Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

April 28, 2003

It's a great time to enjoy the outdoors

It's a great time to be outside.

Today, Monday, April 28, the sun will rise at 6:08 a.m. and set at 8:14 p.m. The temperatures will probably reach the 60s. The sun will most likely shine and there will probably be a slight breeze.

There may be a few gnats flying around but no mosquitoes. The birds will be busy nesting, and much more than silent for most of the day.

Pheasant roosters will be seen with a harem of hens. Canada geese will come together in mating pairs. The grass will grow, plants will sprout from the ground, and buds on trees will continue their journey to become green full leaves.

All of this and much, much more will be seen, heard, felt, and accomplished.

All of these things are no longer signs of spring. They are spring.

Take a moment to visit your memories. Think of the cold winds of October and November. The miserable, long nights of January. The mosquito ravaged days of June and July. The heat and humidity of August.

Pass through all of those memories and then think about late April and May.

Once you've done that, you will come to the same conclusion I have ­ this is the best time of year to be outside.

Not to mention that late May provides the best fishing of the year. For so many things and reasons, it's just a great time to enjoy the outdoors.

For me, I've broken 36 bones in my life, and long cold winters take their toll.

My wife and kids are very sensitive to mosquito bites and dang near have to lock themselves inside when the little monsters come out in hoards.

Then, there's fall, and all I can say about that is that my wife and kids still don't like to sit in a duck boat with me or drive across the midwest in search of pheasants. You know what I mean.

Fish, walk, garden, bird watch, or whatever, just get out there and do it. Now's the time.

Anglers reminded to check new regulations before the opener

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds anglers to take a moment to review the 2003 fishing regulations before the inland fishing season opens Saturday, May 10.

Regulations booklets include special and experimental regulations, regulations changes, and new information about exotic species, catch and release, and fish identification.

"We made a number of changes this year and anglers need to make sure they are aware of the regulations before they fish," said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, program manager for the DNR division of fisheries. "Besides that, the regulation book contains excellent information to help anglers protect their resource and enjoy their time on the water."

Special or experimental regulations new this year include Annie Battle Lake (Otter Tail County), Bass Lake (Todd County), Cedar Lake (Morrison County), Mink Lake (Wright County), Pimushe Lake (Beltrami County), Big and Little Pine (Otter Tail County), Somers Lake (Wright County), Steiger Lake (Carver County) and Zumbro River (Wabasha County).

In addition, new northern pike regulations are in effect on 66 lakes and one stream.

Special and experimental regulations are summarized on pages 27-42 in the regulations booklet. New regulations are signified with a pointing finger.

Unless specifically mentioned, all other general regulations, seasons, limits, border water regulations, possession, and transportation regulations apply to waters with special and experimental regulations.

Statewide regulations will now apply for Bavaria Lake (Carver County), where special regulations governed largemouth bass and Platte Lake (Crow Wing/Morrison counties) where special regulations governed northern pike. Statewide regulations are found beginning on page 17 of the fishing regulations booklet.

New statewide bag limits on crappie, sunfish, lake trout, and catfish officially begin Saturday, May 10. The lake trout bag limit change does not apply to Lake Superior and its tributaries up to the posted boundary.

However, the crappie and lake trout bag limit changes do apply to the Canadian border waters. The changes are in response to extensive biological analysis and public input on the state's game fish limits.

Most Minnesota game fish limits have remained unchanged for the last 40 to 70 years, yet fishing pressure and technology have increased dramatically during that time.

Anglers should also note the special regulations affecting treaty lakes and Mille Lacs Lake, which are not listed in the 2003 regulations booklet.

These regulations will be announced in the media, posted on the DNR web site, and posted at public access sites on the affected lakes. A list of counties where waters might be posted with treaty regulations can be found beginning on page 25 of the fishing regulations booklet.

A brochure listing treaty lake regulations will be available soon from the DNR information center in St. Paul by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367).

The information will also be available from local fisheries offices in the treaty area. New treaty regulations go into effect on the fishing opener Saturday, May 10.

The summer catch-and-release trout regulation for the 3.3-mile posted section of the middle branch of the Whitewater (Winona/Olmsted counties one-quarter mile upstream of County Road 107 bridge to the source) is still in effect. It was accidentally left out of the 2003 synopsis.

Additional changes and new regulations are listed on page 5 of the 2003 fishing regulations booklet, available wherever fishing licenses are sold.

Fishing licenses valid for 2003 are on sale now at any of the 1,850 electronic license system agents located throughout the state. Licenses are also available at the DNR web site at www.dnr. state.mn.us, or by calling 1-888-665-4236.

Anglers asked to report tagged fish

From the DNR

Anglers who catch one of more than 40,000 Mille Lacs Lake walleye marked with a numbered, plastic tag are asked to report their catch to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The tags, which resemble a short length of coated electrical wire, are anchored under the dorsal fin on walleye. Anglers are also asked to report catches of tagged muskies or northern pike.

With information gathered from reported tags and other sources, DNR researchers use a mathematical formula to estimate how many walleye live in the 132,000-acre lake.

This information provides more precise information for use in assessment models that determine the safe harvest level for the coming fishing year.

The tagging project began in last year. Preliminary results are available annually, with a final report due in 2005.

Anglers who plan to release a tagged fish should write down the tag number without removing the tag. If a tagged fish is harvested, anglers are asked to return the tag to the DNR. Reports of tagged fish should include the following information:

· tag number and approximately where the fish was caught in the lake

· length of the fish, the date of the catch, and if the fish was harvested or released

· whether the fish was caught from a boat, a commercial launch, or from shore

· the angler's name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if available).

Anglers who report catching a tagged fish will receive information on where and when the fish was tagged and whether the fish had been previously caught and released.

Reports of tagged fish may be reported electronically to fishtags@dnr.state.mn.us, by calling DNR fisheries in Aitkin at (218) 927-3751, by calling the DNR information center toll-free at 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367), or by mailing to DNR Fisheries, PO Box 138, Aitkin, MN 56431.

Mille Lacs Lake is one of the most popular walleye and perch fishing destinations in Minnesota. Anglers spent 3.1 million hours fishing Mille Lacs Lake in 2002.

The lake is also managed for trophy northern pike, muskellunge, and smallmouth bass.

Killer kitties should be kept indoors

From the DNR

Spring is here. Birds will soon be nesting and raising vulnerable fledglings, and it's time to remind cat owners to keep their pets indoors.

According to a report by Wisconsin researchers, free-ranging domestic cats kill millions of birds each year. Many of these tubby tabbies kill for fun rather than for food. Unlike wild predators, domestic cats hunt whether they are hungry or not.

Inside every cat are the genes of an efficient, prolific, and non-native predator. Professor Stan Temple of the University of Wisconsin (UW) calls cats "subsidized predators," because they receive a steady supply of food at home. "Pet cats can hunt longer and are less susceptible to disease than many wild predators," said Temple.

The problem is so severe that in 1997, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) began a national campaign to educate cat owners about the threat to birds from cat predation.

"Like many cat owners, I once thought my cat was supposed to roam outside," said Linda Winter, coordinator of the ABCs Cats Indoors! campaign. "But the fact is, it's better for cats, and for wildlife, if they stay indoors."

Each year, millions of cats are run over by cars, mauled by dogs, injured by other cats or animals, shot, set on fire, trapped, stolen, and exposed to toxic pesticides and antifreeze.

Unaltered free-roaming cats are the single most important cause of cat overpopulation. As a result, millions of homeless cats must be euthanized each year.

Without the biological urge to roam to find a mate, spayed or neutered cats live more contentedly indoors.

Cats also may contract fatal or debilitating diseases and parasites, many of which are transmissible to humans. As a consequence, an outdoor cat lives only two to five years, while an indoor cat often lives into its teens and even into its 20s.

Originally domesticated from an ancestral wild cat of Africa and extreme southwestern Asia, cats are now considered a separate species (Felis catus). Though not legally classified as such, the domestic free-ranging cat is actually a harmful exotic species, like zebra mussels with name tags.

The cuddly kitty that provides companionship indoors transforms into a ferocious feline hunter when it gets outside.

UW studies show that the diet of free-ranging domestic cats is composed of 70 percent small mammals (predominantly mice and ground squirrels), 20 percent birds, and 10 percent other animals.

Experts who treat injured wildlife report about 80 percent of the animals that come to them after being injured by cats will die from the cat-caused injuries.

It's the bird kill that particularly concerns Joan Galli, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) nongame wildlife specialist. The most recent UW research suggests that the estimated one to two million free-ranging rural cats in Wisconsin kill roughly 40 million birds each year. Galli and other Minnesota wildlife officials believe that the number here is likely comparable.

"Everything we know about the Wisconsin studies suggests that at least that many cats are doing the same amount of harm to birds in Minnesota," said Galli. "I think most people don't realize just what kind of damage domestic cats are doing to wildlife, particularly birds.

"Bluebirds are among the birds harassed by cats, according to Dick Peterson, a bluebird expert and designer of the widely used Peterson bluebird-house pattern. "A cat is about the worst mammal there is on the bluebird trail," Peterson said.

Particularly lethal, Peterson explains, are the cat's curved claws, which it uses to reach into the bird house and hook fledglings and nesting adults.

To keep cats from killing nesting bluebirds and their young, Peterson suggests mounting bluebird houses on a steel pole or a wooden rod covered by PVC pipe. (Never place a house near a tree or fence post that a cat can climb, he adds.)

As an added measure, Peterson recommends mixing extra-hot pepper sauce with grease and putting it on the pole. "A cat or 'coon will get that on its claws or feet and then lick it off," he said. "If you use a hot enough pepper, it won't come back."

In addition to killing birds, free-ranging domestic cats also steal food from native predators, such as foxes, snakes, and raccoons.

In some study areas of Wisconsin, cat densities reach more than 100 animals per square mile, several times more than all similar-sized wild predators (skunks, foxes, and raccoons) combined.

Wildlife officials believe the only way to reduce damage to birds by free-ranging cats is for cat owners to keep their pets indoors.

Many municipalities currently have ordinances that require cats to be kept indoors or on a leash. However, these measures are rarely enforced, causing some bird fans to take matters into their own hands.

"You can live-trap a cat just like you would a raccoon, by using a can of tuna for bait," said Dorene Scrivener, chair of the Minnesota Bluebird Recovery Project. "Take the cat back to its owner and remind them to keep it indoors, or take it to the nearest animal-control center.

"Cat owners might consider such measures extreme. But bird supporters say that something must be done to prevent cats from killing wildlife that's already under siege.

"Birds are having a hard enough time these days from habitat loss," said Galli. "As we try to save their habitat, it only makes sense to make sure that birds aren't being killed by our pets."

Galli likes cats, but only indoors. Here are Galli's tips to prevent pet cats from harming wildlife:

1. Keep your cat indoors. Kittens confined to the house will soon adapt.

If you choose to let the cat out, keep it on a tether, or in a fenced area or enclosed runway. "Even if your cat is declawed and wears a collar bell, it can still catch and kill birds," Galli said.

2. Neuter your cat or otherwise prevent it from breeding. Obey existing laws that require licensing or neutering, or initiate new laws if your community doesn't have them.

To learn about local laws, call your local health department or humane society.

3. Don't release unwanted cats in rural areas. They'll either die of disease or starvation or learn to become effective predators and eat wild birds.

Take unwanted cats to an animal shelter or humane society for adoption or have them euthanized.

4. Don't feed strays. This maintains high cat densities that kill or compete with wildlife.

Strays will often reproduce where there's a source of food, thus creating large colonies of feral cats.

While letting cats outdoors may seem like the natural thing to do, the hazards cats present and the hazards cats face when they leave home are numerous. The best way to protect wildlife and human health and keep cats healthy is to keep them indoors.

Winsted Lake clean-up

The Winsted Lake Watershed Association will conduct a Winsted Lake clean-up day Saturday, May 3.

Anyone interested interested in helping is asked to be at Mill Reserve Park in Winsted at 8:30 a.m.

Lake associations seek input Sat.

The Lake Association of Howard Lake and Lake Ann Lake Association will each host a visioning session Saturday, May 3.

The Lake Ann association will host its visioning session from 9 a.m. to noon at St. John's Lutheran Church in Howard Lake.

The Howard Lake association will host its visioning session from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Howard Lake Community Center, above the public library.

Each association seeks input from as many community members as is possible.

Outdoor notes

­ For now, the rodent war at my house in Lester Prairie is over. However, it may resume at any time.

­ The Minnesota fishing opener is set for Saturday, May 10. Fishing limits for panfish also change on that day.

­ The spring crappie bite is on and if you don't have your fishing gear ready yet, get to it.

­ Don't forget to give your boat trailer a good run through. Check the tires, bearings, hitch, safety chains, and lighting system.

­ The nesting season for many types of wildlife is in full swing. There have been several reports of a nesting pair of bald eagles on the South Fork of the Crow River near New Germany.

­ The Crow River is a bit high right now, but don't forget to try fishing it this spring. Walleye, northern pike, catfish, carp, and suckers can be caught in good numbers.

­ The trap shooting season at the Waverly Sportsmen's Club will begin Thursday, May 1. For more information, contact Adrian Duske (763) 658-4586.

­ Get your dog checked for heartworm and on a heartworm preventative medication.

­ The morel mushroom hunting season could start very soon. Prime hunting usually occurs when the lilacs start blooming.

­ This winter, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Wild Turkey Federation transplanted another 135 wild turkeys from southern Minnesota to other parts of the state. Since 1976, 4,200 turkeys have been transplanted into 60 counties. The wild turkeys you see in our area today are here because of the transplant program.

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