Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

July 3, 2006

Breeding duck numbers decline

Minnesota’s breeding duck populations declined for the second consecutive year, according to results of the annual May waterfowl survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The state’s estimated breeding duck population fell to 521,000, 18 percent lower than last year and 36 percent below the 10-year average.

The long-term average for total duck abundance is 630,000 breeding birds. The Canada goose count increased 12 percent to 358,000.

“These are disappointing numbers,” said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. “The DNR and its partners have done an extraordinary amount of work, but there’s clearly much more to do. The DNR will continue to work with conservation groups, landowners and federal agencies in a long-term effort to protect 2 million acres of habitat and boost the breeding duck population to 1 million birds.”

The mallard breeding population was estimated at 161,000, 33 percent lower than last year.

Mallard populations in Minnesota have averaged almost 331,000 over the past 10 years and the long-term average is about 224,000.

This year’s estimate is the lowest recorded since 1983, said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.

Blue-winged teal numbers decreased 11 percent from last year to 174,000, 27 percent below the 10-year average.

Blue-winged teal counts are generally more variable than mallard counts because they migrate through the state later in some years.

“This was an extremely early spring across the state, so most migrant ducks had passed through by the time the survey was completed, which could account for some of the decline,” Cordts said.

The combined populations of other ducks, such as wood ducks, gadwalls and ring-necked ducks, decreased to 187,000, about 24 percent below the 10-year average but 5 percent above the long-term average.

Only 8,300 scaup were counted - the lowest recorded since the survey began.

“Very few scaup settle and breed in Minnesota, so this isn’t a real concern,” Cordts said. “However, I think it indicates just how early the spring was this year and that most migrant ducks had already moved through the state before the survey began.”

Numbers of May ponds also declined by 12 percent and were 15 percent below the long-term average.

The DNR’s duck plan was recently updated with a new long-term goal of restoring more than 2 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat in Minnesota.

“We have a plan that will move us in the right direction,” Shad said. “We’re building a new future for duck hunters with our many partners - including Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Isaac Walton League, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Waterfowl Association and The Nature Conservancy. But there’s no quick fix. Restoring 2 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat is an enormous challenge that requires long-term commitment.”

Anecdotal reports from some managers across the state indicate fair numbers of duck and goose broods.

“A good nesting season could offset the lower duck breeding population,” Cordts said. “The DNR will wait until early August when additional data are available before announcing waterfowl hunting regulations for this coming fall.”

Data on breeding duck populations across North America is not yet available, but preliminary reports suggest generally fair to good conditions in the Dakotas and improved conditions from last year across prairie Canada.

The breeding duck survey is conducted by a waterfowl biologist and conservation officer pilot who count waterfowl and wetlands along the same routes each year from a low-flying, single-engine airplane.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews that also count waterfowl along a portion of the survey routes to correct for birds missed by the aerial crew.

The survey was designed to estimate breeding duck numbers in about 40 percent the state that includes much of the best remaining duck breeding habitat.

The survey has been conducted each May since 1968.

Since 2001, the DNR has conducted a helicopter survey of nesting Canada geese during April.

This year’s estimate was 358,000 Canada geese, 12 percent higher than last year.

The survey, which includes most of the state except for the Twin Cities metropolitan area, counts Canada geese on randomly selected 160 acre plots located in prairie, transition and forested areas.

“In general, the results show that 80 percent of the breeding geese occur in the prairie and transition area, excluding geese that breed in the seven-county metro area,” said DNR goose specialist Steve Maxson. “Remaining geese breed in the forest region. Canada goose abundance is very high across the state and the survey suggests that the population may still be increasing slightly.”

The report can be viewed at: www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Keg’s Bar Fishing League

Bass & Walleye
Week 6 - Buffalo Lake
Results
1. Gus Schuenfeld and John Lambrecht
2 bass 4 lbs. 0 oz.
2. Thomas Schuenfeld and Brian Hankomp
1 walleye 3 lbs. 12 oz.
3. Woody Langenfeld and Dave Fiecke
1 bass 2 lbs. 0 oz.

Name Pts PtsTotal
Woody Langenfeld 14 89
Dave Fiecke 14 69
Gus Schuenfeld 20 60
Thomas Schuenfeld 16 50
Jason Kieser 1 27.5
Mark Kieser 1 27.5
Corey Zitzloff 1 29
Mike Moy 1 79
Kim Moy 1 79
John Lambrecht 20 52.5
Brian Hankomp 16 48.5
Tim Thul 1 16
Russ C. DNF 15
Dave Groff 1 39
Todd Prudent 1 38
Kyle Kulinski DNF 9
Gaylen Schoenfeld DNF 8
Dick L DNF 20
Steve Sherman DNF 14
Neil Syvertson DNF 14
Bonnie Schoenfeld DNF 8

To participate, stop in at Keg’s Bar in Winsted, or call (320) 485-4250.

Tournament runs Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. Lake is chosen at 3 p.m. on day of fishing. Twelve weeks total with different lake each week.

DNR makes more permits available for 2006 Camp Ripley archery hunts
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will begin accepting applications on July 1 for the 2006 regular archery deer hunts at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.

Hunters may pick from only one of two hunting seasons, Oct. 19-20 or Oct. 28-29. A total of 5,000 permits, 2,500 per two-day hunt, will be made available, which is more than a 10 percent increase over last year.

Hunters may choose from three options this year to apply for the Camp Ripley deer hunts: through the DNR’s computerized Electronic Licensing System (ELS) at any one of 1,800 ELS agents located throughout Minnesota, by telephone at 1-888-665-4236 or at the DNR License Center in St. Paul.

The application fee for the hunt is $8 per applicant. The deadline to apply is Aug. 18.

Those who apply by phone will be charged an additional convenience fee of $3.50 per transaction.

This year, participants will be allowed to use bonus permits and take up to two deer during their hunt.

To apply, resident and nonresident hunters will need one of the following: a valid state driver’s license or state issued identification card with current address, a firearms safety certificate number, or a MDNR number found on a recent Minnesota fishing and hunting license. It is important that the identification card used reflects the current mailing address; this is where the winning notification will be sent if an applicant is successful in the computer preference drawing.

Applicants must be at least 12 years of age prior to Oct. 19, 2006.

In addition, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1980, must have a firearms safety certificate, a previous hunting license, or other evidence of successfully completing a hunter safety course to obtain a license to hunt or trap in Minnesota.

Hunters applying for a permit will be asked a series of questions.

It is recommended that they prepare for these questions by completing a worksheet prior to making an application.

Hunt application worksheets are available on the DNR’s Web site, from the DNR License Bureau or from an ELS agent. Hunters may apply as individuals or as a group of up to four individuals. Group members may only apply for the same two-day season.

The archery hunt at Camp Ripley is an annual event. The DNR coordinates the hunt with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

Anglers enjoy good fishing on Mille Lacs and Upper Red Lake
From the DNR

Data collected by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed what many anglers already know - fishing has been very good this spring on Upper Red Lake and Mille Lacs Lake.

According to creel surveys, anglers on Mille Lacs have harvested about 200,000 pounds of walleye so far this summer, surpassing last year’s total open-water harvest for the entire year by about 35,000 pounds.

On Upper Red Lake, open this year to angling for the first time since 1999, anglers have harvested 45,000 pounds of walleye.

“We’re very pleased with the fishing on both lakes,” said Ron Payer, fisheries chief for the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Many anglers are releasing medium and larger fish and complying with regulations designed to the protect the fishery from over harvest.”

Despite the exceptional walleye bite on Mille Lacs, the DNR is confident the harvest will remain under the safe harvest level of 500,000 pounds.

Including ice fishing, anglers have harvested about 266,000 pounds of walleye this year. The total harvest includes 20,000 pounds of fish that didn’t survive after being released.

“This level of harvest is about what we expected and should remain within the safe harvest level for the season,” said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR 1837 Treaty biologist. “Fishing effort is the highest we’ve observed in the past four years.”

Most of the fish being harvested are from the 2002 year class, between 14 and 17 inches, Brusewitz said.

In addition to walleye harvested, anglers have released more than 500,000 pounds of walleye, mostly large females averaging more than 3.5 pounds.

Catch rates have moderated on Upper Red Lake from the three weeks following the May 13 fishing opener, when anglers harvested 32,500 pounds of walleye or 1.8 fish per hour.

From June 1-15, anglers harvested 13,000 pounds of walleye or .6 fish per hour.

Walleye have dispersed throughout the lake from spawning areas near shore, making angling more challenging, said Henry Drewes, DNR northwest regional fisheries manager.

“Walleye fishing is still very good, but success is not as universal as it was during the first three weeks,” Drewes said. “Fishing pressure has declined somewhat and will likely continue to decline if lower catch rates continue.”

There is still concern that water temperatures exceeding 70 degrees could contribute to higher levels of mortality after walleye are released in the lake, Drewes said. So far, however, moderating catch rates have compensated for higher release mortality.

“We continue to encourage anglers to exercise restraint when fishing Upper Red Lake during the summer months,” Drewes said. “Handling excessive numbers of fish from warm water will lead to increased release mortality.”

It is too soon to tell whether the harvest cap of 108,000 pounds will be reached, resulting in the closure of the walleye fishery on Upper Red Lake.

Compliance with special regulations that limit anglers to two fish and require the release of all walleye 17 to 26 inches has been excellent, Drewes added.

“We’ve had a very good fishing season so far,” he said. “Angling regulations developed in cooperation with the Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee have served to reduce harvest and maximize fishing opportunity.”

Monitoring the clarity of your lake
From the DNR

Ever heard of a Secchi disk? It’s a simple tool to measure the clarity of your lake.

And why is that important? The clarity of the lake, or how clear or murky the water, is a general indicator of the overall health of your lake.

Lack of clarity is usually caused by excess algae growth in the water.

Do you live on a lake, own a boat, or visit lakes in the summer?

If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Citizen Lake Monitoring Program is looking for you.

The MPCA needs volunteers to monitor water quality on Minnesota lakes during the summer months from May through September.

The data that is collected by volunteers provides valuable information on the current health of Minnesota lakes and can help predict trends in water quality - is the water getting better or worse.

Secchi monitoring is a simple and relatively quick process.

A secchi disk is an eight-inch white metal disk on a rope. The rope is marked with 6 inch and 12 inch increments. The disk is simply lowered into the water until it can no longer be seen and that depth is recorded.

The volunteer will also make notes on the water’s physical condition and recreational suitability at the same time.

If your lake has a lake association, check with them to see if Secchi disk readings are currently being taken. If they are, see if they need any back up or assistance.

If the lake does not have a lake association or it is unknown if Secchi readings are being taken, please contact the MPCA for more information at (651) 296-8544 or 800-657-3864.

By helping the MPCA track long-term trends in Secchi transparency, volunteers help protect our precious lake resources and contribute greatly to the increased understanding of overall water quality in Minnesota.

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