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Free Fishing Days: Mark it down on your calendar—Illinois Free Fishing Days this year will be June 10-13.

Many organizations use the four-day promotion of sportfishing in Illinois to conduct fishing derbies and other special events. Organizations interested in receiving educational and promotional materials to be used as part of a Free Fishing Days event, or for more information, can contact Gary Watson, DNR Free Fishing Days event coordinator, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, 62702-1271, phone (217) 782-9990.

Free Fishing Days provides anglers with the opportunity to fish without first purchasing a fishing license, salmon stamp or inland trout stamp. Free Fishing Days is co-sponsored by the Illinois DNR Plano Molding Co., manufacturer of fishing tackle boxes.

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Fee Increases Sought: It’s no secret Wisconsin is trying to drum up support for increasing hunting and fishing fees. This from Randy Stark, Wisconsin DNR Chief Conservation Warden:

“License fees pay for $15.3 million of the law enforcement program’s $23.7 million budget and 154 of its 226 positions. The additional 72 positions and $8.4 million were provided through the Environmental and Recycling Funds, boat, snowmobile and ATV registration fees, federal grants and general tax money.

“Right now, we are at a crossroads in fulfilling our mission. Current fishing and hunting license fees, the backbone of our support, have remained at the same price for some licenses since 1992 and 1997, yet inflation, fuel prices and other operational costs continue to rise.

“Budget constraints have significantly reduced warden response capacity. Our field operations budget is eight percent smaller now than in 1994 without adjustments for inflation. Yet mileage costs increased 16 percent since 1994. We were only able to fund patrol operations 18 percent below 1995 levels.

“We also have 30 vacancies due to staff retirements, people leaving for better job security, military call-ups and the inability to hire recruit classes in 2003 and 2004. We have 10 recruits in training, but 10 more wardens are eligible to retire this year so our vacancy problem will continue.

“With increased license fees, weâ™ll be able to reduce vacancies and fill positions, assuring warden coverage statewide.

“Without an increase, we face bigger holes in our patrol operations, lower compliance rates, more opportunity for poachers, reduced public safety, and less public cooperation because of our reduced capacity to respond to complaints.”

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Iowa Outlaws Culling: Anglers fishing Iowa waters no longer are allowed to sort through their catch to release smaller fish when a larger fish is caught, said the Iowa DNR. The practice, called culling, now is illegal, except for permitted bass fishing tournaments.

“Fish that have been held for a period of time on a stringer, in a fish basket, bucket or even many live wells do not all survive after being released back into the water,” said Marion Conover, chief of the Iowa DNR fisheries bureau. “By not allowing this practice, we hope to reduce fish mortality.”

The new law says any fish taken into possession by holding in a live well, on a stringer or in other fish holding devices is part of the daily bag limit. Fish may be released from possession so long as they are not replaced.

The law also says that once the daily bag limit of a particular species is reached, fishing for that species can continue, as long as all the fish of that species caught are immediately released.

Anglers can pick up a copy of the 2005 Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet highlighting the new regulations, the fishing seasons and other information at Iowa DNR offices and wherever licenses are sold.

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Back-to-Back Wins: Reigning FLW Walleye Tour champion Nick Johnson of Elmwood, Wis., won the 2005 Wal-Mart season opener April 9 on Bull Shoals Lake, Ark., to become the first pro in the tourâ™s history to win back-to-back tournaments. His first victory was last year on the Mississippi River in Moline, Ill., in the title tourney, good for $300,000.

Through four days of tough competition, and an even tougher Bull Shoals bite, Johnson caught six walleyes weighing 20 pounds to win by a three-pound, 10-ounce margin over Todd Riley of Amery, Wis. Johnson earned $80,000 despite being blanked on the final day—a day that will go down in walleye-tourney history as one of the stingiest ever.

Just one walleye weighing 2-3 was brought to the scale by the 10 pro and co-angler finalists. On opening day, anglers landed 32 walleyes followed by 29 walleyes on Day Two and 21 walleyes on Day Three, making this the toughest overall bite in the tourâ™s five-year history.

William Brewer of Omaha, Neb., won the co-angler division with five walleyes weighing 18-12. The next tour stop will be April 27-30 on Lake Erie out of Port Clinton, Ohio, followed by May 18-21 on Green Bay out of Green Bay, Wis.

The pros and co-anglers are fishing to get back to the tour championship on the Mississippi at Moline Sept. 28–Oct. 1. For more info,&nbbsp;visit or call (270) 252-1000.

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BASS Changes Tourneys: BASS has announced sweeping changes, including a new format for the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Tour, a revolutionary tiered entry fee system that will change the way competitive fishing is staged and new criteria by which anglers will qualify for the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic and next year’s three other BASS majors. Details are available from

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Florida Gets Games: The ESPN Great Outdoor Games, held last year in Madison, Wis., will converge on central Florida and Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex to compete July 7-10. The action will be broadcast July 13-17 on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports.

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Gander Reports Increases: Minneapolis-based Gander Mountain Co. (NASDAQ: GMTN), which has a Rockford store among 82, said fourth-quarter sales increased 30.3 percent to $237.2 million and net income was $17.6 million, an increase of 42 percent.

Total sales for fiscal 2004 were $642.1 million compared to $489.4 million in fiscal 2003, an increase of 31.2 percent. The company reported net income for the year of $0.8 million, compared with net income of $0.7 million in fiscal 2003. The company opened 19 stores in fiscal 2004 versus 10 in fiscal 2003, incurring pre-opening expenses of $9.1 million in fiscal 2004 compared to $5.7 million in fiscal 2003.

The total store count was 82 at the end of the year. The company entered five new states in 2004 and now operates stores in 14 states. In fiscal 2005, the company anticipates opening 18 to 20 stores, including store relocations and consolidations.

New store growth will reinforce current markets, including markets the company entered in 2004, such as Texas and Colorado, as well as extend the company’s brand into new markets. The company plans to expand its assortment in marine accessories and boating categories, as well as expand its services with Outdoor Expeditions, offering hunting and fishing vacation packages in the U.S. and Canada.

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FLW, Chevy Linked: FLW Outdoors, a leader in professional tournament fishing, and General Motors have a strategic marketing partnership and multiyear sponsorship agreement that makes American-built Chevy vehicles the official and exclusive tow vehicle of FLW Outdoors and its 214 tournaments spread across eight tournament trails.

It will be the largest and most comprehensive partnership in FLW Outdoors and Chevyâ™s 10-year history together of creating groundbreaking promotions. Chevrolets will be tow vehicles and title sponsors at various events and there will be Chevy pro team anglers: Jimmy Houston, Dion Hibdon, Larry Nixon, Kim Stricker and Luke Clausen.

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Did You Know? Since 1985 the Illinois state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has spent more than $2.28 million on a variety of conservation, education and hunting projects.

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Tough Season for Ducks: Scientists wi

th Delta Waterfowl estimate foxes kill up to 900,000 ducks each spring on prairie nesting grounds. Egg-eating predators like skunks and raccoons are thought to destroy nine out of 10 nests in places.

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Follow “Hummers:” To track hummingbird activity, visit The site shows some hummingbirds already are in southern Illinois.

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Sporting Clay Shoot: Winnebago County Pheasants Forever again will sponsor a Spring Sporting Clay Shoot at Upland Hunt Club south of Rockford. The May 7 shoot will be both a thank you to Mike MacInerney of the club for being a supporter of PFWCIL and to help raise money for burn equipment.

Cost will be $65 per shooter for 100 round of sporting clays. Lunch also is

included. There will be awards for best scores (based on the Lewis Class System), door prizes, a tower shoot and a top gun novelty shoot.

Entry form is available in the Spring 2005 newsletter or at

Mail to Chuck Beed, 6660 Sutter Rd., Roscoe, 61073. He can be reached at

(815) 623-9615.

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Stocking Cuts? Lake Michigan anglers are enjoying the best chinook salmon fishing in years, but the population is close to overwhelming the fish it feeds on, making stocking cuts a possibility next year, biologists and fisheries experts said.

“We’ve just gone through the three best years of chinook fishing that I’ve ever experienced,” said Paul Peeters, fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin DNR, at a conference looking into the status of chinook salmon in Lake Michigan.

“I may sound a little bit like Chicken Little, but we’ve got some warning signs that we need to watch very closely,” he said, according to an Associated Press story.

Chinook salmon play the key predator role in the lake’s ecosystem and the alewife is the most important forage fish.

Last year Wisconsin anglers landed 360,991 chinook, the most of any year since 1987, and the catch from 2002 to 2004 was 950,000, a three-year record.

But the population of alewife in Lake Michigan has dropped 75 percent in the last three years, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

“That’s not a good combination,” said Randy Claramunt, fisheries biologist with the Michigan DNR. “The last time the number of chinook got out of balance with the number of alewife we had a crash.”

Biologists pay close attention to the number of chinook and other top predators in the lake. Most are well controlled through stocking, but a wild card has entered the system—natural reproduction in Michigan streams.

About 4.4 million chinook are stocked lakewide, and perhaps another 5 million are naturally reproduced in Michigan streams, said Claramunt.

To help a looming imbalance in 1998, anglers and fisheries managers agreed on a 20 percent reduction in chinook stocking. That cut is credited in helping to create the excellent fishing of the last several years.

“That’s a pretty good track record to listen up again,” said Dan Thomas of Elmhurst, president of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council.

Thomas and other sport fishing representatives were generally supportive of potential cuts as long as they are needed.

No changes will be sought for the 2005 stocking schedule, said Jim Dexter, a manager with the Michigan DNR and co-chair of the Lake Michigan Technical Committee.

Any recommendations about future reductions won’t likely come until this fall and wouldn’t be implemented until 2006, he said.

“It’s too early to make a clear decision,” said Dexter. “But if we get more red flags this year, we’ll probably need to cut the chinook stocking quotas.”

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CWD Deer Served: A white-tailed deer recently diagnosed with chronic wasting disease was eaten by as many as 350 people at a sportsmen’s dinner in Verona, N.Y., last month, according to an Associated Press story.

Oneida County officials did not discover that the animal was infected with the neurological illness until about two weeks after the Verona Fire Department’s annual Sportsmen’s Feast on March 13. The venison was served as steak, chili, stew, sausage and meat patties.

After the animal was slaughtered, the head was sent for required testing to state labs, where the disease was diagnosed.

Ken Fanelli, spokesman for the Oneida County Health Department, said the deer “showed no sign of sickness” when it was donated. He said people who ate the venison do not need to worry about contracting the disease, but urged them to contact state or local health officials. “There’s no indication whatsoever that the disease has been linked to human illness of any kind,” Fanelli said.

The disease was first discovered in New York in two white-tailed deer that had been part of captive herds in Oneida County, east of Syracuse. The second positive case was discovered in a small herd that had taken in animals from the herd that yielded the initial confirmed case, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The owners were John Palmer and Martin Proper, both of Westmoreland, and the agency asked anyone who exchanged live animals or venison with them to call the Division of Animal Industry.

The agency said deer from both herds will be destroyed and tested. Six other herds that may have come into contact with the diseased herds are in quarantine.

The Department of Environmental Conservation also will begin testing wild deer, a spokesman said.

Chronic wasting disease is a degenerative neurological illness that is deadly to deer and elk species. CWD has been detected in both wild and captive deer and elk populations in isolated regions of North America. To date, CWD has been found in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming in the United States, and Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada. Symptoms include weight loss, stumbling, tremors, lack of coordination and listlessness.

New York State has 433 establishments raising 9,600 deer and elk in captivity. In the wild, DEC estimates there are approximately one million deer statewide.

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Golf Benefit June 7: Golf reservations and hole sponsorships are available for the annual Illinois Conservation Foundation Downstate Golf Benefit June 7 at the Rail Golf Club in Sherman, just north of Springfield. The proceeds support youth hunting, fishing and other educational programs throughout Illinois.

Registration fee of $150 per golfer (or $500 per foursome) includes greens fees and cart, lunch, dinner, beverages, prizes and awards. Hole sponsorships are available for $500 each. For more info or to register, call (217) 785-7181 or visit

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Morel Hunting: The 10th annual Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship and Spongy Fungi Festival in Magnolia will be held May 6-7.

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Expensive, Deadly Toll: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that last year there were more than 1.5 million animal/vehicle collisions that caused $1.5 billion in damage. About 350 people died in those crashes, and thousands were injured.

The toll on wildlife may be far greater than earlier believed. Officials say as many as 50 percent of all animal/vehicle collisions never are reported because no one was hurt and the driver didn’t want to involve insurance companies. A Wisconsin official said nearly twice as many deer are collected along roadways than are listed in accident reports.

In some suburban areas, the problem is a growing number of wildlife, especially deer. Crashes also are increasing because there’s a growing amount of traffic in formerly wild areas. In 2001, Americans drove nearly 2.8 billion road miles, 30 percent more than in 1990, the institute reported.

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Catfish Tourney Ready: Everything is pretty well set for the Rock Valley Anglers’ 14th annual Rock River Catfish Tournament scheduled Saturday, July 23. The Verdi Club on North Madison Street below the Jefferson Street bridge again will be headquarters.

There again will be two flights—midnight to 6 a.m. and 6 a.m. to noon. E

ntry fee is $5 per angler per flight, and anglers can fish in both flights. Trophies will be awarded in each flight for heaviest channel catfish, heaviest flathead cat and heaviest three-fish stringer.

Top prize will be $1,000 awarded by drawing. All entries will be handled by the Curve, 4640 N. 2nd St., Loves Park, and entry blanks already are printed and available.

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Crappie Circuit: The Illinois team crappie fishing series sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the Illinois Conservation Foundation will hold a May 7 event on the Fox Chain O’Lakes in northeastern Illinois.

Teams consist of three members, two of whom can fish any tournament. The tournaments are limited to 100 boats. Entry fee is $100 per boat per event. Remaining events: Quad Cities May 21 and the Illinois State Championship June 4-5. To register or for more inform, call Gary Watson at (217) 782-9990 or go to the DNR web site at

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Shooting Event: The Illinois Conservation Foundation’s second annual Director’s Team Challenge shooting event to benefit ICF youth shooting sports programs is scheduled May 13-14 at the Bi-State Sportsmen’s Association in Colona. Entry information from (217) 785-2003 or the Web site of

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Lake Michigan Tourney: The first Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Memorial Governor’s Cup Fishing Invitational will be held June 17-18 in the Lake Michigan waters off Waukegan. The salmon and trout tournament proceeds will benefit the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund.

The tournament will be held in honor of Geoff Morris, a U.S. Marine from Gurnee who was killed in combat in April 2004. The entry fee is $550 and is tax deductible. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will present the awards at a dinner hosted by the City of Waukegan immediately following the tournament June 18. For more info, check the Web site of

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3-D Archery Shoot: A 3-D archery shoot is scheduled Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8, at Rochelle Wildlife Conservation Club, 3501 Sweeney Road, Chana. Registration starts at 8 a.m. both days. Shoots also are scheduled June 4-5, July 2-3, Aug. 6-7 and Sept. 3-4. More info from Tom O’Brien at (815) 562-5932.

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Steak Frys: Rochelle Wildlife Conservation Club, 3501 Sweeney Road, Chana, has monthly steak frys that are open to the public. They are held Saturday evenings and reservations must be made by 5 p.m. the previous Friday to Larry Watson at (815) 562-4589. Steak fry dates are May 14, June 11, July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8.

Other club events during 2005 include an all-day work day May 22; kids fishing derby, June 26; and turkey shoot, Oct. 23. Al Ankney is club president, reachable at (815) 562-6502.

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Deer Hunt Qualifying: Qualifying for the 2005 Boone County Conservation District archery deer hunt in BCCD preserves will be held in May. More info from (815) 547-7935 or

From the April 20-26, 2005, issue

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