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WILD THINGS: Lake Michigan Salmon, Trout Provide ‘Reel’ Thrill

If you’re into the high-flying acrobatics of Lake Michigan rainbow trout or the sizzling-drag runs of Chinook salmon, now’s the time to book a trip or hook up with friends and family members on a private rig. 

The Big Pond is off to one of its fastest starts in years, and anglers are hoping things don’t slow down much now that throngs of alewives have moved shallow for the spring spawn. It’s a feast for trout and salmon as spawning stress and rapid changes in water temperature can create an abundance of easy-to-catch baitfish.

Although kings (Chinooks) and steelhead (rainbows) draw the most interest, there are some monster lake trout being caught as well. Capt. Lee Haasch of Algoma saw the heaviest laker of his 49 years – a 33.7-pound giant reeled in by a charter customer – while casting and trolling in Lake Michigan last week.

Very good catches have been reported off all lakeside ports, so pick your day and try your luck. Top areas can change rapidly, but in general, targeting the 100- to 300-foot depths, using trolling baits mainly in the top 60 feet, and going out early and late in the day are yielding the best results.

Got salmon fever? Tickets for the 39th annual Kewaunee/Door Salmon Tournament (July 23-31) are hot off the press and available at all the usual outlets. 

It’s been the best spring salmon and trout fishing in years off Door and Kewaunee counties. This great catch was made early Tuesday off Algoma. Photo courtesy of Hakuna Matata Charters.

Waterfowl Stamp Hike

Wisconsin duck and goose hunters could soon see the first price increase in the state waterfowl stamp since 1997.

A coalition of all the major waterfowl- and wetland-conservation organizations has supported the effort for more than a decade. A recent vote by the Joint Committee on Finance included a $5 increase to the price of the stamp in the state’s proposed 2021-23 budget.

Inflation during the past 24 years has significantly reduced the buying power of the stamp, which is required to hunt waterfowl in Wisconsin. The funds are used to improve habitat for ducks and other wildlife that enjoy state wetlands.

Former Wisconsin Conservation Congress Chair Larry Bonde called the adjustment a huge win for all wildlife lovers, including birdwatchers and the entire sporting community.

The current price of the state stamp is $7. If it survives the budget process, the new price would be $12.

What’s Up with Carp?

Silver carp jumping into boats. Commercial nets full of bighead carp. Could this be the future of the Great Lakes? Currently, there is no evidence of any live bighead, silver or black – commonly called Asian – carp in the Great Lakes.

Invasive carp have been knocking on the proverbial door for decades, yet there’s still debate about the best way to protect the lakes from a potential invasion. 

You can learn the latest during a webinar June 24, 9-10 am, when Tammy Newcomb, senior water policy adviser for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will explain the threat posed by these invaders, current monitoring and surveillance programs, and a multi-state partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide a long-term solution to protect the Great Lakes.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is producing the series, which takes an inside look at invasive-species prevention and response. Get more details by searching for “NotMISpecies Webinar Series” at michigan.gov/egle.

Buy Firewood Locally

Oak wilt, emerald ash borer and gypsy moths are just a few of the invasive pests and diseases that are transported in or on firewood. Therefore, whether you’re looking for a vendor to supply your cabin or just a bundle for tonight’s campfire, try the firewoodscout.org website to find a nearby source. 

Along with offering firewood for purchase, state properties often allow free firewood collection while camping. All wood used must be dead and downed, not collected from live trees or standing dead trees. Chainsaws are not allowed in parks or near campgrounds at state forests. Campgrounds are often picked clean of eligible firewood, so check with the staff at park and state-forest offices for suggestions about where to look and collect.

Wisconsin state parks and state forests allow only firewood that’s been cut within 10 miles; firewood that’s been certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; and clean, untreated dimensional lumber scraps.  

Track the ‘Ick’ in Tick

If you’ve spent a lot of time in the fields and forests of Wisconsin, chances are you’re well aware of a tiny “ick” factor you could encounter. Now there’s a mobile smartphone application to help you learn how to protect yourself, your family and your pets from ticks.

Researchers at UW-Madison, Columbia University and Michigan State University have developed the TickApp, which is available for both Apple and Android devices. In addition to providing details about the local activity level of black-legged ticks, the app will help you identify different kinds of ticks and provide good ways to prevent exposure. 

No smartphone? No problem. Access the TickApp online at thetickapp.org.

Protect Individual Trees

The UW-Madison Extension has updated two insecticide guides – one for homeowners, the other for tree-care professionals – to assist people who are interested in treating high-value ash trees against emerald ash borer. Download the guides at eab.russell.wisc.edu/eab-news-and-resources/#Management_Factsheets.

Water Still Dropping

As of June 4, Lake Michigan had dropped an inch from early May and was down a whopping 20 inches from the record monthly high set last June. Despite the huge drop during the past year, Lake Michigan was still 14 inches above its 100-year average and 46 inches above the record low, set in 1964.

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