Weather Forecast


Trout fishing groupies hit the streams once more

Trout stocking of Willow River Group 2011.

There are few dates each year that are more anticipated to the outdoor enthusiast than the opening day of fishing season.

After a long, hard winter, hope springs eternal. The hard water ice has melted and the soft water rivers and lakes are now available for wading or boat use. Opening day marks the end of winter and the real start of spring/summer.

For several trout fishing groupies, this 2011 opener marked the 20th consecutive year of a very special event. Neither wind nor rain nor sleet or hail has prevented this group from holding their annual exodus to the area trout streams to try their luck and expertise in pursuit of the wily trout.

Following a hard morning of slaving over a hot fishing rod, they reconvened each year in a field along the Willow River to relate the morning events and retell stories of years past, remembering the big one that got away.

The catch of the day is then prepared for the grill as host and master chef Mike Kelly utilizes his culinary skills and secret sauce recipe to prepare the morning cuisine. Family members and offspring who have not participated in the actual catching, appear mid-morning with offerings of beans, cold slaw, potato salad and other delectable items to participate in the eating portion of the annual ritual.

Photos of the event are taken to document the current years' activities which will later be added to the official record book. This is truly a family event.

For this year's opener the weather forecast was marginal at best with rain predicted. The day, however, proved to provide perfect fishing weather and conditions held out for most of the day.

Projected fishing success was also suspect as the trout numbers of the early stocking of the Willow and Apple rivers by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and local volunteers was cut dramatically. All the fears proved for naught as more than sufficient trout were made available for the feast lending credibility to the angling proficiency of those involved.

Looking back over the two decades of opening day fishing, rains, high water and less than optimal weather conditions have led to subsidizing the trout outing with brats, hot dogs (tube trout) or "freezer trout" from the freezers of those that were lucky enough to have a few left over from the previous year.

This year this was definitely not the case. Even in the lean years, however, morale was high and as always, a great time was had by all.

Warden Paul's Corner

Oak Wilt

People who value their oak trees should not prune them from April through July, according to the latest recommendations from state forestry officials.

The reason? Spring and early summer pruning makes oak trees vulnerable to oak wilt, a serious and almost-always fatal fungal disease of red oaks.

Special care should also be taken to avoid wounding oaks from April through July, according to Kyoko Scanlon, Department of Natural Resources forest pathologist. Any action that might provide an opening into the tree such as carving initials into the tree or attaching a birdfeeder or clothes line, could provide an opportunity for the oak wilt fungus to invade and establish itself in the tree.

If an oak tree is pruned from April through July, a wound dressing or paint should be applied to the cut surface as soon as the wound is created. Even half an hour can be enough time for beetles that transmit the disease to land on a fresh wound and infect your tree, according to Scanlon. While the risk of spreading oak wilt is low after July, she said homeowners should avoid pruning or wounding oaks until autumn, to be on the safe side.

"Oak wilt can spread from a diseased tree to a healthy tree through a connected root system as well as by insects," according to Scanlon. "Very small sap beetles transport fungal spores by landing on fungal mats found beneath the cracked bark of trees that died the previous year. The spores are then transmitted from the beetle body onto the fresh wound of a healthy oak tree while the beetle is feeding at the pruned or damaged site. A beetle that transmits oak wilt disease is not capable of boring into a tree."

If a wound is left unprotected, a new oak wilt pocket may develop in a location where oak wilt did not previously exist and will radiate to other oaks through the connected root systems. If no management steps are taken, Scanlon said the pocket could continue to expand year after year. Once oak wilt establishes itself in an area, control of the disease is both difficult and costly. The prevention of oak wilt is the best approach.

Scanlon said builders and developers should also be very careful as many oak wilt infections and deaths have occurred through inadvertent damage to roots, trunks, or branches during the construction process.

Oak wilt is found in all Wisconsin counties except Ashland, Bayfield, Calumet, Door, Douglas, Forest, Iron, Kewaunee, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Sheboygan, Taylor, Vilas and Washburn. Oak wilt was confirmed in Oneida County for the first time last summer.

The disease kills many oaks in the state by interfering with the tree's water and nutrient-conducting systems, essentially starving the tree. Leaves begin to wilt and the tree may eventually die. Trees in the red oak group, such as northern red and northern pin oak are especially vulnerable. Once wilting symptoms become visible the tree loses most of its leaves and dies very quickly, often within weeks. Trees in the white oak group -- those with rounded or lobed leaves -- are more resistant to oak wilt and the disease progresses much more slowly, often one branch at a time. White oaks could live with oak wilt for many years, and some trees may recover from the disease.

"Besides oaks, pruning deciduous trees in general should be avoided in the spring, as this is the time when tree buds and leaves are growing and food reserves are low," says Don Kissinger, a DNR urban forester. "The best time to prune any deciduous tree is winter, followed by mid-summer, after leaves have completed their growth."

Anyone interested in learning more about oak wilt and other forest pests as well as tree pruning should visit the Forest Health pages of the DNR website. Additional information about proper pruning techniques is available from your community forester, a University of Wisconsin-Extension agent or DNR urban forestry coordinators.

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