Howard Lake Fishing Derby is February 9

Jan. 28, 2008

by Chris Schultz

The 62nd annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby will be Saturday, Feb. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. on Howard Lake.

Along with the fishing derby will be a raffle, with the grand prize being a 6.5’x12’ King Crow fish house on wheels.

First price is a FL8 Vexilar depth finder; second and third prizes will be framed prints. Additional prizes will be awarded at the end of the derby.

Prior to the derby, stop by The Country Store in Howard Lake from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for hot dogs, baked beans, chips, and a beverage, all for free – all you need is a raffle ticket, which is available at the event.

There will also be a special prize awarded, a Red Flannel Pet Food $200 gift certificate to any fisherman who can land a dog fish.

For additional information on the event, contact Denny Decker at (320) 543-2992.

Greenleaf open house is Jan. 29

Anyone with an interest in the future of the Greenleaf Lake State Recreation Area is encouraged to attend an open house Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 5-7 p.m. at the Meeker County Courthouse (lower level).

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials will be on hand to answer questions and take comments for the comprehensive plan it will soon begin to develop in conjunction with local citizens and others.

The recreation area is being planned for an area comprising approximately 1,200 acres of land between Litchfield and Hutchinson. To date, nearly 400 acres have been purchased around Greenleaf and Sioux lakes. Discussions with other possibly willing sellers are on-going, according to DNR Southern Region Director Mark Matuska.

“I would classify those discussions as very positive,” Matuska said. “We are extremely excited about what we think this recreation area is going to become, and we really encourage folks to come out and visit with us. It’s very important that we hear what people are thinking and any suggestions or questions they might have.”

More Southern Minnesota lakes experiencing winterkill conditions
From the DNR

Snow and frigid temperatures are combining to make more of southern Minnesota’s shallow lakes susceptible to winterkill conditions, prompting the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to open them to liberalized fishing.

Winterkill conditions are created when sunlight is unable to penetrate the ice and oxygen levels in the water drop.

Fish are often unable to survive in these low oxygen conditions.

“Rather than just let those fish go to waste, so to speak, we try to give anglers an opportunity to instead harvest as many of them as they want,” explained Jack Lauer, acting fisheries manager for the DNR Southern Region at New Ulm.

There are currently 15 lakes open to liberalized fishing with more expected to fall into that category soon, Lauer said. Lakes now open are:

Dora and Pepin in Le Sueur County; Union in Rice County; First and Second Fulda in Murray County; Fremont in Sherburne County; Graham in Grant County; Arville, Hoff, Maple, Sellards, Spencer, Towers, and Turtle in Meeker County; and Clear in McLeod County.

Under liberalized fishing regulations, a resident angling license is required and you cannot take fish through the use of seines, hoop nets, fyke nets, or explosives.

However, fish can be taken in any amount by spear, gillnet or angling.

It is legal to sell any rough fish taken.

For the latest information on lakes that are open to liberalized fishing, and for detailed information about those lakes, go to the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us, and click the ‘What’s New’ link at the top of the page and then scroll down to the liberalized fishing link under the ‘Now Available On-line’ heading.

National Pheasant Fest soars to record attendance
From Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest 2008 and 25th Anniversary Convention presented by Cabela’s concluded Jan. 20, drawing 29,802 people to the Saint Paul RiverCentre for the three-day event.

The attendance mark made the event the largest in Pheasants Forever (PF) history.

Despite frigid sub-zero temperatures in Saint Paul, 29,802 turned out to see the over 300 unique exhibitors, hundreds of bird dogs, and dozens of educational seminars.

The attendance total included over 2,000 new PF members who joined over the three days of the event.

Last year’s Fest in Des Moines, Iowa set the previous attendance high when 24,510 people passed through the turnstiles of the Iowa Events Center.

Conservation policy debate took center stage at National Pheasant Fest 2008.

After delivering a keynote address to PF members Friday night, Acting U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Chuck Conner announced an important addition to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at a press conference Saturday morning.

Secretary Conner announced approval for 45 proposals of State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) projects covering nearly 260,000 acres in 18 states.

SAFE proposals encourage state-specific wildlife focused projects.

The Minnesota-approved SAFE practice, called the “Minnesota Back Forty,” is specifically targeted at improving habitat for pheasants and has been allocated over 23,000 acres in the CRP.

Directly following the SAFE announcement was PF’s Farm Bill Forum, which included this year’s first joint public appearance by Secretary Conner, U.S. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN).

“Conservation loses dramatically without a new Farm Bill now, so we thank Secretary Conner, Chairman Harkin and Chairman Peterson for their willingness to attend National Pheasant Fest 2008 and to have an open discussion regarding current Farm Bill negotiations and conservation programs,” said Dave Nomsen, PF’s Vice President of Government Affairs, who also took part in the Forum.

Other dignitaries to take part in PF’s weekend festivities included U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who delivered the keynote addresses at Saturday’s luncheon, Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, John Johnson, Deputy Administrator for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant, an avid outdoorsmen who also served on PF’s National Board of Directors.

Pheasants Forever formally celebrated a quarter-century of wildlife habitat success with its 25th Anniversary Banquet on Saturday night.

Arlen Lancaster, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), read a letter from President George W. Bush recognizing PF’s 25 years, as well as delivered the banquet’s keynote address.

NRCS, USFWS and the FSA recognized PF with awards marking 25 years of conservation success.

“We formed in Saint Paul 25 years ago, and have come back to where it all began to celebrate 25 years of Forever,” said Howard Vincent, President and CEO of PF. “We want to thank Cabela’s for presenting this milestone event, and especially want to recognize the 700-plus local chapters and 115,000 dedicated Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever volunteers across the country who live and breathe our mission every single day.”

For more information about Pheasants Fowww.PheasantsForever.org.

Volunteers play an important role in DNR success
From the DNR

More than 34,000 volunteers donated their time and talents in 2007 to assist Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff with a variety of projects and programs.

“We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated Minnesotans who are willing to donate their time and talents for conservation projects,” said Renee Vail, the DNR’s volunteer programs administrator. “We’re extremely grateful for their efforts.”

In 2007, 34,773 volunteers donated 472,517 hours of work.

Those efforts represent the equivalent of an extra 227 full-time people helping the DNR expand and improve services.

The value of volunteer services is estimated at $8.8 million.

“The volunteers provide work that supplements but does not supplant DNR personnel,” Vail said. “Their efforts add significant value to the DNR, which relies on the community for assistance. Many of our projects would not be possible without the help of volunteers.”

DNR managers, professionals and technicians work with the volunteers to help manage the state’s diverse natural resources.

Volunteer positions range from jobs requiring no previous experience to specialist positions requiring extensive skill and experience.

Interested in a possible career in fisheries, Kara Torell of St. Cloud asked to shadow a worker from the DNR fisheries in Montrose last spring.

Torell helped DNR staff lift large trap nets for muskellunge on Sugar Lake in Wright County in April 2007 as part of a lake survey.

The fish were measured for length and weight and then released.

This data helps the DNR make management decisions regarding stocking and regulations and provides a picture of how the fishery is doing, especially when compared to past surveys.

Results are posted on the DNR Web site for anglers and others to use.

“Muskellunge and other fish move into shallow water shortly after ice-out,” said Mark Pelham, DNR fisheries specialist. “It’s a good time to catch a lot of large fish and release them safely. We do this to supplement our summer lake survey. It was cold, wet, hard work and Kara was a trooper helping that day.”

Statewide, DNR fisheries volunteer numbers rose by more than 1,800 hours and 470 volunteers from 2006.

“We’re glad citizens are willing to help manage this natural resource for everyone’s benefit,” Vail said.

Volunteer opportunities may occur at state parks, state forest campgrounds, wildlife management areas, fisheries and hatcheries; more than 100 DNR area offices; four regional DNR headquarter offices; the St. Paul central office and special event sites.

More than 600 volunteers assisted the DNR at the Minnesota State Fair, acting as Smokey Bear, helping at the laser shot booth, dispensing lake data reports, and providing entertainment and environmental education presentations on the DNR volunteer outdoor stage.

Volunteers also helped with firearms safety instruction, state park campground hosting, loon monitoring, snowmobile safety instruction, trail clearing, precipitation observing, river cleanups, issuing burning permits and wildlife research.

Volunteers work individually and in groups, undertaking projects in both field and office settings. DNR staff provides training.

The DNR volunteer programs office also works with the DNR Alumni Volunteer Association, a program that utilizes retired DNR employees in special DNR projects throughout the state.

For more information about DNR volunteering opportunities, visit the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov and click on the word “volunteering” or contact the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157.or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Outdoor column – biomass: just imagine
From the DNR

It was a summer day in 1807 and Robert Fulton was anxious. A large crowd of vocal skeptics had gathered to watch Fulton try to launch his huge boat “Clermont” on the Hudson River at New York. His goal was to power the behemoth up the river - with steam!

As the big boat huffed and shook and belched clouds of smoke, the crowd hooted and hollered.
“It’ll never move,” they jeered loudly, “it’ll never move!”

And then, to everyone’s amazement, it actually began to move, lurching and heaving slowly forward. As it began to move steadily upriver, the crowd again began to holler.
“It’ll never stop,” they howled, “it’ll never stop!”

And so it often goes when the previously unthinkable becomes conceivable in the minds of others.

When grandpa was hitching his horses to the plow, do you suppose he ever considered the possibility that one day corn would be converted into a fuel to power our trucks and automobiles?

Ethanol, of course, is now commonplace. And research into the possibility of converting other types of biomass (organic material such as perennial grasses, trees, grain, crop residue, animal waste, etc.) into biofuels is speeding up.

Will the day come when some or all of these products can be efficiently converted into a biofuel on an industrial scale, as ethanol is today?

Some folks are betting on it. Others are highly skeptical, much as the on-lookers at the Fulton event. Many others are simply curious, some just plain uninterested.

The DNR, for one, is not yet ready to bet on biomass as a sure-fire thing for producing bio-fuels. But it does want to have its ducks in a row and ready to fly should biomass become the new steam power.

Early this month, the DNR hosted its roundtable event in St. Cloud. This annual gathering of DNR staff and stakeholders of numerous stripes has traditionally offered an agenda of pertinent but rather narrow topics, ranging from hunting regulations to shoreline regulations to waterfowl studies.

This year the event was designed to take a closer look at the big picture of bio-energy. Not all attendees were pleased, or understood the decision.

One outdoorsman, in fact, referred to “presentations by environmental eggheads” and “pie in the sky plans to make gas from prairie grass.”

Fulton, no doubt, was considered an “egghead” in his time and few believed he could actually power a huge watercraft with steam. In retrospect, steam power now seems pretty elementary.

So, just what might the future of biomass mean for Minnesota’s hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers and others who value our state’s natural resources?

Too early to tell, for sure, but especially here in the prairie pothole region (what’s left of it) in southwestern Minnesota it has the potential to result in more grass on the ground.

That, in turn, would translate into cleaner water and more wildlife habitat.

In southwestern Minnesota, the DNR is extremely interested in the potential to convert perennial grasses into a bio-fuel.

While much is yet to be learned about how such grasses would be grown, harvested, transported, and converted to fuel, the “pie in the sky” potential could be huge.

In southwestern Minnesota, the DNR owns and manages only about 3 percent of the landscape. And half of that is water!

The status of clean water, outdoor recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat is dictated predominantly by what happens on private land. And most of that private land is currently reserved for corn and bean production.

Now, what if farmers had a viable alternative to corn and beans?

What if biomass in the form of perennial grasses or trees was that alternative?

What if someday farmers could make a profit from planting and harvesting these products?

If that day comes, and there are plenty who believe it will, what will really profit are our water quality, outdoor recreation and fish and wildlife habitat.

For too long, farmers and hunters have too often been at odds over what should happen on the land.

Imagine, if you will, a day when the farmer can make a profit by growing grass or trees instead of corn. Just imagine.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Winter is tough on everyone, but can be especially difficult for wildlife.

How does the cold and snow affect deer, and how do they survive Minnesota’s winter weather?

A: Deer begin preparing for winter by shedding their summer coat and replacing it with a heavier winter coat.

During a cold snap, they can make the hairs of their fur coat stand erect, which traps air near the skin and increases the insulation value of their winter coat.

This is similar to birds fluffing their feathers.

Deer store most of their fat reserves during the summer months because the twigs they eat in the winter lack the nutritional value of green vegetation.

They tend to migrate to areas with conifer trees such as white cedar, balsam, fir, white spruce or jack pine.

Conifers are warmer than trees that shed their leaves because they absorb energy from the sun.

And, like most of us, deer also try to limit the amount of time spent out in the elements.

As far as how our current winter will affect Minnesota’s deer population, it’s too early

Outdoor notes

• The next monthly meeting for the McLeod County Pheasants Forever Chapter will be Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the backroom of the Biscay Liquor store.