Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

April 6, 1998

Spring is here

Spring rains have come, rooster pheasants are strutting, waterfowl are paired up, touches of green can be seen in the grass, and our lakes are finally free of ice.

Each and every year, no matter how severe or mild the winter, the coming of spring is a long-anticipated and much-waited for blessing. Luckily this year, the waiting was short and the anticipation was bareable. Because, compared to recent years, spring has come a bit early this year.

In measuring the coming of, or actual arrival of spring, I turn to our local lakes. If they are still covered with ice - winter is still here. If there are wind-blown waves and they are free of ice - winter is gone and spring, in my mind, is officially here.

This year, a majority of the smaller lakes in our area opened up on March 25 or 26. The larger lakes, like Howard became ice free on or about March 31.

Another sign of spring and of open water is the sightings of bald eagles on or near our local lakes and rivers which have been very common this spring. According to the calls I have received, sightings of eagles have been much more common than in recent years. Our national bird has been seen this spring on Winsted, Howard, Ann, Emma, Collinwood, Dutch, and Smith Lakes.

Birds have also been seen on both forks of the Crow River and around gravel pits in the Lester Prairie area. There was also a report of a nesting pair and a nesting site west of Albrights Mill on the North Fork of the Crow River.

Also, a reader called me last week asking for locations of nesting sites in the area so they could get a chance to spot a bald eagle.

Although we don't want to disturb or harm the eagles and their nesting sites in any way, they are a magnificent to watch and any information given to me regarding possible nesting sites in the area would be greatly appreciated.

Spring is definitely here - get out and enjoy it.

Anglers set 10 records in 1997

The 1997 fishing season was memorable for 10 lucky anglers who joined the ranks of those who have caught Minnesota record fish. That's more than usual, according to Linda Erickson-Eastwood, who manages such records for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Section.

"Five or six is a more typical number," said Erickson. "However, only one new state record was set in 1995 and there were four in 1996."

Minnesota white crappie record was broken twice in 1997. On May 5, 1997, David Klitzke of Chaska notified the DNR about a 3-pound white crappie he caught Aug. 3, 1996, at Lake Grace in Carver County.

Klitzke caught the record breaker while trolling a Power Grub. Two weeks later Timothy Acker of Anoka reported a 3-pound, 4-ounce white crappie taken May 18, 1997, at Coon Lake near East Bethel. Acker took his fish while still-fishing with a jig and minnow.

The Minnesota record for shovelnose sturgeon was also broken twice in 1997. Dotty Suedel of Apple Valley landed a 4-pound, 14.5-ounce shovelnose Feb. 1 on the Mississippi River. She was casting a jig near Red Wing when the fish hit.

Suedel's record was broken May 31 when Bill Nelson of Winona caught a 5-pound, 3-ounce shovelnose at Sandy Hook, sometimes known as "Straight Slough," near Minnesota City. Nelson was still-fishing with a night crawler.

New Minnesota records were also set for black and yellow bullheads in 1997. Lake Reno near Lowry produced a 3-pound, 13.12-ounce black bullhead on June 8 for Keith Hvezda of Lowry, who was fishing with a night crawler.

A record 3-pound, 7.5-ounce yellow bullhead was taken Aug. 7 by Daemon Finley of Westmoreland, Kan. Finley was fishing with a worm at Lake Osakis near the town of Osakis.

The Minnesota River produced a 20-pound, 0.5-ounce black buffalo on June 26. Kevin Tauer of New Ulm caught the record-breaking fish near his home town while still-fishing with a worm.

New records were also entered for some less common Minnesota species last year. Kevin McCallson of Hokah, Minn., caught a 2-pound, 5.76-ounce goldeye on the Root River near Hokah on June 30, 1997. The goldeye took a minnow while McCallson was fishing from the river bank.

Nine-year-old Andrew Bakken's name entered the record book when he registered a 2-pound, 13.28-ounce golden redhorse taken July 13, 1997, from the Otter Tail River near Fergus Falls. He caught the fish while casting a worm from the river bank.

Minnesota's record for American eel was broken Aug. 8, 1997, when Matthew Brown of Tucson, Ariz., caught a 6-pound, 9-ounce specimen on the St. Croix River near Stillwater. Brown was still-fishing using cut fatheads for bait.

The DNR presents an award of recognition to any angler who breaks a state record. The 1997 awards will be presented in Minneapolis March 28 at the Northwest Sport Show.

Erickson said those who catch a fish that might break a state record should: weigh the fish on a state-certified scale (found in most bait shops and butcher shops), witnessed by two observers; take the fish to a DNR Fisheries office for positive identification and a state record fish application; complete the application and send it along with a clear, full-length photo of the fish to the address listed on the form.

Honk, honk! They're baaaack

The melting snow and soaring temperatures herald the return of one of Minnesota's more regal snowbirds: our resident population of Canada geese.

Once thought to be extinct, the "giant" subspecies, as these are known to scientists, are now the most numerous subspecies on the continent. In Minnesota, the breeding flock has grown more than 10-fold in two decades to more than 200,000 breeders.

It's one of Minnesota's major wildlife management success stories. But with this success has come some problems, especially in urban areas and farm country. Canada geese are prolific grazers, preferring succulent plants like soybean seedlings or short lawn grass. This invariably means they end up in areas frequented by humans.

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Further, because they are a highly social bird, they tend to congregate in large groups. Their huge appetite and resultant large output of droppings (2 pounds per goose per day) make them unwanted guest to some farmers and urban residents.

"They really are a magnificent bird," said Tom Landwehr, Wetland Wildlife Program leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "But too much of a good thing can pose problems."

Minnesota and many other states are wrestling with how to deal with high goose populations, especially in urban areas where hunting isn't allowed. "Geese are productive and long-lived in Minnesota because they have no real predators other than humans," said Landwehr.

"Hunting is one of the few ways of reducing their population growth. Without it, we'd be overwhelmed with geese in a few years." To keep the overall population at a reasonable level, the DNR and federal officials manage the goose population with carefully-regulated hunting. In the Twin Cities metro region, much of which is closed to hunting, communities also reduce local goose concentrations by contracting with University of Minnesota Extension Service to remove the geese in summer.

Despite these efforts, many lakeshore property owners and farmers get hassled by geese. To help these Minnesotans, the DNR offers two brochures - one for farmers, another for urban residents - containing tips for what will and what won't work to keep geese off property. Geese Unlimited, a Minnesota conservation group, helped underwrite the cost of the brochures.

Among the tips offered:

"One of the main problems with goose deterrents, whether it's the use of dogs or fencing, is that it just chases the problem to someone else's property," Landwehr said. "We will always have to use some sort of population control, whether it's hunting or direct removal, just because geese keep reproducing."

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