Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

January 15, 2007

It hasn’t been the season I was hoping for

Back in November, I wrote an outdoor column (one of the few I have had time to write this winter) on the upcoming ice fishing season.

The column was published immediately after a week-long November cold snap, and ran with a headline of “This could be the season we have all been waiting for.” At that time, ice conditions were off to a great start.

Since then, we were embraced by warm winter, ice conditions became poor, and the ice fishing season, in comparison to those in the good old days, became almost non-existant.

This season, I was hoping for the opportunity to get a good-sized fish house on one of our many local lakes and spend some quality time in the evenings, weekends, and especially over the holidays ice fishing with my three young kids.

So far, I’ve only made it on the ice one time. A few days after Christmas, I drilled several holes on a small local pond in hopes I could get the kids on the ice and catch a few panfish.

My intentions were good, but I couldn’t find any ice, even on that small pond, that was more than three to four inches thick. Not enough for ice fishing with kids.

Moving on, ice fishing reports from our area this season have been slim to none.

Yes, there are some anglers heading out and catching fish, but not many, and very few fish houses are on the lakes.

Maybe this week’s cold snap will change that.

For me, it’s hard to get motivated when a few lakes in the area still have open water in the middle.

On a final note, remember that no ice is ever completely safe, and ice conditions can vary dramatically from one lake to another and from one location on a lake to another.

61st annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby Feb. 10

The 61st annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. on Howard Lake.

The grand prize this year will be a 6.5’ by 12’ King Crow fish house on wheels.

First prize is a FL8 Vexilar depth finder; second and third prizes are framed prints; and there will be a number of other prizes given away.

Before the derby, The Country Store in Howard Lake will be serving lunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There will be a limited supply of fried fish, potato salad, beans, and dinner rolls, which will be served until they are gone.

The lunch is open to the public; all you need is a raffle ticket, which will be available at the event. Children are guests.

Carver County 21st annual Pheasants Forever banquet

The 21st annual Carver County Pheasants Forever banquet is set for Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Hamburg Hall.

Social hour begins at 5 p.m., with the dinner getting started at 7 p.m.

To attend, contact Bob Gruenhagen at (952) 442-1924.

McLeod Fish & Wildlife Alliance’s 6th annual banquet March 3

The McLeod Fish and Wildlife Alliance’s sixth annual banquet is Saturday, March 3 at the Pla-Mor Ballroom in Glencoe.

Cash bar and games begin at 3:30 p.m., with a prime rib dinner to follow at 6 p.m.

You will be eligible for the early bird drawing if you respond by Feb. 20 – the early bird prize will be a 10-bird pheasant hunt at Major Ave. Hunt Club.

For tickets, contact Dave Dammann at (320) 864-4961, or Dave Sell at (320) 864-6324.

All proceeds will stay in McLeod County.

Invasive species: Buckthorn to Emerald Ash Borer
From the U of M Extension Service

Invasive woody plants such as buckthorn, prickly, ash, and other species, are creating serious problems for our native woodlands.

The main focus of this session is woody invasive species, but other invasive vegetative plants, aquatics and insects that are a threat to our Minnesota landscapes will also be discussed.

Learn how to correctly identify and control these pests to promote healthy woodlands and landscapes.

Useful publications will be available.

This educational workshop on “Invasive Species” is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the McLeod County Fairgrounds, Extension and Parks Building in Hutchinson. Registration is $20.

This workshop is a Woodland Advisor elective class and is approved for continuing education hours for Master Gardeners. The public is invited to attend.

To register for this woodland advison class, visit http://cfc.cfans.umn.edu/wa/ or contact Kathy Eckwright, (507) 389-6972 or 888-241-3214, eckwr001@wmn.edu.

Opening dates announced for 2007 Minnesota hunting seasons
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced opening dates for many of the 2007 Minnesota hunting seasons this week.

The dates are being announced now for the benefit of those who must establish vacation or hunting plans well in advance.

Although these dates are tentative, pending final approval in June, it is unlikely they will change.

• Small game

Sept. 15 - General small game opener, including grouse gray partridge, rabbits and squirrels

Oct. 13 - Pheasant

Oct. 20 - Prairie chicken opener

April 18 - Spring wild turkey (first season)

Oct. 17-21 - Fall wild turkey (first season)

Oct. 24-28 - Fall wild turkey (second season)

• Big game

Sept. 1 - Bear

Sept. 15 - Deer - archery

Nov. 3 - Deer - firearms

Nov. 24 - Deer - muzzleloader

Sept. 29 - Moose - northeast zone

• Furbearers

Oct. 20 - Fox, raccoon badger, opossum

Oct. 27 (north and south)- Mink, muskrat, beaver, otter

Nov. 24 - Fisher, marten, bobcat

• Migratory birds

Sept. 29 (tentative) - Waterfowl

Sept. 1 (tentative) - Early Canada goose

Sept. 1 - Mourning doves

Sept. 22-23 - Take A Kid Hunting Weekend

Sept. 1 - Rails, snipe

Sept. 22 (tentative)- Woodcock

March 1-31; July 15-Oct. 15 - Crow

The waterfowl season opener will not be finalized until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publishes proposed migratory bird hunting frameworks this summer.

Additional details on season lengths, quotas and bag limits will be announced this summer, after the 2007 seasons are finalized.

Pheasants Forever announces 2006 MN habitat accomplishments
From the DNR

Pheasants Forever’s (PF) 70 Minnesota chapters completed 1,075 habitat projects in 2006, which are benefiting 7,989 acres for wildlife.

PF will hold their annual state meetings in Breezy Point, Minnesota on January 12, 13, and 14 to recognize these efforts and the volunteers that made these accomplishments possible.

PF was formed in St. Paul in 1982. Since that time, PF has grown to 70 chapters in the state and 700 nationwide.

There are also more than 22,500 members in Minnesota and more than 115,000 across the continent.

Since inception, PF has raised more than $27.5 million for Minnesota’s wildlife habitat efforts.

Minnesota chapters have also participated in land acquisitions totaling 25,989 acres since 1982.

All PF land acquisitions are accomplished in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and/or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Land acquisitions are then opened to the public for hunting and other compatible outdoor recreation activities.

In conjunction with the 2007 state meetings, PF has announced total habitat accomplishments in the state.

Type of Project – 2006 Projects – 2006 Acres Historical Project Totals

– Total Acres Benefited

• Nesting Cover 119, 1,920, 2,818, 51,228

• Land Acquisition 18, 1,930, 317, 25,989

• Wetland Restoration 37, 386, 304, 4,947

• Winter Cover 87, 123, 4,214, 10,088

• Food Plots 770, 2,337, 12,874, 72,428

• Habitat Maintenance 44, 1,293, 251, 13,073

• TOTALS 1,075, 7,989, 20,778, 177,752

• Land acquisition project totals may reflect more than one chapter’s participation.

In addition, Minnesota’s PF Habitat Teams conducted 44 prescribed fires on 2,320 acres and restored 1,995 acres of native prairie nesting habitat.

PF’s Farm Bill Biologist in Stearns County enrolled, extended or otherwise assisted 304 CRP contract holders impacting 9,058 acres of habitat enrolled in farm bill conservation programs.

This effort is in conjunction with the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership.

“On the heels of record pheasant stamp sales in 2006, PF members and volunteers are working diligently to sustain and increase the quantity and quality of our habitat,” explains Matt Holland, PF’s senior field coordinator. “This weekend we’ll celebrate past successes and energize the people of PF to work towards quality federal, state and local wildlife habitat programs.”

PF will also use the meetings to roll out new programs, train volunteers, gather input on key state and federal habitat issues, and recognize the volunteers and partners that make things happen for the PF habitat mission.

PF is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. Such efforts benefit landowners and wildlife alike. Headquartered in St.Paul, Minn., PF has more than 115,000 members in over 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada.

For information about attending this year’s PF state meetings in Minnesota, please contact Eran Sandquist at (320)236-7755 or via email at esandquist@pheasantsforever.org.

Stream trout fishing a cure for winter blues
From the DNR

Those looking for a cure for the winter blues might want to cast a glance toward southeastern Minnesota where the stream trout season is now open.

The winter trout fishing season in the southeast, which is strictly catch and release, runs from Jan. 1 through March 31.

Steve Klotz, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area fisheries supervisor at Lanesboro, said winter stream trout fishing “provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the heart of winter and also sharpen your angling skills. It’s highly challenging and great fun.”

Klotz said the DNR implemented the winter trout fishing season in 1988 following improved water quality in the 1980’s that created good natural trout reproduction in southeast coldwater streams.

The goal has been to provide additional recreational opportunities without harm to the resource.

“The season has not had a detrimental effect on fish populations and has proven very popular,” Klotz stated. “In fact, 60% of the first-time anglers are coming here from 75 to 150 miles away. And it’s not just for the fishing. When snow conditions cooperate, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are also very popular.”

Winter trout fishing, Klotz said, can sometimes require the angler to “get crazy with different tactics.

As water temperatures drop, so does fish activity. Every 10 degree temperature increase doubles the biological activity of the fish so afternoon fishing is often the most productive.” (Anglers should carry a thermometer with them. Fish are most active at temperatures of 38 degrees and above.)

Klotz offers other tips that could increase an angler’s success:

• Fish slow and use nymph imitators like small jigs that are more easy to fish at slow speeds. Just wiggling a rapala in the water can also work.

• For spinning and spincasting equipment, keep your reel cranking by using a Teflon lubricant that’s not affected by cold.

• Use non-conventional methods by creating your own unique lures or a cane pole.

Klotz also reminds anglers that only barbless hooks are allowed (crimped hooks are permitted) and fish handling should be kept to a minimum.

If the temperature is below freezing, trout should not be removed from the water.

Only select streams are open to winter fishing. Those are listed in the 2006 Fishing Regulation booklet, in the brochure 2005 Trout Angling Opportunities in Southeastern Minnesota, and on the DNR web site (www.dnr.state.mn.us).

“There’s a lot of winter ahead of us, yet,” Klotz reminds, “and winter trout fishing can really help cure those winter blahs.”

Snowmobile trails open when conditions allow
From the DNR

Although most snowmobile trails in Minnesota are open, riders may still find poor trail conditions in many areas.

Andrew Korsberg, trail program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said many trails are not yet groomed due to lack of snow and warm temperatures.

“Trails are opened on a case-by-case basis,” said Korsberg. “Trail groups and the DNR are doing everything possible to make the trails ready, but we need more snow and cold weather before trail conditions improve.”

A minimum of 12 inches of snow is needed for adequate grooming.

Korsberg added that many trails through wet areas are not adequately frozen, and are neither groomed nor safe to ride on.

The DNR recommends five inches of new, clear ice for snowmobile riding on lakes.

Trail users should call local trail clubs or Chambers of Commerce to check local trail conditions first before leaving on their trips.

Users can also check state trails conditions on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us or by calling (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Because of the warm winter, riders may be tempted to take their all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) instead of snowmobiles.

Korsberg reminded trail users that the snowmobile trails are open for snowmobile use only.

“Many landowners permit snowmobile grant-in-aid trails to cross their property,” Korsberg said. “That permission does not include other forms of recreation. Therefore, ATV use on snowmobile grant-in-aid trails is not permitted and is considered trespassing.”

A Minnesota snowmobile state trail sticker is required for all snowmobiles operated on any state or grant-in-aid snowmobile trail in Minnesota.

The snowmobile trail sticker provides funding to snowmobile clubs to help with trail grooming and maintenance.

Stickers are available through deputy registrars or any of the 1,800 electronic licensing agents statewide, by telephone at 1-888-665-4236, or on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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