Early catch-and-release trout season opens Jan. 6

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin's early catch-and-release trout season opens Jan. 6 on hundreds of waters statewide and provides another fishing opportunity to help anglers beat cabin fever.
"The long season offers anglers a great opportunity to try the early trout season if you haven't before," said Joanna Griffin, Department of Natural Resources trout team coordinator.
The season is open on all classified trout streams in 46 counties and there is at least one stream open in 18 other counties. All streams in Brown, Calumet, Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Menominee, Outagamie and Winnebago counties are closed.
The season opens at 5 a.m. on Jan. 6 and runs until midnight May 4. All anglers are not required to use barbless hooks, but artificial lures and flies are still required. All fish caught must be immediately released. The bag limit is zero.
Anglers who fish the early catch-and-release season need an inland trout stamp as well as a valid Wisconsin fishing license. The 2017-2018 fishing license and stamp are good through March 31. Anglers fishing after March 31 will need to buy a 2018-2019 license to fish the early season in April and May.
Wisconsin has more than 13,000 miles of trout streams, including more than 5,300 miles of Class 1 trout streams in Wisconsin. These high quality trout waters have sufficient natural reproduction to sustain populations of wild trout and require no stocking. Another 40 percent of the waters are Class 2 waters that may have some natural reproduction, but require stocking to maintain a desirable sport fishery.
New online maps and interactive maps make all of the trout waters easier to find and provide other information to increase anglers' success, Griffin said. To find the maps, search the DNR website for keyword "trout."
Anglers fishing the early trout season should take many of the same kind of precautions that ice anglers do, including knowing local conditions, fishing with another person, and carrying a cell phone. Find more winter fishing safety tips on ice safety page of the DNR website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota DNR sets new special angling regulations

Special fishing regulations will change March 1 on a number of Minnesota waters following an annual public input and review process, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Anglers need to know special regulations because they take precedence over statewide regulations,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the DNR. “We have special regulations to improve fish populations and make fishing better or more sustainable.”
Special regulations for individual waters are listed in a separate section of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and at mndnr.gov/fishmn, and are posted at public accesses.
For this spring, new statewide northern pike zone regulations that take effect on inland waters will make it possible to do away with several previously existing special regulations that apply to individual waters and aim for similar outcomes as the zone regulations. The new statewide pike regulations go into effect in time for the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.
On waters that have a special fishing regulation, anglers are required to follow the special regulation and unless otherwise mentioned, all other regulations apply.

Public process for special regulations
Special regulations are put in place after fisheries managers write plans for the lakes they oversee and each provides objectives for achieving management goals. Before changes are made to special regulations, the DNR evaluates each regulation, shares what’s found in the evaluations and angler surveys, hosts public input meetings in the fall and reviews comments from the public about the regulations. Goals of individual lake management plans also are considered.
“We need the public to tell us what they want for the process to work well, and we do value the input,” Stevens said.
For this spring, 29 lakes and connected waters were reviewed.

Changes detailed
Pelican Lake in St. Louis County: A special regulation on bass will be made permanent, while a regulation on northern pike will be dropped. An evaluation of the regulations showed that the 14-20 inch protected slot limit with one over 20 inches in possession on bass maintained a quality bass fishery, while allowing for an opportunity to harvest smaller bass. The regulation was generally popular with anglers and will continue. The 24-36 inch protected slot limit on northern pike provided some benefit to the pike population; however, the benefits of the regulation are similar to the new statewide zone regulation, which provides the opportunity to drop the regulation and simplify regulations complexity for anglers.
Sand Lake and connected waters (Little Sand, Portage and Birds Eye lakes) in Itasca County: A special regulation for northern pike will be dropped, and the lakes will change to the statewide limits. The new statewide zone regulation for northern pike will likely be just as effective as the special regulation in encouraging harvest of abundant small pike while improving sizes of pike.     
Big Swan Lake in Todd County: A 24-36 inch protected slot limit with only one fish over 36 inches will be made permanent after the review showed sizes of pike have improved. Also, the regulation’s expanded possession limit of six, with only one fish over 36 inches, will remain in effect as the number of small pike has continued to remain higher than desired.
Balm, Big Bass, South Twin and Deer lakes in Beltrami County; Portage Lake in Cass County; and Flour, Hungry Jack and Two Island lakes in Cook County: These eight lakes with restrictive size regulations (either a 12-20 inch protected slot or catch-and-release only regulation) on bass will be modified to a less restrictive, 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches to allow additional harvest of small bass while still protecting quality sized fish. Although the existing regulations were shown to be effective, the new protected slot is expected to provide a similar protection to quality fish and with the added benefit of allowing additional harvest of abundant smaller bass.  
Itasca, Ozawindib and Mary lakes in Itasca State Park: Special regulations on sunfish, black crappie and bass for three lakes in the park will be standardized among the lakes. While the existing regulations largely have been effective and have been generally popular with park visitors, the DNR will standardize sunfish and crappie possession limits to five, drop a minimum size restriction on crappie for Ozawindib Lake and modify the current restrictive bass regulations (catch-and-release on Mary Lake and the 12-20 inch protected slot on Ozawindib Lake) to a 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches for both lakes. The goal is to simplify regulations for park visitors while maintaining fishing quality.
Sissabagamah and Long lakes in Aitkin County: Special regulations on northern pike will be dropped in favor of the new statewide zone pike regulation. Some benefits to the sizes of pike have been seen since a protected slot regulation was enacted; however, the north-central zone pike regulations may provide a similar or even better outcome and also serve to reduce regulation complexity.
Bass Lake in Todd County and Cedar Lake in Morrison County: Trophy regulations (40 inch minimum length requirement, possession limit of one) on northern pike will be modified to a 26 inch maximum with a possession limit of three. While trophy northern pike still exist, growth rates of smaller pike in these lakes have declined. Allowing harvest opportunity on pike under 26 inches may help the population while still protecting medium to large pike.    
Kraut, Peanut, North Shady, Squash and Tomato lakes in Cook County: Catch-and-release regulations on trout in these five lakes will be dropped this spring. Additionally, the ban on winter fishing and special tackle restrictions for these lakes will go away. The catch-and-release with tackle restrictions and the winter fishing closure did not meet management goals for these stocked trout fisheries. They are remotely located and special regulations and the closed winter season did not provide quality fishing in these lakes. But the same special regulations will continue on three other lakes – Thompson, Thrush and Turnip lakes – that were reviewed at the same time.
Moody Lake in Crow Wing County: This lake will re-open to fishing after having been closed to fishing since 2001. Entirely located within an aquatic management area, the lake has been used as a fisheries research lake and at times was used for rearing walleye. It no longer is needed for that purpose and plans are to reclaim the lake by using rotenone to remove undesirable fish and then restock with walleye, yellow perch and bass, and implement a catch-and-release regulation to maintain quality sized fish for anglers to enjoy.  
Little Boy and Wabedo lakes in Cass County: These lakes will have an 18-26 inch protected slot, with one over 26 inches, in a possession limit of four walleye – which will be in effect for 10 years and then re-evaluated. The regulation was proposed in response to local requests to improve and protect the walleye population, which will likely benefit from restrictions on harvesting walleye longer than 18 inches.
Visit mndnr.gov/fishmn for more information on special fishing regulations. Special regulations that change March 1 will be listed in the 2018 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

4 bighead carp caught on Lower Wisconsin River

PRAIRIE DU SAC, WI - With state fisheries crews recently catching four Asian carp on the Lower Wisconsin River and finding another dead along the shore, anglers who catch one of the invasive carp species are reminded to keep the fish and contact their local fish biologist.
"Anyone who catches a fish they believe to be an Asian carp species - bighead, silver, black or grass - should keep the fish, make sure it's dead before they leave the riverway, and contact their local fisheries biologist to verify the species," said David Rowe, fisheries supervisor based in Fitchburg. "Asian carp can be very prolific and out compete native species, and we want to keep them out of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway."
It is illegal to transport a live Asian carp, so anglers will want to make sure the fish is dead before taking it away, Rowe said. He reminded anglers to avoid moving bait fish to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species or fish diseases.
Asian carp have been occasionally captured in Wisconsin waters of the Mississippi River and Lower Wisconsin River since 1996. They have not been found in inland waters above the lower dams on the Mississippi tributaries.
DNR fisheries crews captured four adult bighead carp this fall while doing routine surveys to monitor the lake sturgeon population below the Prairie du Sac Dam. They also recovered another bighead carp that was freshly dead on the shore, according to Nate Nye, DNR fisheries biologist for Columbia and Sauk counties.
DNR believes the Asian carp are individual fish that strayed and do not represent an established population. No other Asian carp were found by DNR on the river over the summer despite multiple other fish surveys that likely would have turned up Asian carp if they were there. Nor did DNR hear any reports from anglers that they caught Asian carp.
"These fish were the only ones we saw," Nye said. "They were all very large adults that likely migrated up into the lower Wisconsin River from the Mississippi River this spring or summer when we had high river flows, which can be an environmental trigger for the Asian carp species."
Bighead and silver carp are filter feeders and directly compete with native species like paddlefish and buffalo, but also because they are large-bodied fish that eat very low on the food chain they can harm the entire fish community, Nye said.
More information about Asian carp, including a map of Asian carp found in Wisconsin waters and photos to help identify Asian carp species, is available on DNR's web site, dnr.wi.gov by searching "Asian carp control."
Anglers and boaters can avoid spreading invasive fish and other aquatic invasive species by taking steps including inspecting boats and trailers after leaving a water body. Removing all attached aquatic plants and animals; draining all water from boats and equipment; and never moving plants or live fish away from a water body.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

New northern pike fishing regulations coming in spring

Anglers and spearers pursuing northern pike this winter can prepare for new pike regulations that will be in effect for the spring fishing opener on Minnesota’s inland waters.
“Pike regulations remain the same this winter, with major changes coming this spring,” said Chris Kavanaugh, northeast region fisheries manager. “As anglers continue fishing for pike, we encourage them to get used to measuring their catches and even consider keeping some of the smaller ones in the north-central part of the state.”
The new regulations on inland waters will be in effect starting March 1. However, fishing for northern pike is not allowed on these waters until the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.
Spearing season opened Nov. 15, and pike fishing remains open until Feb. 25. Current statewide regulations including the daily and possession limit of three northern pike is still in effect. So, too, are special and experimental regulations listed for specific waters in the 2017 Minnesota Fishing Regulations.
The new fishing regulations beginning in the spring take a cue from hunting regulations and will set up three distinct zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota.
“Anglers and spearers have an opportunity to use this winter as a transition period and become accustomed to measuring their catch before the new rules take effect,” Kavanaugh said. “We know many anglers already do measure fish, and spearers judge fish size, but we want to highlight the importance of those practices when it comes to northern pike.”
When the new regulations take effect this spring, the majority of the state will be in the north-central zone where the issue is overpopulation of small pike. Anglers here will be able to keep 10 northern pike, but not more than two pike longer than 26 inches, and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released. Northern pike taken by spearing follow the same rules except one pike may be between 22 and 26 inches and one longer than 26 inches.
In the northeast zone, the new regulation will maintain harvest opportunity and protect large fish already present and anglers here will be able to keep two pike and must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession. Spearers also will be able to take two pike, but only one may be longer than 26 inches.
In the southern zone, the regulation will intend to increase pike abundance and improve the size of fish harvested. Anglers and spearers will be able to keep two fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches.
For more information on the new zone regulations visit mndnr.gov/pike or contact a local area fisheries office. Contact information can be found at mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries or in the printed fishing regulations booklet.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued its annual ice safety warning for lakes with winter aeration systems.
Aeration creates areas of thin ice and open water that are extremely hazardous to people and pets. Open water areas can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions, and leaks may develop in airlines, creating other areas of weak ice or open water.
The updated list of aerated lakes and more information is available at mndnr.gov/eco/lakeaeration.
“We’re urging people to use caution anytime they venture onto lake ice, especially at night,” said Amanda Yourd, DNR hydrologist and aeration coordinator. “Extreme care should be taken on aerated lakes. Watch for the large orange and black warning signs at high use public accesses and the required thin ice signs around open water areas.”
Aeration systems help prevent winterkilll of fish populations by adding oxygen to the lake, and in certain situations to protect shorelines from ice damage. They are generally operated from the time the lakes freeze until the ice breaks up in the spring. About 280 lakes will have aeration systems operating on them this winter. Private hatchery operators also use aeration systems, usually on small lakes without public accesses.
A permit from the DNR is required to install and operate an aeration system. Permit holders must publish public notices, post warning signs, and inspect the systems at least once every seven days. Liability insurance is generally required of private groups or citizens operating aeration systems in protected waters.
Watch for notices in your local media identifying aerated lakes in your area. DNR staff ensure permiittees comply with all requirements and regularly inspect systems for safety.  
Some municipalities may have ordinances that prohibit entering into the thin ice marked area and/or prohibit the night use of motorized vehicles on lakes with aeration systems in operation. These local regulations are often posted at accesses where they apply.  
Questions concerning aeration or thin ice can be answered by calling a regional or area fisheries office or the Department of Natural Resources toll-free at 888-MINNDNR (888-646-6367).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Wear life jackets on early ice

With daytime temperatures still climbing above freezing even in the northern parts of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding outdoor enthusiasts to stay clear of early ice and use extreme caution when recreating on dangerously cold water.
Although some locations in the northern and western regions of the state were reporting ice formation at the end of November, the recent fluctuations in weather have led to degraded ice conditions and warnings from public safety officials to stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.
“No fish is worth the risk of going through thin ice,” said DNR conservation officer Lt. Adam Block. “At this point, it is going to take several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic, and even longer before ATVs and snowmobiles should be on the ice.”
A recent tragedy occurred in northern Minnesota when two anglers lost their lives after breaking through thin ice on their ATV. Several emergency ice rescues have also taken place over the last few weeks. Last winter, two people died after breaking through the ice.
Block stressed that once ice formation picks up again, it will be important to stay vigilant about safety on the ice, since conditions can be unpredictable and vary greatly even on the same body of water.
“In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on hard water should be wearing a life jacket,” Block said. “A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that exponentially increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice.”

General ice safety guidelines
No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:
* Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
* Check ice thickness at regular intervals – conditions can change quickly.
* Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
* Don’t go out alone; let someone know the plan and expected return time.
* Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
* Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:
4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
12-15 inches for a medium truck.
Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.

Open water danger
The lack of ice cover means many bodies of water in the state still have open water accessible to boaters. However, late season anglers, boaters and paddlers are cautioned that a life jacket is an absolute must on cold water.
“A fall into extremely cold water can incapacitate you within seconds,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Air temperatures have been relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you. Water temperatures are dangerously cold across the entire state, which means it’s more important than ever to wear that life jacket.”
State statistics show that one-third of boating fatalities typically occurred during the “cold water season,” and that in the vast majority of cases the cause of death is drowning due to not wearing a life jacket.
So far in 2017, three boaters have died on cold water, and 12 total boating fatalities have been reported.
“The last three years boaters have enjoyed extended seasons with mild fall temperatures and early ice out in the spring,” Dugan said. “With increased days on the water came higher fatality numbers and a dangerous trend, which should not be ignored. Ten of the 12 deaths involved male boaters who sadly drowned while not wearing a life jacket. This is a continuing and troubling trend that will only plateau or reverse if boaters in that high-risk demographic choose to put safety first by putting on their life jacket.”
For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Fish houses, wheelhouses require licenses

Beginning this ice fishing season, anglers using a wheelhouse type of ice or dark-house shelter are required to purchase a license to place the shelter on the ice, even when occupying it.
A new definition for portable shelters has been provided in law, which states that a portable shelter is one that collapses, folds or is disassembled for transportation.
“Wheeled fish houses, which formerly were considered portable – and thus excluded from licensing requirements for shelters – will now need to be licensed,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “In the past, anglers using wheelhouses could use them without shelter licenses as long as they were occupied, including overnight.”  
A shelter meeting the new definition of portable only needs a license when a person leaves it unattended, meaning they are farther than 200 feet from the shelter.
The change pursued by the DNR and enabled by 2017 legislation accompanied hunting and angling fee increases. An annual resident shelter license is $16. A three-year license is $43. Owners of houses to be rented pay $31 annually or $88 for a three-year license.
A valid license tag must be attached to the outside of the fish house in a readily visible location. On border waters, a shelter license is not required on the Minnesota side if the neighboring state doesn’t require a shelter license for its waters.     
To learn more about the fishing and hunting license dollars are spent, visit mndnr.gov/licensedollarsatwork. Shelter or fishing licenses can be purchased at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR