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Expect a wet fall this year

August 16, 2010

by Chris Schultz

Because of a hot, humid, and very wet summer, it’s hard to set any expectations for the upcoming fall hunting seasons.

What will conditions be like – are deer numbers up or down, how was the pheasant hatch?

At this time it’s difficult to answer any of those questions.

In a few short weeks, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will release data on the annual August roadside surveys and a few of those questions will get answered.

Last year pheasant numbers declined by 27 percent compared to the previous year, and were 27 percent below the 10-year average.

The four years prior, pheasant numbers were well above long-term averages.

One assumption that we can safely make for the fall is that potholes and shallow lakes across many portions of Minnesota and the Dakotas will have more water in them than they did in the previous four or more years.

Reports from certain areas close to or east of Aberdeen, SD state that many rural gravel roads are currently under water, and have been for much of the summer.

I would estimate that if we get normal rainfall from now through October, in regard to hunting, we could have a pretty miserable fall.

The mourning dove hunting season opens Sept. 1, and the local lowland areas I hunted in early September, last year are currently underwater.

Unless I want to strap on my waders for dove hunting, I’ll be looking for a few new hunting locations.

Moving on, aside from good reports coming from local anglers heading to Lake Mille Lacs, the fishing has been slow and we’re at that time of year when there isn’t a lot of outdoor activity.

Look for the fishing to improve as the days get shorter and evening temperatures cool down.

Maybe by that time, the landscape will dry off a little bit.

DNR to seek public input on five muskie stocking proposals
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold seven input open house meetings on Sept. 2 for citizens to learn about and comment on agency muskellunge stocking proposals.

Public comments will also be accepted from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30 online at muskie.comments@state.mn.us, and by mail to Muskie Stocking Proposals, Minnesota DNR, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.

The DNR is considering stocking muskellunge in five new waters starting in the fall of 2011 due to growing interest in muskellunge fishing.

Proposed for muskellunge management are Roosevelt Lake in Cass and Crow Wing counties, Upper South Long Lake and Lower South Long Lake in Crow Wing County, Tetonka Lake in LeSueur County, and the Sauk River Chain of Lakes in Stearns County.

“All of these waters meet or exceed the criteria for muskie management,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries chief. “People who want to learn more details about each proposal are encouraged to attend our open-house style meetings.”

The DNR is proposing five new muskellunge waters because interest in muskellunge fishing has risen substantially in recent years.

The best science indicates stocking muskellunge in low densities in these lakes will not harm existing fish populations.

DNR staff will not make a formal presentation at the Sept. 2 meetings, but will be available the entire time to answer questions.

This structure – a lengthy opportunity for interaction with staff but no formal presentation – is designed to accommodate people’s busy schedules.

The locations and times of the Sept. 2 meetings are:

• Mankato – Gander Mountain, 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
• Owatonna – Cabela’s, 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
• Waterville – DNR fisheries office, 50317 Fish Hatchery Road, 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
• Brainerd – DNR office, 1601 Minnesota Drive, noon – 8 p.m.
• St. Paul – DNR office, 500 Lafayette Road, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
• Montrose – DNR fisheries Office, 7372 State Highway 25 SW, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
• Cold Spring – City offices, 27 Red River Ave. S., Cold Spring, 5 - 8 p.m.

Citizens unable to attend the Sept. 2 meetings can learn more about each proposal by visiting www.mndnr.gov/muskie, where the DNR has posted a summary of each proposal as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

All input – whether collected on forms at the public meetings or via online survey, e-mail or mail – will be considered equally.

The DNR will review public input during October and November.

Decisions on each stocking proposal are expected in December.

If the DNR decides to move forward, stocking would begin in 2011 or 2012.

It would be 12 to 15 years after that before the fish reach 48-inches, the minimum size at which a muskellunge can be kept by anglers.

More hunting oportunities result in record spring turkey harvest
From the DNR

Providing hunters of all ages more opportunities to harvest wild turkeys resulted in the highest spring turkey harvest on record, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Although spring’s favorable weather generally contributed to increased harvest, much of this year’s increase can be attributed to DNR increasing the number of available permits by 32 percent,” said Eric Dunton, DNR wild turkey biologist. “More permits created more opportunities.”

During the spring 2010 wild turkey season, hunters registered 13,467 turkeys, an increase of 10 percent from the spring 2009 season.

Hunter success averaged 29 percent, which was below the five-year average of 32 percent.

There were more spring turkey permits available in 2010 because permits for hunting during the last two time periods were available over the counter, and the number of permits made available for those time periods increased from 10,582 in 2009 to 22,250 in 2010.

In addition, a new permit area was created north of Brainerd.

Youth were a significant segment of the 2010 spring turkey hunt.

Youth participation increased 69 percent, from 5,024 permits purchased in spring 2009 to 8,490 permits purchased in spring 2010.

This 69 percent increase is linked to a 2010 change expanding youth hunting opportunities by allowing youth age 17 and younger to purchase a turkey permit over the counter rather than applying through the lottery.

In 2010, 51,312 hunters applied for 55,982 permits, with 46,548 of those permits issued to firearms hunters and 2,910 issued to archers.

In 2009, 57,692 hunters applied for 42,328 permits, with 36,193 of those permits issued.

The complete spring turkey harvest report is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.

Newcastle Disease cause of water bird die-off in Big Stone
From the DNR

Hundreds of double-crested cormorants and ring-billed gulls on Marsh Lake in Big Stone County have died from Newcastle Disease, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As of Wednesday, about 500 cormorants and 400 ring-billed gulls had been found dead at the lake, which is near Appleton in western Minnesota.

More testing is being conducted to determine the strain of Newcastle Disease.

Avian influenza tests, however, were negative.

Newcastle Disease is a viral disease that most commonly infects cormorants, but has also been documented in gulls and pelicans.

Clinical signs of infection in wild birds are often neurologic and include droopy head or twisted neck, lack of coordination, inability to fly or dive and complete or partial paralysis. Juveniles are most commonly affected.

Newcastle can rarely affect humans, generally causing conjunctivitis, a relatively mild inflammation of the inner eyelids.

It is spread to humans by close contact with sick birds.

Wild birds can be a potential source of disease if they have contact with domestic poultry.

Area farmers need to practice sound biosecurity procedures, including monitoring their poultry flocks for signs of illness and taking steps to prevent wild birds from having contact with their domestic birds.

If birds show sign of sickness, producers should contact their veterinarian or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at (320) 231-5170.

Another die-off of 50 of cormorants has been discovered on Wells Lake in Rice County.

Samples are being tested, but the specific cause of the birds’ illness is unknown.

DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services staff are conducting site clean-ups and collecting swab and carcass samples for lab analysis at both locations.

Newcastle Disease is not new to Minnesota.

The last outbreak covered a seven-county area in 2008, when about 2,400 birds died.

In 1992, multiple mortality events affected double-crested cormorant colonies across the Great Lakes, upper Midwest, and Canada, with more than 35,000 birds estimated dead.

Minnesota has about 39 nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants, 87 percent of which occur along with other colonially nesting water birds.

Most active nesting sites have a long history of use, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Northern pike regulation change for Upper Red Lake to be discussed
From the DNR

A special regulation that requires anglers to release all northern pike 26- to 40-inches long from Upper Red Lake has been in place since 2006.

A proposal is being considered to modify this regulation to protect larger northern pike from 26- to 44-inches long.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries staff will hold a local public meeting to provide information on the proposal and to accept public comments about whether to proceed with the modification.

The meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m., at the North Beltrami Community Center, on Gould Avenue and Main Street in Kelliher.

For those unable to attend the local meeting, an open house will be held at the DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, on Sept. 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Staff will be available to take comments on the proposal.

Written comments may also be submitted until Monday, Oct. 18, by e-mail to gary.barnard@state.mn.us, or by mail to DNR Area Fisheries, 2114 Bemidji Ave., Bemidji, MN 56601.

Those who wish to provide comments by phone may call (218) 308-2339.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Earthworms make great fishing bait, but I heard recent research has discovered that they are a threat to Minnesota’s forests, making them an invasive species.

What sort of damage do they cause?

A: It really is true that all of the terrestrial earthworms in Minnesota – including night crawlers – are nonnative, invasive species from Europe and Asia.

Invading earthworms eat the leaves that create the “duff” layer in forests and are capable of eliminating it completely.

This layer is important to native plants and ground dwelling animals.

Studies conducted by the University of Minnesota and forest managers show that at least seven species are invading our hardwood forests and causing a loss of tree seedlings, wildflowers and ferns. In areas heavily infested by earthworms, soil erosion and leaching of nutrients may reduce the productivity of forests and ultimately degrade fish habitat.

However, many areas of the state are still free from earthworm disturbance.

Because earthworms are non-native, it is illegal to release them into the wild, according to Minnesota Statutes 84D.06, which means anglers should dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.