Week of January 30, 2006












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NASA Says 2005 Was Warmest Year on Record

WASHINGTON, Reuters — Last year was the warmest recorded on Earth's surface, and it was unusually hot in the Arctic, U.S. space agency NASA said Tuesday.  All five of the hottest years since modern record-keeping began in the 1890s occurred within the last decade, according to analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.


In descending order, the years with the highest global average annual temperatures were 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004, NASA said in a statement.


"It's fair to say that it probably is the warmest since we have modern meteorological records," said Drew Shindell of the NASA institute in New York City.  "Using indirect measurements that go back farther, I think it's even fair to say that it's the warmest in the last several thousand years."


Some researchers had expected 1998 would be the hottest year on record, notably because a strong El Nino -- a warm-water pattern in the eastern Pacific -- boosted global temperatures.  


But Shindell said last year was slightly warmer than 1998, even without any extraordinary weather pattern. Temperatures

in the Arctic were unusually warm in 2005, NASA said.  "That very anomalously warm year (1998) has become the norm," Shindell said in a telephone interview.  "The rate of warming has been so rapid that this temperature that we only got when we had a real strong El Nino now has become something that we've gotten without any unusual worldwide weather disturbance."


Over the past 30 years, Earth has warmed by 1.08 degrees F , NASA said. Over the past 100 years, it has warmed by 1.44 degrees F.


Shindell, in line with the view held by most scientists, attributed the rise to emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, with the burning of fossil fuels being the primary source.  The 21st century could see global temperature increases of 6 to 10 degrees F, Shindell said.  "That will really bring us up to the warmest temperatures the world has experienced probably in the last million years," he said.


To understand whether the Earth is cooling or warming, scientists use data from weather stations on land, satellite measurements of sea surface temperature since 1982, and data from ships for earlier years.

Scientists Discover World's Smallest Fish

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Scientists say they have discovered the world's smallest known fish in a threatened swampland in Indonesia. The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton.


Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long. The males have enlarged pelvic fins and muscles that may be used in reproduction, researchers wrote in a report published Wednesday by the Royal Society in London.


"This is one of the strangest fish that I've seen in my whole career,' said Ralf Britz, a zoologist at the Natural History Museum in London. "It's tiny, it lives in acid and it has these bizarre grasping fins. I hope we'll have time to find out more

about them before their habitat disappears completely."


The fish are found in an acidic peat swamp on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Indonesian peat swamps are under threat from fires lit by plantation owners and farmers as well as unchecked development and farming. Researchers say several populations of the tiny fish, Paedocypris progenetica, have already been lost, according to the Natural History Museum.


According to researchers, the little fish live in dark, tea-colored water at least 100 times more acidic than rainwater. Such acidic swamps were once thought to harbor few animals, but recent research has revealed that they are highly diverse and home to many unique species.


Bush Names New Coast Guard Commandant

President George W. Bush on January 20 announced his intention to nominate Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen to be Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Allen currently serves as Chief of Staff for the US Coast Guard. He also served as the Principal Federal Official overseeing Hurricane Katrina response and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region.


Allen previously served as Commander of the US Coast Guard Atlantic Area, Fifth US Coast Guard District, and the US Maritime Defense Zone, Atlantic Fleet. In addition, he led the

Atlantic forces in the US Coast Guard's response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Prior to that position, Allen commanded the Seventh US Coast Guard District and was the Director of Resources for the US Coast Guard. Earlier in his career, he served as Group Commander and Captain of the Port for Long Island Sound in Long Island, New York.


Allen received his bachelor's degree from the US Coast Guard Academy, his first master's degree from The George Washington University, and his second master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

US bank bans loans to developers using seized land

A regional US bank has banned lending to commercial developers who plan to build on land seized from private citizens, in protest against the strengthening of government powers to make compulsory purchases.


The decision by BB&T, one of the largest banks in North Carolina, followed a controversial Supreme Court ruling last June that empowered governments to seize private property to make room for commercial developments.   “The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it is just plain wrong,” said John Allison, chief executive of BB&T.


The lending restrictions appeared designed to tap into widespread public anger about the Supreme Court ruling, which critics believe undermines a fundamental part of American freedom.  “One of the most basic rights of every

citizen is to keep what they own,” said Allison.


Supporters argue that compulsory purchases are sometimes necessary to prevent a small group of individuals from blocking developments that could benefit entire communities. But critics said the case could be used to justify the seizure of any property that could be replaced by something of greater economic value.


More than 30 states have either passed or are considering legislation placing restrictions on compulsory purchases since the ruling.


Ken Chalk, chief credit officer at BB&T, said the bank’s new policy was a “matter of principle” rather than a business or legal decision. BB&T operates more than 1,400 branches. It is believed to be the first financial institution to make such a policy change.

Great Backyard Bird Count is back!

 New York-- The ninth annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is taking place February 17–20, with a special opportunity to “Count Birds with a Buddy!” The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are asking birders to share their passion with someone new to this wonderful pastime. At the same time, every participant contributes to scientific knowledge by joining the only count that creates a mid-winter snapshot of what the birds are doing across North America.


No fee or advance registration is necessary, and participants can count birds for as little or as long as they wish. They note the highest number of each species they see at any one time and enter their sightings online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc . The web site also includes instructions and bird watching tips. The count is run by the National Audubon Society and the

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with sponsorship by Wild Birds Unlimited.


In 2005, birders sent in more than 52,000 checklists, with a record-breaking 613 species and more than 6.5 million birds counted. By visiting the results pages at www.birdsource.org/gbbc , participants can see what was reported in their own towns or across the continent, and read what scientists found about the changing numbers and distributions of birds. This year’s information could help show how birds may have been affected in areas stricken by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as update what we know about declining species such as Rusty Blackbird and Painted Bunting. 


For more info, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 800/843-2473, [email protected]

Surveys to enhance Hunting and Fishing

Anglers and hunters are asked to participate on new angler and hunter survey websites, www.anglersurvey.com  and www.huntersurvey.com .


Information collected will be used to:

- Help provide fish and wildlife agencies and hunting organizations with information needed to protect and enhance hunting and fishing opportunities.

- Learn what other hunters and anglers nationwide think.


By participating, visitors become eligible to win one of several $100 gift certificates for outdoor gear.


The survey is endorsed by the National Shooting Sports 

Foundation (NSSF) and American Sportfishing Association(ASA) to help state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation groups and outdoor equipment retailers find out how to best meet hunters’ and anglers’ needs.


NSSF and ASA are trade associations for the shooting/hunting and angling industries respectively. Surveys ask about hunters’ and anglers’ participation levels, purchases of fishing and hunting equipment, and opinions about their outdoor sports. Survey results will be able to report the most popular equipment brands; species hunted or caught, as well as report hunter and angler feedback to improve products.


Developed by Southwick Associates, more info at www.southwickassociates.com/surveys .

Administration to Seek Salmon Harvest Cuts and Hatchery Reforms

PORTLAND, Ore.(AP) — Conceding that using hatcheries to supplement dwindling salmon populations is harming wild salmon species in some cases, the Bush administration plans to move away from the practice in favor of a more direct solution: Catch fewer fish.


James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced the new policy last week at a meeting of salmon scientists, many of whom have concluded that wild Pacific salmon will become practically extinct this century without big changes in how the harvest is managed.


Critics said the change in tactics does not address the combination of factors that have severely reduced salmon runs, from overfishing and development to hydroelectric dams.


"Hatcheries were intended to replace habitat behind dams," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, which represents California commercial fishermen. "If they close all the hatcheries, we want some dams down, too."


Connaughton said the administration has a strong commitment to the hydroelectric dams, which are important to the region's economy.


Scientists have long criticized hatcheries as producers of salmon that dilute the gene pool, spread disease and compete with wild fish for food and habitat, while being less able to survive in the wild.


Connaughton did not say how much the administration wants to reduce the wild salmon harvest. He said NOAA Fisheries 

will review the 180 hatcheries in the Columbia Basin over the  next year, shutting down those that harm salmon and helping others that contribute to recovery.


Connaughton said change will require the collaboration of regional federal regulators, Canada, Oregon, Washington and Indian tribes.  "We cannot improperly hatch and we cannot carelessly catch the wild salmon back to recovery," Connaughton said.


Since 1991, 26 populations of salmon have been listed as threatened or endangered. None has been judged healthy enough to be delisted. Restoration efforts and technological fixes to dams have run up a bill of $6 billion over the past 10 years.


Connaughton, President Bush's top environmental adviser, outlined the new policy at the Salmon 2100 Conference, where scientists gathered to consider new ways to prevent the extinction of wild salmon.


Current salmon runs are 5 percent of historical levels, said Robert Lackey, a fisheries scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency and chairman of the conference. Wild runs disappeared from Europe, most of Asia and the Northeast as populations grew.


Lackey said Connaughton's proposals did not address the four primary drivers of wild salmon declines -- a market economy that gives salmon short shrift, rapid population growth, increasing demand for clean water, and human lifestyle choices that ignore the needs of fish.


Spain, of the fishermen's group, said fishing accounts for only 5 percent of human-caused salmon deaths in the Columbia Basin, while hydroelectric dams account for 80 %.


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for January 27, 2006

Lake Level Conditions:

All of the Great Lakes are 2 to 12 inches below the levels of a year ago.  Lake Superior is expected to fall 2 inches over the next month.  Lake Michigan-Huron is below chart datum and should decline 1 inch over the next 30 days .  Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are all expected to remain steady over the next 30 days.  Levels over the next few months on all the Great Lakes are expected to remain lower than 2005.


Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:

The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is projected to be near average during the month of January.  Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are anticipated to be below average during January.  Niagara River and St. Lawrence River flows are projected to be near average in January.



Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.  Ice information can be found at the National Ice Center web page.

Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels Data Summary





St. Clair



Expected water level for Jan 27 in ft






Chart datum, in ft






Diff from chart datum, in inches






Diff from last month, in inches






Diff from last year in inches









Legislator wants guards on border to have weapons

VANCOUVER, CANADA -- A prominent member of Canada's incoming Conservative government said last week that the party will stand behind its promise to arm border guards, a day after guards fled posts because two murder suspects were heading for the border from California.


Vic Toews, who is likely to be a part of the government after serving as Canada's justice critic in opposition, said he did not relish the idea of border guards leaving their posts as gunmen approached. Some unarmed guards abandoned their posts at four crossings along the British Columbia border when they heard the murder suspects

were coming their way, said Paula Shore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.


The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council first reported on November 15, 2004 that Canada refused to arm its border guards. We reported that the majority of Canada's 160 border crossings are patrolled by ill-equipped customs officers who are forced to work alone, without reliable communications devices and quick access to emergency support, and are not issued firearms.


For more info see http://www.great-lakes.org/Wkly_news/11-15-04.html

Gun Group applauds Canada Gun Owners for kicking out liberal extremists

BELLEVUE, WA – A dozen years of disastrous Liberal government in Canada came to an end Monday as Canadian gun owners turned out in large numbers to unseat the party that "didn't learn a thing from the experience of liberal anti-gun Democrats in the United States," the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) said last week.


"Early indications are that Canadian gun owners were pivotal in throwing out more than 20 Liberal members of Parliament," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan M. Gottlieb, "and they had it coming. For the past 12 years, Liberals under Jean Chrétien and then Paul Martin have waged a war of social bigotry against Canadian gun owners, and it is clear from Monday's election results that gun owners have had enough.


"Despite an overall low voter turnout," Gottlieb observed, "it appears Canadian gun owners did not sit out the election. They knew that spending more than a billion dollars on a scandal-ridden gun registration boondoggle hasn't prevented a single violent crime in their country. They knew that Martin's threat to ban all privately-owned handguns would not prevent a single criminal from getting his hands on one.

"Just like liberal, anti-gun Democrats in the United States in the 1990s, Canada's Liberals became too arrogant," Gottlieb noted. "Democrats believed they were ballot-proof as they pushed one gun control scheme after another, holding firearms owners responsible for crimes they didn't commit. Canadian Liberals forgot what happened to liberal Democrats in 1994, and evidently didn't notice they've been out of power ever since.


"Liberal Democrats now need to take a lesson from Canada's election," Gottlieb stated, "because the whole world is watching. It's clear there is a movement growing around the globe. Brazilian citizens last year rejected a national gun ban, and now, Canadian gun owners have spoken. Americans have been telling liberal Democrats for more than a decade that gun control is a losing proposition, and the elections in Brazil and Canada prove that.


"Gun owners around the world can't make it any more plain," Gottlieb concluded. "We're telling politicians to keep their hands off our guns, because firearm ownership is more than a recreational pastime, it is a symbol of liberty. There's a line in the sand stretching from Houston to Hudson's Bay. Cross it at your own peril."


Indiana Moves Forward In Supporting Your Right To Self-Defense

On Wednesday, January 25, the Indiana House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee passed House Bill 1028, sponsored by Representative Eric Koch (R-65), by an overwhelming vote of 7-1. HB 1028 will protect your right to

have a lawfully possessed firearm in a locked vehicle, as well as to codify that Indiana residents do not have a “duty to retreat” from an attacker.


This important self-defense legislation will be heard soon on the House floor.


Volunteer Stewardship Workdays Scheduled in SE Michigan

A series of volunteer steward workdays will be held throughout February in southeast Michigan state parks and recreation areas.


Volunteers are needed to remove invasive species and to restore native ecosystems protected in these locations. All volunteers are required to complete a registration form. Park officials remind volunteers to remember to bring appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants, boots, gloves, eye protection and drinking water. Appropriate footwear also is required as some sites may be wet throughout the winter.


For information about the specific tasks at each location and to obtain directions, go to www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers  and click on "Be a Part of a Core Volunteer Steward Team."

Times, dates and locations of the workdays are as follows:

*  Island Lake Recreation Area: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4

*  Algonac State Park: 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5

*  Bald Mountain Recreation Area: 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 11

*  Waterloo Recreation Area: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18

*  Pinckney Recreation Area: 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19

*  Brighton Recreation Area: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25


The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural resources for current and future generations.


Spring Turkey Hunt Application Deadline Approaching

The Department of Natural Resources reminds all turkey hunters that they must apply for a license or purchase a Guaranteed Hunt Period license (Hunt No. 234) by the Feb. 1 deadline to be eligible to participate in the 2006 spring turkey hunting season.


Hunters may apply for or purchase a turkey hunting license at any authorized license dealer, at DNR Operations Service Centers or online at www.michigan.gov/dnr  using the E-License system. The nonrefundable application fee is $4. Hunters may use MasterCard, VISA, American Express or Discover when applying for or purchasing a license via the 

DNR Web site, which is available 24 hours a day during the application period.


During the application process, it is important that hunters verify their customer ID (Michigan Driver License, DNR Sportcard or state of Michigan ID card) numbers.  An incorrect customer ID number will cause individuals to become ineligible for a license.


The spring turkey season is April 17 through May 31 and will last from 7 to 31 days, depending on the hunt unit. A total of 114,190 licenses are available through a lottery for the hunter-limited hunt periods. This total includes 46,690 general licenses and 67,500 private land licenses.

DNR Offers Hunter Education Online

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that first-time hunters now can use the Internet to complete a part of their hunter education course. The online course can be found on the DNR's new Hunter Education Web Page at www.michigan.gov/dnr .


"The online course material is essentially the same as the printed material currently used in the traditional class, and it is a good alternative to the home study course as well." said Sgt. Kevin Davis, field coordinator for the DNR hunter education program.


The current home study course requires the student to receive materials a few weeks ahead of the scheduled field-day portion of the hunter education course, where each student must demonstrate safe firearm handling. The home study course also requires the hunter education instructor to check

in with the student to ensure he or she has "done their homework."


Students who successfully complete the online course will be issued a pre-certification exam certificate which they will provide to a certified hunter education instructor in order to take the field or skills portion of the class. At the end of this one-day session, all students must take and pass a proctored exam to earn their hunter safety certificate.


"The pre-certification exam certificate earned from the online course is not sufficient to meet the requirements to purchase a hunting license," Davis said.


There is a $15 fee for the online course, which covers the cost of maintaining the site and processing the exam. If a student does not pass the exam it will cost $15 to retake the test.


Schad named director of DNR Fish and Wildlife

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Gene Merriam announced today that long-time DNR employee Dave Schad has been selected to be the new director of the DNR's Fish and Wildlife Division, beginning Jan. 23.                                      


Schad, who started his DNR career as a student worker in 1981, has been the Wildlife Management Section chief since Fisheries and Wildlife were reunited shortly after Commissioner Merriam and Deputy Commissioner Mark Holsten were appointed. Schad fills the vacancy created by the Jan. 11 retirement of former director John Guenther.                                   


As Wildlife Management Section chief since January 2005, Schad has been responsible for managing all aspects of field operations, acquisition and development of aquatic management areas and wildlife management areas, and the

programs for big game, farmland wildlife, forest wildlife, furbearers, animal damage and wetlands.


Schad was Operations Section chief from July 2004 to December 2004, and operations manager for the Section of Wildlife from November 2002 to June 2004. He was regional wildlife manager based in Brainerd from July 2000 to July 2002. He was the Wetland Wildlife Program leader from April 1999 to July 2000. Before that he was Forest Wildlife Program leader; area wildlife manager in Chisago, Isanti and Mille Lacs counties; environmental review specialist in the Ecological Services Section; and wildlife management area inventory coordinator. He joined DNR in April 1981 as a student worker who helped conduct mail surveys of hunters and trappers.


Schad received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1981 from the University of Minnesota. He graduated from Stillwater High School in 1976.

Crane Lake trapper faces eight years in jail, $20,000 fine

A Minnesota trapper faces eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines for a variety of natural resources and other serious violations. James Andrew Brattrud, 30, of Buyck, made his initial court appearance Friday, Jan. 13, in St. Louis County District Court in Hibbing.


Brattrud has been charged with possession of a short barreled shotgun, maximum sentence of five years in jail and/or $10,000; possession of a pistol without a permit, maximum sentence of one year and/or $3,000; possession of prohibited wild animal (eight fisher/pine marten), maximum sentence one year and/or $3,000; wanton waste of a protected wild animal, 90 days and/or $1,000 fine; taking small game without a license, 90 days and/or $1,000; over-limit of bass and northern pike, 90 days and/or $1,000; and failure to have a license, as required by the game and fish laws, to mount specimens of wild animals, 90 days and/or $1,000.

No trial date has been set.


In January 2003, Minnesota Conservation Officer Troy Fondie of Orr received a complaint of a dog caught in a snare in the Crane Lake area. Fondie located snare sites of Brattrud, who denied catching the dog.


Fondie documented violations committed by Brattrud, including failure to tend snares daily and no identification affixed to snares

Follow-up investigation in February at Brattrud's taxidermy shop found multiple records- keeping violations, including black bear hides in his possession without hunter identification and license number recorded. A large number of furbearing animals were stacked on top of the freezer in the porch. There were also furbearing animals inside the kitchen area, including muskrat, pine marten, red fox, weasel and red squirrel in different stages of decay.  


Fondie also noted several snares that had what appeared to be fisher hair on the cables. Fisher season had closed in December. Brattrud said the fisher were accidentally killed while attempting to release them. The following day Brattrud turned over four illegal fisher to the officer.


Minnesota law says a person may not possess or transport a fisher, otter, pine marten, fox, bobcat, lynx or gray wolf that was accidentally killed until the person notifies the local conservation officer, other authorized DNR employee, or the regional enforcement office of the killing and receives authorization to possess, transport or skin the animal.                                     


On April 4, 2005, conservation officers returned to the Buyck area where they believed traps and snares set by Brattrud still remained active during closed season. The officers were able to locate the decomposed remains of several pine marten, otter and muskrat still in the traps and snares.

Longer game fish season, sturgeon tags among new regulations

Sturgeon tagging requirements and extra days of fishing for walleye, sauger, northern pike and several other game fish are among new regulations that will affect anglers in the near future, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).


Changes for the coming fishing season and a summary of all Minnesota fishing regulations are included in the 2006 Fishing Regulations handbook, available now wherever

fishing and hunting licenses are sold. The 2006 fishing license year begins March 1.


"Anglers should take a few minutes to familiarize themselves with new regulations and new opportunities before the 2006 season begins," said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, program manager for the DNR fisheries management section. "Details on Red Lake walleye fishing, new sturgeon regulations and information about exotic species are all available in this year's regulations book."

DNR issues ice advisory to fish house owners

With unseasonably warm temperatures adversely affecting ice conditions across the state, the Minnesota DNR  is advising winter anglers to check the ice around their fish houses and if conditions warrant it, to consider removing them while the ice is still strong enough.


The DNR is particularly concerned the larger wood and metal fish houses commonly left on the ice overnight can melt down into the surface, making removal very difficult if the ice re-freezes, or sink if ice conditions continue to deteriorate.


"With daytime temperatures above freezing for several weeks, and in the mid-forties in the southern half of the state on Friday, people are going to have to be very careful if they plan on any motor vehicle ice travel," said Tim Smalley, DNR water safety specialist. "Even though it may still be twelve or more inches thick in some locations in the northern part of the state, the quality of the top layer of ice has degraded as far as weight-bearing capability so you need to check the ice thoroughly every day. Nobody wants to die for a crappie."


Owners are legally responsible for removing their fish houses and any debris left after chopping them out of the ice. Littering penalties can include fines or civil penalties up to $2,000.   Anyone who ventures out on the ice still needs to check safety

conditions before going out to their fish house, especially with a car or truck.


Ice anglers and others who venture out on the ice are advised to call a local bait shop or a resort on the lake where they are heading to determine if vehicle use is advisable. Some DNR officers are recommending the use of ATVs to move fish houses rather than cars or trucks.


DNR conservation officers report "iffy" and "spotty" ice conditions on some lakes as far north as Bemidji with slush and ice thicknesses well below average.   All lakes in Anoka and Rice counties have been closed to car and truck travel by their respective sheriff's offices due to deteriorating ice conditions.


According to state law, anglers have until Feb. 28 in the southern half of the state and March 15 in the north before they are required to have their fish houses off the ice by no later than midnight each day and not put them back on until 6 the next morning.


"In normal winters we would have another six weeks, but this has been anything but a normal winter," Smalley noted.



 Lake Erie Commercial Captain convicted

$12,100 in fines and restitution levied on offender

  SANDUSKY, OH - The captain of a boat belonging to a Port Clinton commercial fishing company was fined $12,100 last week for his part in a racketeering ring that illegally netted thousands of pounds of yellow perch from Lake Erie, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.


Billy Mitchell, 48, of Port Clinton, employed by Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. Wholesalers, entered a guilty plea in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on January 19 to charges of theft. Judge Brian Corrigan subsequently ordered Mitchell to pay a $100 fine and $12,000 in restitution to the state for the stolen fish.   


The case was one of several filed by the Division of Wildlife last year against individuals and businesses associated with Ohio’s commercial fishing industry.  Numerous licensed commercial fishermen, two fishing companies, and three fish wholesale companies were charged with selling tons of yellow perch in excess of their allotted quotas, filing false catch reports, and selling unreported yellow perch. Division of Wildlife investigators said all the offenses took place between 2001 and 2003.


Several of those involved have pled guilty and received steep fines.  The largest fine thus far was $87, 000 levied on Lake Fish, Inc. of Sandusky. Other cases are still pending.  


Since 1996, Lake Erie’s yellow perch have been managed through a quota system, decided among the five states that border the lake and the Province of Ontario. Quotas are set in order to balance Ohio’s share of the lake’s yellow perch harvest between sport anglers and commercial fishermen. Commercial fishermen are required to keep accurate and legible catch reports and to stay within their licensed yellow perch quota in a given year. Safe harvest levels of yellow perch are determined by fisheries biologists in order to maintain healthy fish populations and provide quality fishing opportunities on Lake Erie.


The illegal netting case began in 2002 with a tip to the Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie Enforcement Unit that some commercial fishermen were harvesting and selling Lake Erie

yellow perch above their quota limits. Search warrants were executed and records seized from Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. Wholesalers, as well as Smith Fisheries, Inc. in Sandusky, and West Water Fisheries, Inc. in Vermilion in January 2004, and from Lake Fish Company, Inc. in Sandusky in February 2004. After a lengthy investigation, a Cuyahoga County grand jury returned racketeering indictments against 14 commercial fishermen, two fishing companies, and three wholesalers in June 2005.


In October 2005, five of the commercial fishermen were convicted in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court as part of a plea agreement. The five were charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, tampering with records, receiving stolen property, and selling unreported yellow perch.


Joseph Smith of Smith Fisheries, Inc. pled guilty to theft. His company, Smith Fisheries, Inc., was ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution for the stolen fish. Roy Green of the same company pled guilty to misdemeanor theft charges and was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution and a $150 fine.


Gary Rowan of State Fish, Inc. pled guilty to misdemeanor attempted receiving stolen property charges and was ordered to pay $7,250 in restitution and a $1,000 fine.


Vito Ernande and Darlene Ernande of Westwater Fisheries, Inc. pled guilty to misdemeanor theft charges and were ordered to pay $7,000. They also forfeited 940 pounds of frozen perch, which were donated to the Cleveland Food Bank for distribution to local soup kitchens. The plea agreements required the five defendants to testify against several other co-defendants in the case.


In December 2005, commercial fishermen Dale Trent and Craig Carr of Lake Fish, Inc. were found guilty of misdemeanor theft. Their business, Lake Fish, Inc., was found guilty of theft and operating as a criminal enterprise, both felonies. The defendants were ordered to pay $87,000 in restitution and donate 500 pounds of perch to a Sandusky soup kitchen. Owners and operators of several other commercial fishing businesses charged in the case have not yet appeared in court.

Survey shows record number of Bald Eagles

OAK HARBOR, OH - A record number of bald eagles were observed in the state during the annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, conducted by the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife. 


A total of 554 bald eagles was observed, including 329 mature and 225 immature birds.  Last winter’s survey recorded a total of 366 bald eagles, which included 247 mature and 119 immature birds. Immature bald eagles are those without completely white heads and generally less than 5 years old. 


 Bald eagles were observed in 63 of Ohio's 88 counties during this year's two-week survey. Counties along the western shore

of Lake Erie continue to report the largest number of eagles. Sandusky County had the greatest number of sightings with 98 birds. 


Throughout the survey period large concentrations of eagles were recorded in a single location. One hundred and seven eagles were seen at one time on Sandusky Bay.  During a separate observation, 56 were spotted near an area of open water on the bay.  Twenty-six eagles were seen on Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area. Counties with the highest counts of bald eagles were: Sandusky-98, Ottawa-71, Erie-51, Knox-24, Wyandot-24, and Trumbull-24.


Agency wants input for improving Musky, Pike & Pickerel fishing     

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is seeking angler input of a set of proposals designed at enhancing fishing opportunities for northern pike, pickerel and muskellunge.


The toothy trio won’t win any beauty pageants, but when it comes to fishing fun, they take the trophy.  In the case of muskellunge, can you use “trophy” literally.  Muskies are among the largest of all freshwater fish.  In Pennsylvania, muskellunge can exceed 50 – inches and pounds.  The current state record weighs in at more then 54 pounds.  The PFBC also offers a “Husky Musky” award to anglers boating muskellunge 50 inches or longer.


The Commission is in the midst of refining its management of muskellunge to create more opportunities to catch a fish of that size.  As part of that effort, the Commission has proposed a year-round musky fishing season, with a one-fish, 36-inch

minimum size limit for inland waters.  The Commission is also considering the creation of a special regulations program aimed at maximizing musky fishing at select waters.  Waters designated into the proposed Musky Enhancement Program would have a year-round musky season, with a one-fish daily creel limit and 45-inch minimum size limit.


Additionally, the Commission is soliciting angler input on an alternative approach: eschewing a special regulation program and setting the statewide limit for muskellunge and muskellunge hybrids at 40 inches for all inland waters.


Changes are also proposed for two closely-related species, northern pike and pickerel.  The Commission is seeking comments on opening the season for both on a year-round basis, with a daily creel limit of four fish 18 inches or larger. 


A public comment period will run through the spring and early summer, with vote on final alternatives to occur later in the year.  No changes would take place prior to 2007.


Doyle vetoes bill on concealed weapons

Madison - Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the Conceal Carry Bill last week, just as he did two years ago and promised to do again. Doyle says it would make the state more dangerous.


"The bill does not create a single job, help a single Wisconsin citizen afford health care or improve schools for a single Wisconsin child," Doyle said in a statement. "The Legislature

should spend more time trying to get jobs into our communities instead of more guns."


The latest version of the bill passed the Senate by the two-thirds margin, while the Assembly passed the bill 64-32 - two votes shy of the 66 needed for an override. Republicans have said they expect to have the votes to override the governor's veto because two of the legislators were absent when the vote was taken.


Invasive Rudd Found In Lake Wilcox

TORONTO-- The rudd, an invasive fish, has been found for the first time in an inland Ontario lake. The rudd was discovered by Toronto and Region Conservation staff during routine fish community assessment in Lake Wilcox, which is located in the headwaters of the East Humber River in Richmond Hill.


A European member of the minnow family, the rudd is believed to be spread through dumping of bait buckets. Prior to its discovery in Lake Wilcox, it was known to occur in Ontario only in isolated locations within the St. Lawrence River and the lower Great Lakes.


The rudd can cross-breed with the indigenous golden shiner, resulting in hybrid young and a potential loss of the unique genetics of the golden shiner. In addition, this invasive fish disrupts spawning and nursery habitats for other native species and threatens Ontario’s aquatic biodiversity.

The public can help stop the spread of this invader by taking the following precautions:


Learn to identify invasive and non-bait species by visiting www.invadingspecies.com   

Check bait buckets carefully for invasive or non-bait species before going out on any lake or river

Prevent the introduction of invasive fish species or other organisms invisible to the naked eye by never releasing baitfish or dumping the contents of bait buckets into a lake or river or on the ice of a lake.

Anyone finding minnows suspected of being an invasive species, such as rudd, is asked to remove and freeze the fish, and call the Invading Species Hotline toll-free at 1-800-563-7711 to report the finding. The hotline is a partnership of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Ministry of Natural Resources.

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