Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

May 1, 2006

April showers bring May flowers


April showers also bring Minnesota’s official state fungi, the morel mushroom. Yes, in 1984, Minnesota became the first state in the county to designate an official state mushroom. The morel was chosen because of it’s popularity, illusiveness, and of course its reputation as a gourmet delight.

The morel resembles a piece of sponge growing on a short stalk.

Somewhat cone shaped, a morel silhouette looks like a tiny tree with a big trunk. They are four to eight inches tall, the caps are light tan to brown, the stems white, and both are hollow and brittle. The cap has ridges and pits but the stalk is reasonably smooth.

Morels like to grow in bunches, and the peak time of growth is usually when the lilacs bloom. Best conditions occur after abundant rainfall, and during the blooming time of purple lilacs and also crab apple trees.

The season, depending on conditions, usually lasts three to four weeks.

In our neck of the woods, with the rain we had over the weekend and hopefully warm weather this week, morel hunting in the next week or so could be great. Maybe some of the best conditions we’ve had in several years.

The Crow River basins and heavily wooded areas are places to start your hunt. Look in low, damp areas near dead trees, especially elms.

Several county parks in our area can also provide great hunting.

On occasion, morels will also grow in grassy pastures and lawns.

If you’re lucky enough to find a bunch or just a few, when you pick them, cut them off with a knife at the base of the stem, making sure not to disturb the root system.

Morels shouldn’t be eaten raw and the preferred choice of cooking is simply fried in butter. They go great with an opening day catch of walleye.

Good luck and good hunting.

Brooks Lake Fishery improving
From Paul Diedrich DNR Area Fisheries office, Montrose

In 2005, the DNR conducted several studies of Brooks Lake, a small (98 acres), shallow lake located within the city limits of Cokato.

The studies showed that the fishery is improving due to the lack of winterkill.

Winterkill means that fish die due to a lack of oxygen during long, cold, snowy winter seasons.

The last winterkill at Brooks Lake was recorded in the winter of 1991-92. Following that event, gamefish populations were at low levels, and the bullhead population was high. Bullheads are able to survive low oxygen conditions and re-populate more quickly in the absence of other species.

Since winter kill hasn’t occurred for 13 years, very few bullheads were captured in 2005, and test netting and electrofishing revealed that the principal species are largemouth bass, northern pike, and bluegill sunfish.

Largemouth bass were sampled by electrofishing May 9 at a rate of 52.5 largemouth/hour.

Largemouth are collected in the evening in spring with a specially designed boat to stun the bass with electric current. The fish are released after data collection.

The catch rate was similar to the median catch for area lakes. The average length was 12.3 inches, and the majority of bass were larger than 12 inches.

The largest bass sampled was 18.3 inches and was eight years old.

Northern pike were found to be moderately abundant, but the average size was a surprising 25 inches long and four pounds.

No wonder Brooks Lake has the reputation for producing above average size northern pike.

Bluegill sunfish were found to be relatively abundant. The average size is a little on the small side and growth is slow. It’s hard to find a sunfish that is eight inches or larger.

If you’ve not had much success catching black crappie, it’s because the population is very low. Few crappies were sampled with trap nets.

Mild winters seem to provide the right conditions for curly leaf pondweed to flourish, however.

Curly leaf is an exotic plant that begins to grow under the ice, reaches peak abundance about June 1, and then dies back.

A survey of curly leaf June 3, 2005 showed that curly leaf was growing to the surface over 47 acres, or 48 percent of the lake surface.

This plant provides some protection for fish, but frustrates anglers, because it impedes fishing.

For more information about the 2005 fisheries survey, contact the Area Fisheries office, Montrose, at (763) 675-3301; or on the web at dnr.state.mn.us.

2006 Lake Mary ice-out contest winners
From Mike Ollig President of Lake Mary Assoc.

The ice cover officially was 100 percent off Lake Mary Friday, April 7, 2006. There were 24 contestants, who correctly picked April 7 as the ice-out date. Three of the 24 contestants were randomly drawn for first, second, and third place.

Kelly Paal from Andover won first place, $100.

Jerry Ketcher from Watertown won second place, $50. Note: upon notification of winning second place, Jerry donated his winnings of $50 to the Lake Mary walleye stocking program. His generosity and support was greatly appreciated.

Brad Wynnemer from Howard Lake won third place, $25.

All of the proceeds from this yearly contest are used for the sole purpose of stocking Lake Mary (biannually) with six-inch fingerling walleye.

Thus far, with the efforts of the Winsted Sprotsman’s Club, the Watertown Rod and Gun Club, and the Lake Mary Homeowners Association, over 8,000 walleye have been introduced to Lake Mary since 1999. Two thousand walleye were stocked last fall.

All who sold tickets and contributed to this effort is greatly appreciated.

Trail conditions variable for OHV use; snowmobile trails closed April 1
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders that grant-in-aid snowmobile trails are not open to OHV use.

Snowmobile trails that cross private lands and are maintained by local snowmobile clubs were closed April 1.

These snowmobile clubs get seasonal trail permits from landowners that allow the public to snowmobile on the trails.

The permits allow the club to groom, sign and maintain trails between Dec. 1 and April 1.

Public use of these lands is not allowed at any other times of the year.

“Minnesota is fortunate to have an extensive snowmobile trail system,” said Les Ollila, Grand Rapids regional trails supervisor for the DNR. “The system depends on the generosity of private landowners. We remind people to respect private property so that landowners will allow snowmobile trail use again next season.”

With the warmer weather and closing of snowmobile trails, many OHV riders are anxious to hit the trails.

“Spring is hard on trails,” said Tim Browning, Bemidji regional trails supervisor. “The spring thaw leads to soft soils, which may be susceptible to damage. We will have some temporary closings. But, we also want to give riders as many riding opportunities as possible.

“The DNR will work to let users know when and where they can ride, and will lift road and trail closures as soon as possible,” said Browning. “In turn, we ask users to check before riding, to avoid areas that are temporarily closed, and to ride responsibly wherever they are.”

Trail information is available on the DNR home page www.dnr.state.mn.us or by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

DNR will also post signs at entry points and at parking lots in state forests. Road and trail closing information will be updated weekly.

Closures will depend on the local precipitation and soil conditions.

DNR also reminds riders that Minnesota law prohibits ditch riding south of the agriculture line between April 1 and Aug. 1. The agricultural line runs roughly from Moorhead to Taylors Falls along highways 10 and 95.

Asian grass carp caught in St. Croix River
From the DNR

A 45- to 50-pound grass carp, one of four Asian carp species that threaten aquatic resources in the Upper Mississippi River basin, was caught by a commercial fisherman in the St. Croix River on April 7.

The fish was caught near Douglas Point Beach across the river from Prescott, Wis.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff in Minnesota confirmed the fish is a grass carp, a species that is harmful to aquatic ecosystems because it eats aquatic plants that are important for fish and wildlife and because it can harm water quality by increasing nutrients.

Grass carp were imported to the United States for use as a biological control for nuisance aquatic plants in other states.

A few other grass carp have been confirmed in Minnesota/Wisconsin border waters during the last 15 years, including one last year in lower Pool 4, a 45-mile pool of the Mississippi River that includes Lake Pepin, but there are no known reproducing populations in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

In the fall of 2004, a 23-pound bighead carp was discovered in the same pool of the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

In other Mississippi River basin states, the jumping silver carp are injuring people in boats and on personal watercraft.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin DNRs have been expressing the critical need for federal funding and greater federal involvement in stopping the invasion of Asian carp, including grass, bighead, silver and black, which are moving upstream in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

This most recent capture of a grass carp is another reminder of the gradual invasion of the Upper Mississippi River basin by Asian carp.

A study was done in 2004 to determine the most cost-effective ways to limit the future movement of the carp.

The study recommended installing an underwater barrier of sound and bubbles at two locations in the Mississippi River south of the Minnesota border.

To date, no federal funds have been appropriated for the recommended fish barriers.

DNR question of the week
From the DNR

Q: It’s not uncommon for lakeshore property owners to return to their cabins in the spring to find damage to their shoreline, docks and boat lifts bent, retaining walls and sometimes to the cabins themselves. What causes this?

A: This type of property damage is caused by “ice heaving” or “ice jacking.”

As ice freezes and thaws, cracks form because of the different contraction rates at the top and bottom of the ice sheet.

This is especially true in years when there’s a lack of insulating snow cover, which means our current conditions this year may result in a lot of property damage around the state.

When the water rises in the cracks and freezes, the ice sheet expands slightly.

Rising air temperatures warms the ice, which causes the additional expansion to exert a tremendous thrust against the shore.

This powerful natural force forms a feature along the shoreline known as an ice ridge. These ridges can sometimes reach as high as five feet or more.

Additional warming and cooling of an ice sheet can cause additional pushing action that possess enough power to nudge bridge masonry piers out of plumb and push houses off their foundations.

Outdoor notes

• Although the crappie fishing has slowed a bit because of cold rainy weather, reports from across the area say the fishing has been excellent.
Those same anglers have also noted that area lakes have warmed up fast, and that walleye and northern pike fishing on the opener should be good.

The 2006 Minnesota fishing opener is set for Sat., May 13, Only 13 days away.

Remember to purchase a new 2006 Minnesota angling license, and make sure boat and trailer licenses are up to date and not expired.

• In next week’s column look for my annual super seven lakes for the 2006 opener.

I’ll be starting my adventure on Diamond Lake near Atwater and then heading to Stahl’s Lake near Hutchinson to nab a few small northern pike.

• The battle waging in our state legislature regarding dedicated funding for our natural resources wouldn’t be a battle if all of us would understand it’s wise investment, and not just another expense of state government we all have to pay for.

• Now is a great time to hunt for night crawlers.

• Canada geese will be hatching very soon.

• The application deadline for the Minnesota 2006 black bear hunt is Friday, May 5.

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

• Today, the sun will rise at approximately 6:02 a.m. and set at 8:19 p.m. On June 21 the sun will rise at 5:27 a.m. and set at 9:03 p.m.

• The May 13 fishing opener falls on the evening of a full moon.

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

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