Ice is OUT! Buoys are IN. Docks are GOING in. Fish surveys are underway!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018: The last remnants of slushy ice finally disappeared from Teal and Lost Land lakes by Saturday morning, May 5 — just in time for opening day of the 2018 fishing season for walleye, northern pike, and bass. (Panfish may be pursued year-round; muskellunge season opens May 26.) Wildlife species that depend on water are back; and it is wonderful to once again hear the plaintive call of loons, the screeching of ring-billed gulls, the chirping of bald eagles, the quacking of ducks, the trumpeting of swans, and the bugling of sandhill cranes. Spring is FINALLY here!

QLIA volunteers Rick Thearin and Bryan Neuswanger placed the navigation hazard buoys in Teal and Lost Land on Thursday, May 10. Thanks guys! Visitors to our lakes and even a few of us forgetful regulars will appreciate your efforts. Thanks also to Past-President Bob Dale and his wife Sue for storing all the buoys in one of their sheds over winter.

Our late but rapid ice-out prompted the Wisconsin DNR to initiate its ambitious spring field operations on Lost Land and Teal lakes. Fishery Management and Hatcheries crews ran fyke nets for a variety of purposes throughout the week starting Sunday, May 6. See stories in the Latest News slider (upper right corner of this page) to learn more about these operations.

When does the ice USUALLY go out?

Bill and Jeanie Boersma have been tracking the ice-out date on Teal Lake since they moved there in 1970. With only one missing date (2003), I know of no more complete record of ice-out on any of the Quiet Lakes (click here to view Teal Lake Ice-Out Records in a separate window).

Based on the data provided by Bill and Jeanie, the average ice-out date for Teal Lake was April 18 during the 1970-2017 time period. In order to visualize any potential trend in these data, I plotted each year’s ice-out date in relation to the long-term average (click here to view graphic depiction of Teal Lake ice-out data). Note the increased variability in spring ice-out dates since the mid-1990s. It also seems that ice-outs are occurring earlier than average in recent decades. This year (2018) is shaping up to be another extreme departure from average (in this case, much later than usual).

Bill and Jeanie also kept records for Lost Land Lake from 1955 (the year of my birth!) through 1969, but I don’t know if anyone picked up where they left off on Lost Land. I know of no such records for Ghost Lake. If you have such records — ice-on or ice-out dates for any of our lakes — please share them with me (e-mail dneuswanger@gmail.com) so I can post them here for everyone’s benefit. I hope to maintain updated tables on our History & Archives page.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT — WINTER/SPRING, 2018

April 2, 2018 – Greetings from the former site of “Ice Station Zebra.” That’s what I called the lonely red portable ice-fishing shelter my family maintained off Christy Point in Steamboat Bay of Lost Land Lake from mid-December until we removed it on the deadline date of March 18. My wife and son insisted on calling it “Ice Station Rudolph” because it stood out like the red nose on Santa’s reindeer. But what do they know? “Ice Station Zebra” seems a far more fitting name for this hint of civilization that invoked memories of the classic movie about Cold War drama on the Arctic pack ice.

During several ice-fishing excursions, we observed the typical winter pattern in fish distribution over the 20-foot-deep hole beneath Ice Station Zebra. Black crappies (most 8.0 to 9.5 inches long) started the winter feeding on invertebrates (mostly the larvae of tiny midge flies) on or near the bottom where water temperature was warmest (41F compared with 33F just beneath the ice). But as winter progressed, consumption of dissolved oxygen by aerobic bacteria consuming organic matter in the sediments forced all fish to suspend higher off the bottom where dissolved oxygen was high enough to sustain normal metabolic activity.

By January 28, most crappies were suspended at depths of only 10-12 feet below the ice surface. Dissolved oxygen concentration had fallen rapidly from 10.4 parts per million (ppm) 6 feet down, to 5.3 ppm 10 feet down (just enough to sustain normal fish activity), to only 1.6 ppm at a depth of 14 feet (not low enough to kill fish, but low enough to force fish to seek comfort closer to the surface). So crappies were filter-feeding on tiny plankton (water fleas and copepods) in the 10- to 12-foot depth range. As I type, I’m sure the fish are even higher in the water column, as dissolved oxygen is further depleted from the bottom-up under two feet of snow-covered ice. Fortunately, the Quiet Lakes are either deep enough or receive enough flow from incoming streams to avoid running out of dissolved oxygen altogether before the snow melts and the ice goes out.

How do we know this? Portable sonar revealed the location of fish suspended above the bottom. And thanks to QLIA’s recent purchase of a YSI Pro20 dissolved oxygen meter with 30-foot cable and polarographic probe for $1,087.75, we were able to test temperature and dissolved oxygen levels at various depths under the ice. This new instrument is essential for QLIA to resume monitoring dissolved oxygen and temperature at various depths during the open-water season in Lost Land, Teal, and Ghost lakes – part of a volunteer water quality monitoring program that lapsed during our period of turnover in QLIA leadership. More on that later…

WINTER EXCOM MEETING HIGHLIGHTS

On March 13, the QLIA Winter Executive Committee meeting was graciously hosted in Hayward by Treasurer Gayle Little. Gayle, Vice-President Norm Bratteig, and I met for two hours with speakerphone connections to Secretary Gail Nicholson and Director-at-Large Steve Fiala – both snowbirds who were enjoying the relatively balmy weather in Texas and Arizona, respectively. Our first order of business was to approve Minutes from our October 2017 ExCom meeting. (Click here to view Fall 2017 ExCom Meeting Minutes.) Gail will submit Minutes of our March 13, 2018 meeting later this spring. But I am posting a few highlights below, along with links to several longer stories about projects that were discussed at length by the ExCom. Those stories are posted under Latest News in the right sidebar here.

WDNR Spring Fishery Surveys and Operations: Spring of 2018 will be an exceptionally busy time for Wisconsin DNR fishery management and hatchery workers on Teal and Lost Land lakes. Lake residents can expect to see lots of activity that might otherwise cause concern; but most likely it will be our dedicated natural resource professionals doing their job on behalf of the fishing public. (Click here to view full story under Latest News.)

Aquatic Invasive Species Management: The QLIA Excom decided at our March 13, 2018 meeting to spend up to $5,000 (75% reimbursable under WDNR’s continuing grant authorization) to map Hybrid Eurasian Water Milfoil in Steamboat Bay and treat it with Reward herbicide in late spring before the long stems of HEWM “top out” and begin to lay across the surface where they would be highly vulnerable to fragmentation and translocation. In late summer, we will return to areas treated in both 2017 and 2018 to qualitatively evaluate the extent of regrowth by HEWM and recovery by desirable native plants. (Click here to view full story under Latest News.)

Public Boat Landing Renovation: The Wisconsin DNR has informed us that the public boat landing on Landing Camp Bay of Lost Land Lake will be closed to public use beginning the week of July 15, 2018 and extending 4-6 weeks until all work is completed (almost certainly by Labor Day weekend). A temporary, alternate point of public access is being arranged thanks to The Retreat on Lost Land Lake. (Click here to view full story under Latest News.)

Water Quality Monitoring: An article appearing in the November 29, 2017 edition of the Sawyer County Record listed Teal Lake as one of several others in Sawyer County that continue to be included on a list of “impaired” waters WDNR submits to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every other year as authorized under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act of 1972. I do not believe Teal Lake belongs on this list. I had several e-mail exchanges with WDNR program officials and their lead scientist regarding my concerns over the transparency and accuracy of Teal Lake’s inclusion on the impaired waters list. My former colleagues have been polite and professional but unyielding in defense of this listing. This is a very complex subject, but I will attempt to explain what we know, why I disagree with WDNR’s decision, and what I think we should do to get Teal Lake off the list of impaired waters in the future. (Click here to view full story under Latest News.)

We are gearing up to resume QLIA participation in WDNR’s Clean Lakes Monitoring Network, hence our recent purchase of a new hand-held meter for measuring temperature and dissolved oxygen at various depths. Prospective volunteers should read the full story about the Teal Lake “impaired waters” listing (unavoidably long and dripping with technical detail) in order to understand the important implications of our volunteer efforts.

QLIA Governance: I posed a question to the ExCom regarding our traditional committee structure. Committees in general can turn people off due to fears of “meeting for the sake of meeting” and assuming obligations beyond one’s capacity to fulfill. We also acknowledged that in most committees, one person (the chair) does most of the work. Why not, then, designate “program leaders” rather than “committee chairs,” and ask all interested members to join a “pool” of prospective volunteers with select interests? Joining “the pool” would not commit a prospective volunteer to any regularly scheduled meetings or activities, and it would not restrict their areas of interest. Instead, volunteers could pick and choose the activities they have the time and interest to participate in; and it would be the responsibility of “program leaders” to contact folks in “the pool” to help with specific events or tasks on an ad hoc basis. This could be facilitated by an active online roster with contact information for volunteers in the pool. Steve Fiala informed us of a very successful program in the Sonora Desert that is based on this model of volunteer engagement. This new model for QLIA operations will be discussed and presented for adoption at our General Membership Meeting this summer.

QLIA Website: The ExCom is pleased with the extent to which our new website allows us to communicate more effectively with our members. We are concerned about those members who do not access the Internet for information, but we simply cannot afford to communicate as often as necessary by using traditional media (for example, printed newsletters delivered by mail). We hope our “non-wired” members can find a family member or friend who is connected to the online world and is willing to print or otherwise pass along stories of interest.

The ExCom agreed that we should create a new History tab on our home page menu bar, where the first and most important posting will be a scanned PDF version of Charlie Baumann’s Golden Jubilee Historical Perspective, 1947-1997. Norm Bratteig is working on scanning one of the few remaining spiral-bound print copies of this document. We all owe Past-President Charlie Baumann a debt of gratitude for amassing this wonderful 35-page summary of events that shaped the organization we are today. The Excom agreed to eventually discontinue the Blogsite (click on link in right sidebar) created and maintained by Rex Clevenger after we’ve had time to transfer and incorporate historically important and interesting postings/photos into the website proper. This may take a few months. We thank Rex for many years of facilitating group communication at the Blogsite until we had the opportunity to develop a full-blown website.

Treasurer Gayle Little has revised our membership application forms for 2018. Those should appear as downloadable and printable PDFs on our Membership Page here. Gayle and I will also be working on a system for acknowledging online the donations we receive from members above and beyond their dues payments. We realize some folks may wish their philanthropy to remain anonymous, and will develop a system that honors such wishes.

Dave Neuswanger
QLIA President

Winter lingers in the form of an “advection fog” above the snow-covered ice of Teal Lake. PHOTO BY: Donna Nickel – January 20, 2018