The walleye bite was hot on Lake Winnie over the Memorial Day weekend. The fish were found on shelf structure where the bottom went from 6-11 feet of water down to 18-24. A VMC mooneye jig, in any color, tipped with a spot-tailed or golden shiner was the terminal gear of choice. Try anything else, you caught perch.
Constant cloud cover, temps in the mid-60's and a sustained SE wind of 15 knots kept the fish active ALL DAY. Most of the fish were females, thin and hungry. With the slot demanding anything over 17" must continue to swim, most fish measured 18-22" and were released. However, possession limits of 15-17" fish were easily filled.
Boat traffic was minimal with maybe 15 other boats scattered around the SE quadrant of the lake. The West Winnie Campground featured a mosquito-free environment.
Slot limits were unheard of when I first fished Minnesota in the 60's and 70's. Which begs the following questions: Is our state-wide fishery in that much worse shape than it was 30-40 years ago? Or are the DNR biologists smarter these days? Too much demand for the available supply? Or do the current-day electronics make it too easy to catch fish?
Catching nice bluegills. Middle of the day. Big as your hand.
Pine River/Backus area.
Twenty-three feet of water. Ratso jigs with wax worms. Warm up the fry pan.
I was in the audience yesterday at the Minnesota DNR Roundtable meeting in St. Paul. Commissioner Tom Landwehr began the session with a roundup of his agency's accomplishments during 2012. At the top of the list on his first Power Point slide was "Successful Wolf Season". I quickly scanned the room hoping someone from Howling For Wolves or PETA wasn't going to start screaming or charge the lectern.
The Commissioner, painfully aware of the explosiveness of the topic, chose his words very tentatively, spent all of about 15 seconds on the item, and moved on to number two on his list. Safer ground. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the 350 attendees.
I've been wondering for a year now, since the DNR announced a wolf season at the 2012 Roundtable, what it is about these animals that makes people so emotional. I have a friend who thinks it can be traced to our love of dogs. If your household doesn't own a dog you would be in the minority in Minnesota. But even though our pet dogs all evolved from the same female wolf roughly 15,000 years ago, they bear little resemblance, outside of fur and four legs, to canis lupus. The process of domestication has its advantages, right?
There has to be more behind the emotion on both sides. More reasons to humanize wolves and label them "sentient" if you love them. More reasons than the fact wolves kill deer to make you set traps or load your rifle if you hate them. Minnesota hunters still killed over 150,000 deer last season, wolves or not.
I've concluded that wolves bring emotions to the surface for many reasons, some silly, some serious, all heartfelt. But the principal reason is their numbers. Think about this: when I hunted ducks with my dad in the 1950's, geese, at least in central Iowa, were rare. When we bagged one there were handshakes all around, photos taken. Today, in Minnesota, Canada geese are so numerous some of my hunting partners pass on them because they take so long to clean. And PETA would have us castrate them to control their numbers.
When I stand at the kitchen window and watch the birds at my feeder, the chickadees are barely worth noticing. There are dozens of them flitting around. But if a pileated woodpecker comes for suet I lunge for my camera.
I suspect that if wolves were as numerous as their close cousins coyotes most of the emotion on both sides would fade.
My son and I shot these ducks on October 27 in western Minnesota. The middle duck, a hen mallard, was carrying a leg band. This led to information about the individual duck and about the status of bird banding in general.
The mallard was banded on August 24, 2011, in Saskatchewan, Canada. The banding site was at Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area half way between Regina and Saskatoon. Incidentally, Last Mountain was the first-ever bird sanctuary reserved in North America. That was in 1887. The records of the Canadian Bird Banding Office which is a division of their National Wildlife Research Centre indicate this hen mallard was hatched in 2010 or earlier. All this information and the act of reporting the band is now done on the Internet. No surprise there.
What did surprise me was the route this duck, and I assume those accompanying her in the flock, took on their way south. It's encouraging to realize not all northern mallards migrate through the Dakotas. Unless she got blown off her normal course during her 900 mile trip from her breeding ground to western Minnesota, there is hope.
I was also surprised to learn that in the United States the U.S. Geological Survey people are responsible for banding and compiling reports about birds. Sounds like a job for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife folks. And banding activity has dropped about 75% in the last twenty years. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Research people banded 22,400 mallards in 1992 but only 5,300 in 2011. Either they know what they need to know about mallards or, more likely, budgets were slashed.
Only about 2% of banded ducks are ever recovered. So if you bag a banded duck I'm sure the biologists who did the banding would love to hear from you. You can do it on your PC and the banding information is instantaneous.