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Outdoor news

DNR seeks comment on lock and dam erosion repair project - June 19

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting public comment during a public review period, June 22 to July 22, on an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) for a scour repair project on Lock and Dam 1, located on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Scour is the removal of sediment by swiftly moving water, causing potential damage to nearby structures.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposes to repair scour immediately downstream of Lock and Dam 1 to ensure the lock and dam’s structural integrity. The repair would involve placing about 14,000 cubic yards of rock below the water surface along the width of the dam and up to 150 feet downstream. An estimated three acres south of the dam would be impacted by the project. There would be two acres of rock fill and about one acre of temporary disturbance.

A copy of the EAW is available online at www.mndnr.gov/input. Under “Environmental Review,” select “Lock and Dam 1 Scour Repair” from the scroll-down list. A hard copy may be requested by calling 651-259-5082.

A copy is also available at:

  • DNR Library, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.
  • DNR Central Region, 1200 Warner Road, St. Paul 55106.
  • Minneapolis Central Library, Government Documents, 2nd Floor, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1992.

The notice will be published in the June 22 EQB Monitor. Written comments must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22 to the attention of Kate Frantz, EAW project manager, Environmental Review Unit, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025. 

Electronic or email comments may be sent to environmentalrev.dnr@state.mn.us with “Lock and Dam 1” in the subject line. If submitting comments electronically, include your name and mailing address. Written comments may also be sent by fax to 651-296-1811.

Annual list of potential timber harvest sites available for review - June 19

The annual list of potential timber harvest sites on state-administered forest land is now available for public review, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Comments will be accepted until July 17.

The list of potential harvest sites is for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2016.

DNR field staff will examine nearly 2,600 forest stands on 58,000 acres for potential timber sales during the year. The DNR estimates that about 40,000 of the 58,000 acres of forest land will be suitable for timber sales.

“The public has two options for reviewing the list,” said Jon Nelson, DNR forest planning supervisor.

First, forest stand locations and descriptions, along with their proposed management, are on the DNR website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/forestview/index.html. Comments about a potential timber harvest site can be submitted to the DNR using this website.

Second, those without Internet access or who prefer to review and discuss the site list directly with a forester, may contact or visit their local DNR area forestry office. Contact the office prior to a visit to ensure the appropriate forestry staff will be available.

The DNR administers 5 million acres of forest lands that have been certified as being well- managed by two separate third-party auditing systems. Annual lists of potential timber harvest sites are derived from multi-year forest management plans for state lands. The plans are developed by interdisciplinary DNR planning teams with public input, and based on long-term forest resource management goals.

For statewide timber harvest information, contact Jon Nelson, DNR Forestry, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN, 55155-4044; 651-259-5278; jon.nelson@state.mn.us.

DNR approves new deer population goals - June 9, 2015

New deer population goals have been approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota, covering 40 of 128 deer permit areas in the state.

“These new goals will result in management to increase deer numbers in relation to last year’s levels in most of the 40 permit areas,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations manager. “The new goals largely reflect the desires shared by stakeholders who participated in the deer goal setting process and generally reflect the public feedback we’ve heard during the past few years.”

As a result of this process, 85 percent of the 40 areas will be managed for populations higher than those experienced in 2014; the remaining will see no change.

Comparison to former goals
Of the 40 deer permit areas with new goals, 26 will be managed for deer densities higher than those established by the previous goals; eight will be managed at similar densities to former goals; and six will be managed for densities below former goals. More information about the goals for each deer permit area can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

With respect to the four advisory team recommendations not accepted by the DNR, the agency chose more moderate population increases to better reflect the preferences suggested by hunter and landowner survey data and public input; allow more deer to be harvested; and minimize anticipated deer damage to agricultural lands and forest habitat.

Goals are intended to be in place for three to five years. The DNR shortened the goal timeframe to allow more frequent opportunities to revisit and adjust goals with input from stakeholders.

Goal-setting process
This is the third year the DNR has worked with citizens and stakeholders to re-assess and re-establish deer population goals in portions of the state. Goals for southwestern and portions of northern Minnesota were set in 2012. Goals for southeastern Minnesota were set last year.

DNR will postpone goal setting in the remaining 54 deer permit areas scheduled for consideration in 2016 until the current legislative audit of Minnesota’s deer population management program is complete.

More information about deer goal setting can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

DNR studies muskie to improve fishing for anglers - June 9, 2015


Researchers carefully hoist a huge muskellunge onto a boat. They record its measurements, identify the sex of the fish, scan an electronic tag implanted in the muskie and return it to the lake where, one day, it could take an angler’s lure and provide a long-remembered thrill.

Collecting information and studying muskie populations allows the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to make well-informed decisions about how to stock muskie and manage harvest.

“As anglers head into the muskie season that began June 6, they are enjoying opportunities that came about largely due to research-based management,” said Don Pereira, fisheries section chief. “Better information can lead to better fishing in a state that’s already a renowned muskie fishing destination.”

The DNR studies muskie in a variety of ways, including looking into everything from muskie ancestry using DNA analysis to how well muskie grow and survive once they’re stocked in certain southern Minnesota lakes. The research builds on past work that identified how to best capture and rear a large-growing native strain of muskie, stock this strain into appropriate waters, and manage the harvest.

“This large-growing strain is one reason muskie anglers are able to catch fish in the 50-plus inch trophy range,” Pereira said. “There are enough of these fish in the population that many anglers asked for the change to a 54-inch minimum length on muskie in most waters of the state, which is in effect this year.”

Along with a growing interest in muskie fishing, research taking place around the state aims to fine-tune muskie management.

Walker area fisheries: Using DNA to study muskie ancestry

With the help of DNA analysis, researchers can trace the ancestry of individual fish, including muskie. The work has real-world management implications.

“It’s a pretty cool concept. We’re starting to do more of it now on special projects around the state,” said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor.

For one study, Walker area fisheries teamed up with Loren Miller, a fisheries research geneticist, as well as anglers who were shown how to collect muskie scale samples for DNA analysis.

The study’s central question: In Baby and Man lakes in the Walker area, stocking of the less desirable Shoepack Lake strain of muskie ended in the 1970s. Now, what is the residual effect of Shoepack strain muskie on the current muskie population in these two lakes?

“Strain” in fish is similar to heritage in humans: Fish from a geographic location of origin tend to have similar physical characteristics that may differ from those of other locations. From the 1950s to the early 1980s, muskie from Shoepack Lake were reared and stocked in several Minnesota lakes, even in lakes where a native muskie population already existed.

It was later seen that the Shoepack strain grew slower and reached smaller maximum sizes than the Mississippi strain, which are native populations connected to the upper Mississippi River drainage system, including Leech Lake. The use of the Shoepack strain ended in favor of the faster growing and larger Leech Lake-Mississippi strain.

On Baby and Man lakes, the study found that Shoepack ancestry declined to only nine percent, down from 13 percent in 1995. Yet, historical Shoepack strain stockings are still having an impact on size potential of some fish in today’s muskie populations.

“This study could set the stage for future muskie management decisions on lakes with residual Shoepack ancestry,” Schultz said. “A study using DNA adds a new level of certainty about the effects of past stocking. That helps as we take multiple factors into account when making management decisions aimed at improving opportunities for anglers.”

Montrose area fisheries: Tagging and recapturing muskie after new stocking

Muskies were first stocked in 2011 in the Sauk River Chain of Lakes, giving anglers in the St. Cloud area a chance to fish for muskies close to home.

For Montrose area fisheries staff, the stocking offers a rare chance to track the growth of a new fish population using electronic tags.

“It’s a new fish to the system. We don’t really know what the growth potential is out there. It will be neat to find out,” said Joe Stewig, Montrose area fisheries supervisor. “Some of these fish will be marked, and we will then be able to track their growth throughout their lives.”

Beginning in 2013, Montrose area staff started implanting electronic tags into muskies, work paid for through hunting and fishing license dollars and with financial help from the Hugh C. Becker Foundation through the St. Cloud chapter of Muskies Inc. After fish are tagged, the goal is to recapture some of these fish during fall electrofishing, when crews look specifically for these stocked muskies.

“With continued funding, we’ll be able to use these tags to monitor the growth of this newly established muskie population,” Stewig said. “Using this method goes above and beyond the standard lake survey.”

West metro fisheries: Tagging muskie to evaluate stocking efforts

To study the effectiveness of muskie stocking in three Twin Cities metro area lakes, the DNR’s west metro fisheries staff is working on a muskie tagging project in partnership with the Muskies, Inc. Twin Cities Chapter and Hugh C. Becker Foundation.

The study taking place on Lake Minnetonka, Bald Eagle Lake and White Bear Lake measures the survival numbers of year-old muskie, called yearlings, and smaller muskie less than a year old, called fingerlings.

“All three lakes have high northern pike populations. So we normally don’t stock muskie in the face of that kind of competition,” said Daryl Ellison, west metro area fisheries manager. “But there’s an interest in it because they’re metro lakes.”
The study results will help evaluate the DNR’s standard stocking ratio of one yearling per three fingerlings – important knowledge because yearlings cost more to stock than fingerlings.

“Initial results seem to support the 3:1 ratio, but more study is needed,” Ellison said. “The study was showing some positive results for fingerlings in Lake Minnetonka.”

Windom area fisheries: Studying Fox Lake muskellunge

Fox Lake is Minnesota’s southernmost muskie lake, and was first stocked with muskie in 1999. Years later, electronic tags began informing an ongoing study on muskie in that lake.

Each spring from 2011 to 2013, Windom fisheries staff counted, measured and weighed muskie captured with nets. They also implanted muskie with electronic tags, and recorded information about the growth of individual fish already implanted with a tag from a previous spring.

Starting in 2012, muskie fingerlings have received electronic tags before they are stocked into the lake. To date, more than 1,200 muskellunge of varying sizes have been tagged in Fox Lake.

“Through this study on Fox Lake, we’ll gain pertinent information on population abundance, growth and longevity of muskie,” said Nate Hodgins, Windom area fisheries assistant supervisor. “It will give us a good picture of muskie populations in similar size and type lakes.”

Windom fisheries plans to use the data to help evaluate how Fox and perhaps other lakes are stocked in smaller, southern Minnesota lakes in the future. They will be netting muskie and updating Fox Lake population numbers every two years starting in 2015.

DNR cautions boaters to avoid Upper St. Anthony Falls dam - June 9, 2015
Portage route available for paddlers after June 10 lock closure

Mississippi River boaters and paddlers are reminded that as of Wednesday, June 10, the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in downtown Minneapolis will permanently close. Boaters and paddlers should avoid approaching the area from upstream, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The lock closure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was supported by the DNR, as it will create an important barrier against the spread of invasive carp in the Mississippi River watershed.

However, boaters and paddlers are cautioned that the closure will affect navigation routes and safety conditions above Upper St. Anthony Falls and dam.

In light of these changed conditions, boaters and paddlers should avoid approaching the lock, dam and falls area from upstream. Due to strong currents above the upper falls and dam, paddlers especially need to avoid the area and should go no further downstream than Flagpole Plaza, just upstream of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge on the river’s west bank.

“The concern is that boaters and paddlers will navigate to the area above the dam only to discover they can no longer lock through,” said Stan Linnell, DNR boat and water safety manager.

“With the close proximity of the upper falls and dam to the lock, paddlers may have extreme difficulty moving back upstream due to strong currents above the dam, meaning they could be pulled over the dam into the dangerous recirculating currents below – a typically fatal situation,” Linnell said.

At a minimum, all watercraft must stay at least 600 feet above the dam, which is a designated restricted zone. However, Linnell recommends that, due to the potential for motor failure, boaters should give the upper falls area a wider berth.

Paddlers who wish to continue downstream may access a 1.5-mile paved portage route at Flagpole Plaza. Bohemian Flats, located below Lower St. Anthony Falls near the University of Minnesota’s pedestrian bridge, will serve as the downstream put-in location.

The nearest motorized boat access below Upper St. Anthony Falls is at Hidden Falls, below the Ford Lock and Dam 1 in St. Paul.

In addition to the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock closure, boaters and paddlers should be aware that starting Wednesday, June 10, the Lower St. Anthony Falls lock and Lock and Dam 1 will operate on a reduced schedule, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

As with Upper St. Anthony Falls, watercraft may not navigate within the 600-foot restricted zone above either dam or within the 150-foot zone below the dams. However, safety officials recommend boaters and paddlers avoid the short stretch of river between the upper and lower falls due to frequently turbulent conditions.

Any boaters or paddlers who are inadvertently caught in the strong current above a waterfall or dam should attempt to reach shore as soon as possible, and should not try to paddle across the current. The DNR strongly recommends that boaters and paddlers always wear a life jacket, especially when on water with strong currents, dams, or other inherently dangerous characteristics.

For more information about boating and water safety on the Mississippi River, including a map of the new portage route and the Metro Area Rivers Guide, visit www.mndnr.gov/boatingsafety, or call the DNR’s Boat and Water Safety Unit at 651-259-5400.

Newest state record fish hooked in Root River, again - June 9, 2015
state record

May 8 is turning into a red-letter date for angler Chad Wentzel.

Last year on that day, Wentzel landed the state record golden redhorse. A year later to the day, on the bank of the Root River in Fillmore County, he broke his own state record by one ounce.

The Minneapolis resident used 8-pound test line and worms as bait. He left the rig on the bottom to catch a 4-pound, 1-ounce golden redhorse that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed as a new state record.

“Wentzel fishes with a group of fellow anglers who target all sorts of fish beyond walleye, bass and panfish,” said Mike Kurre, who coordinates the state record fish program for the DNR.
“Indeed, there are many types of fish to catch in Minnesota. We keep state records on five types of redhorse alone, and in all there are state records for 62 species of fish.”

State records are measured by weight. To certify a fish as a record:

  • Take it to a DNR fisheries office for positive identification.
  • Fill out a record fish application.
  • Locate a state-certified scale (found at most bait shops and butcher shops).
  • Weigh the fish with two witnesses present.
  • Send a clear, full-length photo of the fish with the application to the address listed on the application form.

The record-fish form and guidelines can be found online under the list of state-record fish at www.mndnr.gov/fishing/staterecords.html. The list is also published on page 83 of the 2015 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.

Jay Cooke State Park celebrates 100 years with special programs - June 4, 2015

Jay Cooke State Park

The public is invited to attend a special event on Saturday, June 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Jay Cooke State Park, located south of Duluth. A formal program will take place at 1 p.m. with DNR Parks and Trails Division Director Erika Rivers, followed by a cake cutting and refreshments.

The event will feature a river theme to highlight the ecological and historical importance of the St. Louis River, which flows through the park. Visitors will have an opportunity to participate in activity stations that explore plants, animals, history, recreation, invasive species and water quality. Activities will be ongoing, and visitors can visit the stations of interest to them.

“It’s not every year that a state park turns 100, so we’ve been celebrating with special programs  throughout the year,” said Kris Hiller, park naturalist. “More activities are planned for July and September, and for the park’s actual birthday on October 18, the date when the land acquisition was finalized.”

Jay Cooke State Park was originally established in 1915 when a group of local citizens spearheaded the effort to secure a land donation of 2,350 acres from the Great Northern Power Company, now known as Minnesota Power. Today the park is 8,818 acres and is widely known for its iconic Swinging Bridge, unique river rock formations, trails and campground.

The 100th anniversary event is being held in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Day, a day when vehicle permit fees ($5) are waived at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.
For more information about the park, visit www.mndnr.gov/jaycooke.

For more about the free activities taking place at Jay Cooke State Park and other Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on National Get Outdoors Day, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Silver maple trees showing signs of stress - June 4, 2015

silver maple

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources foresters are seeing many silver maples and some elms with stunted or no leaves and an abundance of seeds this spring. These trees are not dead and will rebound over the next couple of years. The DNR encourages proper tree care and patience.

“Silver maples from Minnesota to Ohio are experiencing this phenomenon,” said Brian Schwingle, DNR forest health specialist. “Environmental stressors and natural cycles of large seed production are factors in this situation.”

The large production of seeds means less energy is available for leaf development, causing stunted and sparse patches of leaves. Such conditions happen periodically with elms, maples, ashes and oaks.

Watering trees during periods of drought is important. The best way to water an established tree is to slowly apply water once a week for four to eight hours in the tree’s dripline (area underneath the canopy). This can be done by moving around a hose that is trickling water under the tree’s canopy or laying drip tubing on the ground under the tree’s canopy.

Fertilizing stressed trees is not recommended.

To learn more about tree care, visit the DNR’s tree care Web page at www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/caring-pruning.html.

Paddlers will attempt to travel entire Minnesota River in 1 day - June 4, 2015

Minnesota River

Paddling enthusiasts hope to see an unprecedented number of canoes and kayaks on the Minnesota River on Saturday, June 13 (National Get Outdoors Day). 

“The goal will be to paddle every navigable river mile of the Minnesota River,” said Alex Watson, a regional naturalist for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division and one of the event’s organizers. “The Minnesota River is 318 miles long, though, so we will need as many paddlers as we can get.” 

Participants can paddle a section of the river on their own that day or join one of the following organized paddles that will take place all along the river, from the headwaters at Big Stone Lake State Park in Ortonville to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul:

  • Skalbekken County Park to Vicksburg County Park (13 miles or about 5 hours).
    Limited canoes and kayaks available, or bring your own.
    o Group leader: Peg Furshong, Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) Events and Adventures coordinator.
    o How to register: Call 1-877-269-2873 or email peg@cureriver.org.
  • Memorial Park to Upper Sioux Agency State Park (8 miles or about 2.5 hours).
    Bring your own canoe or kayak (no wooden canoes).
    o Group leader: Brian Wojtalewicz, CURE board member.
    o How to register: Call 1-877-269-2873 or email peg@cureriver.org.
  • Judson to Land of Memories Park (11.5 miles or about 3 hours).
    Bring your own canoe or kayak.
    o Group leader: Brad Nawrocki, Mankato Paddling and Outing Club.
    o How to register: Call 507-340-4459.
  • Mack Lake County Park to Fort Ridgley State Park (8.5 miles or about 5 hours).
    Limited canoes available, or bring your own canoe or kayak.
    o Group leader: Scott Kudelka, naturalist, Minneopa State Park.
    o How to register: Call 507-384-8890 or email scott.kudelka@state.mn.us.
  • 35W Bridge to downtown St. Paul (email for trip details).
    Limited canoes available, or bring your own canoe or kayak.
    o Group leader: Natalie Warren, Wild River Academy.
    o How to register: Email paddle@wildriveracademy.com.
  • Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge (3 miles or about 4 hours).
    Bring your own canoe or kayak.
    o Group leader: Alice Hanley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    o How to register: Call 320-273-2500 or email alice.hanley@fws.gov.

Watson asks anyone planning to paddle a different section of the river to let him know in advance by sending an email to alexander.watson@state.mn.us or by leaving a message at 507-359-6062. That will help organizers keep track of which sections of the river are “spoken for,” and which sections are still in need of paddlers. Participants should also email or call at the end of the day on June 13 to confirm how many miles they paddled, along with their put-in and take-out points. 

For more information, contact the group leaders, visit www.mndnr.gov/riverinaday or call the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Roadsides are important habitat for pollinators and pheasants - June 4, 2015

People who own or manage land along Minnesota roads and highways are urged to delay roadside mowing until the beginning of August, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“A quarter to a third of all the pheasants in the state are hatched in roadsides,” said Nicole Davros, DNR upland game project leader. “Roadsides provide more than 500,000 acres of nesting and chick-rearing habitat in southern and western Minnesota.”

This year, pheasants will be hatching mostly in early- to mid-June. Chicks need at least two to three weeks to have any chance of escape from mowers. While mowing can delay or prevent nesting, so can other disturbances including burning, tilling, grazing and spraying herbicides.

“People can influence the abundance of local wildlife populations by protecting roadside habitat in the summer months,” Davros said. “Roadside vegetation is especially important in intensively row cropped regions where there is little other undisturbed grassland habitat available.”

At sites where noxious weeds are a problem, the DNR recommends that landowners use spot mowing or spraying for treatment. If landowners are worried about traffic safety, mowing should be limited to a narrow strip adjacent to their mailbox or driveway to reduce the likelihood of disturbing a nest or brood.

Pheasant hens will make from one to four attempts at nesting during the spring nesting season, but will only hatch one brood per year. The majority of nests (about 60 percent) hatch in June, but re-nesting attempts can stretch the nesting season out through July. By Aug. 1, the reproductive season is over for most pheasants with the exception of a few late re-nesting attempts.

A nesting hen lays eggs at a rate of about one per day. Nests contain an average of 10 to 12 eggs. The incubation period is 23 to 28 days and starts after all eggs have been laid. The hen remains on the nest, leaving only briefly to feed.

Wide-ranging benefits of roadside habitat
Roadsides also provide important habitat for mallards, teal, gray partridge, grassland songbirds, pollinators, frogs and turtles.

Roadsides with native wildflowers benefit native bees. Research has shown that the width of the roadside and the proximity to traffic does not matter to bees. Minnesota bee keepers place a high value on roadside wildflowers. Loss of habitat is a critical cause of the decline in both wild bees and honeybees.

For more information see www.mndnr.gov/roadsidesforwildlife or contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

June 6-14 is All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Week - June 4, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds all-terrain vehicle (ATV) operators about safety training opportunities. June 6-14 is All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Week in Minnesota.

Over 600,000 ATVs are used in Minnesota by men, women and children for outdoor recreation and work. State law requires that anyone born after July 1, 1987, complete ATV safety training if they are 12 or older and want to ride on public land, trails, and frozen waters. Safety training is also available for adults.

In the last five years, 85 Minnesotans have lost their lives in ATV accidents.

Many fatalities could be avoided if people followed safety guidelines and took safety training, said Acting Capt. Jon Paurus, DNR education program coordinator.

“ATVs require special knowledge and training to be operated safely," Paurus said. He emphasized the importance of safety training for everyone, regardless of age.

Anyone born after July 1, 1987, and who is 16 years of age or older who wants to operate an ATV on public lands in Minnesota, must successfully complete the independent study ATV Safety Training CD. Youth ages 12-15 must complete the ATV Safety Training CD and attend a safety class before riding on public lands. Youth and adult ATV training CDs are available by calling 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

The DNR offers the following guidelines for reducing risks involved with ATVs:

  • ATV operators less than 18 years old must wear an approved safety helmet, except when operating on private property. To prevent head injuries, everyone should wear a helmet.
  • ATVs are not toys and can be hazardous to operate. Supervise young riders at all times.
  • An ATV handles differently from other vehicles. Even routine maneuvers, such as turning and driving on hills and over obstacles, can lead to serious injury if the driver fails to take proper precautions. With preparation and practice, operators can safely develop and expand their riding skills.
  • Youth need to “fit” the machine. A 60- to- 120 pound youth and a 400-pound ATV are a mismatch.
  • More information can be found in the 2014-2015 Off-Highway Vehicle Regulations booklet at www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/ohv/index.html.

DNR seeks to expand dialogue about state’s pike problems - June 1, 2015

Excited to catch a big northern pike at the cabin near Brainerd, an angler casts a lure all week, yet, day after day, only has success in reeling in skinny, snake-like pike.

In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a large pike strikes bait not far from the rocky shore of an island. With the fish landed, the angler debates whether to keep it for dinner.

On a lake bordered by farm fields, a teenager hooked on fishing has constant action from largemouth bass and panfish but long-ago gave up on casting fruitlessly for pike that are few and far between.

These scenarios illustrate pike problems in different parts of Minnesota. In hopes of improving northern pike fishing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wants to expand the dialogue with anglers and darkhouse spearers about the problems.

One concept the DNR will discuss entails creating three pike fishing zones that could solve unique challenges with pike in northeastern, north-central and southern Minnesota.

“There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to effective pike regulations,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. “However, a zone concept, if enacted, could protect large pike in the northeast, increase pike populations in the south and eventually solve the problem of an over-abundance of small pike in north-central Minnesota.”

In hopes of engaging anglers and spearers about the zone concept, the DNR has developed a Web page at www.mndnr.gov/pike that includes a video outlining the concept, frequently asked questions, a comment form and a space where people can sign up to receive information via email.

During the coming summer months, the pike page will expand to include presentations on the idea and include times and places of meetings where people can hear more, ask questions and offer informal comments.

Accommodating people who spear fish from a darkhouse is an important consideration, Pereira said. DNR has started dialog with leaders of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association to determine what regulations may work to conserve and improve their sport as well. 

“The DNR manages pike fisheries in more than 3,000 lakes,” Pereria said. “With good dialogue and support from anglers, spearers and all of our stakeholders, we should be able to improve pike fishing for those who are harvest-oriented as well as those keen about pursuing trophy northern pike.”

So what is the pike problem in Minnesota? There isn’t just one problem – or one solution – because pike populations differ in various regions of the state.

“Our primary objective is to manage pike as a fish for harvest. We’re asking anglers and spearers to consider a change in direction from the regulations we now have in hopes of making pike populations healthier and improving fishing in the future,” Pereira said.

In the northeast, pike are present in relatively low numbers. They reproduce naturally. Although they grow slowly, they can grow quite large because relatively few anglers scatter limited fishing pressure across a large number of lakes.

In this area, overharvest of large fish would be detrimental to pike populations.

“In the northeast, there are large fish in the population,” Pereira said. “A zone concept could aim to protect these fish while continuing to allow opportunity to harvest smaller pike. A change such as this would not increase the pike population.”

In the southern area of the state, pike are less abundant and don’t reproduce as well as in the north. Southern Minnesota has high fishing pressure and a high harvest rate relative to the number of pike; however, these fish grow fast.

“In southern Minnesota, we could increase pike numbers and harvest opportunities through supplemental stocking, a minimum size limit and a two-fish bag limit,” Pereira said. “Anglers in such a scenario would harvest fewer fish but they would be larger, and the total pounds of pike harvested would remain about the same. Anglers would be catching larger fish within a year or two.”

The north-central area is plagued by too many small pike, also known as the hammer-handle problem. There is moderate to high fishing pressure and high harvest of large and medium size pike. Pike grow slowly here. An over-abundance of small pike is the result.

The overpopulated small pike eat large numbers of perch, which may have a negative effect on panfish populations. Overabundant pike also eat stocked walleyes, reducing the effectiveness of walleye stocking. And small pike eat proportionately more than big pike – for example, 10 one-pound pike eat significantly more than one 10-pound pike.

“North-central Minnesota has the hammer-handle pike problem to the detriment of not only pike but also stocked walleye, perch and panfish,” Pereira said. “With any new regulations, we would hope to see a gradual but moderate increase in the average size of pike.”

More information
A zone concept, depending on what shape it takes, would be unlikely to create more trophy pike, as there are already special regulations that achieve that goal on individual lakes. The zone concept would leave existing special and experimental regulations in place.

“We want to improve northern pike fishing in the entire state, but pike populations are vastly different in different areas of the state. DNR technical experts are working to determine which regulations may work best and will be talking with anglers and stakeholders this summer and fall,” Pereira said.

Check www.mndnr.gov/pike for updated information about the proposal, including frequently asked questions, maps with zone locations and pike densities and information on how to comment.

DNR seeks input on 3 proposed hunting regulations changes - June 1, 2015

Anyone interested in small-game hunting can give input on three hunting topics to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through Friday, June 19, online at www.mndnr.gov/wildlifeinput, or in writing. 

The survey covers the following proposals:

  • Reducing the bag limit for white-tailed jack rabbits from the current daily combined limit of 10 to one. This change would only affect the bag limit on jack rabbits and would not affect the bag limit on cottontail rabbits or snowshoe hares.
  • Increasing the small game possession limit on all species (except turkeys) to three times the daily limit. Currently some species are two times the daily limit while others are three times.
  • Allowing electric trolling motors on three migratory waterfowl feeding and resting areas in Le Sueur County.

Take a Kid Fishing Weekend is June 5-7 - June 1, 2015

It’s Take a Kid Fishing Weekend in Minnesota, June 5-7, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

During this three-day period, Minnesotans age 16 or older do not need a fishing license while taking a child age 15 or younger fishing.

For more information on how, when and where to fish, see the DNR’s Fish Minnesota page at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.

DNR shallow lakes program supervisor gets national recognition - June 1, 2015

Minnesota’s efforts to manage shallow lakes received national attention in May when Department of Natural Resources employee Nicole Hansel-Welch received the Blue-winged Teal Award from the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Committee.

“This award is a big deal, and Hansel-Welch is very deserving for her work guiding the shallow lakes program, which provides better habitat for ducks and other wildlife,” said Ricky Lien, wetland habitat team supervisor for the Minnesota DNR . “She not only undertakes ground-level work on complex habitat projects, but she is able to formulate effective and common sense policy that continues to make the program a model among states.”

Minnesota has more than 5,000 shallow lakes greater than 50 acres in size. These lakes, generally less than 15 feet deep, contain abundant aquatic plants and provide the most important wildlife habitat. Hansel-Welch, DNR shallow lakes program supervisor, and her staff manage these lakes to provide wildlife habitat, clear murky waters, increase aquatic vegetation and provide food and cover for wildlife.

The committee, an international body that provides leadership on waterfowl conservation and management, annually selects award recipients based on activities that substantially benefit waterfowl, other wetland-associated migratory bird populations or wetland habitats.

“We are fortunate to have Hansel-Welch and her broad knowledge of enhancement of permanent wetlands guiding the shallow lakes program,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “She approaches her work in a highly professional manner and succeeds on multiple levels in a program that often manages more than 200,000 acres of permanent wetlands each year.”

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan is an international strategy for conserving migratory waterfowl throughout the continent. Canada and the United States signed the plan in 1986; Mexico joined in 1994.

The success of the plan is directly related to the contributions of dedicated partners – both individuals and groups. The Blue-winged Teal award is meant to give recognition to their work.

More information on the awards and previous winners is available on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website at http://www.fws.gov/birds/management/bird-management-plans/north-american-waterfowl-management-plan/plan-awards.php.

Information about the DNR’s shallow lakes program is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wildlife/shallowlakes.

Minnesota turtles now crossing roads to find a place to nest - June 1, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding people that turtles crossing roads now are often moving to familiar nesting locations. Allowing turtles to cross the roads is vital to the preservation of regional populations.

“Many turtles and other species are killed on Minnesota roads each year, especially during the nesting season,” said Carol Hall, DNR herpetologist. “In fact, roadway mortality is believed to be a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the United States.”

In Minnesota, where all turtles are mainly aquatic, overland journeys usually occur: in connection with seasonal movements between different wetland habitats; during the annual early summer nesting migration of egg laden females; or when newly hatched youngsters seek out the backwaters and ponds for their permanent home. Turtles can travel many miles during a single year, and may even be found far from water.

Giving turtles a hand
The following points should be remembered:

  • Think safety. Simply pulling off the road and turning on hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of surroundings and traffic.
  • Avoid excessive handling. While wanting to inspect turtles closely is understandable, excessive handling can disrupt normal behavior. Prolonged examination of turtles should be limited to only one or two individuals of each species.
  • Allow unassisted road crossings. When turtles can safely cross roads unaided due to a lack of oncoming traffic, allow them to do so. Observe from a distance and avoid rapid movements, as doing otherwise will often cause turtles to change direction, stop, or seek shelter within their shells.
  • Handle turtles gently. If necessary to pick them up, all turtles except Snappers and Softshells ("leatherbacks" - see link for more information on these species that may bite when picked up) should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. Many turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop them if they should suddenly expel water.
  • Maintain direction of travel. Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling in when encountered. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible. It may seem helpful to "assist" the turtle in its journey by moving them to a nearby waterbody, but it is important to remember the phrase, "If you care, leave it there."
  • Document the find. Help document turtle crossing and mortality areas by participating in the Minnesota Turtle Crossing Tally & Count Project. http://www.herpmapper.org/content/pdf/mn-turtles-and-roads-project.pdf.

Transportation and parks departments can help turtles by not mowing ditches during peak nesting season (typically late May to early July in Minnesota), as many turtles like to nest on the elevated roadway shoulders. If mowing is absolutely necessary, an 8-inch deck-height is recommended. For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/reptiles_amphibians/helping-turtles-roads.html.

Grand opening for Brown’s Creek State Trail will include a week-long celebration - May 28, 2015

A week of events will celebrate the grand opening of Brown’s Creek State Trail, starting with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 6 (National Trails Day) in the parking lot east of  Highway 95 and Elm Street in Stillwater, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Kids are invited to decorate their bikes with provided supplies at 9:30 a.m. and then line up to be the first to ride the trail after the ribbon-cutting. Refreshments and naturalist activities will follow the ribbon-cutting.

“Brown’s Creek State Trail is a beautiful 6-mile addition to the Minnesota state parks and trails system,” said Erika Rivers, the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division director. “We expect it to be popular with walkers, bikers, in-line skaters and cross-country skiers.”

Rivers and Assistant Commissioner Sarah Strommen will represent the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at the ribbon-cutting. Joining them will be Gary Kriesel, chairman, Washington County Board of Commissioners; Ted Kozlowski, mayor, city of Stillwater; Craig Leiser, president of Brown’s Creek Watershed District; Bob Hagstrom, director, Gateway-Brown’s Creek Trail Association; and others.

Special events later in the week include:

  • Sunday, June 7, 1 p.m.: Geocaching 101.
  • Monday, June 8, 1 p.m.: Nature Through a Camera Lens.
  • Tuesday, June 9, 7 a.m.: Birds of Brown’s Creek State Trail.
  • Wednesday, June 10, 10 a.m.: Wildflower/Plant Walk. 
  • Thursday, June 11, 6:30 p.m.: Brown’s Creek Watershed District Ice Cream Social and Trail Ride. 

To participate in any of these events, meet at the Brown’s Creek Nature Preserve, south of McKusick Road on Neal Avenue in Stillwater.

Brown’s Creek State Trail is paved from Stillwater to the Gateway State Trail, which continues all the way to St. Paul. It is part of Minnesota’s extensive state trail system, which includes nearly 600 miles of paved trails.

For a trail map or more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/browns_creek/index.html or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Take a kid fishing and fish free June 5-7 - May 28, 2015

Minnesotans age 16 or older don’t need a fishing license to take a child age 15 or younger fishing on Friday, June 5, to Sunday, June 7, during Take a Kid Fishing Weekend.

“This is an annual opportunity to introduce a child to fishing without the prior purchase of a fishing license,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “It’s a great weekend to make some memories and go fishing with family and friends.”

For those new to fishing, the DNR’s Fish Minnesota Web page at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn answers basic fishing questions and explains fishing terminology. The site also includes links to a beginner’s guide to fishing, fishing regulations and information on where to fish.

“It is incredibly rewarding to watch a kid smile ear-to-ear while they reel in a fish,” Kurre said. “Kids love fishing, and at your fingertips there are resources that make it easier to learn how to fish and teach others.”

Fishing classes from the DNR’s I Can Fish! program run throughout the summer at state parks. And even when it’s not Take a Kid Fishing Weekend, Minnesota residents generally can fish in state parks without a fishing license if the body of water doesn’t require a trout stamp.

For links to state park fishing information, the beginner’s guide to fishing and more, see the DNR’s Take a Kid Fishing page at www.mndnr.gov/takeakidfishing.

ATV riders can explore Minnesota trails free June 5-7 - May 28, 2015

Minnesotans with an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) registered for private or agricultural use won’t need to pay the additional registration fee ($53.50 for three years) to ride the state’s public ATV trails June 5-7, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Out-of-state riders can explore Minnesota ATV trails that weekend as well, without the need for a nonresident trail pass ($21 annually). This is the second year that Minnesota is providing ATV riders with free access to more than 3,000 miles of state forest and grant-in-aid trails during “No Registration Weekend.”

“We see this weekend as a great opportunity to showcase the wide variety of state and grant-in-aid trails across Minnesota,” said Mary Straka, off-highway vehicle (OHV) program consultant. “There are a large number of privately registered ATVs across the state that, during this weekend, can give the public trails a try for free.”

Some places to start, according to Straka, include:

  • The Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area, a 1,200-acre OHV park in Gilbert with 36 miles of scenic trails for riders of all abilities.
  • The 100-mile trail system in Nemadji State Forest, which connects to the Matthew Lourey State Trail and the Gandy Dancer Trail for more riding opportunities.
  • The 29-mile Spider Lake trail system in Foot Hills State Forest, where riders will curve around lakes and ponds, go up and down a variety of hills, and view overlooks from the ridges throughout the forest.
  • The 200-mile Northwoods Regional Trail System in Aitkin and Itasca counties, where riders will use the Soo Line Trail to connect to great communities and trail loops.

These and other riding destinations are featured in an OHV Trail Atlas available for free from the DNR. The atlas includes maps, descriptions, parking and other information for 54 state and GIA trails for ATVs, off-highway motorcycles and off-road vehicles.

Minnesota DNR and National Guard combat wildfires - May 28, 2015

With a Department of Natural Resources Air Attack operator in a helicopter pointing out the targets, two Minnesota Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters assaulted a series of controlled grass fires this month at Camp Ripley.

The DNR and the National Guard have been training together with live fires since 2001, but for the first time a DNR Enforcement helicopter is being used to direct the Black Hawks to their targets. The DNR helicopter is ideal for serving as an aerial supervision platform, guiding the Black Hawks.
“This cooperative effort is an excellent example of a partnership designed to improve firefighting efficiencies, as well as contain air support costs,” said Capt. Tom Buker, DNR Enforcement Division chief pilot.

The fires were deliberately set to increase proficiency in delivering water to a fireline, to use proper communication procedures for airspace coordination around a fire traffic area or dip site, and to practice air/ground coordination, according to Darren Neuman, acting DNR Forestry Division helicopter operations specialist.

Guard helicopters use buckets, known by the trademarked name of Bambi Buckets, to scoop up water from lakes, ponds, and rivers that are deep enough for the bucket to be submerged.

The collapsible buckets, which are hung underneath the Black Hawk helicopters, can dump 640 gallons or 5,120 pounds of water on a fire each time they are used, a boon to DNR firefighters.

“The National Guard helicopters can be mobilized within hours,” Neuman said. “The next helicopters that can deliver that amount of water are at least one or two days travel time away.”

Two National Guard Black Hawks were used in April for water bucket missions at the Palsburg wildfire in Beltrami Island State Forest near Warroad.

At the controls of the DNR helicopter was Brad Maas, a retired chief warrant officer with the Guard who deployed to Iraq in 2007. Also onboard was DNR Forestry Air Attack operator who coordinated the drops and locations for the National Guard aircraft. Maas was in charge of positioning the helicopter so the Air Attack could view the operation.

“Air Attack helps advise the ground folks of incoming drops, where to hit the fire next, plus handle any problems if the fire unexpectedly takes off in a different direction,” said Maas.

Each spring, Minnesota Army National Guard helicopter crews retrain and recertify on how to attach the buckets to Black Hawk helicopters, and then practice picking up and dumping water.

“The objective is to integrate the Minnesota Guard air assets into a fire scenario in a training environment, so when they are mobilized for an actual fire they are better prepared,” said Col. Shawn Manke, the Guard’s state aviation officer. “It also allows us to understand expectations and integrate with our interagency partners, allowing us to more efficiently and effectively respond to civil authority requests.”

Manke said that all Guard crews must be of the highest readiness level before they are allowed to respond to a fire. This training entails all flight modes with mission tasks that include sling loads and water bucket training, with an emphasis on crew coordination. Additionally, required classroom training is taught by the DNR, Guard instructor pilots, or through online independent study.

“Once prerequisite field and classroom training is completed, we conduct hands-on training with the DNR,” Manke said.

Minnesota National Guard aviators have a good working relationship with the DNR. 

“The training we facilitate through collaboration increases the readiness of the Minnesota National Guard, and it provides a capable force for the DNR to respond to fire threats when required,” Manke said.