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Mille Lacs walleye regulations to stay the same

March 31, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

As part of a plan to increase angling opportunity, improve walleye numbers and stay within the state’s 1837 Treaty safe harvest allocation, the Department of Natural Resources will modify fishing regulations at Mille Lacs Lake for the 2014 season.

The walleye daily and possession limit remain unchanged.

The limit will be two walleye from 18- to 20-inches, except one longer than 28 inches may be taken.

The night fishing ban, enforced from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will begin Monday, May 12, and will be extended through Monday, Dec. 1, rather than ending in mid-June.

The 2014 walleye safe harvest level is 60,000 pounds. Of this amount, 42,900 pounds is allocated to the state and 17,100 pounds is allocated to the eight Chippewa bands with 1837 Treaty harvest rights.

“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief.

When new regulations go into effect on Saturday, May 10, anglers will be able to keep 10 northern pike, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. This increases the limit by seven.

Anglers also will be able to fish for northern pike for a longer period of time.

The close of the season will be extended from mid-February to the last Sunday in March.

The northern pike spearing ban on Mille Lacs also will be removed.

Similarly, the smallmouth bass harvest season will be extended and limits relaxed.

The smallmouth bass season on Mille Lacs will start May 10 and be exempted from the statewide catch-and-release regulation that begins in mid-September.

This means anglers may harvest smallmouth bass from the opener until the last Sunday in February.

Anglers may keep six fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches.

The previous regulation allowed anglers to keep six fish 17- to 20-inches, only one of which could be longer than 20 inches.

“More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressure because their populations are at or near record highs,” Pereira said. “The current walleye regulation and the extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level.”

Pereira said the suite of regulations reflects significant fish population changes at Mille Lacs.

Walleye numbers are at a 40-year low.

Northern pike numbers are at record highs.

The smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s.

Tullibee and perch populations, both important forage species, are relatively low.

Fish populations likely are being influenced by many factors, including clearer water, climate change, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, Eurasian watermilfoil and a treaty management approach that focused too much walleye harvest on too narrow a size range of fish.

“Mille Lacs is a system under change and portions of that change began even prior to the treaty management that began in the late 1990s,” said Pereira. “The good news is that we have more than enough spawning walleye and a history of solid egg and fry production. What we need is for the walleye that hatch to grow into strong year classes for anglers to catch. That hasn’t happened since 2008. That’s why we are focused on protecting small walleye and our ample but declining walleye spawning stock.”

Pereira added that the agency is also committed to the long-term protection of the lake’s trophy smallmouth and trophy northern pike fisheries.

The DNR’s approach to managing Mille Lacs is currently under review by a panel of national fish management experts.

The agency convened the panel earlier this year as part of a broad approach to involve outside experts and citizens in agency decision making.

Information about panel experts and Mille Lacs management can be found at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club’s annual hog roast April 12

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club’s annual hog roast is set for Saturday, April 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Blue Note in Winsted.

Advance tickets are $9, or $10 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Winsted Farmers Co-op, Keg’s Bar, Blue Note, and from any member. Take-outs are available.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club to offer firearm safety classes

The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearm’s safety classes starting Monday, April 7.

To sign-up, attend the first class Monday, April 7 at the Blue Note Ballroom. The class runs from 5 to 6 p.m.

You must be 12-years old by Sept. 1, 2014 to register for the class – adults are welcome.

The class runs for three weeks. If you have any questions, contact Steve Fiecke at (320) 485-2434 (after 4 p.m.).

CRDU banquet set for Mon., April 14

The annual Crow River Ducks Unlimited banquet will take place Monday, April 14 at 5 p.m. at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

LPSC to offer firearm’s safety training this spring

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearms’ safety training this spring, every Tuesday and Thursday in April.

The first class and registration night is Tuesday, April 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

Classes, which are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, will be April 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, and 28.

The test will be Tuesday, May 6. The test for the online course is Saturday, May 3.

All classes begin at 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact Doug Minnick at (320) 395-2143.

Bald eagles on spring migration back to Minnesota
From the DNR

Bald eagles are migrating back to Minnesota and may be seen in large numbers across parts of the state over the next few weeks, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Ice is breaking up along the rivers, so it’s definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR regional nongame wildlife specialist. “It all depends on the weather. It’s typical to see eagles coming through our area in mid-to-late March, as waters begin to open up and snow melts.”

Only two states, Florida and Alaska, have greater nesting populations of bald eagles than Minnesota.

In 2005, researchers estimated there are more than 1,300 active nests in Minnesota.

Fall migration typically occurs as lakes and rivers freeze over, since most eagles prefer a diet of fish.

Bald eagle wintering grounds ideally contain open water, ample food, limited human disturbance and protective roosting sites.

Not all bald eagles migrate southward in the fall, Gelvin-Innvaer said.

In southern Minnesota, it’s common for some eagle pairs to stay the winter, especially during milder winters.

“This winter we’ve had a lot more snow and cold temperatures than last year,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “It makes carrion a bit harder for eagles to find.”

Bald eagles that stay local may begin courting and nesting as early as December or January.

Other bald eagles return to their breeding territories, as soon as a food source is available.

“Eagle migration hotspots are a bit of a moving target, so it’s hard to say where the eagles are right now,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “In Minnesota, the biggest migrations tend to be along the Minnesota River corridor, the north shore of Lake Superior and around Lake Pepin in southeastern Minnesota.”

Adult bald eagles are easily identified by a white head and tail contrasting with a dark brown body.

Bald eagles attain full adult plumage in their fourth or fifth year.

In flight, bald eagles are sometimes confused with turkey vultures.

However, bald eagles have a tendency to soar on flat, board-like wings, while turkey vultures fly with their wings in a v-shape.

Bald eagles are an example of how they and many other wildlife species benefit directly from donations made to the nongame wildlife checkoff on Minnesota tax forms.

Checkoff dollars fund research, surveys and education for more than 700 nongame wildlife species.

Each dollar donated is matched by funds from the Reinvest In Minnesota account.

The DNR’s nongame wildlife program is now streaming live video of a nesting pair of bald eagles on its website at www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle.

For additional information on bald eagles or where to view them, go to www.mndnr.gov/birds/eagles/winter_wabasha.html or www.mndnr.gov/snapshots/birds/baldeagle.html.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: With the potential for wildfire season this spring, is there anything people can do now to protect their homes and cabins?

A: Now, while the snowpack is still here, burn brush piles.

If there is less than 3 inches of snow on the ground, a burning permit is required. Check with a local forestry office.

Late winter is the best time to prune trees.

Look at the trees and shrubs within 100 feet surrounding the cabin or house.

Eliminate ladder fuels by pruning 6 to 10 feet up from the ground.

Thin out evergreen trees so branches are 10 feet apart.

Maintain a 10-foot space between the crowns of trees.

Clean roof and gutters of any wood any pine needles, leaves or debris.

Prune off tree branches touching the house.

Move wood piles outside a 30-foot zone surrounding the cabin or house.

Make sure the chimney has a spark arrestor.

For more information go to www.mndnr.gov/firewise.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers during the past week.
CO Mies also gave a law talk at the Darwin firearms safety class.
CO Mies also worked on removing a fish house on the lake past the deadline.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) answered a call of a road kill otter.
He assisted the DNR Wildlife Division at a deer management meeting in Cambridge.
He also followed up on a license purchasing violations with charges pending.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) followed up on several ice shelter past the deadline and litter cases.
Several wildlife calls were taken care of involving coyotes, hawks and deer.
Enforcement action was taken for fish house violations and no angling license.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers and cleaned up litter on area lakes.
He gave a presentation to a firearms safety class in Waconia.
Several calls were returned on various questions.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) dealt with a fish house that had been abandoned at a lake access.
She attended a meeting to discuss a proposed ATV ordinance in Renville County.
Mueller also continued doing commercial checks in the area.
She also attended an appreciation dinner for area volunteer firearms, snowmobile and ATV instructors.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) followed up on a deer dumping case.
Time was also spent looking at a potential waters issue on Buffalo Creek.
A firearms safety talk was also given at the Shady Lane Sportsman’s Club.