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Spring estimate shows Lake Mille Lacs walleye population is healthy

July 14, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR
A recently completed tagging and recapture population estimate shows that Mille Lacs Lake walleye are healthy and able to support the sport fishing this popular central Minnesota lake offers.

“After last fall’s gill net survey, there was some uncertainty about the amount of walleye that could be safely harvested from Mille Lacs,” said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries section chief. “But our spring population estimate confirms that the safe harvest level established in January is consistent with Mille Lacs’ walleye population.”

Safe harvest levels are established by biologists each year for walleye and other species in Lake Mille Lacs, which is managed differently than other lakes in the state because the fishery is shared between state-licensed anglers and tribal harvests taken under treaty fishing rights.

Walleye counts during the fall 2007 gill net survey suggested an unexpected decline in the walleye population.

After taking a number of factors into account, including the uncertainty of the gill net estimate, biologists established the 2008 safe harvest level at 430,000 pounds in January.

“This spring’s population estimate was conducted to address the uncertainty caused by last fall’s low counts,” Payer said. “The preliminary results of the 2008 spring survey indicate a safe harvest level of approximately 400,000 pounds, consistent with the level that was set in January.”

He said a variety of data sources are used in the models to determine the safe harvest level each year to avoid the estimate being overly influenced by one information source.

The spring population estimate is currently being subjected to critical scientific review and will be finalized later this year.

Field aspects of the spring population estimate went well, though late ice out during tagging operations and wind and storms during the recapture sampling were challenging for field crews.

In total, nearly 19,000 walleyes were tagged with small, yellow, uniquely numbered tags during late April and early May.

Nearly 5,000 walleyes were captured during mid-May through mid-June and examined for tags.

Approximately 130 tagged walleyes were recaptured in that effort.

The DNR is still interested in getting information on tagged fish. Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to report the tag information to the DNR.

If the fish is harvested, the tag should be removed and returned to the DNR in Aitkin.

Tags should be left in released fish and tag numbers should be written down and reported to the DNR in one of several ways.

Tag cards are available at public access sites and businesses around Mille Lacs. Information can also be sent to MN-DNR Fisheries 1200, Minnesota Avenue, Aitkin, MN 56431. E-mails can be sent to fishtags@dnr.state.mn.us.

The walleye regulation for Mille Lacs is that all walleye 18-to 28-inches must be immediately released and the possession limit is four. One fish may be longer than 28 inches.

Physically disabled veterans deer hunt coming to Camp Ripley
From Veterans Services

The St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota National Guard, Camp Ripley will hold the 18th Annual Physically Disabled Veterans Deer Hunt October 7-9, 2008 at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.

This special hunt is provided for physically disabled veterans who are either currently receiving outpatient care or are eligible to receive care at a VA Medical Center and cannot hunt during the regular firearms season.

The Physically Disabled Veterans Deer Hunt is sponsored by the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and their respective Auxiliaries.

Applications will be available July 7-18, 2008 through the VA’s Voluntary Service Office, (320) 255-6365.

Information meeting on aquatic plant management rule changes
Press release from state senator Amy Koch

State Senator Amy Koch and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are encouraging area residents to attend a DNR informational meeting regarding proposed changes to the state’s aquatic plant management rules Monday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wright County courthouse in the community room, located at 10 Second Street NW in Buffalo. The DNR will have a short presentation at the meeting.

Senator Koch stated, “I would like area residents to ask questions and to have input on the proposed rule changes.”

The DNR has regulated control of aquatic plants since the 1940s. The original purpose of the program was to allow shoreline property owners to remove aquatic plants where it was necessary to gain access to open water, while protecting the habitat and water quality values that aquatic plants provide.

The rule changes come in light of increased shoreline development and the spread of invasive aquatic plants.

Proposed changes include:

• Changes that will prevent long stretches of shoreline from being denuded of critical near-shore habitat.

• Provide grandfather lake groups an opportunity to develop a lake vegetation management plan with the DNR before the grandfather clause is terminated.

• Variance and permit criteria provisions that will provide more consistency in permit decision making.

For more information about the meeting, call Senator Koch’s office at (651) 296-5981.

Looking to eradicat Wild Parsnip in Wright County
From Wright County PF

The Wright County Pheasants Forever chapter is partnering with the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD) in an effort to eradicate Wild Parsnip.

This plant has become a weed of special concern in Wright County due to in very aggressive characteristics and ability to spread rapidly.

Increased concern with this weed is also due to its harmful characteristics when not handled properly.

If skin comes into contact with the sap and is then exposed to ultraviolet light (either sunny or cloudy skies) the affected area will redden and blister.

As part of this partnership, a volunteer effort is being coordinated for Saturday, August 2nd from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

If you are able to volunteer please contact the WCSWCD Office at (763) 682-1933, ext. 3.

Instruction will be provided on how to safely handle the Wild Parsnip.

Please be sure to wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, gloves and bring a shovel. A lunch will be provided.

Throwable floatation device and life jacket – it’s the law
From the DNR

Minnesota’s life jacket laws changed 12 years ago and now require that owners of most boats 16 feet and longer carry one U.S. Coast Guard approved, throwable flotation device on board in addition to every passenger having a readily accessible life jacket.

But according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) boating safety officials, many people are ignoring the laws.

“A throwable device simply means a boater’s flotation seat cushion in most cases,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boating safety specialist. “It’s cheap, it’s simple and it can save lives. The device needs to have the Coast Guard approval label attached and must be immediately available to throw to someone in distress. It may not be zipped into a bag or in a closed compartment.”

Other types of approved throwable flotation devices include ring buoys and horseshoe shaped buoys seen on some large sailboats.

Smalley said another problem is some boaters think all they need are seat cushions, not life vests.

Years ago, throwable seat cushions fulfilled the requirement for flotation devices on smaller boats. That changed in 1996.

Minnesota law requires all boats, regardless of length (including canoes, kayaks and duck boats) to have readily accessible Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V wearable life jacket for each person on board. Type IV throwable devices, such as boater’s cushions, are no longer acceptable.

Some good news: DNR conservation officers are seeing almost 100 percent compliance for the requirement that kids under age 10 wear a life vest, according to Smalley.

More information on boating safety and the life jacket law is available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 259-6157 or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or by sending an e-mail to boatandwater@dnr.state.mn.us.

Apply now for prairie chicken, fall turkey hunts
From the DNR

Hunters who wish to apply for one of 186 permits for the 2008 Minnesota prairie chicken season or for one of 7,660 permits for the fall turkey hunt must do so by July 25.

Applications are available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Application materials and maps of permit areas for both hunts are available on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov/hunting.

Successful applicants will be notified by mail after purchasing their permit at one of 1,800 Electronic License System agents across Minnesota.

Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife program coordinator, said that there should be enough turkey hunting spots to meet the current demand and that the odds of being drawn are very high.

In 2007, hunters harvested 695 turkeys in the fall hunt with hunter success typically about 25 percent.

Those applying for one of the 186 prairie chicken permits (an increase of four from last year) will have about a one-in-three chance of success, depending upon the area they choose.

In 2007, hunter success was 53 percent, with 122 prairie chickens harvested.

Hunter success varies considerably from year to year, especially when poor weather prevents more hunters from going out in the field.

• Prairie chicken season

The five-day prairie chicken season, which will begin on Oct. 18, is open to Minnesota residents only.

Hunters pay a $4 application fee and may apply individually or in groups up to four. Prairie chicken licenses cost $20.

The hunt will be conducted in 11 prairie chicken quota areas in west-central Minnesota between Warren in the north and Breckenridge in the south.

Up to 20 percent of the permits in each area will be issued to landowners or tenants of 40 acres or more of prairie or grassland property in the areas to which they applied.

New regulations implemented this year allow residents younger than 12 to apply for a prairie chicken license.

The season bag limit is two prairie chickens per hunter.

This year, licensed prairie chicken hunters also will be allowed to take sharp-tailed grouse while legally hunting prairie chickens.

Sharptails and prairie chickens are similar-looking species.

To protect the prairie chicken population, small game hunters are prohibited from taking sharp-tailed grouse.

Licensed prairie chicken hunters who wish to take sharptails must meet all regulations and licensing requirements for taking sharp-tailed grouse.

Minnesota’s prairie chicken population increased substantially between 1997 and 2007 and now stands at more than 1,600 adult males.

The DNR expects more than four times that number of birds in the fall population.

“Prairie restoration and protection programs have helped stabilize the bird’s population in recent years,” said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife coordinator. “The restoration of a regulated prairie chicken hunting season has helped build awareness and support for protecting and enhancing prairie and grassland habitats.”

• Fall turkey season

Fall turkey hunters may apply for a permit to hunt in one of 65 open permit areas from Oct. 15-19 or from Oct. 22-26.

The application fee is $3, and licenses cost $18 for residents and $73 for nonresidents. A $5 stamp validation fee is also charged for turkey hunters age 18 and older.

New regulations enacted this year reduced the minimum draw weight for bows to 30 pounds and allow crossbow use.

Youth deer hunts offer exciting opportunities for new hunters
From the DNR

Five state parks, two military reservations, two refuges and a nature preserve will provide high-quality deer hunting for 490 young hunters this fall, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The deadline to apply for the Special Youth Deer Hunts is Friday, Aug. 15.

“Special youth hunts are a great way to offer a safe, structured and fun opportunity for a youngster and their parent or guardian to spend some quality time outdoors,” said Jay Johnson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention program supervisor.

The DNR is offering 11 Special Youth Deer Hunts in October, four archery and seven firearms, at locations with high deer populations that need to be managed.

Eligible youth may apply for one archery hunt and one firearms hunt. Youth ages 12 to 15 are eligible for the firearms hunts; youth ages 12 to 17 are eligible for the archery hunts.

Those interested may apply at any DNR Electronic License System (ELS) vendor or at the DNR License Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul. Successful applicants will be notified in early September.

Youths who applied unsuccessfully in previous years will have preference.

There is no fee to apply, although successful applicants will have to purchase the appropriate deer-hunting license prior to their hunt.

The youth individual firearms and youth individual archery licenses cost $14 each and are available to residents ages 12 to 17.

There is a mandatory orientation session for each hunt, and hunters must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or an adult authorized by the parent.

All youth firearm hunters must possess a valid Firearms Safety Certificate.

The following locations will host hunts:
• Camp Ripley and The Nature Conservancy will host archery hunts in Morrison County on Oct. 10-12

• Arden Hills Army Training Site will host two bow hunts during the Education Minnesota school break on Oct. 16-17 and Oct. 18-19 (cosponsored by the Minnesota State Archery Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association)

• The Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Refuge will allow youth to hunt deer with firearms during the entire Education Minnesota school break, Oct. 16-19

• Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Bemidji State Park and Tettegouche State Park will host youth deer hunts on Oct. 18-19.

• Buffalo River State Park, Savanna Portage State Park. St. Croix State Park will host youth hunts on Oct. 25-26 (cosponsored by the Bluffland Whitetails Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters).

More information about the Special Youth Deer Hunts is available on the hunter recruitment and retention section of the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov/harr.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Fireflies should start lighting up the night sky within the next week or two. What makes them glow? And is it ok to catch them.

A: Fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction similar to the way chemical lightsticks light up.
Light is produced without heat through reactions of chemicals called luciferin and luciferase.

If you watch fireflies closely, you may see that some fireflies make one short flash, while others make a long flash or a series of short flashes.

Each pattern of flashes indicates a different species.

Flashes by male fireflies attract females of the same species.

Catching fireflies in order to get a close look at them can be fun and educational.

But letting them go again afterward is best.

That way they can then return to their home habitat to mate and begin a new generation of fireflies to light up the night sky.