Doug Smith

Even if the fish aren’t biting, the ducks aren’t flying and the pheasants aren’t flushing, Doug Smith says any day spent outdoors is a good day. A Minnesota native, he’s been covering the outdoors for the Star Tribune since 1995. He considers walleyes fried over a campfire to be gourmet cuisine.

Liberal deer hunting proposed for Duluth area to reduce conflicts

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: May 1, 2014 - 12:48 PM

 

 

Unlimited harvest of antlerless deer would be allowed in the Duluth area to boost whitetail harvest and reduce deer-human conflicts, under a Department of Natural Resources proposal.

Duluth and the surrounding communities would be designated a metro deer management area, where the firearms season also would be extended a week, under the plan.

“Deer-human conflicts are common in the area, while hunter access is limited,” said Chris Balzer, DNR area wildlife manager in Cloquet. “Designating the area a metro deer management area emphasizes just how different this area is from other permit areas and gives local governments more flexibility to manage deer populations.”

The DNR would allow unlimited harvest of antlerless deer during any open deer season in the area that now comprises deer permit area 182. Communities affected would include Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor, Esko and Cloquet. Local governments would determine whether hunters could use bows, firearms or both within their jurisdictions.

The issue will be discussed at a public meeting  from 7-9 p.m. on May 8 in Duluth at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gitchee Gumee Conference Center.

The DNR said deer populations and hunting are managed the same way in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which is designated as deer permit area 601. The area in question in and around Duluth would become the state’s second metropolitan deer management area.

Hunter access is limited in the area because most land is privately owned or located within city boundaries, creating refuge-like areas where deer can isolate themselves from hunters.

“Despite a change in 2005 that altered boundaries so deer harvest could be set higher in this area, deer populations remain high,” Balzer said. “The hope is that allowing hunting for an additional week and directly involving local governments will result in more deer being harvested.”

City officials from Duluth and representatives of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance will provide additional details and discuss their perspectives at the meeting, and public comments will be recorded.

More information and an online comment form will be available beginning May 9 on the DNR’s deer management web page at www.mndnr.gov/deer. Written comments may be mailed to Chris Balzer, Cloquet area wildlife manager, 1604 Highway 33 South, Cloquet, MN, 55720 or sent via email to christian.balzer@state.mn.us. The deadline for comments is May 19.
 

Upper Red Lake summer walleye regs to remain same

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: April 22, 2014 - 10:37 AM

Upper Red Lake's summer walleye regulations will be unchanged from last year.

The regulations allow anglers to keep larger walleye after June 15.

From the May 10 fishing opener to June 14 anglers must release all walleyes 17- to 26-inches long.
 
From June 15 to Nov. 30, anglers may keep walleye less than 20 inches and must immediately release all walleye 20- to 26-inches long.

The possession limit for both periods is four fish, and only one of those fish can be longer than 26 inches.

The DNR says the more restrictive size limit is necessary for the early season when angler catch rates are high and mature walleye are extremely vulnerable. As the open water season progresses, catch rates and fishing pressure decline, reducing the impact of harvesting larger walleye.

Winter regulations will not be finalized until open water harvest is determined. Winter regulations will be announced in late summer and will be posted on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/fishingregs.

Iowa finds first case of chronic wasting disease in a wild deer

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: April 9, 2014 - 4:27 PM

Iowa has its first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a wild deer, and the infected whitetail was found in a county that borders southeastern Minnesota.

The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County in northeastern Iowa  in early December. Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said they are working to obtain as much information as possible about the infected deer to implement its CWD response plan.

“We have been testing for CWD in Iowa’s deer herd for more than a decade and are optimistic, given the extensive data we have collected, that we have caught this early,” said Chuck Gipp, DNR director.

“The next step will be to focus our monitoring efforts in the area where the animal was harvested and work closely with local landowners and hunters to gather more information.” said Gipp.

CWD had been detected in every bordering state, including Minnesota, where the only wild deer infected with CWD was killed by a hunter in 2010 near Pine Island. Other cases in Minnesota have occurred in pen-raised deer and elk.

The most recent Minnesota case of CWD occurred in a captive European red deer in North Oaks.

Minnesota DNR officials said Wednesday that they will test deer killed by hunters this fall in an area adjacent to the Iowa county to see if any more deer have CWD.

 The DNR sampled deer killed along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border after a deer with CWD was found near Shell Lake, Wis., in 2011. Officials didn't find any additional CWD-positive deer.

“With CWD in all the states around us, we have understood the possibility of a positive detection in the wild deer herd for some time” said Gipp of the Iowa DNR.

CWD is a neurological disease affecting primarily deer and elk. It is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion that attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. The only reliable test for CWD requires testing of lymph nodes or brain material.

There is currently no evidence that humans can contract CWD by eating venison. However, the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters do not eat the brain, eyeballs or spinal cord of deer and that hunters wear protective gloves while field dressing game and boning out meat for consumption.

Big changes coming for Lake Mille Lacs anglers

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: March 25, 2014 - 10:59 AM

A night fishing ban on Lake Mille Lacs will be extended this year until December to reduce walleye harvest due to concerns over a declining walleye population.

And the northern pike limit will be increased to 10 and the season extended.

Both measures are being taken to try to increase angling opportunity while reducing walleye harvest to stay within the state's 1837 Treaty safe harvest allocation.

The walleye daily and possession limit will remain unchanged. The limit will be two walleye from 18- to 20-inches, except one longer than 28 inches may be taken.

The night fishing ban, enforced from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will begin May 12, and will be extended through Monday, Dec. 1, rather than ending in mid-June.

“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief.

Here's more from a DNR news release:

As part of a plan to increase angling opportunity, improve walleye numbers and stay within the state’s 1837 Treaty safe harvest allocation, the Department of Natural Resources will modify fishing regulations at Mille Lacs Lake for the 2014 season.

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.

When new regulations go into effect on Saturday, May 10, anglers will be able to keep 10 northern pike, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. This increases the limit by seven. Anglers also will be able to fish for northern pike for a longer period of time. The close of the season will be extended from mid-February to the last Sunday in March. The northern pike spearing ban on Mille Lacs also will be removed.

Similarly, the smallmouth bass harvest season will be extended and limits relaxed. The smallmouth bass season on Mille Lacs will start May 10 and be exempted from the statewide catch-and-release regulation that begins in mid-September. This means anglers may harvest smallmouth bass from the opener until the last Sunday in February. Anglers may keep six fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches. The previous regulation allowed anglers to keep six fish 17- to 20-inches, only one of which could be longer than 20 inches.

“More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressure because their populations are at or near record highs,” Pereira said. “The current walleye regulation and the extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level.”

Pereira said the suite of regulations reflects significant fish population changes at Mille Lacs. Walleye numbers are at a 40-year low. Northern pike numbers are at record highs. The smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s. Tullibee and perch populations, both important forage species, are relatively low.

Fish populations likely are being influenced by many factors, including clearer water, climate change, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, Eurasian watermilfoil and a treaty management approach that focused too much walleye harvest on too narrow a size range of fish.
  
“Mille Lacs is a system under change and portions of that change began even prior to the treaty management that began in the late 1990s,” said Pereira. “The good news is that we have more than enough spawning walleye and a history of solid egg and fry production. What we need is for the walleye that hatch to grow into strong year classes for anglers to catch. That hasn’t happened since 2008. That’s why we are focused on protecting small walleye and our ample but declining walleye spawning stock.”

Pereira added that the agency is also committed to the long-term protection of the lake’s trophy smallmouth and trophy northern pike fisheries.

The DNR’s approach to managing Mille Lacs is currently under review by a panel of national fish management experts. The agency convened the panel earlier this year as part of a broad approach to involve outside experts and citizens in agency decision making.

Information about panel experts and Mille Lacs management can be found at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

Asian carp eggs found in Mississippi just south of Minnesota

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: March 11, 2014 - 6:07 PM

 

 

More ominous news on the Asian carp invasion front: Asian carp eggs were recently found in the Upper Mississippi River near Lynxville, Wis., about 20 miles south of the Minnesota border.

The finding included late-stage embryos nearly ready to hatch. The U.S. Geological Survey collected the samples last year and reported the findings Monday.

"This discovery means that Asian carp spawned much farther north in the Mississippi than previously recorded," Leon Carl, USGS Midwest Regional Director, said in a news release. "The presence of eggs in the samples indicates that spawning occurred, but we do not know if eggs hatched and survived or whether future spawning events would result in live fish."

According to the release, the Asian carp eggs and late-stage embryos were discovered two weeks ago while processing samples that were collected last year. The samples were taken as part of a larger research project designed to identify Asian carp spawning habitats. The eggs and late-stage embryos were 250 river miles upstream of previously known reproductive populations in the river.

And spawning would have occurred upstream from this site.

Here's more from the release:

Once the scientists visually identified the eggs, they examined other samples taken from the Mississippi River and found Asian carp eggs at seven locations between Pool 19 near Keokuk, Iowa, and Pool 9 of the main channel of the Upper Mississippi River near Lynxville. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin border the navigation pools where these samples were collected.

The eggs and late-stage embryos were identified as bigheaded carps — either bighead carp or silver carp — through visual analyses of specific features of the eggs and embryos. It is also possible that some eggs could be from grass carp, although no eggs were visually identified as such. The USGS attempted genetic analyses to definitively determine which species of Asian carp the eggs belong to, but the results were inconclusive. Additional steps are being completed to attempt genetic confirmation, and those results are expected in one to two weeks.

The research project that collected these eggs is being coordinated by the USGS in collaboration with Western Illinois University. Scientists plan to collect additional samples from the Mississippi River in 2014 as part of their on-going research project.

"Invasive Asian carp could pose substantial environmental risks and economic impacts to the Upper Mississippi River if they become established," Carl said. "Further research will help us to better understand their habitat requirements and inform integrated control efforts."  

For more information on Asian carp research,  visit the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) website. The ACRCC is a partnership of federal and state agencies, municipalities and other groups, led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. 

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