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American Coot

Local lakes get some needed attention

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In 2009, a lake management plan for Bass Lake in St. Croix County was developed.

The Bass Lake Rehabilitation District, Bass Lake residents, the St Croix County Land & Water Conservation Department, St. Croix County Sportsmen's Alliance and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources were involved in molding this plan taking into account water quality, diverse aquatic life, shoreland habitats, invasive species introductions and multifaceted recreational opportunities.

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Management goals and objectives were laid out and a plan was set to accomplish them. Buy in from residents of the watershed, lake resource users and stakeholders were solicited. Everyone got on board.

Work is underway to reduce the phosphorus load coming into the lake by a number of avenues. Aquatic plants and animals in the lake were inventoried. Models were developed to arrive at the best management practices.

Recently, zebra mussels were found in the lake and this will now be added into the equation and addressed. Nine sensitive areas were identified in the lake and these areas will be protected to preserve the most critical habitats there.

Water level fluctuations over time have affected the lake dynamics and this also was factored into the plan.

Starting this winter, work will begin to re-establish woody cover and spawning areas on the lake. Twelve lakeshore owners are currently participating in this project. Agreements will be signed and permits submitted to place approximately 130 tree trunks, seven stumps and 15 fish cribs on the lake bed at the appropriate locations. The woody debris and cribs will be set out in clusters to provide the best effect. Walleye stocking of larger, more viable fish will also be performed.

These efforts are the result of a partnership between the Lake District, the St. Croix County Land & Water Conservation Department, St. Croix County Alliance, Star Prairie Fish & Game Association, USF&WS, township, local landowners and the DNR. Viable partnerships produce very positive results.

Squaw Lake Plan

Back in 1991, the Squaw Lake Management Plan was written to "serve as the blueprint for action to improve and protect water quality and aquatic life in Squaw Lake."

Similar to the plan developed for Bass Lake, a new plan is currently being written to help reach these goals on Squaw Lake. A series of meetings are being scheduled to gather public input on how to reach these goals. Other technical meetings are ongoing to arrive at goals based on scientific data and good management practices. The information gathered at these duel meetings will be merged to produce the plan that will guide the efforts going forward.

While every lake is a separate entity and has an individual fingerprint, information and procedure gleaned from other lake plans can be used to help guide the formation of a new lake plan. No two lakes are created equal, but what has worked or not worked in other plans will help to develop a good plan that has the best chance of getting the job done.

If you have an interest in Squaw Lake and would like to be involved in the development of this plan contact Aleisha Miller at the St. Croix County Land & Water Conservation Department aleisham@co.saint-croix.wi.us or call 715-684-2874, ext. 125.

Getting the ball rolling early on fisheries improvement, Area Fisheries Manager Marty Engel has proposed a rule change on both Squaw and Glen lakes that would provide a protective slot size on bass from 14 to 18 inches with a bag limit of three, with only one being more than 18 inches.

This rule change has fostered good support and will appear as a DNR proposed rule change at the 2011 Spring Hearings in April. Implementation of this rule should improve the size structure of bass on these lakes and also allow for some "eatable" fish on the dinner table.

Oak Ridge WPA and Coots

By Tom Kerr, Manager USF&FS

Although many duck hunters disregard the American Coot, they are a very adaptable and successful bird.

I recently saw more than 1,000 coot on Oak Ridge Lake on the Oak Ridge Waterfowl Production Area, which is located between County Road H and 220th Avenue about two miles east of Star Prairie.

The 385-acre WPA, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District, is located adjacent to 200 acres of state wildlife area land managed by the Wisconsin DNR. This 585-acre complex of wetlands, grasslands, oak savanna and forest is heavily used by migrating waterfowl.

A WPA neighbor recently told me that he could hear the cackling of the coots and their splashing in the water from his open bedroom window at night, one of the benefits of our recent warm weather.

The coots are passing through, stopping at Oak Ridge Lake to fuel up for their migration south. They will feast on aquatic vegetation, especially the sago pondweed, bulrush seeds and many other pondweeds found in the lake.

Although these plants have the word "weed" in their name, they are far from what we would consider a weed. These plants provide valuable energy in their seeds and roots that will sustain migrating coot and many species of waterfowl on their journey south.

Coots breed throughout the western United States and Canada, laying nine to 12 eggs in a floating nest in marshes or shallow lakes.

They winter throughout the southern United States and Central America, although some will stay as far north as they can.

If you get a chance, stop at the Oak Ridge WPA and spend a few minutes enjoying the diversity of wildlife found there.

For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.

Warden Paul's Corner

Blaze Orange Requirements

With the 2010 deer season underway, hunters are reminded that during any gun or muzzleloader deer season (including the statewide Dec. 9-12 antlerless hunt), no person may hunt any game unless at least 50 percent of the person's outer clothing above the waist is blaze orange. A hat, if worn, must also be at least 50 percent blaze orange. This blaze orange requirement includes archery deer and small game hunters. Waterfowl hunters (duck and goose) are exempt from wearing blaze orange clothing.

Faded or stained blaze orange clothing is unsafe and may not meet law requirements. Camoblaze, which is 50 percent blaze orange, is legal, but is not as visible as solid blaze orange clothing. One hundred percent solid blaze orange clothing is recommended.

For questions or to report a violation, contact Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.

Have a safe and enjoyable hunting season.

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