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Lake Tides

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​Volume 33 No. 1 Winter 2008


Today's Catch

Fishing Tournaments and AIS

It is 5 a.m. The mist is rising off the water and the sound of the birds greeting the new day in that space between darkness and light has begun. I can see the water now, an occasional fish jumps, ducks glide by and I hear a loon in the distance. My reverie is broken by the sound of tires on the gravel entrance to the boat landing. I grab my clipboard and flashlight and leave the truck to greet the lake’s first visitors today - a fishing tournament team…

In 2004 and 2005, approximately 20,000 anglers competed in Wisconsin fishing tournaments with prize values in excess of $2 million each year. On the plus side, these tournaments can benefit the local economy, provide biologists with fish population data, and promote sport fishing and conservation. On the other hand, some controversy has arisen over concerns about negative impacts on fish, other lake users and the water resource itself. You would think that those involved in fishing tournaments would be at the forefront of stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), but are they? Do tournament anglers consistently follow the AIS prevention steps?
Tournament anglers, like all sportsmen, realize that in order to maintain their sport, conservation of the ecosystem is paramount. There are individuals almost religious in their zeal to protect the resource, but others who do not grasp the value of taking the AIS prevention steps. Fishing tournaments, especially the larger or regional events, can become "the perfect storm" by increasing the opportunity for the spread of AIS in a short period of time. A large number of boats and anglers may arrive simultaneously, some from infested waters and some from out of state who are unaware of Wisconsin’s AIS issues or rules.
In the Northwoods from 2005-2006, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff and local lake volunteers saw 90-95% of tournament anglers launching with clean equipment. During the 2007 season, in the same area, the compliance was slightly lower. It is unclear why there was a decrease during this past season, especially on the second day of a two-day tournament. This was surprising in view of the recent discovery of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) in Wisconsin inland lakes and the related media blitz. Another surprising discovery is that the general public had a higher compliance rate than tournament anglers.
Over the last few years, the DNR AIS staff in Rhinelander developed a tournament protocol. It included contacting the sponsoring permit holders, making arrangements for addressing the anglers at rules meetings, informing affected lake groups or AIS committees within the counties, making available educational materials and performing watercraft inspections. The following language was also added to the permit requirements: "Prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species: Tournament organizers must inform all participants that prior to launch, all boats, livewells, bait containers and bilges must either be air-dried for five days, or rinsed thoroughly with hot tap water to discourage microscopic zebra mussels, zooplankton, and other ’hitchhikers’. State laws prohibit launching boats and trailers with attached zebra mussels or aquatic plants."

Partnering with Tournament Anglers

Your local DNR fish biologist can provide you with a listing of permitted tournaments in your area. The permit contains information on the dates and times, contact information, headquarters location, waterbodies and species to be fished, and release format. Contacting the organizer and enlisting the cooperation of the tournament participants in protecting your lake is vital. The organizer may relinquish the job of informing the anglers about AIS to you, thereby giving you the chance to be a passionate advocate for your lake. Most tournament organizers welcome the assistance in spreading the message about AIS.
Often when the anglers know there will be inspections, they take extra care in arriving with clean equipment. The inspection team should plan on arriving at least 90 minutes before the start of a tournament. Keep good records, and visit the organizer after the launch to share feedback, both positive and negative. The organizers will inform the anglers of your findings, which can lead to a better understanding that our common ground is preserving the water resource. Inspecting equipment and talking to the anglers at take-out can be productive in seeing what plant species are on equipment and listening to the observations of the anglers.

Help is Available

The Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) program is an integral part of stemming the spread of aquatic invasive species. If your lake or river organizations has this program in place, your volunteers have the opportunity to not only inspect equipment, but provide educational information to tournament anglers and other lake users. On some weekends DNR inspectors found themselves with tournaments on four or five different lakes. The CBCW volunteers were invaluable in assisting DNR staff in performing watercraft inspections and speaking to these anglers. For more information on CBCW, go to
Although tournament anglers and other lake users may not always agree, they can partner to take on the important task of preventing the spread of aquatic invasives. By following the statewide AIS prevention steps, and encouraging others to do the same, we can make a positive difference for the health of Wisconsin waters.
Approaching the first anglers of the day, I ask, "Hi, how are you this morning, are you all ready?" "Wow, you beat us here today," they say. "What time did you get up?" I relish the moment of camaraderie with this "repeat" team. It is easy to feel the excitement of these two anglers. I say, "You know the drill. Where was your equipment last?" The response, "In Michigan" makes my heart skip a beat. "Not to fear," they reply with pride. "We washed and flushed everything out with bleach water - no zebra mussels, no weeds. See for yourself." I look and find nothing amiss, thank them and wish them good luck as I turn to the next set of headlights coming toward the landing.
By Lori Regni
Lake Leader, Crew 1

Permit Required

If a fishing tournament meets all of the following criteria, a permit is required and an application is made to the area DNR fish biologist:
  • There are over 20 boats or 40 individuals
  • Anglers are required to fish on the same date(s)
  • A total value of prizes awarded based on the catch exceeds $500.00

New rules beginning in 2009

A permit is needed if ANY of the following apply:
  • More than $10,000 in prizes are awarded
  • More than 20 boats or 100 anglers participate
  • Tournament targets trout on classified trout waters
  • Fish are weighed off-site and then released live

Statewide AIS Prevention Steps

What can you do to aid our prevention efforts? Take these important steps every time you leave the landing and encourage others to do the same.
  • Inspect and remove aquatic plants and animals
  • Drain all water from boat and equipment, including bait buckets
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in trash
  • Ice your catch don’t leave landing with any live fish, bait or fish eggs
  • Rinse boat and equipment with hot/high pressure water
    OR Dry boat for at least 5 days

Be Heard

Consider making a difference in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Contact your legislators and ask them to join you in support of strong laws and rules that would:
  • Require boaters to remove all aquatic plants and animals and drain all water from their boat and gear before leaving the boat landing, and
  • Make it illegal to transport any watercraft, trailer or other equipment if it has an aquatic animal or plant attached.

Welcome Patrick

UW-Extension's New Lake Specialist

The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership would like to welcome a new member to our lakes team, Patrick Goggin. Pat and his wife Mariquita Sheehan hail from Phelps, Wisconsin in Vilas County - smack-dab in the middle of the third largest concentration of freshwater lakes in the world. A native of Neenah, he received a Master of Science in Natural Resources from UW-Stevens Point in 1998 and also studied at the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison.
Over the last 20 years Goggin has worked on water issues throughout Wisconsin. Pat is skilled in a number of disciplines, including restoration ecology of prairies, wetlands, shorelands, water resources, conservation biology, environmental education, botany fieldwork, and local natural resource management. Pat comes to us from his position as the Vilas County Conservationist where he led a team busy energizing and assisting lake folks. Goggin worked on enhancing cost-share assistance to area landowners for conservation practices and bolstering educational outreach to lake groups. He specialized in creating policy and programs that conserved natural resources and provided technical assistance to local elected officials and citizens engaged in lake issues.
Pat is looking forward to working on lake issues and education with the people of Wisconsin. We are glad to have Pat working with UW-Extension Lakes and the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership. He can be reached at 715-295-8903 or


A Reflection of Our History

An article in Lake Tides (vol. 32, no. 1), "Paleolimnology: History in the Mucking," discussed how sediment cores are taken and utilized to understand past changes in lakes. This article will take us on a historical journey that links changes on the landscape with environmental impacts to our lakes, which are revealed in the lake sediments.

For almost 10,000 years little changed in the nature of Wisconsin Lakes. Then, in a 150 year blink-of-a-geologic-eye, a dramatic transformation occurred. During the mid-nineteenth century, European settlers began arriving in the Upper Midwest. Native American inhabitants had been hunter-gatherers with sparse and casual crop cultivation, but the European colonists practiced row farming at a much more intensive level. Clues to the types and extent of these past land use practices can be found if we know what to look for in the sediments of our lakes.

Agricultural impacts

During the 1800s, farming was tough. It meant cutting down forests and planting around stumps until they could be pulled. Work days were from dawn until dusk, and machinery was crude. As a result of these rugged conditions, a workable farm field could take years to clear. Starvation was often "waiting in the wings," and people were happy if they could produce enough products to last a Wisconsin winter. Even though it was small in scale compared to today’s standards, the intensification of farming was huge when contrasted by the Native Americans’ impact on the land. The opening of the forest allowed large amounts of sediments and nutrients to be exported from the land to the water.
Major events in the history of our country, like World War II, had definite impacts on our lakes. World War II marked another period in which agricultural practices intensified. To support the war, some factories converted their production efforts to the manufacturing of ammunition. It was soon discovered that the same chemicals used to make explosives could be used to make synthetic fertilizers. After the war, factories easily made the switch from turning out ammunition to producing synthetic fertilizers. These new fertilizers were cheap and readily available, and they became widely used in farming operations. The intensification of farming practices and use of fertilizers resulted in a higher potential for soil erosion. Nearly all lakes with significant agriculture in their watershed experienced profound changes, as sedimentation rates greatly increased and phosphorus levels rose. Ultimately, these revolutions in agriculture resulted in decreased water clarity and larger and more frequent algal blooms.
Lakes experienced a resurgence of nutrients during the 1970-90s, because of an increased emphasis on "banking" phosphorus in the soils. The government recommended that more phosphorus be added to farm fields than plants truly needed. The idea was that this reservoir of phosphorus would provide a buffer for agricultural productivity. However, in reality, much of this phosphorus washed off the land and eventually ended up in lakes. The result? You guessed it…large declines in water clarity and greater algal blooms.

Shoreline Development

In addition to agriculture, there was another source of nutrients that would come to impact our lakes…development. Our love for lakes has fed a slow, but steady, increase in cottage and home construction, starting in the early part of the twentieth century. In southeastern Wisconsin, improvements in highways and automobiles allowed people to live farther from their work places. With cheap, easy transportation came the construction of larger permanent homes around area lakes. While cottages constructed during the early part of the twentieth century delivered relatively small amounts of sediment and nutrients, the "reconstruction" in the second half of the twentieth century resulted in considerable increases in the amounts of sediments and nutrients coming into the lakes. Although this increased development was detrimental to the lake’s water quality, it produced less runoff than agricultural activities. Therefore, lakes where the nearby land use was converted from agricultural to residential often experienced improved water clarity.
In the northern part of the state, cottage development was nearly absent until the late 1920s. Prior to this time, widespread logging was the cause of major impacts on the land and water. After the logging and farming bust, there was a push to promote tourism, which resulted in the building of seasonal cottages around many lakes. These early cottages were generally small, with few lawns, and had little impact on the lake’s nutrient levels. While habitat alteration undoubtedly occurred, it was not readily apparent through sediment core research. During the last few decades, there has been a large influx of people to the northwoods. Many seasonal cottages have been replaced by larger, permanent, year-round homes. Lawn care is much more intensive, and housing density around lakes has greatly increased.
These recent developments have led to large changes in shoreland habitat. Downed trees, which provide important habitat for the fish and insect communities, are often removed. Shoreline vegetation has undergone large scale removal or alterations, resulting in alarming declines in amphibians and changes in the bird community. Out in the middle of the lake, there have also been major changes in habitat. Prior to redevelopment and increased housing density, the plant community in many lakes consisted of low growing plants in low densities. With increased development came a shift to larger and denser plant communities. Sediment cores have almost universally shown this change. Recent studies by Dr. Susan Borman have verified this trend.
Dr. Borman examined plant records from the 1930s (seasonal cottages) and compared them to present day plant communities. She documented large changes in the plant community from low growing, sparse species to those that grow closer to the surface and are much more dense. Interestingly, cores taken from lakes without development do not exhibit a change in the plant community.
Sediment cores clearly show that Wisconsin lakes have undergone many changes during the last 150 years. Early colonization resulted in small increases in nutrients and large changes in habitat, specifically in the flourishing vascular plant community. Beginning in the 1940s, changes in our society and agricultural practices resulted in large increases in sediment and nutrient delivery to lakes. Thanks to soil conservation practices, soil erosion rates have generally declined during the last four decades. However, nutrient delivery has continued to increase because of the use of synthetic fertilizers. Shoreline development has also resulted in habitat alteration in the lake, and aquatic plant communities have been changed. Time has made it clear that what we do on the land will determine what happens to our lakes. With our history of unintended consequences, are we finally learning to plan ahead?
By Paul Garrison, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


March 1-3, 2008 – Midwest Aquatic Plant Management Society Annual Conference. Kalahari Waterpark Convention Center, Sandusky, OH.
For more information:

March 6-7, 2008 – American Water Resources Association (AWRA) 2008 Wisconsin Section Meeting. "Great Waters of Wisconsin" Held at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield, WI, with the Wisconsin Ground Water Association Spring Conference to follow.
For more information:

March 7-8, 2008 – Wisconsin Ground Water Association (WGWA) 2008 Spring Conference. "Water Policy and Management" Held at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield, WI immediately following the annual meeting of AWRA. For more information:

March 17, 2008 – Early bird deadline for the 2008 Wisconsin Lakes Convention. For more information go to

April 4-6, 2008 – Lake Home and Cabin Show, Madison.
For more information:
May 1, 2008 – Grants Deadlines.
Lake Protection and Lake Classification Grants
River Protection Planning Grants
River Protection Management Grants
June 8, 2008 - Lake Fair – West Central WI
Join lake enthusiasts and professionals from 12:00-4:00pm at Lake Wissota State Park near Chippewa Falls. For more information:
Mary Jo Fleming at or (715)723-0822


It’s easy to become hopeless.
So people must have hope: the
human brain, the resilience
of nature, the energy of
young people and the sort of
inspiration that you see from
so many hundreds of people
who tackle tasks that are
impossible and never give up
and succeed.
~ Dr. Jane Goodall

Lake Tides -- 905032

College of Natural Resources
University of Wisconsin
800 Reserve Street
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Volume 33 No. 1
Winter 2008
Wisconsin Lakes Partnership

Published Quarterly
Phone: 715-346-2116
Editor: Amy Kowalski
Design & Layout: Amy Kowalski
Contributing Editors: Robert Korth and Erin Henegar, UWEX Lakes; Carroll Schaal, DNR
Photos by: Robert Korth (unless otherwise noted)
Illustrations by: Carol Watkins, Chris Whalen
The contents of Lake Tides do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of UW-Extension, UWSP-CNR, the Wisconsin DNR or the Wisconsin Association of Lakes. Mention of trade names, commercial products, private businesses or publicly financed programs does not constitute endorsement. Lake Tides welcomes articles, letters or other news items for publication. Articles in Lake Tides may be reprinted or reproduced for further distribution with acknowledgment to the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership. If you need this material in an alternative format, please contact our office. No state tax revenue supported the printing of this document.

©1993- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point