Super 7 for the fishing opener

May 6, 2013

by Chris Schultz

Here’s the best bet for the 2013 fishing opener on our local lakes – fish the small shallow lakes that have walleye, and fish shallow, on the windy side of the lake at night.

If the walleyes aren’t hitting, fish the same areas for crappie.

Also, pay attention to traffic on our local lakes, with many of the lakes farther north still dealing with ice, it could be busy in our area, and note that water levels on most local lakes are up from last summer and fall.

Super Seven

1. Swan Lake, near the City of Silver Lake: Swan can be a sleeper for walleye, it’s shallow, warms up fast, and if the walleye don’t bite, it’s a great spring crappie lake. Don’t be surprised if you catch a bullhead or two.

2. Silver Lake, adjacent to the City of Silver Lake: Every few years the lake turns on in the winter with big production on small walleye because of the rearing in the lake. I don’t believe the lake turned on the this winter, and with the tough spring we’ve had who knows what could happen on the opener. Slip bobber fish with fatheads and crappie minnows on the northeast side of the lake.

3. Lake Ann, south of Howard Lake: This could be a perfect opener for Ann. Cast Rapalas on the windy shoreline, or jig on the center of the lake over the rock pile.

4. Lake Emma, connected to Lake Ann to the east: Emma is shallow lake that from time to time can produce small walleye. Troll along the bar just south of the landing. Also, take note of landing, it can be treacherous and your better off with a 14 footer on Emma.

5. Howard Lake, adjacent to the City of Howard Lake: Howard hasn’t been great on the opener for a number years now, but this could be the year. Troll on the northeast side of the lake or drift over the rock pile of Judd’s Bar.

6. Big Waverly, adjacent to the City of Waverly: I’m not sure about walleye action, but Waverly is a top producer of spring crappies. It’s a great second choice for walleye anglers who didn’t have any luck on their first try. Fish with minnows near the landing.

7. Lake Jenny, northeast of Hutchinson: Jenny is a good early ice walleye lake, and with conditions similar to early ice, the lake could boom on the opener. Fish over the sand bar on the north end of the lake.

Good luck on the opener, read the fishing regulations, and hopefully we will be blessed with some good weather, we deserve it.

Wright County engraved rifle

Wright County engraved rifle are available at All Seasons Sports in Delano starting at a cost of $577.99.

Engraved on affordable, American-made, stock Henry rifles, the Wright County Minnesota Historical Editrion Rifle combines meticulous research, original artwork, and finely detailed engraving to celebrate the history of Wright County.

The project is limited to 100 edition numbers. Personalization available for an additional charge.

Contact All Seasons Sports at (763) 972-3112.

Fishing Klinic for Kids set for June 15

All area youth and their parents are welcome to attend the 16th annual Fishing Klinic For Kids Saturday, June 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Sturges Park on Buffalo Lake.

Participants will enjoy fishing, as well as visiting with fishing pros. There will also be demonstrations, vendor booths, food, games, activities, fun, and prizes.

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

This is the largest event of its kind in Minnesota. More than 20,000 youth have participated in this program over the years.

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

Anglers spend $2.4 billion in MN, according to new report
From the DNR

The anglers who enjoy Minnesota’s sky blue waters are a powerful engine for the state’s economy, according to a new survey data released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Direct spending of resident and nonresident anglers in Minnesota totaled $2.4 billion in 2011, the latest year for which information is available.

That amount included $1.4 billion on equipment, $925 million on trip-related expenditures and $41 million on various items such as magazines and fishing organization membership dues. Angler spending supports about 35,000 jobs.

“Only three states had higher angling expenditures,” said C.B. Bylander, outreach chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fish and Wildlife Division. “Two were Florida and New York, which are high population coastal states. The other was Michigan, which has nearly twice Minnesota’s population and abuts four Great Lakes.”

The economic and participation data is contained in two reports.

One is the Minnesota report of the “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.”

The other is a related report titled “Sportfishing in America produced by the American Sportfishing Association.”

The federal survey found angler spending has declined by $315 million since 2006 when the last survey was conducted.

The survey put the average amount spent per angler – $1,537, down from $1,843 in 2006.

The average angler fished 14 days per year; collectively anglers fished 21.7 million days.

The 2011 survey ranks Minnesota second in the nation for angling participation.

Thirty-two percent of residents age 16 or older have a fishing license.

Only Alaska, at 40 percent, has a higher participation rate.

Minnesota has about 1.5 million licensed anglers, a number that has remained relatively stable for many years.

The federal survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife-related recreation listed total direct expenditures by hunters and anglers at $3.3 billion, about $300 million less than 2006.

Together, hunting and fishing supports 48,000 Minnesota jobs.

Hunting expenditures by residents and nonresidents totaled $1.1 billion.

Direct spending by Minnesota hunters totaled $725 million of which $400 million was for equipment, $235 million for trip-related expenses and $90 million for magazines, land-leasing and other expenses.

The average hunter spent $1,412 up from $889 in 2006.

The survey determined the average hunter hunted 12 days; collectively hunters hunted 5.6 million days.

Minnesota ranks ninth in the nation for resident hunter numbers.

Minnesota has about 570,000 hunters age 16 or older, a number that has remained stable for many years.

“At 32 percent, Minnesota’s fishing participation rate is more than double the national average of 14 percent,” Bylander said. “Similarly, at 11 percent Minnesota’s hunting participation rate is nearly double the national average of 6 percent.”

Bylander said sustaining Minnesota’s strong hunting and fishing heritage revolves largely around conserving habitat, effectively managing game species and introducing someone new to these activities.

“Most people would welcome the opportunity to fish or hunt . . . . they just need to be asked and given some on-going support,” he said.

Fisheries habitat plan aims at ensuring great fishing for the long term
From the DNR

Dirk Peterson won’t tell anglers where to catch a big fish, but he can tell them what’s needed to make sure there are big fish to catch when they get there.

More and more these days, he’s boiling it down to three words: good fish habitat.

Peterson is in charge of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) fisheries section, which has just launched a new fisheries habitat plan.

It outlines a strategic road map for making sure the state’s 10,000 lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams continue to provide the healthy aquatic habitat underpinning great fishing.

Pete Jacobson, a DNR fisheries research supervisor and one of the plan’s authors, makes it sound pretty simple.

“The reason we have good fishing in Minnesota is because we have many lakes and streams with good water quality and habitat,” he said. “Healthy fish habitat is critical.”

But assuring the future of healthy aquatic habitat is anything but simple, because clean water depends on all that happens across a watershed, the hundreds or thousands of acres that drain into any particular lake or stream.

“When you lift a fish out of the water, that fish is a reflection of all that happens on the land,” Peterson said. “If we want to maintain great fishing, we need to focus more effort at the landscape and watershed scale.”

Peterson compares fisheries management to a three-legged stool: one leg is stocking fish, one leg is regulations that help control harvest, and one leg is habitat.

Historically, the first two legs have been a little longer and more robust than the last one.

The new plan aims to rectify that imbalance by directing staff and other resources to habitat protection and restoration.

While past fisheries habitat projects focused more on near-shore efforts such as protecting aquatic vegetation and stream channel improvements, the new approach seeks to move away from the water’s edge to encompass entire watersheds.

Because the DNR has little authority over land use – a chief determinant of water quality – working at the watershed level will rely more extensively on collaboration and coordination with other DNR divisions, local government, landowners, and other state and federal agencies.

Now there’s collaboration with DNR’s Forestry Division and local soil and water conservation districts to protect the watersheds of lakes with healthy populations of tullibee, a coldwater species sensitive to water quality, which provides important forage for game fish.

In the metro region, watershed scale collaborations with local government and other agencies have helped protect several trout streams, including Dakota County’s Vermillion River, a trophy brown trout stream just a half hour from downtown St. Paul.

While DNR fisheries has undertaken a few larger scale habitat projects before, they tended to be few and far between because there was little funding for big-picture, long-term approaches.

The passage in 2008 of a state constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of a sales tax hike to the outdoors and to clean water has changed that.

Much of the new habitat plan, available on the DNR website at files.dnr.state.mn.us/fish_wildlife/fisheries/habitat/2013_fishhabitatplan.pdf, is aimed at better coordination and focus of funding sources to achieve the most bang for the buck.

An increase in fishing license fees – approved by the Legislature last year – also is helping to put more focus on fisheries habitat work.

“We’ve always talked about habitat, but there rarely was adequate funding to really attack it at the appropriate scale,” said Jacobson, the fisheries researcher. “The constitutional amendment changes that, and we need to take advantage of it. The amendment is a mandate from the people for us to take fish habitat conservation seriously. This plan helps us do that.”

Park Rapids fish contest data sparked new regulations, better fishing
From the DNR

Park Rapids holds a unique place in Minnesota’s angling history.

The home of the 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener is where a long-time fishing contest helped spark a fishing regulation renaissance.

“Today, Minnesota anglers catch 50-pound muskellunge, 70-pound sturgeon and chunky walleyes year in, year out,” said Dirk Peterson, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries chief. “That happens, in part, because of length and bag limit regulations that evolved from an analysis of 113,845 fishing contest entries at the former Fuller Hardware Store and Tackle Shop in downtown Park Rapids.”

The analysis was completed in 1989 by Donald Olson and Paul Cunningham, a pair of DNR fisheries research biologists.

Together, they analyzed fishing contest records from 1930 through 1987 that appeared in the popular Fuller’s Fishermen’s Golden Book and Fishing Directory.

This annual publication recorded the weights of all fish entered in the contest, regardless of size, and also the waters from which they were caught.

“Fifty-eight years of contest entries provided a very clear picture of the problem,” Peterson said. “Simply put, as fishing pressure increased from the 1930s and beyond, the average size of fish decreased. So too did the number of trophy fish entered in the contest.”

For example, Peterson said the number of muskellunge entries dropped off after the 1930s.

The number of large northern pike entries fell after 1948.

Numbers of large walleyes and largemouth bass peaked in 1972 and 1977, respectively, and then declined.

Large black crappies nearly disappeared in the 1980s.

The weight of the average bluegill shrank by 25 percent from 1970 to 1987.

What was happening in the Park Rapids area was happening elsewhere across the state.

“The Golden Books were actually a golden tool for communicating that despite length and bag limit regulations since 1891 – roughly 100 years – Minnesota’s fishing regulations were not maintaining fishing quality,” Peterson said. “Something had to change . . . and it did.”

Today, about 250 lakes and more than 80 streams are subject to special or experimental fishing regulations as part of a strategic approach to maintain or improve Minnesota’s fishing quality.

These regulations apply to a small percentage of the state’s 5,400 fishing lakes but a considerable proportion of the state’s total fishing waters in terms of acreage.

“You’re never far away from water where statewide regulations apply and it’s easier to keep a meal of fish,” Peterson said. “But you’re also never too far away from water where special or experimental regulations are in place to produce and maintain bigger fish that other customers want.”

Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries manager at Grand Rapids, said citizen interest in special fishing regulations was growing in the late 1980s and galvanized in 1991 at the first-ever DNR-sponsored Minnesota Fishing Roundtable.

That’s where a small group of ardent anglers advocated for individual lake management, meaning having the DNR apply habitat improvement, fishing regulations and, if necessary, stocking regimens designed to a body of water’s unique potential.

This stakeholder support, combined with agency interest to do the same, resulted in an increase in the number of so-called “slot limits.”

Slot limits are length-based regulations that require anglers to immediately release larger-sized fish or limit them to harvesting only certain-sized fish.

“Slot limits were a controversial concept 20 years ago,” Goeman said. “Many anglers, especially harvest-oriented anglers, didn’t care for them or the goal they aimed to achieve. They grew up with a catch-and-keep philosophy for keeper-sized fish and this was contrary to that. Moreover, many were uncertain if self-sacrifice would result in a greater good.”

Adding to the unease were bag limit reductions that began in the early 2000s.

That’s when the statewide perch limit dropped from 100 to 20 and bag and possession limits were also reduced for crappie, sunfish and lake trout.

Statewide walleye and northern pike regulations also changed by limiting anglers to one walleye more than 20 inches and one northern pike more than 30 inches in possession.

More restrictive smallmouth bass and catfish regulations also were implemented about this time.

The one-two punch of special fishing regulations and reduced bag limits ultimately hit home with the angling public.

Resistance declined as the state’s reputation for fishing quality increased, said Al Stevens, the DNR’s special fishing regulations coordinator. “Special fishing regulations continue to be controversial in some instances but not like in the past,” he said. “It took time but we proved that with a combination of voluntary catch-and-release, special fishing regulations and reduced bag limits our lakes could provide meals of fish, trophy fish and a lot of good times.”

Jeff Burks, owner of Woman Lake Lodge on Woman Lake near Longville, said his business has benefited from special regulations.

“Our customers have been very satisfied with the pike regulation because they have noticed the larger sizes of pike they have been catching,” Burks said.

At Woman Lake all northern pike from 24- to 36-inches in length must be immediately released; one more than 36 inches is allowed in possession.

Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor, noted that “where special regulations have been used, the quality of most largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, bluegill, and black crappie populations in the area has improved.”

Not only are fish managers seeing success at the population level, he said, but they are also seeing these populations attract anglers from other areas, including out of state.

“This has been great for the tourism-based businesses in northern Minnesota.”
Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries supervisor at Bemidji, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Anglers and business owners in the Bemidji area are noticing the benefits of these special regulations for a variety of species,” he said. “All four of the main fishing lakes in Itasca State Park all have some type of special regulation ranging from reduced bag limits on sunfish to catch- and- release only for bass or muskie. We could not find a better location for regulations to restore quality fishing than lakes within the most popular state park in Minnesota.”

Doug Kingsley, the DNR’s area fisheries supervisor at Park Rapids, said he’s seen special regulations benefit local anglers and the tourists who visit the Hubbard County area. “The northern pike regulations that were implemented in 2003 are working,” Kingsley said.

“We have 24- to 36-inch protected slot length limits for northern pike at Blueberry, George and Big Mantrap and a 40-inch minimum length limits at Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Crow Wing lakes. At all those lakes we are seeing decreases in the proportion of smaller-sized northern pike and increases in the proportion of medium-sized pike.”

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: I understand that two peregrine falcons have returned to a nest box on top of the Bremer Bank Building in St. Paul. Is this the same pair that was there last year?

A: The female is the same as last year, but unfortunately biologists have not seen the male, Sota, who was fledged 18 years ago from a nest near the Minnesota River.

We suspect Sota died over the winter. He and his partner, Jill, had spent nine years raising young together.

Jill is 10 years old and was fledged from a box at the high bridge in St. Paul.

This will be her 10th year at this box.

She and Sota raised 28 chicks together.

A new male started coming around and Jill has laid three eggs.

Biologists have not been able to identify the male yet.

A live camera inside the nest box was paid for by donations to the nongame checkoff. Now the public can watch them lay their eggs and raise their young in real-time.

Watch them live: http://webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/falcon/

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies also checked turkey hunters.
CO Mies worked on a waters complaint along with a burning complaint.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on the Mississippi and Crow rivers.
CO’s Grewe and Sladek assisted Wright County in locating a minivan in the Mississippi River.
The van was located and will be removed at a later date.
He did a law presentation for a Firearms Safety Class at the Elk River Sportsmen’s Club.
He followed up on a wetland issues.
He answered a number of beaver trapping questions. He picked up two dead swans.
He followed up on a Big Game case with the Sherburne County Attorney’s office.
He checked turkey hunters in the area.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) pulled his boat from storage and readied it for the open water season.
Turkey hunters were checked having some success.
An accidental trapped otter were picked up from a beaver trapper.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Metro Water Resource Enforcement Officer) attended a regional invasive quarterly meeting with various divisions of the DNR.
She followed up on open wetland and waters cases. She also scheduled several FAS classes.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) monitored spring fish run activity throughout the week and check shore anglers.
Mueller and two other officers hosted an appreciation banquet for the volunteer instructors from McLeod and Sibley counties.
She investigated a TIP call on out of season bow fishing and spoke at a youth ATV safety class in Winthrop.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent time focusing on ATV enforcement this past week.
Oberg encountered violations for illegal youth operation, agricultural zone closure, and registration.
Oberg and CO Mueller held a banquet for safety instructors in the area that was well attended.
Oberg also spoke to the all-day range and field day class in Lester Prairie as well as an ATV safety class in Winthrop this past week.