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Kevin Naze column: No end in sight to this year's ice fishing

Feb. 28, 2014
 

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Ethan Woodgate's 101/2-pound walleye was the heaviest in a tournament headquartered at Little Sturgeon last weekend. It was also the monthly leader at Howie's Tackle, where there photo was taken. / Special to the Advocate

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The 10-day forecast shows a possible thaw near the tail end, but we've been teased before.

Our record-setting winter of subzero temperatures and the current week's forecast doesn't offer a whole lot of hope for a meltdown any time soon, meaning ice anglers could be enjoying their sport well into April this year.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, but there's a pile of snow to melt before the sun and any warmer air can even begin to chip away at what is close to three feet of ice in many areas.

This is the last weekend before spring spawning rules kick in for walleyes. The most drastic change is on the Fox River at Green Bay and De Pere, where a one-fish bag limit with a 28-inch minimum size limit begins Monday. The rule elsewhere starting Monday is one walleye at least 15 inches long.

There's still two weeks to enjoy yellow perch fishing before the spring spawning closure begins, and many Door anglers will be soaking minnows, wax worms and wigglers (if they can find 'em) at Little Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer Harbor, Sturgeon Bay and other areas now until then.

Today is the opener for lake trout on Lake Michigan, the only trout and salmon species with a closed season (November-February). However, with all the ice shelves along the lakeshore, it'll be a while before we'll see boats trolling for trout near the beaches. On the bayside, it could be mid-April or later before the ice is gone. Again, a lot depends on the weather this month.

Andrew Marcelle weighed the heaviest fish in last weekend's Walleyes for Tomorrow ice fishing contest, a 19.56-pound northern pike. Other winners were Ethan Woodgate with a 10.52-pound walleye, Ryan Peters' 3.76-pound whitefish and Jim Maccaux's 1.81-pound perch.

More on ice fishing: Ice fishing news from around the state | Your ice fishing photos | Build a map | Read ice fishing reports

Deer hunt changes

The ability of any licensed hunter to use a crossbow this fall is the biggest of many changes coming to the Wisconsin whitetail scene this year.

Those who do take up crossbow deer hunting will share the same dates as regular archers for at least two years before the DNR and legislature review what, if any, impacts the new season had. Crossbow users will need to buy a separate license at the same price as an archery or gun deer license. For an extra $3, they can hunt with both crossbow and regular bow.

Other major changes include managing deer by county, with county deer stakeholder committees formed to work with local DNR biologists and foresters; a limited rollout of DMAP — the Deer Management Assistance Program — in hopes of fostering more communication between wildlife managers, foresters and hunters/landowners; and separate antlerless tags for private and public land.

The winter of 2013-14 will likely smash winter severity index records in many areas, and there's already talk of "buck-only" hunting in northern regions this fall.

Bow hunters will no longer receive a free statewide antlerless permit with archery hunting licenses. That “extra” tag dated back to days long gone when archers got both a buck and an antlerless tag, and continued even after an additional free tag was added for herd control zones.

However, each deer hunting license will still include a free antlerless tag for use in the Central Farmland (includes Door and Kewaunee counties) and Southern Farmland zones. Those tags are not weapon specific, meaning they could be used in the archery, crossbow or gun deer season, but only in the farmland zones.

Each deer hunting license (archery, crossbow, gun) will be valid for one buck statewide. Hunters who purchase both archery and crossbow licenses will be issued one buck tag for the two licenses.

Bonus buck — the ability to earn one extra buck tag by shooting an antlerless deer — will not take place in our area. The bonus buck rule and holiday gun hunt — the latter which was shortened by three days, and switched to antlerless-only for this year — will only take place in the Southern Farmland Zone.

Deer will still be registered in person this year at the more than 600 stations spread out across the state. Other registration methods will also be tested, and hunters will be randomly selected to participate using various automated registration methods.

Starting in 2015, all hunters will choose from a variety of methods to register deer that may include telephone, internet and in-person registration. Some deer registration stations may be maintained throughout the state to collect age and sex data, and CWD samples.

The four-day, antlerless-only gun deer hunt in December will be held in the Central Farmland and Central Forest Zone units only.

There's a chance that the emergency rules put in place for 2014 may change once the permanent rule is proposed. The DNR will take public input on a permanent rule later this year.

More on hunting: Hunting headlines | Browse big buck photos | Watch Deer Camp Live | More hunting photos | Registration station map

Disabled fishing

Challenge the Outdoors Inc. is a nonprofit group serving the recreational needs and desires of physically challenged sportspersons in Northeastern Wisconsin.

CTO's 16th anniversary Sporting Clay Shoot and Benefit is set for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 5 at J&H Game Farm west of Navarino. A free all-you-can-eat meal is served after your round of clays, and there are many raffles.

One of the group's many outings for members each year is a fishing trip on Lake Michigan. Two more boats are needed this year, and those who assist are reimbursed their fuel expenses.

To learn more about the group, visit www.ctoforme.org. To offer your services in getting physically challenged anglers out on the water July 12 at Algoma, call Judy at (920) 336-1934 or email palj22@att.net.

New licenses

If you're one of the hundreds of area hunters who travels to Michigan's Upper Peninsula each fall, you'll want to know of a new rule change regarding licenses. All non-residents are now required to purchase a $151 base license, which includes small game hunting. From there, the options vary widely. Most will simply add deer for another $20.

New this year, the separate firearm and archery deer licenses have been replaced by the single license, valid for all deer seasons except the early and late antlerless seasons.

— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be reached by emailing wildtimes@wizunwired.net or calling (920) 883-9792.

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