Leech Lake Walleye, Mille Lacs Pike, Gunflint Trail Lakes Walleye slot?

MINNESOTA DNR NEWS #32                                                                           April 28, 2014
Abundant walleyes await anglers on opener on Leech Lake
Growing Mille Lacs pike population offers anglers more opportunity 
‘Think Zero’ at fishing opener
Bring the family to fish at Minnesota state parks  
DNR to seek input on proposed walleye 
  regulations for some Cook County waters
Legacy Amendment making a big difference at Whitewater WMA
DNR names 2014 Conservation Officer of the Year
Question of the week: Winterkill
Abundant walleyes await anglers on opener on Leech LakeThe 2014 fishing opener on Leech Lake is expected to be excellent, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.Known as one of the state’s top 10 “fish factories,” Leech Lake will boast another year of high walleye abundance and healthy populations of northern pike, largemouth bass and other species frequently pursued by Leech Lake anglers.This year, those targeting Leech Lake as their opener destination will also be pleased to find increased opportunity for walleye harvest. Beginning Saturday, May 10, a relaxed protected slot limit for walleye will be in effect allowing anglers to keep walleye up to 20-inches long. All walleye 20- to 26-inches long must be immediately returned to the water. The limit of four walleye with one longer than 26 inches allowed in possession has remained unchanged.“The new regulation is intended to provide additional harvest opportunity while continuing to protect most of the mature female walleye in the population,” said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor. “The Leech Lake Management Plan provides for relaxing the existing protected slot limit if spawning walleye numbers were met.”

Quality fishing opportunities for species other than walleye will be plentiful. The northern pike population continues to be good. Anglers can look forward to catching northern pike 24 inches or larger. The size of yellow perch continues to be good, although anglers can expect to work a bit harder to reach a limit of yellow perch this season.

Good numbers of nice-sized largemouth bass and bluegills exist in Boy, Headquarters, Steamboat and Shingobee bays. Opportunities for large crappies and excellent muskie fishing should continue in 2014. Statewide regulations other than walleye apply for all species on Leech Lake.

To monitor changes in fishing pressure and harvest resulting from the new regulation, anglers will be asked about fishing success from May to September 2014 and December 2014 to March 2015. Anglers can expect to encounter creel clerks at public accesses and resorts.

“Angler cooperation with the brief survey is appreciated,” Schultz said. “It provides valuable information for managing the fishery.”


SD_Hunting_C2_300x250DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        April 28, 2014

Growing Mille Lacs pike population offers anglers more opportunity There are more northern pike in Mille Lacs Lake than any time in the last 30 years, and they are fast-growing fish.That’s according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which has increased the bag limit and season length for this popular game fish for the 2014 fishing season as part of an effort to increase angling opportunity.“Our 2013 northern pike population survey is the highest on record,” said Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries manager. “We’ve never seen so many 1- and 2-year-old fish.”With Mille Lacs anglers traditionally focusing heavily on walleye, northern pike present a relatively untapped potential for fishing fun, especially with new regulations this year.

Mille Lacs anglers can keep 10 northern pike, including one longer than 30 inches, which represents an increase of seven fish more than last year’s limit on Mille Lacs. The DNR announced the new regulations this year along with others that can be seen at www.mndnr.gov/fishing/millelacs.

“Our intent is to maximize northern pike fishing opportunity to help support the local economy,” Goeman said. “Walleye population numbers are down, and regulations on them are more restrictive than pike. So, this is a way to responsibly manage an emerging opportunity on a year-to-year basis.”

Mille Lacs northern pike are among the fastest growing in the state. By age 3, a Mille Lacs pike is typically between 24- and 28-inches long. That compares to a more typical 18- to 21-inches long for a 3-year-old pike in many other Minnesota lakes.

“There are a lot of nice pike in the lake,” said Goeman, who added that that most anglers have traditionally released what they caught. In 2013, he said, anglers caught about 19,000 northern pike but kept only 1,600. And that was with a slot limit that protected northern pike that were 33- to 40-inches long.

“The current pike population is estimated at 57,000,” Goeman said. “So even if anglers last year kept every pike they caught the population would be fine.”

In some lakes, northern pike can cause problems when they are under-harvested and consume too much of the prey base. DNR research is under way to determine what role if any an expanding pike population may be having on the Mille Lacs fishing community. In the meantime,
Goeman said anglers should consider keeping a limit of northern pike for a fish fry or pickling. “It won’t be harmful; it will probably be fun,” he said.

Goeman said the higher northern pike population is likely the result of multiple factors. Mille Lacs water is clearer than 20 years ago, which can benefit site feeders like pike. Vegetation beds from Eurasian watermilfoil could also benefit such predatory fish. Additionally, the pike in Mille Lacs generally have an excellent food supply consisting of minnows, perch and ciscoe.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   April 28, 2014

‘Think Zero’ at fishing opener

With more than 500,000 people expected take part in the walleye and northern pike season opener on Saturday, May 10, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges every angler to make a commitment to transport zero aquatic invasive species (AIS) this year.

Invasive species can be easily carried from one lake to another if aquatic plants and water are left on a boat or trailer. By taking a few simple precautions anglers can minimize the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.

Zebra mussels pose serious ecological and economic threats to Minnesota’s lakes and streams. Heavy infestations can kill native mussels, impact fish populations and interfere with recreation.

“If we can reach our goal of zero AIS violations this year, it’s possible we can end the season with zero new infestations caused by human activity,” said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement operations manager.

Conservation officers wrote more than 400 AIS citations at public water accesses last year. To help bring that number to zero, the DNR plans to increase AIS prevention activities this year.

“We now have more than 1,000 lake service providers trained and permitted in AIS prevention,” said Ann Pierce, section manager, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division. “We’re also expanding the AIS volunteer educator program, and plan to have more people at public access sites with information on how to prevent the spread of invasive species.”

In addition, 100 more clean-and-drain areas will open at public water accesses statewide. These special areas provide safe and convenient places for boaters to clean and drain their boats.

To avoid a citation, anglers must take these steps required by law before leaving any water access or shore:

  • Clean aquatic plants and animals off boats, trailers and water-related equipment. It is illegal to transport them whether dead or alive.
  • Drain water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait container, motor) and drain bilge, livewell, and baitwell by removing drain plugs.
  • Keep drain plugs out and water draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Some aquatic invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them before moving to another body of water, especially after leaving zebra mussel and spiny waterflea infested waters, the DNR recommends that anglers either:

  • Spray with high-pressure water.
  • Rinse with very hot water (120° for 2 minutes or 140° for 10 seconds).
  • Dry boat and equipment for at least five days.
“If everyone follows AIS laws and regulations, and shares the ‘Think Zero’ message with others who spend time fishing, boating or recreating on the water, we can slow the spread of invasive species,” Meier said.

“And, if doing the right thing isn’t enough of an incentive,” Meier said, “be aware that we’ll have more enforcement check stations near public waters this summer. Anglers and boaters can expect to be checked and cited by a conservation officer if found in violation of AIS laws.”

Citations range from $50 to $1,000.

More information, including a new 30-second public service announcement about stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species, is available at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          April 28, 2014

Bring the family to fish at Minnesota state parks

Instead of recounting fish stories to family members after the Minnesota fishing opener, why not let family be a part of the story?

In most cases, Minnesotans don’t need a license if they are fishing in a state park. Once hooked on fishing, who knows how many of Minnesota’s other 5,400 fishing lakes they might want to explore? Details on fishing in state parks can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/fishing.

In Minnesota, a state park is never far away. Consider some of these destinations:

  • South – Fort Snelling State Park lets those in the metro area fish without a license and without racking up miles. Fish the Minnesota or Mississippi rivers. More at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/fort_snelling.
  • East – At Interstate State Park, it’s easy to explore the St. Croix River with a fishing pole in hand. More atwww.mndnr.gov/state_parks/interstate/index.
  • West – In Monson Lake State Park, cast a line for walleye, northern pike, sunfish, and for bass after the season opens on May 24. A canoe portage lets paddlers get from Monson Lake to Sunburg Lake, and camping is located between the two. More at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/monson_lake.
  • North – At Bear Head Lake State Park, fish in a pristine setting in Bear Head Lake. Note that Cub and Norberg lakes require trout stamps. More at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/bear_head_lake.
Tips for beginners

Beginning anglers of all ages can learn basic skills at the free I Can Fish! programs offered at several Minnesota state parks throughout the summer. These hands-on programs cover fish identification, casting, knot-tying and more. Check the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov/ican for a complete schedule.

Additional information is also available from the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us651-296-6157, or 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            April 28, 2014

DNR to seek input on proposed walleye 
regulations for some Cook County waters

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking public input this summer on experimental walleye regulations being considered for Saganaga, Sea Gull, and Gull lakes, and the Sea Gull River. All are in Cook County, on or near the Minnesota-Ontario border. Regulations may include a 17-inch minimum size limit and a bag limit of three fish, with only one fish over 20 inches allowed.

These regulations are being considered in response to concerns from anglers over a lack of smaller walleye in these waters, coupled with DNR assessment data showing declines in the number of walleye of all sizes present.

The minimum size limit is intended to protect younger fish from harvest, to maximize returns from natural reproduction and stocking. The lower bag limit is intended to prevent harvest of too many fish as they grow larger than the minimum size limit. The restriction on the number of fish over 20 inches that can be taken has been included to be consistent with statewide walleye regulations, and to prevent overharvest of the largest walleye in these waters.

Signs advising the public of this proposal will be posted at public accesses on all affected waters over the summer. Public input will be taken throughout the summer, and input meetings will be held in Grand Marais and in St. Paul in late September. Notice of meeting times and places will be published prior to the meetings.

Questions and comments can be directed to the DNR fisheries office in Grand Marais at 218-387-3056, or Steve Persons, Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor, at steve.persons@state.mn.us.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                               April 28, 2014

Legacy Amendment making a big difference at Whitewater WMA

As the guy in charge at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area for the past 30 years, Jon Cole knows where the habitat is in good shape and where it could use some work, where a prescribed burn is needed to stop woody vegetation from taking over grasslands, or where buckthorn needs to be rooted out to facilitate growth of new seedlings and other native plants in an oak woodland. For much of his career, the list of needs has been quite a bit bigger than the pot of available time and money to address them.

But over the past few years, Cole has seen things changing for the better, ever since voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota constitution in 2008. The amendment increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent, with one-third of that revenue dedicated to the Outdoor Heritage Fund for projects that restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife.

The sales tax hike amounts to small change for the average consumer – an additional three cents on an eight-dollar purchase. But it’s making a huge difference at Whitewater. Since spring of 2011, Cole has used more than $200,000 in Outdoor Heritage funds for habitat improvement projects covering several thousand acres.

The extra money has allowed him to hire crews with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to conduct prescribed burns on 99 sites encompassing more than 3,200 acres of forest, wetlands and prairie. It’s provided the resources to restore 124 acres of grassland by removing woody vegetation. It’s facilitated the removal of invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle on 71 acres of oak savanna. Nearly 300,000 oak and walnut seedlings have been planted on more than 400 acres; 30 acres of prairie have been established.

“This extra money has allowed us to accelerate proper management of wildlife habitat,” Cole said. “In the past, what we got was just a drop in the bucket.”

The habitat improvements benefit a wide variety of wildlife species, including those sought by hunters in the Whitewater, such as turkey, grouse and deer. And last year Outdoor Heritage funds were used to purchase a 120-acre in-holding that was bordered by the WMA on three sides.

But it’s not just that the money is there, Cole said. It’s also that it can carry over from one year to the next, making it easier to create longer term plans for development and management of the WMA.

“There’s still plenty that should or could be done in terms of habitat management,” Cole said. “I suppose there always will be. But we’re in a much better position now than before the Legacy Amendment passed. This is something that’s going to be benefitting wildlife and people for a long time to come.”


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            April 28, 2014

DNR names 2014 Conservation Officer of the Year
Other top officers honoredMinnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer (CO) Scott Staples, Carlton, a K-9 officer, was named 2014 Conservation Officer of the Year during a ceremony April 16 at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.“He trains officers from other agencies, helps educate court and county attorney staff and above all educates the public in what we do, how we do it and why it is important,” said Enforcement Director Col. Ken Soring, who presented the award.Staples has been described as a reliable “field leader” by both his supervisors and field officers who takes pride in his work and brings good common sense and roadside manners when dealing with the public.Over his 17-year career as a conservation officer he has been involved as a use of force instructor, academy instructor and a field training officer. He is also an experienced investigator and K-9 handler.

“It’s really easy to keep working and having fun at your job when you have great people to work with, a supportive family, and a nice furry partner riding with you all the time,” Staples said.

Other top officers were also honored: Pat McGowan, Hastings, 2014 Boat and Water Officer of the Year; CO Jeff Denz, Willmar, 2014 Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award; 1st Lt. Jackie Glaser, District 13 supervisor, 2014 Willard Munger Wetland Achievement Award; and CO Scott Fritz of La Crescent, 2014 Enforcement Education Achievement Award.

Division of Enforcement Lifesaving Award recipients include CO’s Bret Grundmeier, Hinckley; Tony Musatov, Sauk Rapids; Rick Reller, Buffalo; Todd Langevin, Center City; Jason Beckmann, Windom and Brandon McGaw, Mora.

Lt. Col Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement assistant director, received the DNR’s Meritorious Service Award for his work on producing the Enforcement Division’s record management system. Other recent awards include CO Phil George, Rochester, Turn In Poachers Officer of the Year Award and CO Paul Kuske, Pierz, Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the YearAward.

The awards recognize conservation officers with superior work records or those who perform meritorious acts or services, which contribute to the protection and preservation of Minnesota’s natural resources and the people that enjoy them.

Soring praised all of the officers, “These prestigious awards are not given out, but earned through dedication, perseverance and hard work.”


QUESTION OF THE WEEKQ: Once a lake gets winterkill, how do the fish repopulate?  Will they repopulate without DNR stocking?A:  Winterkill is a natural process that happens with some regularity in the southern part of the state due to the type of lakes in the area. From the southern Minnesota lakes perspective, winterkill would be more appropriately termed “partial winterkill.” The Windom fisheries office has rarely seen a complete winterkill, meaning that all fish are dead in a lake. Often, a partial winterkill reduces a large portion of the population, but it varies greatly on the year, lake and fish community.Black bullhead is a species of fish that has a tendency to survive most winterkill scenarios.  Many times the general public sees large numbers of dead common carp and would describe the lake as “dead.” But ice out netting the spring after these winterkill events often reveals many species of fish are alive and well. In spite of the reduction of some of the fish populations, those surviving fish become the brood stock for the population to rebuild. In southern Minnesota, fish can quickly repopulate a lake following a winterkill naturally due to other connected bodies of water that haven’t experienced winterkill.If a body of water does experience winterkill, then DNR fisheries can do an ice out netting survey to identify species that are present or absent. If the lake is managed for yellow perch and ice out netting reveals an absence of yellow perch and the lake has limited connected sources, DNR fisheries can stock pre-spawn adult yellow perch to reintroduce that species. Those fish then reproduce in the lake naturally.

In southern Minnesota, winter aeration is sometimes used in an effort to prevent partial winterkills but results with that strategy can vary.

-Ryan Doorenbos, Windom area fisheries supervisor

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