Howard Lake Fishing Derby coming up Saturday

February 3, 2014

by Chris Schultz

The Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club 68th annual Fishing Derby is Saturday, Feb. 8, from 1-3 p.m., on Howard Lake.

The day’s events will include a prize for the biggest fish, ice chiseling and power auger comtests, and a raffle to win a 6-by-12 Ice Castle Fish House.

Other raffle prizes include a portable fish house, and framed prints.

Raffle tickets are available ahead of time at Joe’s Sports Shop and the Country Store in Howard Lake, and also from any member of the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club. Raffle tickets will be sold the day of the event.

A lunch wagon will be on site throughout the event.

Waverly Gun Club firearm safety registration Mon., Feb. 3

The Waverly Gun Club is proud to offer the Minnesota Firearm Safety training class.

The firearm safety class is for anyone at least 11 years old by January 1, 2014.

Students who complete all the requirements receive a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Firearm Safety Certificate.

Registration for this class is Monday Feb. 4 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Waverly Gun Club.

For minors a parent or guardian must attend registration. Proof of birth date is required.

The local fee is $7 and an additional $7.50 DNR fee will be paid directly to the DNR online.

Class begins Monday Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. and will continue for eight weeks.

For more information or questions, contact Tracey at (612) 910-2198.

Mille Lacs: safe harvest levels set; angling rules similar to 2013 anticipated
From the DNR

Walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will likely see regulations similar to last year when the season opens May 10, based on the safe harvest level announced today by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The 2014 walleye safe harvest level is 60,000 pounds.

Of this amount, 42,900 pounds is allocated to the state and 17,100 pounds is allocated to the eight Chippewa bands with 1837 Treaty harvest rights.

These allocation amounts were recently agreed upon at a meeting of DNR and tribal natural resource leaders.

DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said a limited harvest under the existing restrictive harvest slot, combined with potential additional more restrictive regulations, will provide the needed protection to the lake’s struggling walleye population.

Under existing regulations, anglers are able to keep walleye only between 18- and 20-inches.

All others must be immediately released. The possession limit is two, with only one longer than 28 inches.

“Is the walleye population where we want it? Absolutely not,” Pereira said, “but restrictive harvest opportunities this year will not impair the lake’s ability to produce future generations of walleye. Mille Lacs has and always will be a great fishing destination.”

Pereira said the conservative allocations – the lowest since cooperative treaty management of the lake began in 1997 – reflect biologists’ deep concern about the lake’s recent inability to produce large crops of young walleye, despite adequate spawning stock and excellent production of young-of-the-year, fingerling-sized fish.

The lake has not produced a strong year class of walleye since 2008.

The Mille Lacs safe harvest level has ranged from a high of 600,000 pounds in 2006 to this year’s low of 60,000 pounds.

Actual harvests, however, have been very low in some previous years.

In 2003, for example, state anglers took only 66,492 pounds of walleye and similar situations occurred in 2004 and 2008.

“We have not yet finalized size or bag limit regulations for the 2014 fishing season and won’t until we confer further with citizens later in February,” Pereira said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to seek answers to the perplexing problem of young walleye survival and will also open our entire fisheries management books to a newly formed “blue ribbon” panel of nationally recognized fisheries experts.”

Pereira said the agency is exploring new ways to engage citizens this year because it will seek input on harvest reduction options in addition to walleye slot length and bag limit regulations.

These options, such as an extended night fishing ban, would help to ensure the walleye safe harvest level is not exceeded.

“Nothing has been decided other than we need to have this discussion with anglers and affected interests,” Pereira said. “We want to identify a variety of regulatory options because regulations are how we manage harvest.”

In contrast to walleye, northern pike continue to increase in abundance, with record catches of young fish in the last two assessments.

The total harvest cap will be increased for the coming fishing season to 100,000 pounds with equal allocation between the state and the bands.

The DNR will also explore expanded angling opportunities for both pike and smallmouth bass.

Pereira also said Brad Parsons, the DNR’s central Minnesota regional fisheries manager and a long-time research biologist, has been assigned to lead the DNR’s efforts to turn the Mille Lacs walleye population around as quickly as possible, while minimizing negative impacts to the local community and economy.

“Brad is a strong leader who brings a fresh set of eyes to this effort, as well as extensive walleye research and management experience,” Pereira said.

Final 2014 Mille Lacs open water fishing regulations will be announced in March.

For more information about Mille Lacs Lake, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/millelacslake.

DNR, NWTF mentored youth turkey applications due Feb. 18
From the DNR

First-time youth turkey hunters ages 12 to 17 have the chance to go afield this spring and learn from an experienced National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) volunteer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Applications, maps and general information for the wild turkey hunt are available online.

Application deadline is midnight on Monday, Feb. 18.

If there are more applications than available mentors, participants will be selected in a random lottery.

“Novice turkey hunters and their guardian will learn life-long outdoor skills and how to be a responsible hunter,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “These NWTF volunteers want to share their many years of chasing toms and help new hunters connect to the outdoors. All they ask for in return is a smile or a high five.”

This is the 12th consecutive year the DNR and the NWTF have cooperated to provide opportunities for first-time youth turkey hunters.

More than 2,200 youth have been introduced to this unique hunting experience since spring youth turkey hunts began in 2002.

Hunts will occur Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27, which is the second weekend of the regular wild turkey season.
Hunters and their mentors will be matched with a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany both the youth and parent/guardian throughout the entire hunt.

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before Saturday, April 26; have a valid firearms safety certificate; and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The program is for inexperienced turkey hunters only.

Hunters and their mentors will be assigned a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany both the youth and parent/guardian throughout the entire hunt.

Participation in the hunts is only restricted by the number volunteers and private lands that are available.

Anyone interested in providing quality turkey hunting land for the mentored youth hunts should contact a NWTF chapter online.

Beginning this year, all youth age 17 and younger by April 16 can purchase a youth turkey license over the counter to hunt all time periods across the entire state.

Youth no longer need to select a time period or permit area.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) last week checked anglers.
CO Mies checked sleds in Stearns and Wright counties.
CO Mies also worked on a wetland complaint in Wright County.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) assisted with an interview for a special investigation case.
Reller also worked on a snowmobile workcrew in Morrison County with several violations for operating snowmobiles with studded track on tarred trail.
Wright County area had a lot of snowmobilers out with the fresh snow.
Enforcement action was taken for speed, unregistered snowmobile and allowing illegal operation of a snowmobile by a juvenile.
A reminder to adult snowmobile operators that Snowmobile Safety Certification must be completed by anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976.
Reller has been finding several adults without this certification each week.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) picked up a dead bald eagle on Coney Island Lake Waconia.
A firearms safety presentation was given in Norwood Young America.
The vintage snowmobile event was worked on Lake Waconia with neighboring Conservation Officers.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked angling and snowmobile activity around Meeker, Kandiyohi and along the Minnesota River during the week.
Fishing reports are still slow in the area.
She, along with another CO, worked in the Spicer area checking anglers and snowmobilers during the Spicer Winter Festival.
Snowmobile registration issues were addressed.
Despite the cold weather there was still a good turnout.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports working mainly snowmobile enforcement, with an emphasis on speed.
Snowmobilers are reminded that the speed limit is 50 mph and to slow down when conditions create reduced visibility.
A snowmobile safety talk was given in Arlington this week.