR Coolwater Fish Production Strategy for 2008 Announced

After placing a moratorium on coolwater fish production in 2007 because of concerns related to VHSv in the Great Lakes, the Michigan DNR on May 6 announced its fish production strategy for 2008.

The DNR plans to produce approximately 2 million spring fingerling walleye - about 20 percent of the normal production - and up to 50,000 fall fingerling muskellunge. Northern pike will not be produced in 2008, and lake sturgeon will be produced in very limited numbers, up to 5,000 fall fingerlings.

“Much has been learned about VHSv in the past year, including experiments on the effect of egg disinfection chemicals on the survival of coolwater eggs, a better understanding of the distribution of VHSv in our waters, and an analysis of scientific literature on similar viruses that was focused on how those viruses are managed,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Kelley Smith. “This new information has been incorporated into the 2008 strategy for coolwater production.”

During 2006 and 2007, VHSv was directly implicated in a number of fish kills in Michigan Great Lakes waters, including Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Budd Lake in Clare County. Budd Lake remains the only inland lake in which VHSv has been detected.

“Although additional information is needed, particularly the effectiveness of egg disinfection in killing VHSv on coolwater eggs, sufficient information is available to allow the DNR to begin to manage the coolwater production risks surrounding VHSv,” said DNR Fish Production Manager Gary Whelan. “While not completely risk-free, the proposed coolwater production strategy will greatly minimize risks, allow the limited production of coolwater fish and allow the DNR to learn how to manage this disease issue.”

A number of measures will be taken in the DNR production system to reduce the risk of VHSv in Michigan’s waters and ensure the health of the hatchery system. They include:

●    VHSv testing of all coolwater broodstocks (all were

negative in 2007);

●    VHSv testing of all coolwater fry prior to moving to rearing ponds and fingerlings prior to stocking;

●    The destruction of any hatchery fish that are shown to be positive at any stage for VHSv;
●    Disinfecting all coolwater eggs in an iodine solution (Iodophor);
●    Raising walleye in non-drainable ponds from which fish can be completely killed off if VHSv is detected in these fish.

Since muskellunge require significantly more fish culture effort and require live feeds, they will be reared in isolated drainable muskie ponds at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery. Muskie egg takes are conducted in Lake Hudson and Thornapple Lake, which are far removed from current VHSv-positive locations. When the egg take location is combined with intensive testing of the adults and young fish, a reasonable level of protection against VHSv spread by hatchery operations is provided, Whelan said.

“Muskies give us many more opportunities to test for VHSv as they are typically not stocked from the rearing ponds until the fall, unlike walleyes, which are stocked in early summer,” Whelan added.

“In addition to the fish production biosecurity measures, we are also going to limit the locations to which we stock walleye to further protect our state’s waters from VHSv,” Smith said. “Walleyes will only be stocked in waters from which egg takes were conducted (the Muskegon River and Little Bay de Noc); waters in which Muskegon River and Little Bay de Noc walleye broodstock normally move to; and for Muskegon River walleye only in Lake Michigan or Lake Huron inland lakes that do not have any connections to other waters. The risk is much lower and manageable for muskellunge, so they will be stocked in normal stocking locations.”

Smith said it was important to note that the 2008 strategy was not completely risk-free. “While the measures we have put in place do reduce our ability to rear and stock coolwater fish, they will also greatly reduce the risk of inadvertently spreading VHSv. We are optimistic that the new testing methodologies and improved disinfection options will allow us to resume full coolwater production in the near future,” Smith said.

2008 Elk and Bear Hunting Application Period Now Open

The Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that the Michigan elk and bear hunting license application period is now open, and hunters can apply for those licenses through June 1.  There will be 330 elk and 12,993 bear hunting licenses available for the 2008 hunting seasons.


Only Michigan residents are eligible to apply for an elk license. Bear licenses are available for both residents and non-residents; however, no more than two percent of licenses in any bear management unit will be issued to non-residents.

Hunters may apply online at www.michigan.gov/dnr,  at any authorized license agent, or at a DNR Operations Service Center. A nonrefundable $4 fee is charged at the time of application.


Applicants may call 517-373-1263 prior to June 1 for assistance with their application and may check the drawing results online at the DNR Web site beginning June 23 for elk and June 30 for bear. See the 2008 Michigan Elk and Bear Hunting Guides for more details about the application processes.


DNR reminds anglers of new and changed 2008 fishing regulations

Several fishing regulations have been added or altered for 2008 and anglers need to be aware of the changes before heading out to fish Saturday, May 10, for the statewide walleye opener, said Ron Payer, Minnesota DNR fish chief.



2008 fishing licenses, stamps and tags are valid through April 30, 2009.

New non-resident license fees offering a wider choice of time periods and costs.

New military licenses are available.

Fees for fishing contest permits now apply when entry fees exceed $25, prizes exceed $25,000 or when fishing for extended periods of time.

Muskellunge season ends Dec. 1.

Limit of three northern pike, with only one exceeding 30 inches, for Canadian border and Basswood Lake.

Night bow fishing allowed on selected water bodies from June 1 to Aug. 31.


Complete fishing regulations, including updates, seasonal closures and changes, are available at www.mndnr.gov/fishing.

DNR aiming to retain anglers through new campaign

The Minnesota DNR aims to lure folks back into fishing this  season through a combination of direct mail, digital billboard and radio advertising, and other outreach efforts.


The agency, which issued just under 1.4 million fishing licenses last year, recently mailed 40,000 reminder postcards to former anglers who did not purchase a 2007 fishing license last year. The postcard's message urges these "lapsed" anglers to rediscover fishing and boating and purchase their license. The postcard campaign is being complimented by billboard advertising across the Twin Cities metro area, including a daily countdown to the fishing opener on digital billboards. Radio advertising and promotions with the St. Paul Saints and the Minnesota Vikings sports teams are also in the offing.


Nationally, angling participation is on a downward trend. In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the national angler population at 35.2 million. In 2006, the estimate had fallen to 30 million, a 12 percent decrease. In Minnesota, fishing license sales have remained relatively stable at 1.3 to 1.5 million each year. However, despite bucking the national trend in license sales, interest in angling has not kept pace

with population growth. Said Bylander: "Years ago nearly 40 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and over purchased a fishing license. Today, it's about 28 percent."


Jenifer Matthees, coordinator of the DNR's angler retention project, said license sales help support the natural resources that everyone enjoys. "We want to retain those already hooked on fishing while encouraging others to discover the escape, relaxation and connections fishing brings in their lives," said Matthees.


Research has shown that anglers list spending time with family and friends among top reasons they fish, and that fishing builds connections to nature.


"Nationally, there's growing concern that everyone, especially kids, are increasingly disconnected with nature," said Matthees. "The Take Me Fishing campaign is a way to connect people with our environment while also complementing existing DNR outreach programs." Frank Peterson, CEO of RBFF, agrees. "When you take someone fishing - especially someone new or someone who hasn't fished for a while - you're building memories and investing in conservation."



Ohio awarded $260,365 federal grant for pump-out stations

COLUMBUS, OH - Recreational boaters across Ohio will soon benefit from a $260,365 grant awarded to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft for the construction and installation of shoreline sewage pump-out facilities.

The division was among 27 state waterway agencies nationwide that received a Clean Vessel Act Grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in late April. Ohio's funds will

install facilities in six communities: Vermilion, Zanesville, Cleveland, Columbus, New Richmond and Ripley.


Since the Clean Vessel Act program's inception in the early 1990s, nearly $150 million has been awarded to install thousands of sewage pump-out stations across the country.  Funding for the Clean Vessel Act program comes from the Sport Fishing and Boating Trust Fund, formerly known as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. It is supported by excise taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and marine fuels.


Game Commission Removes Protection on Feral Swine

First step in effort toward eradication of invasive species

HARRISBURG - At the unanimous direction of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, and in response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling, Carl G. Roe, agency executive director, today issued an order removing protection on feral swine in 64 of the state's 67 counties.  Counties where protection remains in effect are Butler, Bedford and Cambria counties.


"The Game Commission has determined that the eradication of feral swine from Pennsylvania is necessary to prevent further harm to public and private property, threats to native wildlife and disease risks for wildlife and the state's pork industry.  We are not seeking to establish a hunting season, but we are committed to rid Pennsylvania of this invasive species."


Licensed hunters, including those who qualify for license and fee exemptions are eligible to participate in the unlimited incidental taking of feral swine.  They may use manually-

operated rifles, revolvers or shotguns, as well as and muzzleloaders, bows and crossbows.  All other methods and devices legal for taking feral swine much be conducted in compliance with the provisions of Section 2308 of Title 34 (Game and Wildlife Code), which can be view on the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) in the "Laws & Regulations" section in the left-hand column of the homepage. 


Additionally, the agency may issue permits to authorize individuals to engage in feral swine trapping operations, including the U.S. and Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture.  Feral swine trapping, by permitted individuals, will only be allowed from the close of the flintlock muzzleloading season in mid-January to the beginning of spring gobbler season, and from the end of spring gobbler season until the beginning of archery deer season. 


Nearly 25 states across the nation have persistent and possibly permanent populations of feral swine established in the wild, and Pennsylvania is one of 16 new states where introduction is more recent and may still be countered through decisive eradication efforts.


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