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Ice is off Howard Lake

March 26, 2012

by Chris Schultz

The ice was completely off Howard Lake the morning of March 19.

If there were any lakes still holding on to some ice with the recent stretch of warm weather, all of the recent rain surely has taken care of it.

Look for much more on the history of the ice off dates on Howard Lake in next week’s Herald Journal.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club annual hog roast is Saturday

The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will have its annual hog roast Saturday, March 31 at the Winsted Legion Club from 5 to 8 p.m.

Advanced tickets are $8 and are available at the Winsted Co-op, Winsted Floral, Keg’s Bar, Corner Bar, Blue Note, and from club members.

The cost is $9 at the door.

This is a membership drive, and take-outs are available.

Firearms safety training in LP

There will be a firearms safety training class taking place at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

Registration for the class will be Tuesday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the LP Sportsmen’s Club, with classes beginning that evening.

The class will then run every Tuesday and Thursday night through early May.

For additional information, contact Doug Minnick at (320) 395-2143.

LP trapshooting league starting soon

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club is ready to kick off the 2012 trapshooting season.

Practice night will be Wednesday, April 11, with league shooting kicking off Wednesday, April 18.

For additional information, or to sign up a team, contact Ed Mlynar at (320) 395-2258.

Wright County PF banquet tonight

The Wright County Pheasants Forever chapter will host its 27th annual banquet at the Buffalo Civic Center Monday, March 26 at 5:30 p.m.

The chapter has been active since 1984, and has contributed over $1 million to conservation and education projects within Wright County and Minnesota.

The banquet this year will include a silent auction, live auction, assorted raffles, and games for all ages.

According to Chapter President Brandon Murphy, “We have great prizes and auction items this year, including a 3-day/4-night pheasant hunt in South Dakota. More importantly, all of the funds raised at the banquet will be put to good use promoting conservation and education within Wright County and across Minnesota.”

If you would like more information about attending the banquet or providing a sponsorship, contact Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653, visit the website at www.wrightcountypf.org, or via facebook at www.facebook.com/wright county pheasants forever chapter #95.

Burning restrictions take effect today (Monday)
From the DNR

Fire danger in most of Minnesota is expected to increase rapidly in the coming week, as the snow continues to melt and winds dry the dead standing grass and brush in open areas.

Because of this danger, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will place burning restrictions over much of the state starting today (Monday), with more areas included later.

Spring fire restrictions limit open burning until summer green-up occurs.

Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May.

More than 95 percent of these fires are caused by human error.

“Because of the high fire incidence during this time period, the DNR proactively initiates burning restrictions,” said DNR Fire Prevention Coordinator Larry Himanga.

The restrictions normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs.

Spring fire restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the numbers and sizes of accidental fires, Himanga said.

The burning restrictions mean the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste.

The following counties will be included in the initial burning restrictions this spring: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, southern Beltrami (that portion south of Hwy. 1), Benton, Carlton, Cass, Chisago, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Kittson, Manhomen, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk (that portion south and east of County Road 6 from the Manhomen County line to MN Hwy 92 east to the Clearwater County line) Pope, Ramsey, Roseau (that portion west of Hwy. 89), Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, and Wright.

More counties will be added as spring weather conditions warrant.

Campfires are still allowed. Campers should watch their fire continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving the area.

Fire conditions may change quickly over the next few weeks.

For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

DNR urges early season boaters to use caution
From the DNR

With the ice receding from lakes and rivers at what seems like a near record pace, many boaters and anglers are already launching their boats.

There were 400 or more fishing boats reported on the Mississippi River, March 17, on the 12-mile stretch between Lock and Dam Number 3 north of Red Wing to the head of Lake Pepin.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding boaters to take special precautions when enjoying early season boating and fishing.

Even though air temperatures have been in the 70s recently, water temperatures are still bone-chilling cold.

“We see it time and time again in Minnesota boating accidents,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boating safety specialist. “A lone boat on a lake capsizes; the victim isn’t wearing a life jacket, has no warning or time to put one on, and drowns due to the effects of cold water.”

Smalley said the key is the life jacket. “A person who suffers swimming failure or loss of consciousness will stay afloat wearing a life jacket, but drown without one. It’s smart for boaters to wear a life vest from the time they enter the boat until they return to shore. There is no time to put one on before a boating accident. It’s been compared to trying to buckle your seat belt before a car crash.”

A 2007 report by the U.S. Coast Guard stated that a boating accident was five times more likely to be fatal if the water was colder than 60 degrees.

“Cold water can kill in ways that you might not expect,” said Smalley. “Nearly everyone knows that immersion in cold water can cause hypothermia – the abnormal lowering of the body’s core temperature. What most don’t know is that victims who experience an unexpected fall overboard suffer initial cold water shock in the first minute, which involuntarily causes them to take a series of big breaths, called hyperventilation. If their head is underwater, they can inhale more than a quart of water and drown immediately if they aren’t wearing a life jacket to keep them afloat.”

The DNR Boat and Water Safety Section recommends boaters check the following items before their first outing of the season:

• Have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket on board, in good condition and in the proper size and type for each passenger.

• Most boats 16 feet and longer also need one type IV throwable seat cushion or ring buoy in the watercraft.

• Make sure all navigation lights are unobstructed and in working order.

• Make sure fire extinguisher is fully charged – tap the gauge to ensure it isn’t stuck on full.

• Put fresh gear case lube in the lower unit.

• Make sure the steering is the proper tightness.

• Be sure registration numbers are clear and visible and display the current state registration sticker.

• Inspect plastic thru-hull fittings and replace any that have cracked.

• Look for hoses that have been forced off or split from freezing.

• Every spring, boats sink at the dock when these problems go undetected.

• Inspect fuel fittings and hoses; replace if cracked or showing other signs of stress or age.

• Get fresh batteries for portable electronic gear – radios, GPS units, flashlights.

• Check lights on the boat and trailer. Inspect trailer tires for wear and inflate properly.

Check the trailer frame for rust spots; inspect the wheel bearings and re-pack if necessary. Test the winch.

• Engine or drive oil that is creamy brown or gray has water in it and a mechanic should find the source of the leak before starting the engine.

• Update navigational chart inventory. Channel markers and buoys change and GPS units can fail.

• Review boat insurance policy and update coverage if necessary. Many insurance companies offer a discount to boaters who have taken a boating safety course.

• Check prop for nicks and dings.

• Be sure the drain plug is installed before launching.

• Take a boating safety course.

With early spring, use caution launching boats
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants early season boaters to know that conditions at ramps may make boat launching a challenge.

Due to this year’s early ice out, DNR crews are faced with the need to inspect, repair and make ready launch ramps and access sites much earlier than anticipated.

Many launch ramps have also been damaged by ice action, which is an annual occurrence.

Launch ramp repairs and dock installations have started statewide and should be completed by the May 12 fishing opener.

Boaters can help by being prepared to inspect the ramp above and below the water to ensure it is in good condition prior to launching.

“Regardless of the time of year, it’s always a good idea to check the condition of the ramp prior to launching to ensure there are no hazardous conditions present that may impede access or cause damage to equipment,” said Nancy Stewart, public access program coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “In addition, many lakes statewide are experiencing low water levels, which may also make launching a boat more difficult.”

Boaters should take extra time and effort when launching their boat this spring to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable boating experience:

• Check the condition of the ramp to ensure it will accommodate the launch of the watercraft.

• Make sure watercraft is water worthy prior to heading out on the water.

• Have hip boots or waders available in case there is a need to enter the water to help guide the boat and trailer, especially where docks are not available.

• Lower the motor only after being assured there is sufficient water depth.

• Watch for free floating ice sheets and other floating obstructions that may be present.

Boaters also are reminded to observe all laws aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, including emptying all water from bait containers and bilges, and leaving drain plugs removed while transporting a boat.

The DNR also points out that while the early spring has brought unseasonable warmth, water temperatures will remain quite cold for some time yet, so wearing a life jacket is strongly recommended.

DNR takes aim at southeastern MN deer issues
From the DNR

Just as all politics are local, so too are deer issues.

Recognizing this, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created a new position to better manage deer and deer hunter-landowner relations in southeastern Minnesota.

Clint Luedtke, a former wildlife biologist from Arizona, has been hired to work with farmers, recreational land owners and others to reduce deer-related crop damage and increase effective deer management strategies.

“Southeast Minnesota is a puzzle we want to solve,” said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief. “So, we have reprioritized our staffing pattern to create a first-ever position that aims to do just that.”

Simon said a number of social and landscape issues - private farms, public forests, absentee landownership, crop depredation, a growing interest in big buck hunting and citizen differences on deer population goals - has created a growing conundrum.

“We don’t have one universal problem in southeast Minnesota,” said Simon. “Instead, there are a lot of isolated problems.”

Many of these, he said, occur at the nexus of where farmers are raising crops and nearby recreational landowners are trying to raise crops of more and larger bucks by limiting the deer harvest.

Together, this has resulted in increasing crop depredation claims, hard feelings and unfavorable hunter-landowner relations.

“We’re starting a dialogue to identify solutions to this situation,” said Simon. “Our goal is to be innovative, fair and efficient.”

Luedtke earned a fisheries and wildlife degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has more than four years’ experience coordinating Arizona’s Chronic Wasting Disease program.

Much of Luedtke’s work will involve investigating depredation complaints, providing technical advice to landowners and distributing deer determent materials.

He will also make recommendations to local government officials and others on effective deer management strategies.
Said Luedtke, “A big part of my job will be selecting the right tool for the right situation. Sometimes it may be education.

In other instances, it could be a localized special hunt, shooting permits, a change in hunting permit numbers or some other action that addresses the legitimate interests of farmers and hunters.”

Luedtke will work out of the DNR’s Whitewater Wildlife Management Area office.

He will work primarily in Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties.

DNR reminds landowners to identify property lines prior to starting constuction
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds homeowners and landowners living adjacent to state of Minnesota owned lands to make sure that they know where their personal property lines are located before beginning any construction projects this spring.

“People living adjacent to state owned lands should know their property lines before beginning any type of residential construction such as homes, garages, drain fields, septic tanks, driveways or additional out-buildings,” said Dave Schuller, DNR statewide lands coordinator. “When private landowners build on public lands, it prohibits the use of these lands by the rest of the public.”

Any construction on state land is prohibited by state law.

The landowner may be charged with trespass violations and resolution of these issues generally require removal and restoration of the state land at the private landowner’s expense.

To avoid these situations, the DNR urges people to do their homework before building near any publicly owned land.

In addition, homeowners should contact their local zoning office to make sure they are in compliance with any property line setbacks.

People who suspect they may have already constructed buildings or encroached on lands owned by the state of Minnesota, should contact a local DNR area office.

Exposed lake beds are subject to shoreland rules
From the DNR

With abnormally low water levels exposing lakebed on many state lakes, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds riparian property owners that what looks like “dry land” still may be subject to rules regulating what can and cannot be done on shoreland and in public waters.

The DNR has been receiving numerous reports of people cutting, raking or otherwise disturbing aquatic plants in areas recently exposed by receding water levels.

If these areas are below what’s known as the ordinary high water level (OHW), any disturbance or removal of vegetation usually requires a DNR permit, and some activities are prohibited.

“Removal of emergent vegetation is a form of habitat destruction and it can have negative effects on fish, wildlife, and water quality,” said DNR aquatic plant management specialist Sean Sisler. “It also could be illegal.”

The OHW is an elevation indicating the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave evidence on the landscape; generally speaking, it’s where natural vegetation changes from predominantly aquatic to predominantly terrestrial.

For many lakes, the OHW is a set elevation that has been established by collecting data over several decades.

The lakebed continues to be below the OHW even when it has been exposed due to low rainfall.

While fluctuating water levels can pose an inconvenience for riparian property owners, they’re a natural and important part of lake ecology.

Some emergent aquatic plants, such as bulrush, need periods of low water to germinate and re-establish depleted stands.

Wildlife managers use periodic drawdown as a management tool to promote growth of emergent aquatic plants and improve waterfowl and wildlife habitat.

Emergent aquatic plants are protected by state law because they’re extremely valuable to the health of lakes, fish, and wildlife.

Such plants protect shorelines from erosion, stabilize bottom sediments, improve water quality by intercepting phosphorus before it reaches the water, provide valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, and protect nests from wave and wake action.

An aquatic plant management (APM) permit is required for control of emergent aquatic plants (bulrush, cattail, rushes, etc.) in public water basins, including aquatic plants that are growing on dry lake beds.

Removal of emergent aquatic plants without a permit is a misdemeanor violation and can result in a fine and restoration order.

Permit applications can be found online at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/shorelandmgmt/apg/regulations.html.

Other activities undertaken below the OHW, such as grading or blading, filling with sand or gravel, and construction of boulder or other retaining walls, also are regulated and may require a DNR permit.

Control of upland vegetation (e.g. tree saplings) growing in the exposed lakebed is not regulated by DNR.

To minimize impacts to the lakebed of public waters, raking or dragging a device for control of upland vegetation should be limited to a width necessary for access to a dock.

Remaining upland plants will die when higher water levels return.

The DNR also has received reports of people operating off-highway vehicles (OHV) on exposed lake beds.

It is illegal to operate OHV on unfrozen public waters, or in a manner that causes wetland destruction.

CO Weekly Reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers during the past week.
CO Mies also worked on some trapping complaints.
CO Mies worked on tip calls.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) investigated a shoreline violation that resulted in a Cease and Desist Order issued and a contractor being cited for several violations.
Reller also gave a Firearms Safety presentation to youth in Waverly.
Enforcement action was also taken for boating without required PFDs onboard a watercraft and bow fishing out of season.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) returned several calls on ice safety conditions, coyote problems and sick raccoons.
Several future speaking engagements were worked on.
A firearms safety presentation was given at the Mayer Community Center.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) attended a Law Enforcement Career Fair in Brooklyn Park.
She returned several calls in reference to nuisance animals. Reports were also completed.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and ATV activity.
Area lakes began to clear of ice.
Additional time was spent checking on trapping activity.
Hatlestad also enforced state forestry fire laws.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent time checking anglers on the Minnesota River and other creeks and streams in the area.
Several small lakes are open in the area and larger lakes are losing ice fast.
CO Oberg also observed several pheasants and turkeys as well as several species of waterfowl including trumpeter swans, wood ducks, blue wing teal, green wing teal and most species of diving ducks.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What’s going to happen to the maple syrup season with this crazy weather?

A: That is a question every maple syrup producer would like answered definitively.

The key to a successful season is having temperature fall below freezing at night and rise (preferably into the 30’s to 40’s) during the day for extended periods.

Producers are worried that the temperature will not get low enough at night to encourage adequate sap flow.

Some people believe that maple trees produce higher concentrations of sugar in the sap when there has not been adequate moisture the previous fall.

Also, snowfall during the tapping season means that the next time the temperature rises above the freezing point, sap tends to flow rapidly and heavily.

We won’t know how things will turn out for sure until the 2012 season is over.