Memorial Day Weekend: Busy on the Water

Spring is here and summer is near, but it’s still winter in the water. That’s one of the safety-related messages that the Wisconsin DNR and U.S. Coast Guard has for boaters and other recreationists as we head into a busy holiday weekend.

Water has gradually been warming into the 50s in some shallow bays and harbors, but it’s only in the upper 30s and 40s in much of Lake Michigan.

It’s National Safe Boating Week, so state and federal agencies that operate on the water encourage everyone to always watch the weather, wear life jackets and stay sober.

The initial gasp when you enter cold water is your body’s first response to the temperature. If you make it past the first minute of cold shock and control your breathing, safety experts say you have up to 10 minutes of muscle control.

During this time, blood will be leaving your extremities for your core, causing you to lose control and swimming ability. You then have up to one hour before hypothermia sets in, causing violent shivering, unconsciousness or cardiac arrest.

Keep in mind that most cold-water deaths occur well before this point. In many cases, only those wearing a life jacket will survive longer than 10 minutes.

A three-day weekend and fun on the water for some may mean alcohol could be involved. Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is just as deadly as drinking and driving a motor vehicle – and just as illegal. Studies have found that a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink.

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat for both passengers and boat operators. Additionally, even low amounts of alcohol consumption can increase the risk of drowning.

Other tips: be considerate of other boaters; stay vigilant while under power; and use polarized sunglasses and sunscreen. As always, be sure your boat has all the required safety equipment on board, and inspect everything to make sure it’s in proper working order and up-to-date.

Sturgeon Bay Open results

The difference between getting in on the big payout or missing the boat is sometimes small, and that was certainly the case during the 29th annual Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament.

It took a 4.32-pound-or-better average per fish to crack the top 40, and the winners – Korey Sprengel and Ryan Dempsey – averaged about 5.25 pounds per fish.

Their 52.49 pounds beat second-place finishers Shaun Kruzitski and Jason Corro by about a quarter-pound, and the third-place team of Adam Rasmussen and Sam McSharry had 52.20, or less than three-tenths of a pound out of the top prize of $45,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger boat and Mercury motor.

Weather conditions were pretty brutal both days, with strong winds and cold temperatures. Five seven-pound-plus fish were taken to scale in the catch, weigh and release event. The largest weighed 7.13 pounds.

Salmon and trout stocking

Lake Michigan anglers want more chinook salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout stocked. That much was evident at a meeting to discuss the DNR’s three-year stocking plan Monday night.

Average salmon size at egg-collection sites last fall was the best since the mid-1980s – almost certainly a result of reduced salmon and trout stocking and improving alewife numbers.
Monday’s informational meeting, held at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, was the first planned for this year.

Public comments will be taken until June 30, and another informational meeting with a proposed plan will take place in late summer. After that, another comment period will be held before the DNR makes a final decision in late fall.

You can see the presentations from Monday’s meeting on the DNR website (search for “Lake Michigan salmon and trout meetings”).

Short shots and last casts

As of May 17, Lake Michigan was 27 inches above its 100-year average, and just four inches below the record high, set in 1986. Damage to docks, piers and other structures has been reported, and shoreline erosion during storm surges is significant.

• There have been verified livestock depredations by wolves, black bears and coyotes the past two weeks in a half-dozen counties, including Marinette and Oconto. Livestock producers may contact USDA Wildlife Services at 800.228.1368 if they suspect livestock depredation or harassment.

• Hikers and others enjoying the fields and forests have come across the first fawns of the spring. Unless you know the doe was killed or the fawn is injured, leave it alone. Its mother is almost certainly nearby.

If you suspect the fawn has been orphaned or is injured, contact a Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary wildlife rehabilitator for advice at 920.391.3685.

• Last call to comment on a blueprint to help reverse a decline in monarch butterflies. The deadline is May 29. Learn more at