Surveys show plenty of big sturgeon for unique winter fishery

MADISON, WI - 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 Feb. 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.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Walleye Tournament set Oct. 21 in La Crosse

Sara and Billy's Wild Walleye Tournament is scheduled Saturday, Oct. 21, in La Crosse.
Entry fee is $10, with catch-and-release tournament hours between 8 a.m., and 4 p.m. For more information, call 608-406-1622.

Sparta's Gann wins BFL tourney in La Crosse

Brandon Gann of Sparta, WI, captured first place in the Bass Fishing League Tournament in La Crosse, WI, on Saturday.
Despite high water from Wednesday 6-7 inches of rain in the Coulee Region, Gann weighed in the heaviest catch in the Pro Division with three fish weighing 10 pounds, 14 ounces. Gann pocketed $5,401.
Ettrick's Kevin Kevin Anderson won the Co-Angler Division with three bass totaling 10-4 for $2,436.

PRO DIVISION

1. BRANDON GANN, SPARTA, WI 10-14 (3) $5,401
2. TODD HANCOCK    , ROTHSCHILD, WI 10-13 (3) $2,670
3. MIKE FELDERMANN, GALENA, IL 10-7 (3) $1,514
4. BOB BUNGARD, HOLMEN, WI 10-0 (3) $1,060
5. FERNANDO LOBATO, SPARTA, WI 9-15 (3) $908
6. JASON SKUTT, MENOMONIE, WI 9-14 (3) $833
7. TOM HOWLAND, RICEVILLE, IA 9-11 (3) $757
8. TOM MONSOOR, LA CROSSE, WI 9-9 (3) $681
9. BRENT SCHROEDER, CALEDONIA, MN, 9-5 (3) $537
9. KYLE MEYER, BLAINE, MN 9-5 (3) $537
9. WILLIAM SCHULTZ, VIROQUA, WI 9-5 (3) $537

CO-ANGLER DIVISION
1. KEVIN ANDERSON, ETTRICK, WI 10-4 (3) $2,435
2. DONALD ROSCOVIUS, TOMAH, WI 9-11 (3) $1,235
3. STEVE UBERSOX, CHERRY VALLEY, IL 9-6 (3) $757
4. NICK GIFFORD, CAMERON, WI 9-2 (3) $530
5. TONG LOR, LA CROSSE, WI 8-13 (3) $454
6. CRAIG FANNING, ELWOOD, IL 8-10 (3) $416
7. BILL GABEL, WILLOWBROOK, IL 8-8 (3) $378
8. RICHARD CONRAD, BURNSVILLE, MN 8-2 (3) $341
9. TIM CZESAK, BLOOMINGDALE, IL 8-0 (3) $334
9. CODY HACKETT, STODDARD, WI 8-0 (3) $334


Stocking advances spotted musky reintroduction project

WILD ROSE, WI - Efforts to establish a self-sustaining population of spotted musky in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters got a boost this fall when 7,000 musky fingerling averaging 17 inches were stocked into the Fox River, several Green Bay tributaries, Lake Winnebago and three inland lakes.
The fingerlings were raised for a year in cool water ponds at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. They now weigh about a pound and average 17 inches in length, although some were pushing 19 and 20 inches.
Department of Natural Resources fish crew members stocked roughly 1,350 fish into the future broodstock lakes of Anderson and Archibald Lakes in Oconto County and Elkhart lake in Sheboygan County, according to Jesse Landwehr, hatchery supervisor. The three inland lakes will serve as the source of brood stock in future years. Beginning in 2019, the DNR tentatively will spawn spotted muskies in an effort to ramp up production in the hatcheries.
Historically, spotted musky were native to Lake Michigan and its tributaries in Wisconsin, but habitat destruction, pollution and over-exploitation during the early to mid-1900s decimated their populations. The DNR, in cooperation with several local musky clubs and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, started to reintroduce the Great Lakes strain musky into Green Bay waters of Lake Michigan in 1989.
They stocked fish that were hatched from eggs collected from Michigan waters where spotted musky still are found, and raised them at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. Those stockings have helped create a popular fishery in Green Bay with anglers reeling in many 50-plus-inch fish, but the ultimate goal of the project - creating a self-sustaining population - has been elusive.
DNR staff have worked in recent years to diversify the genetic pool in hopes of seeing better natural reproduction. Michigan had been providing 5- to 6-inch fingerlings to Wisconsin hatched from disinfected eggs and Wisconsin has been sending northern Wisconsin musky fingerlings to Michigan in return. Creating broodstock lakes will enable Wisconsin to spawn its own fish.
All the fish going into the three brood lakes were fin-clipped and PIT tagged so the DNR can identify individual fish and their parentage.
"This enables us when we are spawning on the brood stock lakes in the future to maintain genetic diversity," Landwehr says.
For the rest of the fish going into the Green Bay system, 20 percent were tagged and clipped to help local biologists identify individual fish and assess their growth rates.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Mille Lacs walleye fishing closed from July 7-27

Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishing will be closed July 7-27, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural of Resources.
Fishing for all other species, including bass, is open. Mille Lacs was recently named the No. 1 lake for bass fishing in the nation by Bassmaster.
With the ban on night fishing already in place for the season, walleye fishing on the lake effectively closes at 10:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, and re-opens at 6:01 a.m. on Friday, July 28.
The walleye fishing closure is to prevent fish from dying after being caught and released.
“Conserving the Mille Lacs walleye fishery is a top priority for the DNR and the closure is happening when fish are most vulnerable to stress from warm water and high fishing pressure,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief.
The tendency for caught fish to die after being released is called hooking mortality, which increases as water temperatures warm.
The decision to close walleye fishing in July was first announced in March. The closure is expected to help extend the fishing season through Labor Day.
During the period walleye fishing is closed, anglers can fish for all other species in the lake including bass, muskellunge and northern pike. When fishing for other species, only artificial baits and lures are allowed in possession, except anglers targeting northern pike or muskie may fish with sucker minnows longer than 8 inches.
A ban on night fishing remains in place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Nov. 30. However, anglers can fish for muskie and northern pike at night, but can only use artificial lures longer than 8 inches or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches.
Bowfishing for rough fish also is allowed at night, but possession of angling equipment is not allowed and only rough fish may be in possession.
Following the July walleye closure, anglers can catch and release walleye through Labor Day. Walleye fishing will then be closed from Tuesday, Sept. 5, through Thursday, Nov. 30.
More information about Mille Lacs, including progress toward the level of walleye that can be safely harvested in 2017, ongoing DNR management and research, and area opportunities is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Lake sturgeon hook and line season opens Sept. 2

MADISON, WI - Anglers interested in pursuing a big, hard-fighting fish will want to try their hand at fishing for lake sturgeon - armed with a stout rod and heavy line.
The hook and line season for lake sturgeon opens Sept. 2 and runs through Sept. 30, on several major river stretches for a fish that can grow to more than 6 feet long and exceed 150 pounds. The world record taken by hook and line was a 170-pound, 10-ounce lake sturgeon pulled from Yellow Lake in Burnett County in 1979.
While anglers can purchase a carcass tag to harvest one fish per season of 60 inches or greater, the growing catch and release opportunities for this fish are what's exciting many anglers, said Lori Tate, a fisheries biologist and member of the Department of Natural Resources sturgeon team.
"There's definitely still an interest in harvesting sturgeon in the state, but we're also seeing anglers enjoy catch and release opportunities for lake sturgeon," Tate said. "Sturgeon fishing opportunities are improving as a result of the more protective length limit we implemented in 2007."
"We're very lucky. I don't think there is any other place in North America where you can fish for lake sturgeon like anglers can in Wisconsin rivers."
Wisconsin offers a hook-and-line season on several major inland waters, including sections of the Chippewa River, Wisconsin River, Flambeau River, Jump River and Yellow River.
All anglers fishing for lake sturgeon must have a valid Wisconsin hook and line fishing license. Anglers need to purchase a harvest tag if they intend to keep a sturgeon. The harvest tag is available throughout the season and costs $20 for residents and $50 for nonresidents. Anglers who harvest a legal-size fish must immediately attach the harvest tag to the fish and take it to a registration station by 6 p.m. the next day for registration.
Find a list of harvest waters, harvest registration stations and instructions for properly tagging a harvested fish on the Lake Sturgeon Hook and Line Season page of the DNR website.
Ryan Koenigs, the fisheries biologist who chairs DNR's sturgeon committee, offers these tips for anglers wanting to fish for lake sturgeon during the hook and line season.
* Use a good sturdy rod and reel and heavy tackle including high pound test line.
* Use a large gob of night crawlers as bait. Cut bait can be effective as well.
* Present the bait along the bottom in either deep holes or areas with swift current, making sure to use an adequate amount of weight to hold the bait in place.
* Try fishing in the tailraces below dams, as fish are drawn to current.
* Use special care after landing the fish if you plan to release it.
* Take any photos or measurements quickly and release it quickly to reduce stress on the fish. If it is a large fish, consider leaving it in the water when taking your photos. Do not tether or tie the sturgeon by the tail to weigh it or lift it by the head as this can damage the fish. If a smaller sturgeon is caught, simply hold the fish under the belly when handling.
The Chippewa River is home to a healthy lake sturgeon population. In 2017, 196 lake sturgeon were captured by the DNR fisheries crew out of the Eau Claire office. The fish ranged from 13 to 67 inches and weighed up to 56 pounds, so there are trophy fish out there to be caught. Last year, eight sturgeon were harvested from the lower Chippewa River and anglers reported catching numerous sub-legal fish. Most anglers use night crawlers or cut bait and fish downstream of the dam or in deep holes of the river. Anglers should be prepared for a hard fighting fish, so a stout rod is needed along with heavy line and a large landing net. - Joseph Gerbyshak, fisheries biologist, Eau Claire, 715-839-2877
Lake Wisconsin, starting above the Prairie du Sac Dam and including the main lake and the Wisconsin River up to the Kilbourn Dam in Wisconsin Dells, holds a lake sturgeon population that is completely self-sustaining. The adult sturgeon population in the lake (those greater than 50 inches) currently sits at around 1,600 individuals, and has remained stable for many years. Although no fish have been harvested from this section of lake/river since 2012, anglers continue to catch and release many fish each hook and line season, with the upper end of the main lake and the segment of river just below the Kilbourn Dam in Wisconsin Dells being two popular places to fish, said Nathan Nye, fisheries biologist in Poynette.
The Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac Dam remains a very popular place for sturgeon anglers to fish as well, and all of the sturgeon harvest from the Wisconsin River since 2012 has occurred below the Prairie du Sac Dam, with nearly all of the harvest occurring from the tailrace down to the Highway 12 Bridge at Sauk City. The tailwater adult population is generally between 150 and 200 fish in a given year, and since the 60-inch minimum length limit was instituted for the 2007 fishing season, harvest has averaged around eight fish per year. Typically, more fish are harvested later in the season as adults move up from points further downriver and concentrate in the deeper areas immediately below the dam, said  Nye.
DNR crews sampled 105 adult sturgeon that averaged 55.2 inches and 41.3 lbs in 2017 in the Yellow River. All fish were captured upstream of Yellow Lake in the Yellow River during their spawning migration. The largest fish this season was 72.8 inches and 106 lbs. Yellow Lake anglers traditionally do very well during the September hook/line season and are generally catch and release anglers with very few fish harvested. Harvest last season was four fish and the 2015 season had one fish registered. Overall, anglers can expect to see a good hook and line season with cooler water temperatures going into September, said Craig Roberts, fisheries biologist in Spooner.
The section of the Menominee river upstream from Grand Rapids Dam is open to hook and line with a 60-inch minimum size limit. DNR has stocked the 10 miles of upper Menominee River from Sturgeon Falls Dam to Quiver Falls since 1982. Crews just surveyed the river and caught a fish over 60 inches near the Sturgeon Falls dam. It's the first fish in that size range that has been caught in that section of river. If the public wants to try a new section of the river they could explore that area, said Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor in Peshtigo.
Veteran sturgeon anglers as well as newcomers to hook-and-line sturgeon fishing should find plenty of catch-and-release opportunity for sublegal-size fish in the Flambeau and Upper Chippewa rivers, along with an occasional chance to harvest one far exceeding the 60-inch minimum length limit. Of the eight sturgeon harvested from these river segments in the 2016 open season, two were 74 inches long. Popular shore fishing spots include the tailwaters of most hydroelectric dams and the deeper pools in the free-flowing river reaches, though some sturgeon anglers prefer to fish from boats in the impoundments. Some prefer cut bait or prepared stink baits, but many sturgeon anglers use a gob of night crawlers. Fishing is always prohibited in the fish refuges immediately downstream of the Turtle-Flambeau Dam and the Upper Park Falls Dam on the North Fork Flambeau River and below the Arpin Dam on the Chippewa River, said Jeff Scheirer, fisheries biologist in Park Falls.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

All hands on deck to stop aquatic invasive species

MADISON, WI - Thousands of Wisconsinites will take to the water this fourth-of-July weekend for the state's busiest boating holiday, and many will be greeted at boat landings by volunteers sharing a simple but powerful message: You have the power to protect lakes and rivers from aquatic invasive species.
The weekend will be host to the ninth annual Landing Blitz, a statewide effort to remind boaters and other water lovers to take action to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose great risks to the health of our lakes and fisheries.
"This campaign has become a mainstay of our prevention efforts, since the holiday draws both frequent and infrequent boaters to the water, allowing us to empower a lot of people," saID Bob Wakeman, statewide aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Volunteer inspectors will be on hand at landings around the state from June 30 through July 4 to give demonstrations of the prevention steps or answer questions about invasive species. Their efforts will build on the success of last year's campaign, when volunteers inspected over 14,000 boats and spoke with over 32,000 people.
"One of the most exciting things about this campaign is the strong volunteer effort. Every year hundreds of concerned citizens participate as volunteers to help us raise awareness and empower boaters," Wakeman said.
New this year is a coordinated way for boaters to share the campaign's message. For those who use social media, they can help spread the word about the importance of aquatic invasive species prevention by posting photos and messages using the hashtag #CleanBoatsCleanWaters.
Boaters can also contribute to a crowd sourced Story Map that will showcase their photos and messages about how they protect Wisconsin's waters from aquatic invasive species. Contributions can be made at this link: arcg.is/2o9YIU9.
Invasive plants and animals, like Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny water fleas and zebra mussels, can spread easily by hitching a ride on boats and other equipment, including trailers, anchors, livewells, buckets and bilges. But boaters can also easily prevent this by taking the following simple steps before they leave a boat landing:
* Inspect your boat, trailer and equipment.
* Remove all attached plants or animals.
* Drain all water from boats, motors, livewells and other equipment.
* Never move live fish away from a water body.
* Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
* Buy minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer, and use leftover minnows only if you will be using them on that same water body or if no lake or river water or other fish have been added to the container.
Following these steps also helps boaters comply with Wisconsin state law, which prohibits the transport of aquatic invasive species.
To learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin's waters and economy, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "invasive species."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR