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Mergansers move about among the lake vegetation.

Annual spring fishing trip proves successful

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Annual spring fishing trip proves successful
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

For four days in early June I join two retired friends who get together to fish, tell lies, act smart and rehash memories from our days when we were gainfully employed. We even find time to partake in a few Leinies Originals after a hard day slaving over a hot fishing pole.

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Besides Chuck, Roy and me solving most of the world's problems, we also found out that the guy who said "never discuss religion or politics" was wrong. No topic is off limits.

Our elected officials could take a page out of our playbook and hold their meetings not in Madison but on some secluded northern Wisconsin lake. This would be much more productive and much would get accomplished. Despite not completely agreeing on most controversial topics, we were able to come to a meeting of the minds. Mutual respect overcomes difference in opinion.

Our foray began with a three-hour drive up to a northern Minnesota lake which will remain nameless because we actually catch fish. It is a medium-size lake with large areas of shallow, sandy shelves that extend out for hundreds of yards. Chuck, our host for the trip, has a very nice house located on the lake.

We fished the drop offs and catch northern, perch and a few walleyes. We filleted out the fish taking care to also remove the "Y" bones found in the northern. Fresh fish directly from the water to the frying pan have no comparison to the frozen variety. Northern are as tasty as walleye and perch when prepared in this manner.

I purchased a non-resident annual license for $40.50 figuring I may make it over to Minnesota for angling opportunities a few more times this year. We are planning for a fall fishing trip and perhaps a winter one also to take advantage of the northern fishery. The non-resident annual Wisconsin fishing license is issued at $50 for comparative purposes.

During our angling expo, Chuck and I both boated 22-inch walleyes which we had to return to the water. This lake has a slot size in place to protect the larger brood stock. Fish from 17 to 26 inches are "off limits."

Larger walleyes are almost exclusively female and conservation of these reproducers means a quality fishery. The numerous northern we boated ranged in size from 22 to 26 inches and are prime eaters.

Over the years, complaints have been voiced about complicated fishing and hunting regulations causing fishers and hunters to drop out of the outdoor sports. Blanket regulations are no longer applicable today because animal species are not distributed across the state equally.

All lakes and streams are not created equal. Game species of all types are provided resource management that optimizes their existence in a very competitive world. The Department of Natural Resources in both Wisconsin and Minnesota do an excellent job with resource management contrary to what a few detractors might imply.

A recent study by our Wisconsin DNR found out, through a series of surveys, that the main reason that anglers and hunters are leaving the sport and there is reduced recruitment of younger participants is time restraints and family commitments. We need to take the time to reverse this trend and set priorities.

While on the lake we saw numerous varieties of waterfowl and shorebirds. Loons abound on these northern lakes. This area must be a prime hooded merganser breeding spot as indicated by the large number of merganser broods. Broods of baby birds, numbering from eight to 15, were a common sight as they mimicked their mom's every move. Merganser moms are excellent parents.

Plans are in the offing for a return trip up north later this year. We have fish to catch and further issues to address and solve. A great time was had by all.

Wildlife surveys

I just received a hardcopy of "Wisconsin Wildlife Surveys April 2012."

These reports are published in April and August each year and contain information and data from a variety of sources over the previous six-month period. It is made possible from Pittman-Robertson funding. Data is accumulated and analyzed for small game, big game, waterfowl and nongame species in Wisconsin. It contains a wealth of information.

According to the "Annual Mammal Survey," no jackrabbits or American martins were observed in 2011. Sightings of badger, fisher, red fox and river otter were below the long term average while sightings of black bear, bobcat, coyote, gray fox and gray wolf were above the average.

"Wisconsin Bald Eagle and Osprey Surveys" noted that there was 1,287 known eagle nest territories occupied by breeding adults in 2011. This was an increase of 40 pairs from 2010. Polk County has 33 of these while St. Croix County has eight. Of the 527 active osprey territories in 2011, Polk County has 16 while St. Croix County has two. The leading cause of bald eagle mortality is collision with a vehicle. This occurs while eagle are scavenging car killed deer.

In "Rare Mammal Observations" a total of 281 reports came in of cougar sightings during 2011 which was down from the 385 reported in 2010. Eight reports were verified (3 percent) and likely represent three different cougars.

I think I'll add information from these reports in future columns. Stay tuned!

Bass Lake WPA

By Tom Kerr

USF&WS

Bass Lake Waterfowl Production Area is a 255-acre tract of land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District. The WPA is located about two miles southeast of Somerset on the north edge of Bass Lake. The WPA was purchased with federal duck stamp funds, which duck hunters are required to buy and people interested in conservation are encouraged to buy to support habitat conservation.

?Over the last several years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been restoring the Bass Lake WPA to a prairie, oak savanna and wetland complex similar to the landscape historically found in large portions of St. Croix County. Restoration of the WPA is a long process and may take 10-15 years to accomplish.

If you have driven by the WPA in the last few weeks you may have noticed additional work in progress. Tree cutting was completed last winter and we are following up with removal of the cut trees. Many of the trees, which have little commercial timber value, are being chipped and used as biofuel in St. Paul, Minn. Many of the cut stumps will be treated with chemical to prevent regrowth of the undesirable, often invasive species that were found on the WPA. Some of these, such as buckthorn, Siberian elm and box elder will grow vigorously after they are cut. The remaining trees are mostly white oak or burr oak which were an important component of the oak savannas historically found scattered across St. Croix County.

In an effort to bring back the native grasses and forbs found in savannas, we will be burning, mowing or planting portions of the WPA to encourage the growth of these species. This summer we will also fence the WPA in an effort to use prescribed grazing as a tool to encourage native grasses and forbs. Grazing is a natural process and our goal will be to set back the growth of woody vegetation and maintain grassland on the WPA. Interior temporary electric fence will be used to target certain areas for grazing and keep the cattle out of the water.

Tree removal and prescribed burning, grazing and mowing are all tools used to restore and maintain prairie grasslands on local WPAs. Prairies are a disturbance dependent habitat which if left "undisturbed" would eventually turn into a forest of undesirable invasive species.

For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/ or check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District.

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