Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Feb. 7, 2005

Indian summer hits Minnesota

When I was a kid, Minnesota winters seemed a lot more severe than those in recent years.

I remember having huge piles of snow, year after year, to dig tunnels in and play king of the hill on.

I also remember long stretches of cold weather, bitter wind chills, and having to jump start vehicles on an almost consistent basis.

When weather like that wasn’t in full gear, and we had a stretch of nice days or a warm spell, it was often referred to as Indian Summer.

Last week’s weather would have definitely been referred to as an Indian Summer.

Sunshine, melting snow, mid-day temps rising all the way to 51 degrees, and just plain old nice weather.

It was a beautiful stretch of weather only snowmobile lovers were complaining about.

Moving on, many people are already punting on winter for this year. Saying that even if we get a winter storm or two, spring is just around the corner.

Only time will tell. However, in February we will gain about one full hour of daylight.

The first official day of spring is March 21, approximately 35 days from now.

HL Sportsman’s Club fishing derby

The 59th annual Howard Lake Sportsman’s Club Ice Fishing Derby is set for this Saturday, Feb. 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. on Howard Lake.

The grand prize drawing is a deluxe fish house on wheels.

The fish house is on display at Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake, tickets are available at Joe’s and from club members.

Corn giveaway

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway for pheasants, and wildlife Saturday, Feb. 12 from 8 to 11 a.m. at Lampi’s Auction located at Hwy. 55 and Wright Cty. 6.

Please bring your own containers. Quantities may be limited due to demand.

For additional information please call (320) 274-CORN (2676).

If you would like to volunteer to assist with this event, or any other events, please contact Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

Governor makes wetlands high priority in DNR budget

From the DNR

Efforts to protect Minnesota’s wetland wildlife habitat will get a $1.8 million boost over the next two years in the biennial budget Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Much of the appropriation from the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund would be focused on restoring or protecting portions of large blocks of land, known as wetland complexes, in the state’s prairie pothole region.

The funding also will help track changes in wetland abundance and restore native grassland habitat under the state’s Prairie Stewardship Program.

“Wetland complexes are the backbone of waterfowl, shorebird and songbird habitat in the prairie pothole region,” said Gene Merriam, DNR commissioner. “Increasing the number of high-quality wetland areas is an important target as outlined in our Conservation Agenda.”

High quality prairie wetland complexes attract 30 or more pairs of ducks per square mile and provide secure nesting habitat for hens.

Minnesota has few wetland complexes remaining. Most are located in west-central Minnesota. Less than 10 percent of the state’s prairie wetlands and 1 percent of its native grasslands remain.

Complexes that are most valuable tend to be at least four square miles and consist of 20 percent temporary, seasonal, semi-permanent and permanent wetlands plus at least 20 percent grassland in long-term permanent protection.

Nearly half of each complex could be in agricultural crops, according to biologists.

“Our goal is to keep working lands working,” said John Guenther, DNR Fish and Wildlife director. “Environmental benefits can be achieved in concert with agricultural interests. The emphasis will be on voluntary, non-regulatory, incentive based programs that are compatible with agriculture and the environment.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy have pledged at least $3.3 million for this prairie wetland complex project, thereby more than doubling the state’s investment to a total of $5.1 million.

“We appreciate the support of our conservation partners,” said Guenther. “The financial assistance will increase the magnitude of this effort; the habitat expertise will ensure these dollars are focused in the areas where we can get the biggest bang for the buck.”

Tracking changes

Measuring wetland loss or gains over time has proven to be a difficult task, according to Doug Norris, wetland program coordinator for the DNR Division of Ecological Services.

Currently, the state’s most comprehensive look at wetlands is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ national wetland inventory, which dates to the late 1970s.

Using methodology devised by an interagency workgroup, Norris said wetlands would be tracked using aerial photography or satellite imagery.

A web-based tracking program would also monitor proposed alterations to wetlands through federal, state and local government programs.

“Minnesota will be among the first states to launch such a comprehensive monitoring effort,” Norris said. “The remote sensing data combined with the web-based project tracking system will give us a much better picture of statewide wetland trends.”

Additional federal dollars are expected to help implement the monitoring program.

The $1.8 million game and fish fund appropriation will be used in conjunction with a proposed $12 million in bonding money to acquire wildlife management areas and federal conservation program funding such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Wetland and Grassland Reserve Programs.

“All Minnesota’s lands work,” Guenther said. “Food production, recreation and a healthy environment are all compatible products of good land management. But it can only be achieved through cooperative, integrated approaches.”

Outdoor notes

• Several reports from the area indicated fast action and a great panfish bite on several lakes in our area this winter.

Although the lakes were a bit sloppy, the warm weather last week added to ice fishing activity.

Lakes like Waconia, Big Waverly, Parley, and Dog have been associated with good fishing this winter.

Glow jigs, light weight tackle, and consistently moving from spot to spot or from hole to hole have been the tricks for nabbing panfish.

One angler noted he has been drilling 15 to 20 holes in a given area and moving from one hole to another every few minutes in order to catch a limit of decent size sunfish.

• The turn out at the first ever Montrose Waverly Chamber of Commerce Ice Festival and Fishing Derby on Big Waverly Lake was great, and event organizers noted the entire day was a tremendous success.

• The ice fishing season for northern pike and walleye on our area lakes closes Sunday, Feb. 20.

• The squirrel and rabbit hunting seasons in Minnesota close Monday, Feb. 28.

• Get your fish house blocked up off the ice. Raising your fish house a couple of inches off the ice will prevent it from getting froze down during warm spells like last week.

• The Lester Prairie Sportsman’s Club will meet tonight (Monday) at the clubhouse, starting at 7:30 p.m.

• Cougar tracks continue to be found in the Winsted area.

A call from a reader a few weeks ago noted more cougar tracks in an area just west of Winsted city limits near Millerbernd Design and Fabrication.

Recently, a cougar trapped and radio collared in the western Dakotas was sighted in northwestern Minnesota.

If you have nay information to share on cougars in our area please call me at (320) 282-7865.

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

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