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DNR Weekly News Update for May 22, 2018

Published - May 22, 2018 by the Central Office



Safe Boating Week: Life Jackets - Worth Your Life Every Week

MADISON -- Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, National Safe Boating Week is May 19-25 and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources joins boating safety advocates who have teamed up to promote safe and responsible boating, including voluntary, consistent life jacket wear each time boaters are on the water.

Always wear your lifejacket. - Photo credit: DNR
Always wear your lifejacket.Photo credit: DNR

"What looks like a perfect day for boating can quickly become hazardous if you end up in the water," DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller said. "Always wear a life jacket, it is the best decision you can make for your safety while enjoying a day out on the water."

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2016, and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. And the Wisconsin stats mirror this tragic loss of life.

DNR officials say this is the week to start the habit of donning that life jacket for every boat ride. And if you already are a dedicated life jacket wearer, encourage your friends and family members to follow your lead. Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car - by the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on.

Schaller says it's the preventable death that haunts survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is all about - making the life-saving habit of putting on a life jacket every time you board a boat.

"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," Schaller said. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."

National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the Memorial Day weekend. This weekend typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. Wisconsin is well known to the boating community, thanks to its 15,000 lakes and 84,000 river miles enjoyed by nearly one million state boaters and thousands of visiting tourists.

Life jacket regulations - canoes and kayaks included

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin laws require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, more popularly known as a life jacket, for each person on board.

"This also covers canoeists and kayakers," Capt. April Dombrowski of the DNR Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section said. "Each must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board."

Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV -- or throw-able -- PFD for the boat.

In order to be an acceptable, each PFD must meet these recommendations listed below.

  • Be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Be in good condition with no tears, rips, broken straps or snaps. Use a squeeze test on kapok PFDs to check for punctures in the inner plastic liner.
  • Be the right size for the intended wearer.
  • Be readily accessible, which means it may not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or under other equipment.

PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water.

"No matter which PFD you choose, make sure you get the one that's right for what you plan to do, what type of vessel you are going to use and the anticipated weather conditions," Schaller says. "Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy."

Stay sober, get safety smart - and get your life jacket

National Safe Boating Week also is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters. These include:

  • Complete a Safe Boating Course.
  • Equip and inspect your boat before hitting the water.
  • Make sure you travel at the safe speed for your water conditions and surroundings - and that includes other vessels on the water around you.
  • Help other boaters in distress.
  • Stay sober and wait until safely back at home to have any alcoholic beverages.

"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Schaller said.

Find more information about boat safety classes, search the DNR website,, for "boat," and to view the different types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, search "PFD."



More than 100 miles of improved trout habitat added to online Trout Tool

Partnerships with fishing clubs, local governments benefit fish and anglers

MADISON - More than 400 projects improving trout habitat on more than 100 miles of streams are now easier for inland anglers to find and fish.

The project locations and details have been added to the Department of Natural Resources' online T.R.O.U.T. tool, giving anglers a ready resource to help guide them to stream segments where fish populations and angler access are benefitting from the projects, says Joanna Griffin, Department of Natural Resources trout team coordinator.

"These projects occur on trout streams all over the state in inland brook trout and brown trout streams and Lake Superior tributaries," she says. "They would not have been possible without the help and support from our partners."

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 12 photos

Trout habitat work benefits fish and anglers

Griffin says the projects were conducted from 2011 through 2016 and range from brush removal and access to maintenance and larger instream habitat improvements. Much of the work is funded through trout stamp revenues: anglers fishing inland waters for trout are required to buy a $10 inland trout stamp and the resulting revenues are used to support trout habitat improvement and habitat maintenance projects, and trout population surveys.

Increasingly, fishing clubs, other conservation groups and federal, tribal and local entities are playing a bigger role in providing funding and labor. These examples illustrate the importance of these partnerships for fish and anglers, Griffin says:

  • DNR staff and multiple partners teamed up in 2015-6 to improve fishing access and wild brown and brook trout populations on the Upper Kinnickinnic River. Their efforts resulted in 1,572 feet of riprap along two banks, nine lunker covers installed, one riffle, one plunge pool, 17 root wads installed, and two cattle crossings upgraded. Trout stamp revenues and fisheries land funds covered about one-third of the cost; other partners contributing funds included the St. Croix Conservation Fund, Fairmount Santrol, Friends of Wisconsin Trout Unlimited, Patagonia, Embrace A Stream, Carpicide Tournament, and Kiap-TU-Wish chapter of Trout Unlimited. Partners contributed more than 1,200 volunteer hours cutting and burning trees, removing fence, building lunkers and seeding and mulching. Surveys after project completion showed the fish numbers more than doubled in the section with habitat work.
  • Phase II of the Fall Creek trout habitat improvement project was completed downstream of County Highway T in Pepin County in fall 2017, stabilizing more than 1,700 feet of bank and adding trout habitat including root wads, plunge pools, boulder clusters and riffles. Financial support for this project was provided by Pepin County, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rock Falls Sportsman's Club, Durand Sportsman's Club, Clear Waters Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Xcel Energy. Fisheries biologists expect a similar boost in trout populations to what habitat improvement work immediately upstream yielded: recent survey data found a five-fold increase in brook trout over 8 inches long.
  • A stretch of Buckhorn Creek in Sawyer County that was the bed of an old beaver pond has been transformed, thanks to the efforts of DNR staff, the Wild River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Lac Courte Oreilles Youth Conservation Corps. The bed of the beaver dam was removed, brush bundles were used to re-channelize the stream and scour out the 6-10 inches of muck that had been covering the old stream bed. Now, native brook trout are moving back into the area and are successfully spawning.

Such partnerships and anglers' purchase of trout stamps have paid off over the years: habitat improvements have played an important role in increasing angler opportunities and the mileage of Class 1 trout streams from 3,536 miles in 1980 to more than 5,000 today. To access the online tool, search the DNR website,, for keyword "trout."



Veteran fish biologist and musky whisperer shares his musky fishing tips

Sleep in, and don't skip the figure 8!

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Jordan Weeks has been fishing muskellunge in Wisconsin for a quarter-century and working in fisheries management for the state since 1999. Based in La Crosse, he shares his secrets to success in landing the state's official fish as anglers ready for the Saturday, May 26, opening of the northern musky zone.

Jordan Weeks has been fishing muskellunge in Wisconsin for 24 years and caught and released this beauty in northern Wisconsin.   - Photo credit: Peter Moe
Jordan Weeks has been fishing muskellunge in Wisconsin for 24 years and caught and released this beauty in northern Wisconsin.Photo credit: Peter Moe

Get ready for the chase

"Spring has finally arrived and soon catching muskellunge will be on the minds of Northern Wisconsin anglers. The northern zone season opens on Saturday, May 26, this year and fishing should be good!

Wisconsin is home to superb and diverse musky fishing opportunities. There are more than 600 lakes and countless rivers and flowages that hold the toothy predators. Whether from shore, boat, canoe or other craft, there are fish to be had.

The famed "fish of 10,000 casts doesn't have to be a reality if you follow a few tips.

Water temperature drives fish activity

Each spring when water temperatures reach 55 degrees muskies spawn. In the northern zone, this usually happens well before the season is open. This year, however, is a bit different. Late ice out and cooler than normal weather this spring have delayed the spawning time for muskellunge. Muskies tend to spawn in shallow warm water over varying bottom types. After they have finished with the annual spawning ritual, these fish quickly begin to feed. This is a great time to be chasing them.

Step 1: Find the warmest water in the lake. If vegetation in these areas is beginning to grow and green up, you have found a winner. If the lake you fish has little vegetation, no worry, look in shallow bays and south facing shorelines, which tend to warm quickest in the spring. Bays tend to be great locations to find muskies in the spring as are large weedy flats adjacent to those bays. Dams tend to congregate fish at this time of year as well. However, make sure to keep safety in mind when fishing these areas.

Step 2: Assess the day. If the weather has been consistently warm and stays that way, fish fast. Covering water quickly with a small bucktail, soft plastic, or minnow bait can yield favorable results. If the water is over 55 you can even try top-water. If the weather turns bad and is cold you may need to slow your approach and use more deliberate lures like gliders, jerk baits and soft plastics.

Step 3: Repeat. If you catch a fish or get a follow, try to repeat the success. Muskies (contrary to popular belief) are not loners. Often many fish will be using the same area. When you find an active fish, chances are there will be more of them around. It is very important to do a figure 8 on every cast. Following fish can be convinced to bite with a well-executed figure 8! Do one every cast!

In spring, warmth is a musky angler's best friend. As water temperatures increase, the fish activity level increases. Fishing during the warmest part of the day can be very productive. No need to get up bright and early. The second half of the day tends to be the most productive for me.


If you choose to chase muskies, make sure you have the appropriate gear. At a minimum, have heavy bass gear. Ideally though, traditional musky rods in heavy actions are desired. Reels should be robust and line should be at least 65-pound test to handle the fish and throw the large lures effectively. Tied to the terminal end of the line should be a high-quality steel or fluorocarbon leader.

The easiest way to successfully land a musky is to use a large net. Make sure to leave the fish in the water once collected in that net. It keeps the fish from being injured during hook extraction. No one wants a hook-filled muskellunge flopping around the bottom of the boat! Speaking of unhooking a giant toothy'll need some plyers to help you dislodge the hooks from the jaw (long-handled needle-nose is best). I also use gloves to protect my hands during this process; any thin glove will do.


When conditions are good and I am fishing fast, I like buck tails, angry dragons, shallow toads, and minnow baits. The only top-water I throw early is a Dr. Evil. If fish are sluggish and slow, I use 6-inch rubber-tailed gliders and weighted jerk baits.

Follow these guidelines and the fish of 10,000 casts can be a reality, quicker than you think!

Where to go

While many musky anglers have their go-to waters, DNR's musky forecast in the 2018 Wisconsin Fishing Report [PDF] can point anglers to good waters to try.

The Wisconsin Muskellunge Waters [PDF] list of musky waters can also help anglers cast a wider net. Find information on location, access and classification according to angling



Drain and clean in between to stop invasive species and protect Wisconsin's waters


MADISON - Draining live wells, bait buckets and bilges before leaving a boat launch or fishing access to move on to another one is the message to anglers for the statewide Drain Campaign on June 1-3, 2018. Water left behind can transport fish diseases and aquatic invasive species between lakes, rivers and streams.

This year, it's easier than ever to bring the message to new fishermen of all ages as the Drain Campaign coincides with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend, June 2-3.

Clean Boats, Clean Waters boat inspectors made up of volunteers, regional aquatic invasive species partners and DNR staff will talk with anglers and boaters at launches around the state. At many lakes and river accesses, they will also hand out free icepacks to remind people that icing is the best way to keep fish fresh.

Draining boats and live wells can help prevent the spread of invasive species. - Photo credit: UW-Extension
Draining boat bilges and live wells can help prevent the spread of invasive species.Photo credit: UW-Extension

"To keep our lakes and streams healthy and free of invasive species like zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, or New Zealand mudsnails, it's important not to move water that may contain those little microscopic organisms. Putting your catch on ice not only keeps the fish fresher and tastier, but it means you don't need to worry about moving AIS in your live well or bucket," said David Rowe, DNR fisheries team supervisor.

Fishermen are the best messengers to spread the word to other anglers by modeling prevention steps to those new to the sport as well as to others who don't know the law and reasons behind it. Those who use social media can also spread the word about the importance of draining live wells and other equipment by posting photos and messages using #JustDrainIt.

The following steps are required by law to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:

  • INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment for plants, animals and debris.
  • REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals.
  • DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, and equipment, including livewells and buckets containing fish.
  • NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a waterbody.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer.
  • ONLY use leftover minnows when either 1) fishing with them on the same body of water or 2) on other waters if no lake/river water or other fish have been added to the container.

To learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin's waters and economy, visit the DNR website,, and search "invasives."



Bird lovers encouraged to help Great Wisconsin Birdathon reach its high-flying goal in 2018

MADISON - As Wisconsin's bird migration peaks, bird watchers ranging from Mr. Dargatz's kindergarten class in Sussex to a trio of hard-core birders seeking to find 200 bird species in a single day are fanning out across Wisconsin's wetlands, forests, grasslands and school yards to help the birds they love.

Millennial Falcons birding in 2017 Great Wisconsin Birdathon. - Photo credit: Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
Millennial Falcons birding in 2017 Great Wisconsin Birdathon.Photo credit: Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

They are participating in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon (exit DNR) to raise money for bird conservation. The event is like a walkathon for birds: participating teams tally as many bird species as possible in a day while collecting pledges and donations.

Bird lovers can join existing teams, start their own, or donate to individual teams, individual team members, or a general fund, all through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon website. To join or donate, visit

"Wisconsinites love birds and the Birdathon is a great way for people to go beyond the birdfeeder to help conserve the birds they love," says Ryan Brady, a DNR Natural Heritage Conservation biologist who serves on the steering committee for the event and participates on a team, the Lake Superior eBirders.

"All Wisconsin birds benefit from the funds raised by Birdathon participants, and the funding is key for priority efforts including restoring Kirtland's warblers and whooping cranes," says Brady.

The DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a partner in the Birdathon, which is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (exit DNR). Brady and several other DNR bird biologists participate on the event's steering team and on teams themselves.

Last year's Birdathon raised a record $90,000 for bird conservation projects and organizers have set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for 2018, says Diane Packett, birdathon coordinator at the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

Many of this year's teams (exit DNR) are heading out a bit later than usual due to the later spring, but as usual, clever names and creative ways of birding abound. The River Raptors teams will be birding by canoe and kayak and the Peddling Paddling Prius Pewees who cruised Dane County roads and trails by bike last year, are adding paddling routes and travel via a hybrid car. The Secretary Birds, who have recorded 190 bird species in each of the last two years running a Door County through Green Bay to Horicon Marsh route, are shooting for observing 200 species and raising $1,500.

"The Birdathon got off to slow start this year because of the late snow storms and cold weather, so teams are still signing up and just beginning to go out birding," Packett says. "With spring migration happening and birds setting up breeding territories, we expect a lot more action in the coming weeks. We know Wisconsinites will mobilize to join the campaign to protect their birds."



Preliminary 2017 bobcat harvest information now available

MADISON - Hunters and trappers harvested 548 bobcats in Wisconsin, according to preliminary harvest data for the 2017-18 bobcat seasons.

Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information, and final harvest information should be available by mid-June. With the addition of the southern management zone, 2017 marks the fourth year of statewide bobcat harvest.

Bobcat - Photo credit: DNR
BobcatPhoto credit: DNR

Bobcat harvest is divided by northern and southern management zones. In 2017, the harvest goal for the northern zone was 550 and the harvest goal for the southern zone was 200 for a total harvest goal of 750 bobcats statewide. Both zones saw harvest goal increases for the 2017 season, with a substantial increase in the northern zone.

"Harvest goals and permit levels for each management zone are evaluated annually based on review of bobcat population data," said Shawn Rossler, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources furbearer ecologist. "Bobcats are managed through a preference point lottery system that allows harvest by trappers and hunters with a permit."

The Furbearer Advisory Committee, which includes DNR Staff, tribal and partner agency representatives, and individuals from key user groups, provides annual harvest goal recommendations to the department.

The department's bobcat population estimate research is led by Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist.

"We are learning a lot about this elusive animal through active research efforts. Monitoring bobcats via satellite collars allows us to evaluate harvest mortality rates," said Roberts. "Over the last four years, 90 bobcats have been collared and monitored."

Rossler added, "The information from this research will allow the department to maximize bobcat harvest opportunities while ensuring the long-term stability of the bobcat population."

The annual application deadline for the bobcat harvest permit drawing is August 1. Wisconsin's bobcat hunting and trapping seasons are divided into early (mid-October to December 25) and late (December 26 to January 31) time periods.

For more information regarding bobcat hunting and research in Wisconsin, visit and search keyword "furbearers."



New fisher and otter management zones in effect for the 2018-19 trapping season

MADISON - Wisconsin trappers will observe a change to the number and configuration of fisher and river otter management zones for the 2018-19 season. New, simplified zones are now identical for fisher, otter and bobcat.

Wisconsin is now divided into two fisher and otter management zones, split by HWY 64. - Photo credit: DNR
Wisconsin is now divided into two fisher and otter management zones, split by HWY 64.Photo credit: DNR

Previously, Wisconsin was divided into six fisher zones and three otter zones. The number of fisher zones made population data collection and analysis challenging, and two of the six zones were without management goals or population models. For otter, the central and southern zone seasons and permit levels were similar enough for the zones to be merged into one, while the northern zone remains unchanged.

For both fisher and otter, the previous management zones have now been consolidated into a northern and southern zone divided by Highway 64. The two-zone framework will improve population models in each zone and provide a consistent zone boundary.

The new zones are not anticipated to impact the number of fisher and otter permits available to the public, nor the wait time required to receive a permit. Rather, the two-zone framework will allow trappers the flexibility to trap these species across a larger area than under the previous framework, which restricted trappers to smaller zones. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Furbearer Advisory Committee will determine quotas and permit levels for each new fisher and otter management zone at the end of May.

When applying for a fisher or otter permit, trappers will now select either the northern or southern zone. Permit applications are due on Aug. 1 each year, and may be submitted through

For more information on trapping, visit and search keyword "trap."



Updated 2017 Wisconsin wildlife reports now available


MADISON - Results are available for a number of wildlife surveys completed during the second half of 2017, which include data collected from small game, big game, waterfowl and non-game categories.

The following reports for 2017 are viewable on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at, by searching keyword "reports."


  • Sharp-tailed Grouse Harvest and Hunter Survey, 2017;
  • Summer Wildlife Inquiry, 2017;
  • Ten Week Brood Observations, 2017;


  • Black Bear Damage and Nuisance Complaints, 2017
  • Black Bear Hunter Questionnaire, 2017
  • White-tailed Deer Population Status, 2017
  • Summer Deer Observations, 2017
  • Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey, 2017
  • Firearm Deer Hunting Questionnaire, 2017
  • Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin Deer, 2017
  • Spring Turkey Hunting Questionnaire, 2017
  • Fall Turkey Hunting Questionnaire, 2017


  • Bird Banding Accomplishments, 2017


  • Wisconsin Bald Eagle Nest Survey, 2017
  • Annual Mammal Survey, 2017

Department of Natural Resources staff would like to thank volunteers who assisted with survey efforts for their continued commitment to Wisconsin's wildlife.

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