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The Super Seven lakes for the fishing opener Saturday

May 9, 2011

by Chris Schultz

Wow, the opener is almost here, only a few short days away, and at least to me, it feels like it’s late March, and not mid-May.

In Minnesota, when it comes to the spring weather and the fishing opener, I guess we could call just about anything, from snow and sleet to humidity and thunderstorms, normal.

Moving on from some the most disgusting spring weather we have experienced for more than a few years to actually what local lakes or rivers may or may not be good bets for the fishing opener is a little more challenging, this year, than normal.

For example, and kicking off this year’s super seven, is the Crow River.

1) Crow River, both forks, the north and south, that run through our area: I have included the Crow in the super seven for the opener several times, simply because under the right conditions and mainly regarding water levels, this river has provided some tremendous walleye and northern pike fishing.

Lower and more consistent water levels from the late ‘90s to the mid 2000s made fishing on the river boom.

In fact, it was the best walleye fishing I have ever experienced anywhere.

However, with major changes in the watershed, and consistently high water levels, the Crow may never be the fishery it was at that time.

The river has changed, and continues to change for the worse, and with that said, it’s unlikely the Crow makes it back in the super seven again.

I’ll keep trying my sweet spots on the river, but the fishing action definitely won’t be as fast as the current.

2) Lake Washington, south of Dassel: Washington, year in and year out, is the best opening day walleye lake in our area.
Fish shallow and try crank baits against the windy shoreline at night.

3) Little Waverly: This lake may be some what of a sleeper this year.

It has better numbers of fish than most assume, I haven’t heard of any winter kill, and the lake is shallow and will warm up fast.

Cast Beetle Spins, near the creeks.

4) Belle, northwest of Hutchinson: This lake was hot last fall and the action will probably continue this spring.

Cast crank baits near the shoreline on the northwest corner at night, or slip bobber fishing in shallow water with a fathead.
There is a public fishing peer on the southeast side of the lake.

5) Lake Francis, northeast of Kingston: I’ve heard this from a few different anglers this spring, “When the water is high, the northern pike on Francis bite like crazy.”

This year, the water levels are high, and if those guys are right, the pike should bite like crazy. They won’t be big, but the fishing will be fun.

6) Pelican, near the city of Buffalo: They haven’t turned the big shallow lake back into a duck slough just yet, and the lake is still providing world-class action on panfish.

Don’t expect much on the walleye side, but it’s not uncommon to catch big northern pike.

Pick a weed line and troll with a spoon.

7) Lake John, near Annandale: John was hot this winter, and the lake always seems to produce on cold and poor weather openers.

Expect to catch walleye or northern and if the fish seem slow, still fish for northern with a big bobber and sucker minnow.

Good luck fishing. Remember, safety always comes first, pay attention to all the new regs, and this year – fish shallow and stay warm.

Waverly Gun Club upcoming events

The Waverly Gun Club will be hosting a number of classes and events in the upcoming weeks and months.

A complete list of the upcoming action at the Waverly Cub Club is listed below.

For more information or to register, call Kevin at (763) 242-4553.

The Waverly Gub Club is at 4465 DeSota Ave. SW, Waverly.

• Youth ATA shoot

The youth ATA shoot will be Saturday, May 14, starting at 9 a.m.

It is open to any youth, a 12-gauge shotgun will be used, and costs do apply.

• Ladies Night begins Tuesday, May 10, and will continue the second Tuesday of every month.

It runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and will go on, rain or shine. You may shoot from the comfort of a shelter.

You may bring your own center fire handgun and ammunition, if you prefer, otherwise .22 cal. pistols, rifles, targets, and ammuntion are provided at no charge.

A NRA-Certified range safety officer will be present on the shooting line, with instruction available upon request.

Targets for hanguns will be from 7 to 25 yards out, with rifle targets at 50 yards.

For additional information on ladies night, contact Al Moy (612) 889-4423, Ken Reinert (612) 308-9259, or Russ Johnson (612) 218-7376.

Burning restrictions were eased May 6
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that open burning restrictions will be lifted in 18 counties in central Minnesota.

Beginning May 6, landowners in the following counties may request burning permits: Anoka, Benton, Chisago, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Washington and Wright.

Wildfire Prevention Coordinator, Larry Himanga said, “The cooler and wetter weather conditions we experienced the past several weeks and the ability of forestry personnel to regulate burning on a daily basis with our electronic burn permit system allows for earlier lifting of restrictions.”

Himanga noted, however, that because statewide restrictions are lifted does not mean that individuals will automatically be allowed to burn each day.

“Forestry offices will be monitoring the weather each day and will restrict burning in those counties that warrant it due to fire danger on any given day,” he said.

Restrictions will remain in effect for most of northern Minnesota, even though recent precipitation has lessened fire danger.

The cooler weather has slowed the green-up process.

As spring progresses northward, additional counties will have restrictions lifted.

Open burning for the above counties will be allowed for up to three days, with most permits issued for evening fires.

Permits may be obtained from local forestry offices, fire wardens or on-line.

Permits purchased on-line require a single payment of $5.

The fee covers the remainder of this year; however, people must still activate their permit on the day they wish to burn.

If fire danger is high, they may not be able to activate their permit.

Municipalities and some cities may enforce regulations that are stricter than those put in place by the DNR.

Check with local authorities for additional rules that may be imposed.

Landing the big one has as much to do with the land as the lure
By Michael Duval, DNR fisheries habitat manager

Like all anglers, I have a favorite lure. It glistens, wiggles and darts through the water in a realistic and tantalizing way.

When I catch a fish on it, I’m glad I bought it.

Yet deep down I know catching a fish is as much about the land as the lure. That’s because lakes are a reflection of their watershed.

They mirror the land practices around them. When soil and nutrients stay on the land, that’s good for water quality and fishing. When they don’t, the opposite is true.

The best lure in the world won’t catch fish if fish don’t have the habitat they need.

What is habitat and why is it so important to sustainable fish production and growth?

Fish habitat is all of the physical and chemical features of a lake or stream necessary for fish to survive.

It has two fundamental components: physical habitat and water-quality habitat.

Physical habitat is the aquatic plants, rocks and other bottom substrates, and woody structure like fallen trees that are important for protective cover, feeding or spawning.

Physical habitats affect essential life history requirements of fish in their environment.

Over generations, loss of physical habitat reduces fish abundance and the kinds of species that are present.

Water-quality habitat includes the abundance of oxygen, the amount of algae in the water or growing on rocks and wood, and sediment coming from the land into the water.

Water-quality habitat tends to have a more immediate effect on the survivability of fish in their environment.

Without oxygen, for example, fish cannot survive.

Maintaining habitat is critical. Contrary to what some people perceive, nearly all fish caught by Minnesota anglers (including 85 percent of walleyes and nearly 100 percent of northern pike) are products of their natural habitat.

That means they were spawned naturally in the wild and grew over several years before reaching catchable size.

It also means that prey fish, such as perch, cisco and minnow species, spawned and grew in sufficient abundance to satiate the appetite of predators.

Though anglers often focus their attention on game fish habitat, they rarely think about prey-species habitat.

Yet prey-species habitat is essential to the growth and survival of all game-fish species.

Yellow perch, for example, are an important prey species for walleye and pike.

Perch utilize physical habitat like fallen trees in the water or bulrush remnants from the previous season upon which to drape their egg masses in the early spring.

The branches or bulrush stalks keep their eggs from coming in contact with soft bottom sediments that may starve the developing perch embryos of oxygen.

Research studies have shown the importance of woody structure in lakes for maintaining abundant yellow perch.

In the absence of wood, perch populations crash and an important food resource for walleye and pike is lost, affecting growth and survival of these popular game species.

Another important prey species is the cisco. Cisco (or tullibee) are a prey species of choice for lake trout, pike, muskie and walleye.

Most of Minnesota’s quality pike, walleye and muskie fisheries have cisco as the primary forage species.

A member of the trout family, cisco require cold, oxygenated water to survive.

But cold water is most limited during the summer months, which forces cisco to move to deeper water where oxygen is less abundant in late-July and August.

Deepwater oxygen is a precious and particularly vulnerable type of habitat.

Nutrients from poor land-use practices can be carried by the various rivers and small streams draining the lake’s watershed, depleting deep-water oxygen levels for the long term and resulting in the permanent extirpation of cisco from that system.

With the loss of cisco goes the quality of the game fish populations as they have to shift to less suitable prey of lower nutritious value.

As a society, the decisions we make about managing land at the water’s edge and within the hearts of our communities have a direct impact on the sustainability and quality of fishing.

Think about that the next time you catch a fish. As you do, ask, “Did I catch that fish because I was using my favorite lure?” Or, “Did I catch it because the lake had sufficient physical habitat for fish to spawn, protect their young, and forage for food, and good water quality habitat to ensure their long-term survival?”

I’ll keep buying fancy new fishing lures as long as they make them. But I will also do my part to support soil and water conservation.

For deep down, I understand that the individual actions each of us takes that impact land and water, as well as the land management decisions of our local, state and federal governments will influence my fishing success more than my latest lure.

Fishing nets 43,000 MN jobs, $2.8 billion in retail spending
From the DNR

A ripple spreads when a bobber plops in calm water.

Waves of economic impact roll over Minnesota when all its anglers do the same.

“Though often perceived as a pleasant pastime, fishing is more than that,” explained Dirk Peterson, fisheries chief of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It’s an economic engine that supports 43,000 Minnesota jobs, generates $2.8 billion in direct annual expenditures and contributes more than $640 million a year in tax revenues to the treasuries of our state and federal government.“

These figures, Peterson said, are based on a 2007 study that analyzed the economic impact of the nation’s 39 million licensed anglers, including 1.4 million in Minnesota.

The study, he said, showed that Minnesota angling expenditures exceed those of 47 states.

Only Florida and Texas anglers spend more money than Minnesota anglers.

The economic impact of Minnesota fishing exceeds $4.7 billion per year when adjusted for expenditures on gas, lodging and the services purchased by fishing-related businesses, the study concluded.

“As an economic engine, fishing is more like a Mack truck than a mo-ped,” said Peterson. “You can easily hear it rumble through all corners of the state. Plumbers cranking wrenches. Truck drivers toting loads. Fry cooks flipping burgers.

Many people make part or all of their living by servicing fishing-related businesses.

Fishing’s importance to Minnesota cuts two ways for the state’s top fisheries manager.

On the one hand, Peterson said, it’s inspiring to behold Minnesota’s strong fishing tradition.

On the other hand, it is humbling to realize so many livelihoods are linked to water quality, fish quantity, and the health of our lands and waters.

Said Peterson, “We’ve done many things right in this state. That’s why fishing is as good as it is. Our challenge is sustaining that quality in an era of on-going habitat loss, detrimental aquatic invasive species populations increasingly mobile and technologically adept anglers, and other variables that influence size and abundance of fish.”

Not surprisingly, Peterson believes a Legislative proposal to raise the price of most fishing licenses makes sense.

That’s because additional revenue would offset the erosive effects of inflation, channel funds to emerging priorities, and help maintain the quality of the state’s fish populations.

“License prices haven’t changed in a decade,” he said. “At $17, a year-long resident fishing license is a bargain. If it went to $24 it would still be a bargain compared to most forms of entertainment. Moreover, it would help strengthen the backbone of our state’s tourism economy.”

Peterson said during his 34-year DNR career he has clearly seen the link between sound fish management and results that draw Minnesotans and out-of-state tourists to the water’s edge.

Thirty years ago, he said, Minnesota’s fishing reputation was eroding.

It was becoming known as a state of “quarter-pounder walleyes and potato-chip panfish.”

This documented decline in angling quality gave rise to more aggressive research, management and a citizen input process called the Fisheries Roundtable.

Outcomes of these efforts resulted in more effective fishing regulations, better understanding of fish populations and increased efforts to protect the places where fish spawn, raise their young, and find protection from predators.

The agency also fine-tuned its walleye stocking practices, implemented policies to minimize the spread of fish diseases, and created a youth program to recruit new anglers and instill a conservation ethic in the next generation of anglers.

Today, the trend lines for most fish species are heading in the right direction, both in terms of quantity and quality.

At Lake Winnibigoshish, for example, today’s angler is six times more likely to catch a walleye 19 inches or longer than a decade ago.

Large smallmouth bass are four times more abundant in the Mississippi River between St. Cloud and Dayton than 20 years ago. Minnesota has become the nation’s leading destination for catching muskellunge 50 inches or larger.

Lake sturgeon, some reaching more than 100 pounds, have become an important economic contributor to the fishing scene in far northern Minnesota.

And the list goes on, including positive trends in Lake Superior, southeast trout streams, and river systems in the south and northwest that harbor growing populations of large catfish.

“We support tourism by making fishing as good as it can be,” said Peterson. “And in most of the 5,400 fishing lakes we manage, it‘s as good or better than it has been decades.”

He gave much of the credit to employees in 28 field locations and 17 hatcheries, plus the partners they work with day-in, day-out.

“In many ways, we fish biologists are mechanics,” said Peterson, “We understand the role of each part. We understand how the parts work together. And we know that keeping Minnesota’s economic engine humming along requires an investment in monitoring, managing and repairing what needs to be fixed.”

Straight talk from conservation officers
From the DNR

Minnesota’s interstates, highways, and county roads will fill with anxious anglers in anticipation of the May 14 walleye and northern pike fishing opener.

Once anglers arrive at their favorite fishing spot, they may encounter a conservation officer of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The fishing opener results in an increased workload for our officers, so we are asking for everyone’s help,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement chief. “We want anglers to have a safe and enjoyable experience. We feel the best way to assist a conservation officer is by providing information on common rules and regulations to anglers prior to the opener.”

Here is helpful information for anglers.

• Fishing License: All residents and nonresidents age 16 years or older are required to have an appropriate fishing license while angling.

To purchase a license, residents and nonresidents must have their social security number on file with DNR or must provide it.

Anglers can buy a Minnesota fishing license electronically at one of nearly 1,600 participating bait or outdoor stores statewide, or by calling 888-665-4236, or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

Also, pick up a copy of the 2011 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook along with the license as a ready reference guide to limits and transportation of fish.

• Watercraft Registration: Motorized watercraft operators must have their registration on board.

The number issued to a boat and the current state validation decal must be displayed on the forward half of the hull on each side of the boat.

• Aquatic Invasive Species: Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, and spiny water fleas have affected many Minnesota fresh water ecosystems, but there are ways to stop the spread and protect the resource. State law requires that boaters:

– remove any visible plants and animals from your boat, trailer and other boating equipment

– drain water from the boat, livewell, bilge, and impeller by removing drain plugs and open water draining devices before leaving any water access

– Boaters are also encouraged to spray, rise or dry boats and recreational equipment before transporting to another water body, especially after leaving zebra mussel and spiny waterflea infested waters.

• Experimental and Special Regulations: Experimental and special fish regulations such as slot limits or catch-and-release, which differ from normal statewide regulations, are used to manage a specific lake or stream in a special way.

These regulations help the DNR improve fishing quality, protect unique fisheries, provide additional fishing opportunities, or protect threatened species.

The DNR regularly evaluates experimental regulations to see whether they are worth continuing.

A partial list of water with experimental or special regulations, which are posted at access sites, is available in the 2011 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook and online at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing/special.html.

• Turn-in-Poachers: Poachers are not sportsmen. Overlimits, license and closed season violations impact the resource and diminish opportunities for everyone.

Tips are received through the 24-hour phone line 800-652-9093.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Safety is always a concern when out on the water fishing or just enjoying one of Minnesota’s thousands of lakes and rivers.

With the 2011 fishing season upon us, what do boaters need to remember about early season boating?

A: When getting ready for opener, many people give more thought to what kind of sandwiches they should pack for lunch than they do about boating safety.

It is important for people to remember that early in the season, although the air temperature may be 70 degrees, most of the bodies of water are still in the mid-40s.

Even the strongest swimmer who falls overboard can become quickly incapacitated by the sudden gasp for air called cold water shock and inhale water.

This means it is especially important to make sure everyone not only has a lifejacket but also wears one.

Make sure navigation lights are all in proper working order, and be sure use them between sunset and sunrise.

Also, be sure the boat registration decal is current and check air pressure on trailer tires, pack a spare and make sure the axle bearings are freshly greased.

Finally, it is a good idea to leave the alcohol at home.

Many of the boating accidents that result in injury, or worse, are the result of intoxicated boaters.

Outdoor notes

• Sharpen your shooting eye with a round of trap at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

The club is open for league and practice shooting Wednesday evenings, and the club-house was just remodeled.

For more information, find the club online or call (320) 395-2258.

• If the weather cooperates, the morel mushroom hunt will be on soon.

The best time to hunt for morels is when the lilacs are blooming.

• Take the time to watch spring happen; the most activity of the year should happen this week.

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