By Roger Sabota
The 2016 musky fishing season has opened across the northern portion of Wisconsin. For years the opening of muskies in the northern part of the range of muskies has opened two weeks later than the opening for other species of fish. The reason for the later opening is that it is believed that the later opening for the northern range of muskies will provide the opportunity for them to finish spawning. Some years that happens while other years the spawning is delayed.
The spawning process is governed by the temperature of the water. Those years when the water warms early the big fish will spawn early. Other years when the water warms slowly the process will be delayed.
In the spring I occasionally enjoy sitting on our dock where I can observe various ducks, geese, loons and other wildlife preparing to raise another family of their species.
On rare occasions I have been privileged to watch muskies as the males escort a female into the shallow areas with a muddy bottom as they go about their spawning process. The shallow water over a muddy bottom will be the warmest water in the area. Usually the males will flank the female and continue to nudge her to get the eggs loose and flowing out of her. The eggs are scattered in a random fashion and the males fertilize the eggs as they are scattered. The female then simply swims away. Muskies do not care for their spawn.
Many of our readers are aware that the female in the world of fisheries is the largest of the species.
Contrary to the method of spawning used by muskies, when bass spawn a depression is made over a gravel bottom by the female, creating a nest. After she deposits the eggs in the nest the male will fertilize them and guard that nest for some time after the eggs are deposited.
Earlier this week I attended an all day workshop hosted by the DNR fish biologists in Stevens Point at the Schmeeckle Reserve on the UW Stevens Point campus. I serve on the Musky Study Committee as a representative of the WI Conservation Congress.
Twelve fish biologists discussed their programs designed to provide more opportunities for anglers in Wisconsin. Many years ago when I started musky fishing the muskies range was limited primarily to northern Wisconsin. Today that range has been dramatically expanded throughout the state. This expansion is a result of the work of the fish biologists working in cooperation with the numerous Musky clubs in Wisconsin and surrounding states.
Some of my favorite birds to watch are the loons, osprey and an occasional eagle.
The loons are very secretive about where they nest. They make their nest in thick cover, usually in a secluded spot on the edge of the water. While fishing we will sometimes watch as the male and female change positions as they take turns sitting on the nest giving the other partner a chance to find food. A number of years ago we were privileged to watch a pair of loons out in the middle of the lake as they fed their chick a minnow. That chick was larger than the little puff balls that we see riding on the back of an adult loon.
Watching fawns is my favorite wildlife observation. Because I spend a lot of time in the boat I have frequently had the chance to watch as the fawn or fawns nurse as the doe stands in shallow water. She is constantly on the alert watching for danger. It is amazing how quickly they can disappear in the brushy undercover near the shoreline.
We would remind readers that all wildlife should be observed from a distance.
As I talk with friends and our family it is obvious that many of us will be involved in water sports this summer. These activities can vary from swimming, water skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking canoeing, etc. to just sitting by the lake enjoying the beautiful scenery.
As summer soon gets into full swing we need to be cautious. According to the DNR last year in Wisconsin prior to Memorial Day there had been one boating-related death. This year prior to Memorial Day there have already been 13 boating-related deaths. In this column several weeks ago I discussed the importance of wearing personal flotation devices while participating in water sports.
Related to that topic I encourage you to stop down at the Hodag Park boat landing. There is a box located there with children’s life jackets that can be borrowed, used and returned. This is part of the “Kids Don’t Float” program sponsored by the DNR plus several local organizations. Personal flotation devices should be tested periodically for their effectiveness. Many of our PFD’s are used year after year assuming that they continue to be effective and they may not be. It is important to check them.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.