Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Oct. 6, 2003

Waterfowl opener better than expected

After getting blanked on last year's Minnesota waterfowl opener, and not seeing many ducks on preseason scouting adventures, my expectations were pretty low for this year's opener.

Actually, my expectations were so low among myself and the other guys I usually hunt with, that we contemplated big changes to our waterfowl hunting traditions.

With that said, a decent spot on the slough without piles of other hunters around, and just the sight of a few ducks would have constituted a good opener.

Needless to say, we did just a bit better than that ­ and to my surprise ­ wood ducks were flying on our end of the slough in good numbers.

Nine of us bagged a total of 11 wood ducks and two mallards, kind of hunting together in the same bay of a good-sized waterfowl lake in northern Sibley County.

If teal would have still been hanging around, it actually could have been an exciting opener.

Competition on the lake was still pretty heavy, but the big surprise, again, was the number of wood ducks that were around. Pre-season scouting indicated there just weren't many wood ducks in the area, and then, boom, there they were on the opener.

I even spied a few wood ducks land in my decoys while I was standing among them. When one big drake got a close up look at me I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

The wood ducks were most likely early migrants pushed down from areas farther north by cold early fall temperatures.

Many other hunters in the area noted the same thing ­ that cold weather had changed the outcome of the waterfowl opener. Several hunters even had a few diver ducks, like blue bills, in their opening day bags.

Other reports indicated that ducks are already staging in southern Manitoba and northern North Dakota, and that the fall flight could be early this year.

The evening hunt for ducks in Minnesota begins Sun., Oct. 12 and hunters may want to get ready for an earlier-than-normal fall flight.

Minnesota pheasants:

If your waterfowl opener was dismal, you'd better get out there for the Minnesota pheasant opener.

Numbers are up across Minnesota's pheasant range and the best reports that can from the duck opener were about pheasants.

Many ducks hunters I spoke with said they saw good numbers of pheasants in and around the sloughs they were hunting.

The best hunting will be in southwestern Minnesota with the far western part of the state not far behind.

The Minnesota pheasant season opens Sat., Oct. 11 and here's a great tip for the opener: take your time to look at the crops.

Hunt near areas where at least some of the crops are harvested and pay special attention to areas of good cover where the crops are not harvested. Note those areas and head to them later in the season.

On a final note, please remember that wearing at least one article of blaze orange clothing above the waist is required while hunting small game in Minnesota.

Outdoor notes:

­ The Lester Prairie Sportmen's Club will meet tonight, 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.

­ Be cautious and courteous and not competitive while you're in the field hunting this fall.

­ The firearms deer hunting season in Minnesota opens Sat., Nov. 8.

­ Make sure your dog is ready for the pheasant hunting season. Check the dog's feet, ears and underside on a regular basis and make sure all vaccinations are updated and current.

­ It's a good idea to give your boots a test drive and maybe even a good oiling before you hit the ground this fall.

­ Fall colors will probably not be very brilliant this fall and the leaves will most likely fall earlier than normal. The culprit is a hot and very dry late summer and cold weather in late September.

­ Take a kid hunting or fishing this fall; he or she will have fun and so will you.

DNR is exploring options for stopping Asian carp

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is gathering input from several sources on potential options to keep Asian carp species, particularly bighead and silver carp, from establishing populations in the Mississippi River upstream of Lock and Dam No. 8 (near Genoa, Wis.) and other Minnesota waters.

The two species of Asian carp are invasive fish spreading to lakes and rivers in several areas of the Mississippi River basin, including rivers in Iowa.

Both bighead and silver carp, which can grow to four feet in length and weigh more than 60 pounds, reproduce quickly and can establish large populations. Both species are also known to leap several feet out of the water at the sound of a boat motor.

Because bighead and silver grass carp feed on plankton, these fish compete for food directly with native organisms including mussels, all larval fish and some large fish such as paddlefish. Their establishment could also be harmful to native game fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife in the state.

In some locations on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers they are replacing large percentages of the native fish.

We feel these fish represent a very serious threat to the health and use of the Mississippi River and eventually to other state waters, said Jay Rendall, DNR exotic species coordinator. It's necessary to explore all options in preventing them from establishing populations in any Minnesota waters.

Among those providing input on Asian carp species and potential efforts to limit their spread are: DNR representatives from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geologic Survey, the University of Minnesota, and Smith-Root a private company that designs fish barriers. Smith-Root recently visited the state at the request of the DNR to tour areas along the Mississippi River where the carp may first appear in the state.

Bighead and silver carp were imported into North America in the early 1970s to remove algae from aquaculture ponds. Silver and bighead carp escaped to open waters of the Mississippi River basin in southern states by the 1980s.

Other pathways that could contribute to their spread in Minnesota and other states include the unintentional use of juveniles, which can resemble several species of baitfish, as bait and the illegal release of adult fish into waters.

Boaters and anglers on the Mississippi River below Winona should keep an eye out for the jumping fish. Characteristics of bighead and silver carp include a low-set eye; large upturned mouth without barbells, scaleless head and small scales on the body. Bighead and Silver Carp Watch identification cards are available from the DNR Information Center 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367) and Minnesota Sea Grant Program (218) 726-8712.

Anyone who sees or catches a bighead or silver carp is asked to report it and bring it to their local DNR fisheries office for identification.

These fish should not be thrown back in the water if they jump into a boat or are caught.

Four species of Asian carp bighead, black, grass, and silver are prohibited exotic species and their possession, sale, and transportation other than to the DNR is illegal/prohibited.

Outdoors Columns Menu

Outdoors: Home | Honor Roll | Library | Links

Herald Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | Home Page