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Deer goal-setting meetings start Feb. 2

Jan. 19, 2015

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Opportunities for the public to participate in deer population goal setting for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota begin Monday, Feb. 2, in Monticello.

“Working with citizens to achieve conservation and management goals is integral to the mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “To make sure that goals are based on the broad range of public interest in deer, we use a public process to help determine how many deer to manage for in a given area.”

Each meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. After a short presentation on deer populations and management, meeting participants may comment verbally, ask DNR staff questions and complete a written questionnaire.

Deer population goals will be set for 40 of Minnesota’s 128 deer permit areas in 2015. People can view a map of the goal-setting areas at www.mndnr.gov/deer. They should attend a meeting for the goal-setting block that contains the deer permit areas in which they are interested. Meetings are scheduled for:

Block 5 – Sand-Plain Big Woods

Monday, Feb. 2, 2015: Monticello Community Center, Mississippi Room, 505 Walnut St., Monticello.

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015: Spring Lake Township, Town Hall Community Center, 20381 Fairlawn Ave., Prior Lake.

Deer permit areas included: 219, 223, 224, 227, 229, 235, 236, 285, 338, 339.

For those unable to attend a meeting for the area in which they are interested, details on how to submit written or online comments will be available soon at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

White-tailed deer are an important resource to the state of Minnesota. Nearly 500,000 individuals hunt deer and countless other people enjoy viewing deer in the state.

Deer managers look at deer density goals as a societal issue more so than a biological issue. Deer are capable of achieving high densities so are generally managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that habitat can support. This approach involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer who may favor lower deer densities.

“The public participation process has been designed to include input from anyone who has an interest in deer management,” McInenly said. “Citizen advisory team members also will attend the public meetings for their goal-setting block so they can learn what others have to say.”

When public meetings for each goal-setting block are complete, each citizen advisory team will review relevant biological and social data as well as public input. Teams will recommend population goals for each deer permit area in their assigned areas. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the advisory teams’ recommendations before DNR makes its final decision about goals.

Firearms safety class offered in Waverly

The Waverly Gun Club is offering the Minnesota Firearm Safety training class for anyone at least 11 years old by Jan. 1, 2015.

Class begins Monday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m., and will continue for eight weeks.

Registration for this class will take place Monday Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Waverly Gun Club.

A parent or guardian must attend registration if child is a minor. Proof of birth date is required.

The local fee is $7, and an additional $7.50 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fee will be paid directly to the DNR online.

Students who complete all the requirements receive a DNR Firearm Safety Certificate.

For more information or questions, contact Tracey at (612) 910-2198.

Winter trout fishing to open for first time on 24 lakes

From the DNR

Anglers for the first time will be able to fish for trout in the winter on two dozen north-central Minnesota lakes, many of them within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

Trout fishing on these lakes, which contain stream trout, will be open from Saturday, Jan. 17, through Tuesday, March 31. Stream trout are rainbow, brook and brown trout, and a hybrid of lake trout and brook trout called splake.

“These changes give anglers more opportunities to catch trout in the winter months,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We thought this would be a benefit to anglers with little risk of harming summer trout fishing.”

These lakes are not the only places to fish for trout in the winter. There are many trout lakes in northeastern Minnesota outside and inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. And anglers can fish for stream trout in streams in eight southeastern Minnesota counties. Details on all the seasons are at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn/trout.

The north-central Minnesota lakes have been open to trout fishing other times of year, but closed in winter since winter trout management began. Lakes open for the winter trout angling include:

Aitkin County: Blue, Loon (in Savannah Portage State Park) and Taylor lakes.

Becker County: Hanson Lake.

Beltrami County: Benjamin Lake.

Cass County: Diamond, Hazel, Margaret, Marion, Perch, and Teepee lakes.

Crow Wing County: Huntington (Feigh, Martin) Mine Lake, Mallen Mine Lake, Manuel Mine Lake, Pennington (Alstead, Arco, Mahnomen) Mine Lake, Portsmouth Mine Lake, Sagamore Mine Lake, Snoshoe Mine Lake, Section 6 Mine Lake, Strawberry, and Yawkey Mine Lake.

Hubbard County: Blacksmith, Blue, Crappie, and Newman lakes. Blue Lake has been open for winter trout fishing since 2008 and will continue to be open for winter fishing.

However, not all lakes in these counties will be open to winter trout fishing. Bad Medicine Lake in Becker County will remain closed for trout fishing but it is open for other species. The following trout lakes will remain closed in winter to all fishing:

Crow Wing County: Allen and Pleasant lakes.

Cass County: Little Andrus (aka: Snowshoe, near Outing).

Many of the lakes that are open are former pits used in mining, which have since filled with water and become fish habitat. Ice on these deep lakes sometimes takes longer to form than on other lakes.

“Ice anglers venturing out on these mine lakes should be extra cautious because mine lakes are much deeper, and therefore take longer to cool down in the fall, than natural lakes and ice is usually thinner than on other lakes,” Stevens said.

Since many of the lakes opening to winter fishing may have limited access, anglers should check access availability in advance.

Anglers are also reminded that fishing regulations differ on designated trout lakes. Anglers must possess a trout stamp to fish in designated trout lakes or to possess a trout taken from any lake or stream. Fishing hours are one hour before sunrise to 11 p.m. Anglers may only use one fishing line per angler, and no live minnows are allowed to be used as bait or as spearing decoys. Fishing is allowed only when the trout season is open.

CO Report

From the DNR

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) received calls concerning over limits and people littering fish on the ice. The officer also fielded calls concerning fishing shelter ID questions.

CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers during the past week. CO Mies also assisted with fur registration. CO Mies also worked on a trespassing complaint.

CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) checked fishing activity on area lakes. Failure to have proper identification on fish houses was addressed with several individuals.

CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave a presentation in Delano to a Snowmobile Safety class. Reller also checked area anglers out on the lakes that have finely gotten better ice conditions to get their bigger wheel houses out on. Fishing has been fair for crappies on several lakes, but walleye fishermen have found that bite to be slow.

CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) continued working on a Big Game case. He followed up on a trapping complaint. He checked fishermen on area lakes. He checked on a deer feeding complaint and on deer crossing the road where the caller was concerned for motorist safety. He picked up an accidentally trapped fisher

CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a presentation to students at Norwood Young America High School. A ride along was given to a student from Holy Family High School. State trails and parks were patrolled for snowmobile activity. Car killed deer permits were issued. Anglers were checked on area lakes and rivers having good success.

CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week checking anglers and monitoring snowmobile activity. CO Grewe spoke at a snowmobile safety class and did some equipment maintenance. Violations included angling with extra lines, license issues/possession and no snowmobile safety certificate.

CO Thephong Le (ELCOP) checked anglers in the Bloomington Station and patrolled Lake Minnetonka for snowmobile activity. He assisted Fort Snelling State Park staff during the winter trail event (sponsored by REI) with more than 1,000 people in attendance. He took enforcement action for no vehicle permit in a state park and ice angling more than 200 feet from a tip-up.

Eagles return to DNR Eaglecam nest

From the DNR

The pair of eagles visiting the DNR eaglecam nest this year seems to be the same birds that saw two eaglets fledge and fly off last year. We were able to get a good view of the female’s leg-band, and it appears to be a match. As you may recall, these eagles laid their eggs during the first week of January in 2013. In 2014 eggs were laid in mid-February (starting on Valentine’s’ Day). We are seeing some activity in the nest, stick moving and sitting, but are hopeful that the recent cold temperatures (-15 F – actual air temp) will delay egg laying until later in February. Help us keep watch at http://www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle.

The DNR eagle camera is paid for by the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program, which is almost completely funded by people like you who make a voluntary donation, usually at tax time. Look for the Loon on Line 20 of the Minnesota Income Tax form.

Question of the week

From the DNR

Q: What do stream trout eat during the winter?

A: With the expanded catch-and-release season now underway on southeastern Minnesota streams, winter anglers can expect to find insect hatches they might not have encountered before.

Several members of the midge family are only present as adults in the winter, and they produce special antifreeze molecules within their bodies to tolerate frigid temperatures once they emerge from the stream. The most abundant of these midge species in southeastern Minnesota is Diamesa mendotae, which resembles a mosquito in both size and body shape. It is common to see swarms of them crawling on streamside snow banks, and a single trout may consume several hundred midges on a cold winter day.

Brachycentrus caddisflies also make up a significant portion of winter trout diets. Caddisfly larvae, often green or brown in color, detach from rocks and are picked off by trout as they drift through the water column. Aquatic amphipods, commonly known as scuds or freshwater shrimp, are another important winter food source for trout, especially in streams with abundant aquatic vegetation.

Interestingly, trout have been known to eat frogs that hibernate in many Minnesota streams. Larger trout also eat plenty of fish such as minnow, sculpin and even other trout.

Lake Sturgeon continue recovery in Rainy River, LOTW

From the DNR

A recent lake sturgeon population study in Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River illustrates the slow, steady sturgeon population recovery owing to cleaner water, effective fishing regulations and vigilant enforcement – a success story that one day will allow anglers the realistic expectation of catching 100-pound sturgeon.

“This strategy has worked very well,” said Henry Drewes, northwest region fisheries manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The fact that the lake sturgeon population has continued to expand in numbers, as well as in size and age distribution, under ever-increasing angling pressure is credit to those who worked together to bring about this recovery.”

The population study assessed and estimated the number of lake sturgeon longer than 40 inches, part of an effort to gain more information and a better understanding of lake sturgeon status, population dynamics and movement patterns. Sturgeon longer than 40 inches can be sampled with confidence using available gear, and at that size the fish are approaching sexual maturity.

There are an estimated 92,000 lake sturgeon longer than 40 inches in the system, which compares to an estimated 59,000 fish in 2004 and 17,000 in 1989.

“This is another high point in a continuing recovery success story,” said Phil Talmage, Baudette area fisheries supervisor with the DNR. “Results of the latest study show there’s a greater number of large lake sturgeon in the population than in 2004, when a similar study was conducted.”

In mid-April, 2014, in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources offices in Kenora, Fort Frances and Thunder Bay and the Rainy River First Nations, DNR fisheries biologists from Baudette and International Falls began setting nets to capture and tag lake sturgeon. The study area included spawning sites on tributaries, all 82 river-miles of the Rainy River below the International Falls dam, Fourmile Bay, and a large portion of Big Traverse Bay on Lake of the Woods.

From June through mid-September, biologists used gill nets to recapture sturgeon at randomly selected sites on the southeastern portion of Lake of the Woods, and the entire length of the Rainy River.

“This was a very ambitious project given the size of the study area, the nomadic nature of lake sturgeon and the sheer number of fish required to make a statistically valid estimate,” Talmage said. “We are extremely pleased with the results of this effort.”

Anglers who were fishing for lake sturgeon in the study area during the tagging phase helped by allowing biologists to tag sturgeon they caught. With angler help, DNR biologists tagged 1,291 lake sturgeon longer than 40 inches, then used that count and data obtained from the recapture efforts to estimate the total population at 92,000.

“We appreciate the cooperation from anglers who allowed DNR staff in boats to tag and release their fish,” Talmage said. “These folks were a valuable part of our research efforts.”

Mice and shrews are on the menu as well, so anglers would be wise to experiment with different size offerings.