Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

April 19, 2004

Digging worms can be an adventure

When I was a kid, it was a part of fishing, sometimes the most fun part.

An ice cream pail, a pitchfork from the barn or a garden fork from the summer kitchen, and a good spot of soft, moist soil were all that was needed. On occasion, a quick hand also made a big difference.

In last week’s column, I mentioned we would wet a line on the subject of keeping fishing simple and fun, especially for kids.

Because, when it come to kids and fishing, the more simple you can keep it, the more success and fun they will have.

Digging for angleworms, and hunting for night crawlers, is a great place to start.

When I was a kid, rounding up angleworms was a big part of fishing. You basically didn’t leave home with out them.

My dad was a big sunfish angler, and most of the time we never messed around much with wax worms, larva, small leeches or fancy tackle.

We used angleworms, and that was about it. If I wasn’t with him out after sunfish, I was at the Crow River in search of anything that would bite, and the bait of choice was a worm, most often of the night crawler variety.

Worms were simple fishing, and they worked great.

Along with the worm, a bobber, sinker, and plain hook were all that was needed.

Getting back to the subject of digging, I can still here my dad say, “Oh boy, there’s a good one, crab him”, as he turned over a clump of soil with a fork.

Just like most kids, I enjoyed playing in the dirt, and digging worms was never a chore, it was fun. I’m pretty sure my dad knew that too.

With a pail full of worms already in the boat, a stop at the bait shop for us usually meant pop, candy bars, and once in a while a dozen sucker minnows.

Today, my daughters, Abbi, six, and Emmi, four, love to play with all the plastic junk in the tackle box.

But, more then anything else, they love to hunt for night crawlers, and dig for worms.

Some of the worms even get their own names like squirmy or crawler, and never get put on a hook. No matter, the girls like it, and it makes fishing simple and fun.

In today’s angling world of electronics, scented baits, underwater cameras, and high tech gear, digging a few worms is about as simple, and fun as it can get.

If you do it right, for a kid, it can also be an adventure.

In next week’s column we’ll wet another line on fishing with a small fry.

Boaters reminded to help prevent the spread of exotic species

From the DNR

With the start of the 2004 boating and fishing season upon us, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking boaters to keep up the good work in minimizing the spread of harmful exotic species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels.

By taking a few simple steps, like removing all aquatic plants from their boat and trailer, emptying water from live wells, bait buckets and other areas containing water, boaters can do their part to help prevent the spread of exotic species like Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels in the state’s water bodies.

“Thanks to boaters, the DNR believes the rate at which harmful exotic species are spreading has been substantially reduced,” said Jay Rendall, DNR exotic species program coordinator. “The potential to spread harmful exotic species and several fish diseases is still great and we need Minnesotans to continue with their high level of action. The discovery that zebra mussels have become established in Lake Ossawinnamakee north of Brainerd should be a reminder to all boaters how important their actions are.”

Using a combination of radio and television ads, signs at public accesses, watercraft inspections, and public service announcements across the state, the DNR reminds boaters and anglers to remove aquatic plants from their boats and trailers, empty live wells and bait buckets and also remember to dispose of unwanted live bait including worms and minnows in the trash rather than dumping them in the lakes and woods.

“Precautions should now be part of the routine for boaters,” Rendall said. “These simple precautions help boaters comply with the state laws that prohibit the transport of aquatic plants and zebra mussels.”

Last year, DNR biologists confirmed 11 additional lakes infested with Eurasian watermilfoil, bringing the total number of infested water bodies in the state to 152.

Zebra mussels are abundant in the Mississippi River downstream of Minneapolis, in the Duluth harbor and are known to infest Lake Zumbro, north of Rochester.

Other exotic species discoveries from the past year include; A single bighead carp was netted by a commercial fisherman in Lake Pepin in October. The bighead is one of four ecosystem-disrupting Asian Carp species introduced into the United States about 30 years ago by fish farmers in southern states to control vegetation and algae blooms.

Bighead carp can weigh up to 100 pounds and silver carp are slightly smaller.

Both fish have large heads with eyes set close to the mouth, giving them the appearance of swimming upside down.

Both grass and black carp have elongated bodies with dark scales and can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Anyone who sees a bighead, silver, grass or black carp is asked to report it to their local fisheries office.

Spiny waterflea were collected from Saganaga Lake in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).

Saganaga Lake, located at the end of the Gunflint Trail in northern Cook County, is the third inland water body in the state to be infested with the tiny exotic zooplankton since it was discovered about two decades ago in Lake Superior.

Shortly after its discovery in Lake Superior, spiny waterflea was found in Island Lake and Fish Lake.

Both lakes are about 20 miles northwest of Duluth and are popular destinations for anglers who fish Lake Superior.

The Minnesota Legislature directed the DNR to establish the Exotic Species Program in 1991 to address problems caused by harmful exotic species.

The program is responsible for preventing introductions, curbing their spread and management of harmful exotic species of aquatic plants and wild animals.

Finding places to fish

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) can help anglers find public accesses to lakes and rivers, including canoe carry-in sites and fishing piers.

The maps also provide anglers with information about the types of boat ramps (concrete, gravel, earth or metal), available parking spaces, fish species and contact information for each site.

In addition to angling opportunities, the set of 51 separate maps identify a wide variety of Federal, State and County lands available for other public recreation activities such as hunting, camping, hiking and boating.

More specifically, PRIM locates campgrounds, trails, forests, parks, wildlife management areas and refuges, natural and scientific areas and much more.

“Six maps were updated in 2000, 19 in 2002 and 25 were done last year, so they’re all current,” said Amy Ellison, DNR cartographer. “Anglers should be able to find all the information they need when planning their next fishing trip.”

PRIM maps are available for purchase from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore, and several sporting goods and map stores around the state.

Maps may also be purchased on the DNR’s Web site at The cost for each map is $4.95.

Outdoor notes

• The crappies are biting, and the water is warming fast.

With low water levels, and very warm days, the shallow water bays on many of the lakes in our area have heated up fast. So has the fishing.

Big Waverly has been hot with anglers nabbing crappies and sunfish in good numbers.

Waconia has been booming with crappie action, with anglers getting good numbers of fish on minnows and tube jigs in very shallow water in the southwest part of the lake.

Lake Mary and Winsted Lake have been giving up crappies in very shallow water, some dandies too.

Fishing, just before dusk, with light tackle and minnows has been the best bet.

Look for the action on Swan and Howard to pick up very soon.

On Howard, try the shallow water bay near the ballpark, and on Swan head to the northwest corner of the lake.

• Turkey season is underway. The wild turkey hunting season in our area is off and rolling with some hunters finding success, and most hunters I have spoken to seeing and hearing birds.

Fifteen permits were issued for each season in our area this year.

• Water levels in our area continue to be very low. Several lakes are more then four to five feet lower than normal, and the Crow River is lower than I have ever seen it in April.

• The application deadline for the 2004 Minnesota black bear hunting season is Friday, May 7.

• In this week’s column, I included a press release from the DNR on finding places to fish.

Another good source not mentioned in the press release is the Sportsman’s Connection West Metro Area Fishing Map Guide.

The book includes lake maps and information on lakes from the Twin Cities to Willmar.

It’s available at Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake and is worth every penny.

• In next week’s column I plan on sharing some new information on sunfish.

The information deals with stunted sunfish and the practice of throwing bigger male sunfish back during the spawn.

• Hen mallards and other waterfowl are nesting now.

• Male deer are beginning to grow antlers again, and wood ticks will be out soon.

• Several readers have indicated to me that they are seeing a lot of pheasants, more than they have ever seen before.

The pheasant population in our area seems to have made it through the winter in great shape, and if conditions are right this spring the population could boom again.

• On a disappointing note, many readers have mentioned a big drop in the number of nesting wood ducks in our area.

A few readers noted none of the wood ducks houses they have out are occupied yet, and they have yet to see a wood duck this spring.

Wood duck numbers along the South Fork of the Crow River also seem to be very low this spring.

• We’ll find out this week if the Dove hunting bill makes it through the legislature this year, and if we will be able to hunt doves in Minnesota in the near future.

• The Lake Association of Howard Lake will meet today, April 19, at 7 p.m. at the Howard Lake Community Center.

• The league trap shooting season at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club begins Wednesday, April 21.

This year, the club has made some major investments, including remodeling of the clubhouse, which will soon be underway and the addition of a few brand new automatic traps.

• Today, April 19, the sun will rise at 6:21 a.m. and set at 8:04 p.m.

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

• The 2004 Minnesota fishing opener for walleye and northern pike is set for Saturday, May 15.

• This week in the outdoors; I had my first crack at wetting a line.

Abbi, Emmi, and I, along with Angus, headed to a local gravel pit for about an hour.

We were with out live bait, Angus tore around like a mad dog, and we didn’t catch a thing.

However, we did have small flock of Canadian geese land on the water about 25 yards in front of us.

Correction: They are not Minneosta’s state bird

In this column, two weeks ago, we identified the birds in a photo as loons. They were not loons, but two different types of mergansers. According to several readers, the pairs of mergansers have been on Winsted Lake since ice out.

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