Spring cleaning begins on Minnesota’s lakes and rivers

May 16, 2011

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

As the snow melts and the ice relents, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging people to join the Adopt-a-River program for the spring cleaning of public waters.

In March and April, two groups cleared frozen lakes and five other groups cleared other areas of trash after the busy ice-fishing season.

As soon as the high waters recede, 18 additional groups will do a spring cleaning of garbage from the shores of rivers and lakes near Rochester, Austin, Duluth, Madelia, Rush City and numerous Twin Cities locations.

“The DNR’s Adopt-a-River Program helps citizens develop a sense of pride and ownership in their local waterways,” said Paul Nordell, Adopt-a-River coordinator. “This spring’s groups include lake associations, private businesses, outdoor clubs, schools, service clubs, government agencies, or simply individuals.”

To date, the Adopt-a-River program has helped over 82,000 volunteers collect nearly 6 million pounds of trash and clean 10,000 miles of shoreline.

For more information about how to help clean Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, wetlands, ditches or ravines public waters, visit mndnr.gov/adoptriver or email adoptariver.dnr@state.mn.us

Fishing Klinic for Kids at Buffalo Lake

Mark your calendars for the 14th annual Fishing Klinic For Kids Saturday, June 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Sturges Park on Buffalo Lake.

All area kids and their parents are welcome.

This is the largest event of its kind in Minnesota.

There will be three fishing pros on hand to share their expertise.

Come and participate to enjoy the fishing, demonstrations, vendor booths, food, games, activities, fun, and prizes.

There is something for everyone at this family-friendly event.

For more information on the organization, go to www.fishingklinicforkids.com

DNR urges boaters to ‘Pull the Plug’ on the spread of aquatic invasive species
From the DNR

With 2011 open water fishing season upon us, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging boaters and anglers to take action to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that harm water recreation, such as boating and fishing.

“Our lakes and rivers are too important to take for granted,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “Boaters and anglers need to be accountable and personally responsible to prevent the further spread of aquatic invasives.”

State law requires boaters to do the following:

• remove visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from boats and trailers before leaving a water access

• drain water from boat, livewell, bilge and impeller by removing drain plugs, and open water-draining devices before leaving a water access

• drain portable bait containers when leaving any zebra mussel or spiny waterflea infested waters of the state (anglers can keep unused bait when leaving waters of the state if they replace the water with tap or spring).
Some aquatic invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access.
To remove or kill them before transporting a watercraft to other waters, the DNR recommends either:

• spraying boat and trailer with a high pressure sprayer using hot water (140°), such as hot water sprayers available at a car wash

• drying boat and equipment for at least five days.
These laws and recommendations are intended to help prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and spiny waterfleas.

These species could be easily spread within the state if citizens, businesses and visitors don’t take the necessary steps to contain them.

Zebra mussels pose serious ecological and economic threats to Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

Heavy infestations can kill native mussels, impact fish populations and interfere with recreation.

Infestations can increase costs for industry, including power and water supply facilities.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/preventspread.html.

Conservation officers’ weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers in Stearns and Wright counties.
CO Mies checked turkey hunters and worked on several complaint calls.
A bobcat was illegally shot with a shotgun and found east of Kimball on Hwy 55.
If you have information about the person responsible for shooting the bobcat, please contact CO Brian Mies at (320) 398-8000. There may be a cash reward available.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) assisted with cormorant control on Lake Waconia.
Car killed otter, trapped mink, injured deer, and pelicans tangled in fishing line calls were responded to.
Anglers were checked on area lakes and rivers but not having much luck.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) attended a boat and water meeting in St. Paul.
She gave an interview to a local news channel about invasive species laws.
She also attended court in Minneapolis.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and boating activity.
Additional time was spent checking and advising boaters of invasive species.
Hatlestad also checked ATV and turkey hunting activity, and spoke at firearms safety classes in Grove City and Cedar Mills.

• CO Angela Graham (Hutchinson) attended in-service training at Camp Ripley.
Officer Graham also checked turkey hunters, anglers, and several ATVs in her station.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent time working turkey and angling enforcement.
CO Oberg is also receiving ATV complaints in the area.
Officer Oberg also attended in-service training at Camp Ripley.

Where does my fishing license dollar go?
From the DNR

When an angler buys a Minnesota fishing license, it usually lands in a wallet, purse or tackle box.

But where does the angler’s money go? That’s the $18 million question.

“We’re glad to answer it,” said Dirk Peterson, fisheries chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “In fact, we want anglers to know the source of our revenues and how we put them to work.”

According to Peterson, the DNR’s fisheries section has a yearly operating budget of about $35 million.

About 50 percent of that amount – or $18 million - comes from anglers who purchase a fishing license or stamps.

About 32 percent of the budget is derived from a federal tax on fishing gear.

Minnesota State Lottery revenues account for 12 percent.

And four other funds – clean water, water recreation, special revenue, and gift – round out the remaining 4-plus percent of operating budget revenues.

“Most of what we do is funded by the anglers who buy licenses and stamps,” said Peterson. “The state’s General Fund does not pay for fish management. Legacy Amendment tax revenues have yet to contribute in a significant way, either.”

Peterson said federal revenue the Fisheries Section receives, commonly known as federal aid reimbursement, is a critical component of the Fisheries Section’s budget.

This program, though little known, was authorized under the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950.

Its revenues are derived by a 10 percent manufacturing tax on fishing rods, reels, tackle and other angling equipment, plus a 3 percent or less tax on electric trolling motors and other fishing-related items.

“When an angler buys a piece of fishing equipment, he or she doesn’t pay the tax at the checkout counter,” said Peterson. “Instead, manufacturers – companies such as Rapala, Water Gremlin, and Northland Tackle – pay an excise tax to the federal government. Ultimately, the Minnesota DNR receives a portion of those funds based on the number of anglers it licenses and the geographic size of the state.”

This apportionment is captured by DNR through fisheries-related program expenditures and a 75 percent reimbursement of those eligible expenses.

How does the DNR use its fisheries section budget?

The biggest slice of the budget pays for lake and stream surveys and assessments.

This work is the foundation of all fisheries activities.

It includes fish population surveys and other inventories of water chemistry and biological information.

Without this data, fish manager would lack the critical information on which to base sound decisions.

Other big expenditures include improving habitat and raising and stocking fish.

Education, outreach, planning, and program support round out the remaining portion of the budget.

“I think what most anglers want to know is whether their license dollars are being spent on fishing -related activities,” said Peterson. “The answer is yes. This fact is confirmed regularly through legislative audits, federal audits, and a full review of our books each year by a citizen oversight committee.”

What follows are highlights of how the DNR allocates its Fisheries Section budget:

• conduct 650-700 lakes surveys per year and 180 river and stream surveys
• write 400 natural resource plans per year
• collect about one-half billion walleye eggs per year that result in the stocking of some 390 million fry and 2.5 million fingerlings
• stock about 1,000 lakes with walleye
• operate 12 warm water hatcheries and five cold water hatcheries that provide walleye, trout, muskellunge and other species for lakes and rivers throughout the state
• stock muskellunge in 59 lakes and the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers
• improve five to eight miles of stream habitat per year
• deliver aquatic and angling education programs to thousands of youth per year.

DNR teams with local anglers to provide state park fishing opportunities
From the DNR

Local anglers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have teamed up again this year to provide state park visitors with weekly angling opportunities through the I Can Fish! program.

I Can Fish! sessions, which are scheduled throughout summer at state parks across Minnesota provide a place to fish, equipment, bait, and expertise to help even the uninitiated catch fish.

These events are often on the same day each week.

“The goal is to provide multiple fishing opportunities for people who want to learn how to fish, be they young or old,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “The more people fish, the more they like to fish and the more they want to fish. That’s especially true for kids.”

Anyone of any age can participate in the free I Can Fish! sessions, which are offered from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend at selected state parks.

Local anglers, park visitors and people passing through to other destinations are welcome.

A state park employee meets I Can Fish! participants at a designated fishing pier or shoreline.

Along with rods and bait, participants receive basic angling instruction and information about aquatic habitat and fish species from DNR MinnAqua Nature Corps staff and local volunteer anglers.

The rest of the time is dedicated to a hands-on fishing experience with knowledgeable people nearby who can answer questions and offer assistance.

Details on where and when I Can Fish! sessions are offered is available online at mndnr.gov/state_parks/can_fish.html.

Unless a particular state park offers a session specifically targeting trout, participants do not need a fishing license regardless of age.

More than 1,400 children and family members participated in last year’s I Can Fish! program.

People interested in volunteering their expertise to the I Can Fish! sessions should email Kurre at michael.kurre@state.mn.us.

For people who want to try fishing on their own, many state parks offer places to fish without having to buy a license.

Park visitors are allowed to take fish without a license when shore fishing or wading on state-owned land within a state park.

All limits and special regulations in effect for the body of water apply, and all vehicles entering a state park must have a valid daily or annual permit.

Additional information is available online at mndnr.gov/state_parks/fishing.html.

A number of parks also loan fishing equipment to visitors who fish within the park.

The fishing kits include a rod, a reel and a stocked tackle box and can be used while in the park.

Information on parks offering free tackle is available online at mndnr.gov/state_parks/loaner.html.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Loons are nesting now and, as a result, can be especially vulnerable at this time of the year.
What should anglers and boaters know as they take to the lakes?

A: Loons began nesting in early May. Like many wildlife, loons are very sensitive to disturbance.

Boats, including personal watercraft, canoes, and kayaks, passing too closely to a nest may cause the adults to leave the nest and expose the eggs to predators like raccoons, crows, and gulls.

The two most traumatic times of the year for loons are Memorial Day weekend, when the adults are sitting on their nests, and the Fourth of July weekend, when the adults are with their young.

Boaters can help the long-term survival of Minnesota’s state bird by avoiding nesting sites and looking out for loons while out fishing or boating.

Minnesota’s loon population is about 12,000 and appears stable.

Outdoor notes

• Look for a report on the opening week of fishing in our area in next week’s column.

Every year I like to find out how the fishing was on the super seven lakes I picked for the opener.

• The largemouth bass fishing season on lakes in our area opens Saturday, May 28.

• Expect the sunfish spawn to be late this year.

Typically, the peak of the spawn and the best sunfish action of the year occurs on lakes in our area right after Memorial Day and into the first week of June. This year, that could easily occur one to two weeks later.

• The morel mushroom hunt should be on soon.

We have plenty of moisture and all we need for a good crop is a few days in-a-row of hot, humid, and sunny weather.

• Keep your boat clean this season, that means clean of all potential invasive species and aquatic plants – remove, drain, dispose.

• The spring crappie bite is off to a slow start. With warmer water, the action should pick up in the next week.

There are many lakes in our area that have DNR fishing piers. The piers are great places to fish for crappies.

A few to note are Big Waverly, Waconia, Swan, Winsted, Brooks, Howard, Mud, and Collinwood.

• Good luck to all the spring turkey hunters.

• Take some time to watch spring happen. Late last week, the maple trees in my yard leafed out, and I saw my first goslings of the year.

• The remodeling project at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club is near completion.

Last week new flooring and carpeting were installed, and the entire project should be completed soon.

The club is available for rentals and is open for league and practice trapshooting every Wednesday evening through late August.

• If you’re thinking about making plans for the fall 2011 hunting seasons, take note that very little of the corn has been planted at this time.

Because of late planting, we can expect a late corn harvest.

Last year much of the corn was off the fields by mid-October; that won’t be the case this year.

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