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Intensive fisheries management work underway on the Red River - May 18, 2015

Anglers who fish the Red River this year may see fisheries management work underway as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and North Dakota Game and Fish Department conduct a fish population assessment and an angler creel survey.

“The population assessment will target channel catfish, but will provide valuable information on other species as well,” said Jamison Wendel, DNR Red River fisheries specialist. “We conduct the fish population and creel surveys every five years.”

The Red River is a destination fishery that attracts a significant number of out-of-area anglers –including those from the Twin Cities and other states – seeking trophy-sized channel catfish.

Some anglers may be interviewed by DNR personnel at access points along the river during the creel survey that began May 1 and will run through Wednesday, Sept. 30.

“The purpose of the creel survey is to measure fishing pressure and angler catch,” Wendel said. “Data collected from these surveys on the Red River will provide information to support fisheries management decisions and develop future management plans.”

The population assessment will include sampling with trap nets and trot lines, and will begin in late May and continue for two to three weeks. Biologists will gather data on fish size, relative numbers and age.

During this year’s population assessment, the DNR will collaborate with the Province of Manitoba, assisted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to mark channel catfish with small tags near the dorsal fin.

“The fisheries resources of the Red River are shared with our Canadian neighbors, and this study will help us understand migration and dispersal of fish between nations,” Wendel said. “It may also help us evaluate fish passage related to recent dam modification projects along the Red River and tributary streams.”

The DNR is asking anglers who catch channel catfish to report any fish that are tagged. All tags will have a unique number to identify the fish, as well as a toll free number, 855-207-7706, to call and report the tag. When reporting a tagged fish, anglers should be prepared to provide:

  • Tag number.
  • Date of capture.
  • Location of capture.
  • Fish length.
  • Whether the fish was harvested or released.
  • Personal contact information (optional) if the angler is interested in receiving some background on the fish they caught.

For more information on the Red River fishery, visit www.mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries/baudette/events.html and click on “Fishing info for the Red River of the North” on the left side of the page.

Itasca State Park to begin watercraft inspections May 22 - May 18, 2015

All watercraft entering Itasca State Park will be inspected starting May 22, as part of a new plan to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in park waters, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Watercraft will be inspected at the north entrance and hours will vary. During inspection hours, all watercraft arriving at the south or east park entrances will be routed to the north entrance.

Inspectors will check to ensure boaters follow clean, drain, dispose laws and may deny access if necessary. Information will be available to visitors about what they need to do to protect Minnesota waters.

“The lakes and waters of Itasca State Park are precious resources,” said Chris Gronewold, Itasca State Park resource specialist. “Our visitors have a stake in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in park waters, as well as all waters in the state.”

The law requires boaters to clean weeds and debris from their boats, remove drain plugs and keep them out while traveling, and dispose of unused bait in the trash.
Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas can be easily carried from one lake to another if aquatic plants or water are left on a boat or trailer.

Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them before moving to another body of water, especially after leaving zebra mussel or spiny waterflea infested waters, the DNR recommends that boaters either:

  • Spray boat with high-pressure water;
  • Rinse boat with hot water (120 degrees for two minutes, or 140 degrees for 10 seconds); or
  • Dry boat and equipment for at least five days.

Watercraft inspections at Itasca State Park are a cooperative effort by the DNR Parks and Trails Division and Clearwater County, which funded the watercraft inspector positions.
More information, including a 30-second public service announcement about stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species, is available at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

Seedlings need to be planted correctly to grow future woodlands - May 18, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds woodland owners to plant seedlings correctly so they will grow into strong, healthy trees.

“Taking the extra time to correctly plant your seedling will help protect your time and investment,” said Craig VanSickle, DNR state forest nursery supervisor.

Spring is the best time to plant seedlings.

VanSickle recommends the following steps:

  • Keep the roots moist (but not wet) until planting time.
  • Dig a hole twice as wide as and slightly deeper than the root length.
  • If the hole cannot be dug deep enough to fit the entire root system, trim the roots to same length as the seedling’s above-ground height or 8 inches, whichever is longer.
  • Place roots into the hole so top of the first root is slightly below surface level.
  • Distribute roots evenly, making sure roots are straight and not doubled over.
  • Backfill hole to slightly above top of first root.
  • Heel in soil with foot to remove air pockets.
  • Water entire backfill area.
  • When possible, place mulch around seedling, keeping mulch away from the trunk.
  • Download an instructional card on how to correctly plant seedlings at www.mndnr.gov/arbormonth.                                                  

DNR asks lakeshore owners to report endangered salamanders, die-offs - May 18, 2015


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking lakeshore owners and citizens to report any mudpuppy salamanders they see, especially die-offs on rivers and lakes. A die-off is defined as five or more dead salamanders in a lake at the same place at the same time.

“We have had several dead mudpuppy reports by lake residents these past few years on Big Cormorant and Melissa lakes in Becker County,” said Krista Larson, DNR nongame research biologist. “We have collected salamanders to try to determine what has been killing them, but so far, the results have been inconclusive.”

Any mudpuppies caught or found dead should be photographed and reported to krista.larson@state.mn.us, or by calling the report line at 651-259-5076.
In 2013, mudpuppies were added to the state’s list of endangered and threatened species as a species of special concern due to habitat loss, stream siltation and pollution, and overharvest for bait or by biological supply companies.

Many people mistakenly call tiger salamanders “mudpuppies” or “waterdogs.” In fact, mudpuppies are a separate species and the largest salamander in Minnesota. While tiger salamanders spend their early lives in water and adult lives on land, mudpuppies are Minnesota’s only fully aquatic salamander, meaning they spend their entire lives in water. 

Mudpuppies are about 13 to16 inches long, brown or grayish in color, have spots peppered along their back and sides, and a light gray or buff underside. They have small eyes, a paddle-like tail for swimming, and external gills that look like feathery projections near their head.

Tiger salamanders are 7 to 13 inches long and are black with yellow markings. They are easy to separate from mudpuppies if they are adults (lacking external gills), but the young (larval) resemble small mudpuppies.

Mudpuppies have four toes on their back feet and tiger salamanders have five toes. Additionally, mudpuppies have a back (dorsal) fin only on their tail, whereas larval tiger salamanders have a dorsal fin that goes from their tail and nearly reaches their head.

They’re found in large to medium rivers throughout Minnesota, and also in lakes around the Alexandria and Detroit Lakes area. They can be found in swift gravel-bottom streams or slow muddy rivers. They lay eggs on the undersides of rocks, sunken logs, or other underwater structures.

Research on mudpuppies and other nongame wildlife is funded by donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program and the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff on Minnesota income tax forms.

To donate to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program or for more information about it, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/nongame/donate.

To read more about mudpuppies in the DNR’s Conservation Volunteer magazine, visit http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/mcbs/publications/mcv_magazine_mudpuppy_necturus_maculosus.pdf

Minnesota’s boating season kicks off with Safe Boating Week - May 18, 2015

To kick off a safe boating season in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have joined the National Safe Boating Council in recognizing Saturday, May 16 through Friday, May 22, as the state’s official “Safe Boating Week.”

In a proclamation signed by Dayton, he notes that the vast majority of fatal boating accidents could have been prevented if the victims had been wearing life jackets. The proclamation goes on to encourage boaters to consider updated, more comfortable life jacket styles that are more likely to be worn in a preventive manner.

The main theme of Safe Boating Week is promotion of the voluntary, consistent use of life jackets to decrease the number of boating fatalities that occur each year. In 2014, there were 14 fatal boating accidents in Minnesota, and in 13 of those cases the victim was not wearing a life jacket.

“Wearing a life jacket is the easiest and most effective step you can take to stay safe on the water,” said Debbie Munson Badini, DNR boat and water safety education coordinator. “Safe Boating Week is a great time to do some life jacket shopping and consider options you actually will wear, such as inflatable harness or belt-style life jackets.”

To join the state in celebrating Safe Boating Week, boaters are invited to submit photos of themselves, family members, or friends who are wearing life jackets to the DNR’s Boat and Water Safety Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mndnrboatandwatersafety or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mndnr, using the hashtag #WearItMN.

Boaters are reminded that Minnesota law requires children under 10 years of age to wear a properly fitting life jacket when aboard a boat, unless it is tied to a dock or anchored for swimming.
Additional details on boating and life jacket regulations can be found in the 2015 Minnesota Boating Guide or online at www.mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

Fish and wildlife stamp artists and buyers help conservation efforts - May 18, 2015

Ever since the 1977 debut of the waterfowl stamp in Minnesota, people have helped fund fish and wildlife conservation by creating and buying stamps for trout and salmon, waterfowl, pheasants, walleyes and turkey.

“Anyone can buy these stamps, and stamp sales help fund walleye stocking and help enhance fish and wildlife habitat,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife population and regulation program manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The art for these stamps is new each year and chosen through annual contests.”

Collectible stamps can be purchased at any time. To purchase a collectible stamp go to www.mndnr.gov/licenses, click on fishing or hunting, then Stamps (collectible), or call the DNR at 651-296-6157.

Any Minnesota resident can enter stamp contests by submitting entries during these dates:

  • Trout and salmon stamp contest, entries accepted Monday, Aug. 3, until 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, and brook trout designs are not eligible this year.
  • Migratory waterfowl stamp contest entries accepted Monday, Aug. 17, until 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, and the American wigeon is the only eligible species for depiction on the 2016 waterfowl stamp.
  • Pheasant habitat stamp contest entries accepted Monday, Sept. 7, to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18.
  • Walleye stamp contest entries accepted Monday, Oct. 5, to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16.
  • Turkey stamp contest entries accepted Monday, Dec. 7, to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18.

License buyers planning to fish for trout and salmon or hunt waterfowl or pheasants are required to pay for stamp validations, which are printed on the license. The turkey stamp is included in the license cost and the walleye stamp is voluntary. For an extra 75 cents, license buyers can have the pictorial stamp mailed to them.

For more information on stamp contests, or to sign up to receive regular email updates on the stamp contests, see www.mndnr.gov/contests/stamps.html.

MnDOT offers farmers standing corn row program - May 15, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It may be springtime, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation already is thinking about winter. The agency is interested in talking with Minnesota farmers who are willing to leave a minimum of six rows of corn stalks stand through next winter to earn money and reduce the amount of snow blowing on state roads. 

Farmers can connect with MnDOT to learn about the program and determine if they are in a location that needs snow protection. Additionally, MnDOT can help farmers look at programs that assist in planting pollinator vegetation, which provides benefits to pollinators and complements the results of standing corn rows.

The standing corn rows are part of MnDOT’s blowing snow control program, which started about 15 years ago and pays landowners to create snow fences or vegetation that hampers snow drifts. 

Corn rows break the wind’s force, causing the snow to collect around the corn rows instead of drifting onto the roads. The rows improve driver visibility during “white out” conditions and improve road surface conditions, making roads safer for the traveling public and also reducing road maintenance costs.

“Standing corn rows improve driver visibility, reduce accidents and reduce the need for snow plowing,” said Shannon Wait, a MnDOT Living Snow Fence district coordinator. “They also decrease the potential of ice forming on the pavement.”

Payments are based per acre using a University of Minnesota calculator tool to determine fair compensation that factors in yield, production costs and inconvenience factors.

MnDOT looks for fields on the north and west sides of state highways and interstates where drifting is a problem. Effective corn rows need to be about 200 feet from the highway centerline. Agreements generally require farmers to leave six to 16 rows of corn in various arrangements until the end of March. Farmers may coordinate with nonprofit groups, like 4-H or Future Farmers of America, to hand-pick the corn as long as corn stalks are left in good condition.

The standing corn program is a one-year program. For more information, contact Dan Gullickson, Living Snow Fence Program coordinator, at 651 366-3610, or visit www.dot.state.mn.us/environment/livingsnowfence.

Apply now to hunt elk in Minnesota - May 12, 2015

Hunters have until Friday, June 12, to apply for one of seven elk licenses offered this year by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Hunters interested in applying for a license can find maps of the two hunting zones and other pertinent information on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/elk. Elk licenses will be available in Kittson County’s central and northeast zones, while the Grygla area will be closed to enable that area’s elk population to rebuild to goal levels.

“The goals of the state’s elk management plan influence the number of hunting licenses available,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “The management plan aims to balance the interest of hunters, landowners and others.”

The DNR has started a public process to revisit the elk management plan with the intent to update objectives by 2016. Goals in the current plan were established for 2009 to 2015.

As a result of lower elk numbers, fewer licenses will be offered and this year’s hunt will be restricted to one season. The 2015 elk season runs from Saturday, Sept. 12, to Sunday, Sept. 20. Five bulls-only licenses will be available in the Kittson County central zone (zone 20) and two bulls-only licenses will be available in the Kittson County northeast zone (zone 30). One landowner license will be available in the Kittson County central elk zone.

McInenly said aerial surveys conducted this winter in the Grygla area (zone 10) identified 18 elk, which is the lowest count in a number of years and is below the pre-calving goal range of 30 to 38 animals. This is the third year in a row that the herd has been below goal and a season has not been held.

The aerial survey conducted in the Kittson County central zone (zone 20) also indicated a population decline, with 34 elk observed this year. While the herd has declined in size, it is still above the established population goal of 20 to 30 animals. 

Elk within the Kittson County northeast zone spend a portion of the year in Manitoba, Canada.  A short-term population goal of 150 to 200 elk has been collaboratively established for this international herd, which consists of approximately 100 elk.

Apply at any DNR license agent, the DNR License Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or by telephone at 888-665-4236. Hunters may apply individually or in parties of two. There is a non-refundable application fee of $4 per hunter. License cost is $287.

DNR lifts burning restrictions in much of Minnesota - May 11, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is lifting burning restrictions today, May 14, in numerous Minnesota counties due to decreased fire danger because of precipitation and
green-up. This means burning permits will be available for burning of vegetative materials.

Although the state is lifting restrictions, local counties or municipalities may have specific regulations or restrictions that affect burning. Check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.

Up-to-date fire conditions and burning restrictions can be found at www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

Also, because fire danger can change quickly, DNR foresters are able to restrict burning permits in individual counties whenever conditions warrant. This could occur if there is a dry, windy day where fires could start easily and burn quickly.

The DNR advises anyone doing burning to keep burn piles small, have a water supply nearby and stay with the fire until it is completely out. If fire escapes, the person who started the fire is responsible for the damage and suppression costs.

Burning permits are available through state and federal forestry offices, from local fire wardens or online by paying a $5 fee per calendar year. Online permits need to be activated on the day of the burn.

Burning restrictions will remain in place in northern Minnesota until sufficient green-up occurs.