Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

Feb. 11, 2002

DNR asking a lot of questions

Last week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released information on an extensive survey of Minnesota deer hunters conducted in the past year.

The last time the DNR conducted a similar survey of deer hunters was 25 years ago, and that survey was much less comprehensive.

The DNR feels the survey provides a good cross section or broad picture of the opinions of Minnesota deer hunters, and along with many others factors, will be used to help make management decisions that affect deer and deer hunters.

The DNR, on a more regular basis, also surveys goose hunters, anglers and other outdoor resource users in the state.

Recently, the department mailed survey forms to randomly selected goose hunters, and, I have heard, may be extensively surveying Minnesota pheasant hunters to obtain information on hunting success, opportunities, the quality of hunting in general, and the possible creation of a walk in program similar to those in the Dakotas.

On the pheasant side, a citizens' oversight committee suggested that the DNR set a goal of a 1 million bird harvest per year by, I believe, 2020. In last few years, Minnesota hunters have harvested around an average of 300,000 birds per year.

That's a big increase and the DNR will need a lot of information and help from hunters to reach that goal. The biggest question to ask is if Minnesota pheasant hunters will be willing to triple the $5 cost of a Minnesota pheasant stamp.

More pheasants boils down to more habitat and more habitat costs money. Will Minnesota hunters be willing to pay?

On the goose side, I was one of the hunters that was randomly selected to be surveyed. The survey was specific to the December Canada goose hunt and asked basic questions like: Did I hunt geese in 2001? How many geese did I personally shoot and retrieve? How many geese did I personally knock down, but did not retrieve?

Sorry to say, I did not hunt geese during the December season. However, I still did my job on the survey by checking the box "no I did not hunt" and returning it to the DNR.

Facing budgets cuts, more demands on resources, and the tremendous responsibility of managing those resources, the DNR needs to hear from us and not just citizen advisory groups, special interest groups, and staff members.

Our opinions and answers to questions are important and in reality, the responsibility of managing our outdoor resources is ours and not the DNR's alone.

Area lakes fishing report

Although fishing and angler activity on our local lakes has been fairly slow, the action on Mille Lacs Lake, one of Minnesota's top fishing lakes, has been booming.

Several local anglers who fish Mille Lacs have told me this winter has provided the best fishing on Mille Lacs they have ever had. Walleyes are biting in big numbers, so many in fact, that it has been no problem catching fish within the slot, and the action on perch has also been great.

The reports didn't focus in on any particular location on the lake, but indicate the fish seem to be biting on all the typical hotspots.

Locally, Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake reported: Lakes Ida and Emma have been producing a few panfish, and the action on Howard for northern pike and crappies has been hit and miss.

Joe's noted the crappies being caught are good sized, and the bite seems to be better in shallow water.

Lil' Angies Bait and Tackle at the Porthole in Lester Prairie reported: The action on good sized crappies on Swan Lake, near the City of Silver Lake, continues to be good. Mille Lacs had been hotter than a pistol.

Lakes Waconia and Oak have been producing crappies, and the biggest fishing news in the area involves a 28-inch, 10-plus pound walleye that was apparently caught on Swan Lake.

Lil' Angies also noted that Lake Mary Crappie action may pick up very soon.

In other fishing news, many anglers are saying the panfish bite on many lakes in the area has been fair, but the fish are very small, and 15 to 20 fish caught may only produce two or three keepers for the average angler.

Outdoor notes

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m., at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted.

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will host its annual Father/Son-Daughter Banquet Friday, March 22 at the Lester Prairie City Hall. The Zoo Mobile from the Minnesota Zoo will be on hand to educate and entertain those attending.

­ Look for the winners from the Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club annual fishing derby in next week's column.

­ Today, the DNR posted winners of the 2002 Minnesota spring turkey hunt lottery drawing on its Website. To find out if you were one of the lucky applicants go to www.dnr.state.mn.us.

­ The walleye and northern pike fishing season closes on area lakes Feb. 17.

­ 2001/2002 Minnesota angling licenses expire Feb. 28, 2002. New 2002/2003 licenses are required March 1, 2002.

­ The DNR regional offices in Brainerd recently reported that wildlife in that area is doing extremely well due to the mild winter. The office noted the winter severity index was only at 7, and so far this winter has been one of the mildest in over a decade.

­ According to other news reports, the DNR is in the process of putting together a new, long term management plan for Minnesota pheasants. As I noted earlier in this column, the goal of the plan may be to reach an annual 1 million bird harvest.

­ Reports from area anglers say there is now 16 to 20 inches of good ice on most of the lakes in our area.

­ Take a kid fishing, he or she will have fun, and so will you.

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