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Volunteers help inspect sections of Apple River

Brody shows off a smallmouth bass caught along the Apple River last week.

Recently the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust received a couple of grants from the state to survey a portion of the lower Apple River for potential problems that could compromise the integrity of the river.

These lake protection grants are designed to identify areas of concern and then develop a plan to help to mediate any problem encountered. The broad focus area of these grants on the Apple River extends from Amery down to the point where the Apple River enters the St Croix River. The main area of interest is the river section from Star Prairie down to the Riverdale dam upstream from Somerset.

The first step of the grant implementation plan is to survey this section of the river to provide an inventory of invasive species that have invaded there and also note any issues that may affect water quality.

The section to be surveyed was divided up into two parts to provide ample opportunity to develop a detailed profile of this river section. The first part ran from River Island Park in Star Prairie down to County Highway C and the second ran from County Highway C to the Riverdale dam.

Two teams of folks recruited from the Star Prairie Fish & Game Association received training to identify targeted invasive species and to zero in on any other water quality issues. GPS coordinates would be taken of any problem site to develop a detailed map of the river.

Early last week, the first group ventured out on the river to begin the first step of this undertaking. Two canoes and a 10-foot johnboat made up the flotilla. Mike Kelly and Paul Mayer manned the johnboat and would do the recording, while Mike's son Brad and Paul's grandson, Brody, along with Chuck Magoon and I paddled the canoes. Brad and Brody carried fishing poles to "sample" any fish that might be encountered.

The trip started off with a splash as Chuck and I led the group down from River Island Park. I had been on many sections of the Apple before but had never ventured out on this stretch of the river.

Because of the lack of recent rain, the river was a foot or so low and rocks were prominent in many sections of the river. Rounding the first bend, we hit a partly submerged rock broadside and immediately rolled the canoe. We righted the canoe, dumped out the water and were on our way without any further mishap. Nothing was damaged except for a bit of our pride!

The water quality in the fast moving water was very good. We moved down the river quickly with the fast moving current occasionally having to pull the boats through some shallower sections. Grassy runs covered the more gravel laden areas. Birds and wildlife was everywhere.

At one point we rounded a bend and encountered a nice eight-point buck with high velvet antlers. It was accompanied by two fawns. I have never seen a fawn in the presence of a buck before. Perhaps the mom was close by. The buck trotted off followed closely by the twins.

Brody had a large fish break his line and also boated two nice smallmouth bass. Numerous redhorse, sucker, carp, bass and northern were observed in the shallow water. A trip into Louie's Lake, a small spring fed bay off the river, provided the deepest water of the trip.

Our three- to four-hour trip ended all too soon as we took out at the landing at Highway C. Over the course of the survey we documented six to eight small patches of purple loosestrife and a couple of natural erosion areas. Buckthorn and reed canary grass was very prominent all along the river.

There were a few tires in this section of the river but little else that would indicate areas of real concern. In fast moving sections of the river this is what we anticipated.

When all the sections are surveyed, a map will be generated and an action plan will be designed and implemented. I feel very fortunate to be able to be a part of this effort. Getting valuable information that will lead to positive results and having fun at the same time is a rewarding experience.

Bass Lake Waterfowl Production Area

By Tom Kerr


Bass Lake Waterfowl Production Area is a 255-acre Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) 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 this 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 to 15 years to accomplish.

If you have visited the Bass Lake WPA in the last few weeks, you will probably notice the brush grinding and chemical treatment that has been used to control invasive vegetation and trees on the WPA. Many of the Siberian elm, box elder, aspen, buckthorn and cottonwood have been removed from the WPA.

We have also chemically treated much of the regrowth in an attempt to bring back the grasslands once found in this area. Many of the seeds, especially from buckthorn, will be viable for years to come so we will be treating the WPA aggressively with fire, mowing and grazing over the next two to five years. We will also install fence on the WPA to start using prescribed grazing as a management tool.

Prescribed grazing is a tool that is used to encourage the growth of grasses and forbs while setting back the invasion of brush and trees. The exterior boundary of the WPA will be fenced and temporary interior electric fence will be used to manage portions of the WPA and create a buffer between the grazed area and Bass Lake. Grazing was a natural part of the landscape and when used correctly is a valuable tool to manage our local WPAs.

The goal in the restoration process is to bring back the native grasses and forbs once found on this WPA. Small portions of the WPA contain remnant prairie which is prairie that has never been broken by the plow.

Other parts of the WPA have been farmed or planted to brome grass and will need more intensive restoration efforts, including seeding with local native prairie seed. With time and more management the WPA will begin to resemble the habitat found across much of St. Croix County.

For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at or check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District.

Warden Paul's Corner

Early Goose Season

With fall in the not too distant future, many people are ready to go a field in pursuit of game. The Early Canada Goose Season starts Sept. 1 and goes through Sept. 15.

The daily bag limit is five geese with a possession limit of 10 geese. Only approved non-toxic shot may be used. All shotguns must have a plug so the shotgun cannot hold more than three shells (including the chamber).

Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. When a goose is harvested and before it is carried by hand or transported in any manner, the hunter shall validate the permit by slitting or punching holes in the permit accordingly.

To participate in the Early Goose Season, all hunters must possess with them in the field a valid Small Game, Sports or Conservation Patron license is required. All hunters must possess a current Early September Canada Goose Hunting Permit. All hunters must be HIP registered each year (no charge and acquired when purchasing a license).

Persons 16 years old and older must also purchase a state and federal waterfowl stamp to hunt geese during the early season. First time Wisconsin Hunter Education Course graduates may use their hunter safety card in place of a small game license and state waterfowl stamp (if 16 or older the hunter would still need to purchase a federal waterfowl stamp).

Persons born on or after January 1, 1973, must have a hunter education certification to purchase any hunting license. Persons 12 and 13 years old must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian while hunting. Persons younger than 12 cannot hunt nor purchase a hunting license. All hunters must possess these requirements when hunting and the federal waterfowl stamp must be signed in ink across the face of the stamp by the license holder.

For additional regulations, read the Wisconsin Early September Canada Goose Hunting regulations.

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