Only 13 days to go

April 27, 2009

by Chris Schultz

The 2009 Minnesota fishing opener is set for Saturday, May 9 – a short two weeks away.

Although we’ve had open water and some pretty darn good crappie fishing since mid-April, most anglers don’t hit the water until opening day. The list of things to do is just too long for most of us to hit the lakes any sooner.

On the opener I’m planning a weekend adventure to Diamond Lake, near Atwater.

Along with Diamond, we may hit a few other lakes like Belle, Washington, or Francis.

With those tentative plans in place, I still need to get everything out and ready to go, and I mean everything – kids included.

The boat is still in storage, a few rods need new tips, and all the reels need new line.

The trailer lights need repair, the wheels greased and the tires checked.

The batteries need to be charged, and the licenses need to be bought.

The tackle box needs a good hour of untangling and organization.

The outboard needs new plugs.

The life jackets deserve a good review and a new fitting with each kid.

A few new life jackets will need to be purchased, I’m sure.

Then, after a few hundred other things on the list get done, we’ll be able to go fishing – I hope.

In next week’s column I’ll tackle my annual super-seven area lakes for this year’s fishing opener.

Until then, Dutch, Winsted, Pelican, Henry, Little Waverly, and Waconia have been providing some pretty good crappie action so far this spring.

Drifting in shallow water with a tube jig tipped with a small crappie minnow has been the bait of choice.

DNR issues ATV riding season primer
From the DNR

Too often, ATV riders don’t understand the safety rules and regulations said officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The results can be tragic.

Seventeen people, ranging in age from 13-94, died riding all-terrain vehicles (ATV) in Minnesota last year. Another 280 were injured.

“Riding ATVs can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when done properly,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “To reduce accident risk, riders should reduce speed, abide by current regulations, and take a safety training course.”

Anyone born after July 1, 1987, and who is 16 years of age or older who wants to operate an ATV on public lands in Minnesota, must successfully complete the independent study ATV Safety Training CD.

Persons ages 12-15 must complete the ATV Safety Training CD and attend an ATV Safety Class before riding on public lands.

Youth/Adult ATV Training CDs are available by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll free 888-646-6367.”

Understanding a few simple safety rules and knowledge of the regulations can prevent accidents. Remember:

• ATVs are not toys and can be hazardous to operate. Supervise your youngster’s operation of the ATV at all times.

• ATV operators less than 18 years old must wear an approved safety helmet, except when operating on private property. However to prevent head injuries, everyone should wear a helmet at all times.

• An ATV handles differently from other vehicles. Even routine maneuvers, such as turning and driving on hills and over obstacles, can lead to serious injury if people fail to take proper precautions. With preparation and practice, operators can safely develop and expand their riding skills.

• Youth need to “fit” the machine. A 60- to-120 pound youth and a 400-pound ATV are a mismatch.

For more information, see the 2008-2009 Off-Highway Vehicle Regulation booklet at www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/ohv/index.html.

DNR offers landowner’s tips for spring fire season
From the DNR

With more than 300 wildfires already reported this spring, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering landowners some ideas for making their home and property less susceptible to fire.

What landowners do to their structure, property access, home site and fire hazards around their property can determine how well firefighters can defend their homes.

Here are some fire safety tips:

• Widen driveways to at least 12 feet and prune branches overhanging the driveway so there is an overhead clearance of 14 feet.

• Move firewood piles outside the home defensible zone of 30 feet.

• Clean leafs and needles that accumulate in foundation planting, next to buildings and upper decks.

• Consider less flammable materials such as brick, stone and metal for roofing and siding when updating a home.

• Before burning leaves and debris, consider alternatives like composting.

• Make sure recreational fires are in a fire-safe pit or container and completely extinguished before leaving.

• If a wildfire starts or comes near your property call 911 and let the professionally trained firefighters battle the blaze.

There is one fatality for about every 1,000 wildfires in Minnesota.

For more information and a home wildfire risk assessment form, visit the Firewise Programweb site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/firewise.

Celebrate Arbor Month by connecting with your favorite tree
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging people to connect with their favorite tree and the outdoors during May, which is Arbor Month in Minnesota.

The celebration of trees begins with Arbor Day on Friday, April 24.

As part of the month-long festivities, the DNR has launched a “My Favorite Tree” promotion.

What is your favorite tree?

Did you pick red pine, the state tree, or oak, the national tree?

Or, did you list the tree you climbed as a child?

Does your favorite tree save you money by shading your home from the sun?

Could it be the tree you planted to memorialize a loved one or to celebrate a birth?

Not only are trees environmentally and economically important, they are also emotionally significant, according to Jennifer Teegarden, DNR Forestry outreach specialist.

People are invited to create a photo, drawing, or story of their favorite tree and post it to www.mndnr.gov/arbormonth.

The DNR mailed to educators and natural resources professionals more than 2,200 Arbor Month packets, consisting of the My Favorite Tree poster, 2009 Arbor Month proclamation, a Minnesota’s Biomes poster and complementary materials.

In 1876, Minnesota became the fourth state to adopt the tradition of celebrating Arbor Day. Since 1978, May has been Arbor Month in Minnesota.

May’s warmer weather allows newly planted trees to get off to a good start.

For more information about Arbor Day or Arbor Month events, visit www.mndnr.gov/arbormonth/celebrations.html.

DNR Forestry is celebrating the planting of its 1 billionth seedling.

To learn more visit www.mndnr.gov/forestry/nurseries.

To obtain an Arbor Month packet, contact the DNR Information Center at infor@dnr.state.mn.us or call (651) 296-6157.

DNR, RBFF postcard campaign promotes fishing in Minnesota
From the DNR

Nearly 90,000 Minnesotans will receive a postcard this spring that encourages them to continue to enjoy Minnesota’s outdoors by going fishing.

The mailing is a joint effort of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

“We are reminding folks that purchasing a fishing license is an inexpensive way to stock up on a lifetime of memories,” said Jenifer Matthees, DNR MinnAqua program coordinator and project leader. “We estimate that 28 percent of Minnesotans buy a fishing license, but we’d like that number to be higher, particularly among families with children.”

This year’s marketing effort is the third year of a nationwide campaign to encourage people with lapsed fishing licenses to buy new ones.

More than 30 states are participating in the campaign, which is organized by the RBFF based in Alexandria, Va.

The organization works to build participation in recreational angling and boating, which increases public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore aquatic natural resources.

Two sets of postcards were mailed April 17. The first set targeted 70,000 lapsed anglers, people without a current fishing license but who had purchased one prior to 2008.

A second set, sent as part of a new pilot project, targeted 20,000 current license holders with reminders to purchase a 2009 license.

A second mailing is scheduled Friday, May 29 to people in both groups who have not yet purchased a 2009 license.

“People who renew their fishing licenses before they expire or shortly after are more likely to remain active anglers,” Matthees said. “Our goal with this multi-year project is to recruit back anglers and retain existing ones.”

The DNR will nearly double the number of postcards mailed this year by utilizing more cost-efficient postage rates.

The $74,000 project is funded through a 50-50 cost-sharing agreement between the DNR and RBFF.

“The first two years of the project have shown positive results,” Matthees said. “The renewal rate has increased each year. With the pilot project targeting recently active anglers, we’re hoping for an increase this year, too.”

Minnesota, with 1.4 million anglers who create $2.8 billion in statewide economic activity, ranks fourth among states with the highest number of anglers, according to the USFWS National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

The top three states are Florida, Texas and California. Wisconsin is fifth.

As a percentage of population among those states, Minnesota boasts the largest rate of resident anglers at 28 percent and is tied nationally with Alaska for the largest participation of resident anglers.

Additional information about the postcard campaign, fishing in Minnesota and RBFF is available online at www.mndnr.gov/takemefishing.

Deadline to apply for MN bear hunting license is May 1
From the DNR

Applications for this fall’s black bear hunt are due by Friday, May 1.

They are available at any of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) 1,650 license agents or online.

Hunters interested in the Sept. 1 – Oct. 18 hunt can apply for one of 10,000 available licenses spread across 11 permit areas.

Hunters picked in the lottery must pay $38 for a resident license and $200 for a nonresident license.

Hunters who are interested in obtaining only a preference point should apply for Area 99.

By doing so, they will not be considered for a permit but will accrue a preference point instead.

In 2008, 17,362 applicants applied for 11,850 permits. Hunters harvested a total of 2,135 bears.

“Issuing fewer permits this year reflects the DNR’s interest in moderately increasing the black bear population,” said Dan Stark, a DNR wildlife specialist.

A number of factors such as lower harvest success and a decline in nuisance complaints suggest a decline in the bear populations.

Additionally, tooth age data is revealing a younger population, which may also suggest a decline.

Bear licenses for the no-quota area, which is the area outside of the 11 permit areas, can be purchased directly at any license agent beginning July 1.

No previous application is necessary to buy a no-quota area license.

The bag limit remains at two bears in the no-quota area and one bear in all quota permit areas.

Additional information is available online at www.mnsnr.gov/hunting/bear.

DNR adds more MN counties to list of burning restrictions
From the DNR

Due to the rapid snowmelt in the northern tier of Minnesota counties, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that burning restrictions for Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, and Roseau counties went into effect Friday.

Burning restrictions for St Louis County north of County Road 16 will go into effect at 8 a.m. today (Monday).

Aitkin, Becker, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Mahnomen, Ottertail, and St Louis County south of County Road 16 have restrictions effective last week.

Counties already under burning restrictions include: Anoka, Benton, Chisago, Douglas, Grant, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Todd, Washington, and Wright.

Restrictions will remain in effect until the threat of wildfires decreases.

“Until new grass appears, humidity begins to climb to summertime levels, and adequate precipitation is received, restrictions will remain in place,” said Ron Stoffel, DNR Wildfire suppression supervisor. “This could take four or more weeks.

“Late last week, the humidity in central Minnesota dropped below 20 percent,” Stoffel said. “That normally is seen in desert areas of the country. Minnesota is in need of some soaking rains. Until that occurs, our firefighters will be busy responding to fire calls, many of which originate from debris piles that were assumed to be out.”

At this time, campfires are still legal.

A burning permit is not required for a campfire that is no more than 3 feet in diameter, 3 feet tall, and is attended at all times.

People should contact their local forestry office for more information or if they have questions concerning burning permits.

Moose hunt application deadline of May 1 is approaching
From the DNR

Minnesotans who want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime bull moose hunt this fall only have until Friday, May 1 to apply for a permit.

Applicants will be applying for a total of 225 bull-only harvest permits, which are spread across 30 hunting zones of northeastern Minnesota.

Permits for the Oct. 3-18 hunt are awarded randomly to parties of two to four hunters.

Permit applications are available at any of the DNR’s 1,650 license agents.

A fee of $3 per individual must be included with an application.

Only Minnesota residents are eligible for the moose hunt.

Any hunter who received a moose permit since 1991 is not eligible to apply for the once-in-a-lifetime hunt.

Successful applicants must pay a license fee of $310 per party and attend a mandatory orientation session.

In 2008, 2,706 parties applied for 247 permits. Hunting parties harvested 110 bull moose.

Additional information is available online www.mndnr.gov/hunting/moose.

Wetland Restoration Program sign up started April 20
Press Release

The Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS) are announcing the sign-up for a Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) – Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) partnership that began April 20 and runs through Friday, June 5.

The program offers competitive payment rates for landowners to restore wetlands that have been drained and have a history of being used for agricultural production.

Existing Wetlands are not eligible for this program. The program is a local-state-federal partnership that combines the state’s RIM conservation easement program with USDA’s WRP.

Combining the two easement programs allows state funds to leverage federal funds that are available through the Federal Farm Bill.

Funding for this partnership is provided through the federal USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the state Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

The state funding is expected to be provided from the constitutionally dedicated outdoor heritage fund, based on a recommendation of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council.

“Restoring wetlands on privately owned lands provides many public benefits, such as enhancing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and reducing potential flood damage in targeted areas,” noted Mike Zieska Supervisor, Wright SWCD.

Minnesota received 20 percent of the federal WRP funds that were available nationwide through the WRP program in 2008.

“We’d like to build on the success of the 2008 sign-up and are taking this opportunity to reach out to the landowners in the Wright SWCD to make sure they’re aware of this important program,” stated Zieska.

Details of the RIM-WRP Partnership:

• To leverage federal funds that are available until the end of the federal fiscal year, the RIM-WRP signup period is from April 20 to June 5.

• Eligibility is statewide, landowners must have owned the property for seven years; priority is given to areas of Minnesota that have experienced the greatest wetland losses.

• Competitive payment rates have been established for this partnership using township average land values.

• Interested landowners should contact the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff at their local USDA Service Center at (763) 682-1933 or (763) 682-1970.

SWCDs fill the crucial niche of providing land and water conservation services to owners of private lands.

Minnesota has 91 Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

For more information on the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District, call (763) 682-1970 or visit the district’s web site at www.wrightswcd.org

Questions of the week
From the DNR

Q: National Volunteer Week is April 19-25.

Each year thousands of people volunteer their time to help the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other organizations, with a variety of projects.

What sort of volunteer opportunities does the DNR have to offer?

A: Volunteer opportunities vary across the state from assisting with wildlife research to cleaning rivers to playing Smokey Bear at the state fair – just to name a few.

Right now the DNR is looking for volunteers to help count loons, catch and identify dragonflies, conduct nighttime listening surveys of frogs and toads, monitor bluebird trails and plant trees at selected State Parks, clear trails, do historical research, and use their woodworking skills to build portable field desks for students doing outdoor studies.

Volunteer positions are listed on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov or by calling toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Opportunities are changed on a seasonal basis.

Outdoor notes

• Good luck to all the turkey hunters in the area. Most local reports have been very good and the turkey population in our area continues to grow.

• We need some rain. The ground is very dry for this time of year and I’ve noticed some lake levels that are already lower then normal.

If the dry weather continues, expect a big growth of curly leaf pondweed in our area lakes this spring and summer.

• The bass fishing season in Minnesota opens Saturday, May 23.

• The days are getting longer in a big hurry and if you pay attention to where the sun sets every evening, you will notice its movement northward.

• Take some time to watch spring happen – before you know it, it will have come and gone.

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