Outdoor Notebook

USCG Reauthorization includes improving the 911 system for boaters

The U.S. Coast Guard reports it is common for today’s recreational boaters to use cell phones to call during a boating emergency. While Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urges that all vessels have a working VHF radio with DSC (digital selective calling), it recognizes cell phones are a firm part of boaters’ lives.

When a boater calls 911 for emergency or routine assistance, does the call go to the closest, most relevant rescue agency for a swift response? That is not always the case and a provision in the recently passed 2018 Coast Guard Authorization Act aims to improve the 911 system’s reliability for when recreational boaters need emergency help.

To ensure timely dispatch of the closest rescue or on-water assistance provider, the Act requires the USCG to review its policies and procedures and formulate a national maritime Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) policy. There are more than 6,000 PSAPs in the U.S., local 24/7 call centers with trained dispatchers that receive 911 emergency telephone calls and route them to the proper emergency service.

For more information, visit www.BoatUS.com.


Shanty removal deadline nears

The DNR urges all ice shanty owners to take steps and plan now to remove ice shanties by the deadlines. The deadline to remove shanties from inland waters north of Highway 64 and all other outlying waters is March 17.

According to Capt. April Dombrowski, head of the Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section, the DNR understands that several inches of ice may have frozen some shanties in place and some lakes have thick snow, which poses even more challenges.

The DNR encourages ice anglers who are having difficulty meeting the removal deadline to call the Hotline, 1-800-TIP-WDNR, or 1-800-847-9367. They will pass on the angler’s information, including name, water body and location of the shanty to the local conservation warden who will use discretion in the enforcement of the deadline.

Bonus spring turkey permits on sale March 18

Bonus turkey harvest authorizations go on sale by zone beginning Monday, March 18, at 10 a.m. and continue until the zone and period sell out or the season closes. Visit the DNR website to check the zone map and bonus authorization availability for the time and zone.

Bonus authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents.

For sales through Go Wild, the system will assign random numbers to customers who enter the site between 9:45 and 10 a.m. Customers entering after 10 a.m. go in order of arrival.

Sales dates are as follows:

Zone 1: March 18

Zone 2: March 19

Zone 3: March 20

Zone 4: March 21

Zones 5, 6, 7: March 22

All remaining authorizations: March 23

For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.

Sawyer County CDAC meeting March 19

The Sawyer County CDAC will meet at the DNR Service Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, to discuss preliminary recommendations for the 2019 seasons. All meetings are open to the public.

The CDAC will discuss season structure options, which may include extended antlerless seasons necessary to reach county deer population objectives.

For more information, search “CDAC” on the DNR website or call (715) 266-6291.

Plan now to host a Learn to Hunt spring turkey session

State hunting coordinators urge hunting enthusiasts to plan now to host a Learn to Hunt spring turkey session.

The goal of the Learn to Hunt program, part of the R3 program to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, anglers, trappers and shooting sports participants, is to make hunting an accessible activity for anyone interested.

Hosting or mentoring a Learn to Hunt event is a great way for experienced sportsmen and women to pass on their knowledge and ensure the future of a strong hunting heritage in Wisconsin.

For more information, search “LTH” on the DNR website.

Statewide birding report

Snow, ice and winter dominated the first week of March, but sandhill cranes continued their flight into southern Wisconsin as far north as La Crosse and Green Bay, says DNR conservation biologist Ryan Brady in Ashland.

“Red-winged blackbirds made an initial push into far southeastern counties, while sightings of American robins are difficult to decipher as new arrivals or overwintering birds.

“Small numbers of waterfowl are trickling back and viewing should be great if you find sources of open water. There are reports of horned larks in good numbers, especially along roadsides in southern and central counties as far north as Bayfield.

“Eagle migration is also underway, as adult bald and golden eagles begin their trek to Canadian breeding grounds. Many bald eagles stay to nest in Wisconsin, with pairs noted at nest sites in many areas, and great horned owls and red-tailed hawks are regularly at nest sites now as well.

“Those who enjoy winter birds should take advantage now, as many winter specialties depart the state this month, including northern shrikes, rough-legged hawks, snowy owls, snow buntings, bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks.

“Milder temperatures forecast for the week ahead lend promise to those eager for spring migration, although tempered a bit by extensive snow and ice even well into the state’s southern reaches.

“In the south this week, look for more cranes, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, robins, a few great blue herons and various waterfowl, including greater white-fronted geese. Northerners will have a wait a few more weeks, however.”

“Help track the migration by submitting sightings to www.ebird.org/wi.

Outdoor Report

Snow depths range from just a couple inches in the far southeast to more than 36 inches in areas of the north.

According to the Department of Tourism’s snow conditions report, snowmobile conditions remain good to excellent across the northern two-thirds of the state, while cross-country ski conditions are good to excellent across the north and good in many areas of the south.

Snow and drifting is making for low fishing pressure, with travel on the ice difficult to impossible. Gamefish season closed on most inland lakes, but remains open year-round on some waters. Many anglers report more than 2 feet of ice. The deadline for shanty removal south of Hwy 64 was March 1, but there are still shanties on the ice. People having difficulty removing shanties should contact the DNR Hotline that will get your information to the local warden. The deadline to remove shanties north of Highway 64 is March 17.

There are rumblings of people preparing for a maple sap run, but no signs of sap flowing or trees and shrubs budding.

In Flambeau River State Forest, there is more than 30 inches of snow and snowmobile trails are groomed and in good shape. Stay on the trails and carry a shovel. Lakes have more than 26 inches of ice and heavy snow cover, limiting vehicle travel. Deer and elk in logging areas can browse and conserve energy, but animals not in those areas are not so lucky. Last year’s fawns have puffed cheeks and deteriorating body conditions. There are currently 15 active logging sales on the Forest. Six sales completed cutting and skidding and are now just hauling. Be aware of logging trucks on the roads. For more information, call (715) 332-5271.

In Brule River State Forest, March is here and days are becoming noticeably longer, adding more than three minutes of daylight each day. The increased angle and intensity of sunshine is allowing for some melting, even with below average temperatures. The area has gone nearly 60 consecutive days with temperatures below freezing.


Happy Hooker (Pat): Quiet Lakes. Anglers will not soon forget this ice fishing season, as it is by far one of the most challenging thanks to deep snow, drifts, slush and extreme cold. Ice conditions are horrendous on most area lakes. A few anglers are walking off shorelines, if they can get to the shorelines, and finding some panfish success close to shore. Warmer temperatures and run-off certainly will be helpful. Unless you are up for the challenge and a very exhausting day, you might consider staying home to organize tackle boxes and get a head start on open water season. The 2019-20 fishing and hunting license are now available, as are spring turkey licenses for hunters who received authorization in the drawing. For hunters who did not receive authorization, bonus permits go on sale by zone starting March 18.

Anglers All (Carolyn): Lake Superior/Chequamegon Bay. Conditions in the Islands are fantastic for lake trout. Bobbing is great, most days have plenty of action and anglers are landing some nice fish. Near shore, anglers are targeting whitefish, and the bite in the Bay is slowly picking up for splake, burbot, perch and smelt. Snowmobiles are still the only way to get around out there.

The Wolter Report (Max Wolter, DNR fisheries biologist, Hayward): Anglers who practice catch and release typically make an exceptional effort to release fish with as little harm as possible to maximize the odds of the fish surviving. In most cases, even the most careful hook removal and release efforts require holding the fish out of water for some time. Researchers in Idaho looked at whether air exposure led to greater mortality of angled trout. The researchers caught trout on hook and line (a hard day at the office!) and exposed them to one of three different treatments. They held some fish out of the water for 60 seconds, some for 30 seconds and some they did not remove from the water even for hook removal and tagging, then released all fish back into the stream. The researchers then electrofished the stream to recapture trout and see if there were survival differences from the three different treatments. The researchers found no differences in survival related to the amount of time they held a trout out of the water. Note that the longest air exposure time in the study was just one minute, so the results cannot tell us the threshold when air exposure does become problematic. Anglers can still use these results to set a goal for themselves to return fish to the water as quickly as possible, preferably in less than 60 seconds. This includes hook removal, photo and admiring the fish, all in a quick minute.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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