Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

February 26, 2007

Fish houses need to be removed this week

It’s been an up-and-down ice fishing season and, aside from some late ice panfish action, the season is almost over.

The season for walleye, northern pike, bass, and muskie closed Sunday, Feb. 25 and fish houses need to be removed from lakes in our area by the end of the day Wed., Feb. 28.

Back in early November, cold weather came quick and, with ice being formed at a fast pace, it looked like the local ice fishing season was going to be off to its best start in years.

Then, December rolled around, the weather warmed up, and ice conditions became poor, putting an almost complete stop to local ice fishing activity.

During December, and for most of January, ice conditions were poor, and several lakes in the area carried spots of open water.

In late January, and with a vengeance in early February, the deep freeze hit and ice fishing, especially in larger, less mobile houses, really took off.

Now, just a month later, the season for big fish is closed and those houses need to come off the lakes.

Hopefully, the season will be resurrected with some good late ice panfish action, but who knows.

While I’m writing this column experts are predicting a big snow-storm which could create horrible travel conditions on our area lakes, making it very difficult for anglers to get houses off, and then turning lakes into a mess of slush and water on top of the ice when the meltdown starts.

I’ve come to expect that any weather we get this year won’t be conducive to good ice fishing conditions, and I can say, at least, I don’t have to worry about getting a big house off the lake after a big storm.

Maybe, next year we’ll get the local ice fishing season many of us have been waiting for.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner March 10

Prairie Archers will host a steak/shrimp dinner Saturday, March 10 at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie.

The dinner begins at 5 p.m. and runs through 8 p.m.

The steak and shrimp combo costs $10; steak alone is $8; and six shrimp is $8.

The dinner includes baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, coffee or milk, and complimentary drink.

Call in your reservations before 6 p.m. Friday, March 9 to Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721, or to the Dodge House at (320) 395-2877.

Ducks Unlimited meeting in Howard Lake tonight

Ducks Unlimited will have a meeting at the Howard Lake Legion Monday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

If interested in attending the meeting, and to RSVP contact Brad or Heidi Driver at (763) 675-7234 or at bradandheidi@hotmail.com.

Delano offering firearms safety course

A firearms safety training course is being offered at the Delano Sportsmen’s Club for kids who will to be 12 years old by Nov. 12, and adults.

The training program consists of 11 days, beginning Monday, Feb. 26 and ending Sunday, April 7.

Students must attend all classes. Class hours are 7 to 8:30 p.m., and a guardian must accompany each student.

Training days are: Feb. 26; March 1, 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22; April 3, 5, 7.

The course will cover hunter responsibilities, firearm handling, archery, marksmanship, wildlife identification, game management and game care, survival, water safety, and first aid.

At the completion of the course, students will earn a firearms safety certificate.

The certificate will soon be mandatory for all hunters born in 1982 or after.

The sign-up deadline is Thursday, Feb. 22. For additional information, contact John McClay at (763) 675-2397 after 6 p.m.

Ducks Unlimited waterfowl hunters party

Ducks Unlimited will be having a waterfowl hunters party Saturday, March 3 at the Bonfire Bar and Grille, located on Hwy 22 between Hutchinson and Litchfield.

Doors open at 3 p.m., with a raffle to follow.

Raffle prizes include 100 dozen Avery decoys, Avery merchandise, and Ducks Unlimited merchandise.

The cost is $25 with pre-event sale only – no tickets at the door.

For additional information, or to purchase tickets, call (320) 234-6224, or go online to register at www.duckssevents.org.

Watertown Rod & Gun firearms safety training

The Watertown Rod and Gun Club will be having a firearms safety training class this spring.

The class will be Tuesday and Thursday nights, with registration Tuesday, March 6 at 6 p.m.

Classes begin March 6, and will run through Saturday, March 31, which will be a field day.

The cost is $10, and a parent or guardian must sign for students under 18 years of age.

Classes will be at the Watertown Rod and Gun Club, located .5 miles south of Watertown on State Hwy 25, then west on County Rd. 122 one mile – club on north side.

Classes will begin at 6:30 p.m. and students must attend every class, with class running to 9 p.m.

No firearms or ammunition may be brought to class.

For additional information, contact Tom Radde at (952) 446-1471.

Deer herd is having another easy winter – so far
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources annual “winter severity index” for white-tailed deer in Northeastern Minnesota indicates 2006-2007 is well below the long-term average.

Snowfall has been significantly below average in the Tower area (northern St Louis and Lake Counties).

Temperatures through the first week in January were very mild, however, since January 8, we have had 34 days that have been zero or well below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The DNR has conducted the Winter Severity Index (WSI) for the past 40 years to statistically analyze our winters.

The WSI is measured by combining the number of days of zero or below zero with the number of days with 15 inches or more of snow on the ground.

These measurements are taken throughout northern Minnesota and compiled at DNR Wildlife offices.

An “average” winter in the Tower area would total about 125 WSI points by the end of April.

As of February 13, 2007 Tower has 46 WSI points, Isabella 36, Snowbank Lake 35, Brimson 32, and Eveleth 28 —all of which are “temperature” days.

Currently, we have 6-8 inches of snow across the Tower work area.

Last year at this time we had a WSI of 34 with 14 inches of snow on the ground.

The total WSI for the winter of 2006 was 88. Ten percent of the deer herd typically dies in an average winter.

Wildlife managers will continue to monitor deer populations and WSI as the winter progresses. The winter of 1995-1996 had the highest WSI recorded in Tower/Ely with 202.

Records show that our deer have the ability to withstand very cold temperatures.

However, when extended periods of cold temperatures combine with deep snow, especially in mid to late winter, deer mortality will occur.

Fawns and yearlings are the first to starve or be killed by wolves or other predators.

They are the most expendable part of the herd. As the WSI increases to a level of 140 or higher, we expect to see increased buck mortality.

The adult does are the best prepared to withstand a severe winter in the Northland. This is nature’s way of perpetuating the species.

With the lower than average snowfall in the Tower-Ely area, deer are utilizing bare south-facing slopes and other areas of less snow to feed and move about.

We have also noted that the deer are more spread out across their winter range this year. Checking the bone marrow on some road-killed and predator-killed deer indicates that the deer have not been winter stressed thus far.

If the winter of 2007 continues to be mild, deer numbers will not be significantly affected.

However, as we all know, winter could be a long way from over. The WSI could drastically change with prolonged cold temperatures and one major snowfall.

What happens from now thru April will determine how our deer fare this winter.

TOWER AREA WSI 1995 TO 2006: 1995: 71; 1996: 202; 1997: 169; 1998: 24; 1999: 103; 2000: 45; 2001: 139; 2002: 59; 2003: 80; 2004: 149; 2005: 159; 2006: 88.

For more information, contact: Dan Litchfield, Tower Area Wildlife, 650 Hwy 169, Tower, MN 55790 or call (218) 753-2580 ext. 242.

No change for the Lake Mille Lacs walleye slot in 2007
From the DNR

Anglers who fish Lake Mille Lacs this year will again have ample opportunity to harvest walleye under a slot limit unchanged since 2004, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The season will open May 12 with a regulation that will allow anglers to keep four walleye up to 20 inches, which may include one trophy over 28 inches.

Anglers must release all walleye from 20 to 28 inches. Starting July 15, anglers will be allowed to keep walleye up to 22 inches with one trophy over 28 inches in the four fish limit.

All walleye from 22 to 28 inches must be released. The slot will revert to four walleye up to 20 inches with one over 28 inches in the four fish limit on Dec. 1.

“This regulation is designed to allow anglers to use most of the 449,000 pounds of walleye (including hooking mortality) allotted to the state,” said Dave Schad, DNR director of fish and wildlife.

Eight bands of Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe may take 100,000 pounds of walleye.

The slot limit will continue to protect future fishing opportunities. “The majority of our spawning stock biomass - large, mature fish - continues to be protected under this regulation and remains in good shape,” said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries chief.

He added the strong 2002 and 2003 year classes of walleye, now mostly 14-20 inches, will once again provide for a good catch of eating sized walleyes for anglers to keep.

Smaller fish in the 11-14 inch range are less numerous.

“Anglers can still keep deeply hooked small fish to take home and fry up,” Payer said. “However, we encourage anglers to release these smaller fish that are likely to survive.”

The two youngest year classes of walleye, from 2005 and 2006, are abundant and should provide continued good fishing in the near future.

Last year, anglers caught 1.5 million pounds of walleye and harvested 480,000 pounds under the same slot limit and a walleye allocation of 500,000 pounds.

Many of the walleye were nice sized fish from the 2002 and 2003 year classes.

This year’s regulation is similar to special walleye regulations on other popular walleye lakes such as Rainy, Leech, Big Sand and Winnibigoshish.

“This new regulation protects the long-term health of the fishery, allows excellent opportunity for anglers and safeguards economic interests,” Payer said. “The decision to maintain the same regulation was made based on the best biological data, with input from anglers and resort owners.”

Outdoor notes

• If you haven’t noticed, the days are getting longer in a big hurry and soon, we will have turned the corner to spring.

• I have had several reports of bald eagle sightings in our area this winter.

Bald eagle numbers are up and if you’re interested in seeing more of them, pay attention during the ice out period this spring.

Eagles like to follow the ice out line on their way to nesting grounds farther north, and many of the lakes in our area are hot spots to view eagles during ice out.

• Join a wildlife or conservation organization this spring.

• The spring snow goose hunting season in Minnesota opens Thursday, March 1.

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

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