2014 MN FISHING OPENER: From the Fisheries Chief

Nick Trauba and a 25" wally

Nick Trauba and a 25″ wally

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MINNESOTA DNR NEWS #34                                                                                  May 5, 2014
IN THIS ISSUE
Public input helps balance fishing today and in future generations 
Metro waters home to big catfish
New, improved fishing piers and public accesses ready by opener
Mobile website lets Minnesotans explore the landscape in new detail

Minnesota’s nongame wildlife program urges wildlife-friendly erosion control 

Become an aquatic invasive species volunteer 
DNR safety instructors honored
Roadsides for Wildlife poster contest winners announced
Question of the week: Minnesota’s tallest treeDNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Public input helps balance fishing today and in future generations Don Pereira was named Minnesota’s chief of fisheries late last year. As a 30-year veteran of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pereira talks about his vision for managing the state’s 5,400 fishing lakes and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. How would you characterize fishing in Minnesota in 2014?In general, it’s excellent. That doesn’t mean every angler is destined to catch a fish. It does, however, mean that we have a wide diversity of species and an abundance of outstanding fishing opportunities. Think about it. Our walleye fishing is well known throughout the nation. We offer some of the best muskellunge fishing in the country. Bass fishing is good. The Red River offers amazing catfish opportunities. The big rivers in southern Minnesota hold spectacular flathead catfish. And there’s great trout fishing in Lake Superior and the streams of northeastern and southeastern Minnesota. We’re known for species variety, size quality and beautiful lakes. That’s why we rank second in the nation only to Alaska as an inland angling destination.

What’s driving fishing quality?

It’s a function of many things but most important is habitat. Fish need places to spawn, rear young, forage, hide from predators and do other things as part of an interrelated natural system. When an element of the system disappears, so does the potential to have a strong and balanced fish population. That’s why we emphasize the need for habitat conservation and sound land use practices that keep water clean and clear. Research. Regulations. Enforcement. Voluntary catch-and-release. These and other factors also are key to fishing quality.

Radco 300What’s your vision for managing Minnesota fish and fishing?

I’ve told staff we are going to focus on what’s most important to good fish populations and fishing recreation – that’s habitat conservation, collecting the data we need to make science-based decisions, and listening to our public. I’m particularly interested in the latter, especially reassessing the way we engage the public. On the administrative side I’m deeply committed to identifying efficiencies for better results.

What efficiencies have been made in the past?

Walleye stocking is an area where we made significant gains. We’ve fine-tuned walleye fingerling stocking rates for maximum results. We’ve expanded walleye fry stocking in the name of cost reductions and higher return rates to the angler. We’re also doing a statewide evaluation of our walleye program to identify efficiencies and new opportunities.

I’d say our investments in clean water and habitat are also efficiencies. That’s because the best business model is to have nature replenish fish populations. Currently, about 80 to 85 percent of Minnesota’s walleye are from natural in-lake production. We need to keep natural production at a high level.

Do you envision any “out of the box” changes?

What I envision is sound science and an engaged public in decision making. In the near-term, any out of the box efforts will likely relate to northern pike management. Northern pike have been problematic for decades because of low harvest rates of small pike and high harvest of the relatively few large pike. As a result, most lakes have northern pike populations dominated by fish of a size that people aren’t overly interested in catching or keeping. So, we are exploring a zoned approach to northern pike management. This approach would encourage the expanded taking of smaller northern pike in some parts of the state and protect big fish in others. We’ve never done this before. We’ll take public comment if we move forward with this concept. But it has the potential to address angler and fish manager desires.

What do you view as the biggest threat to fishing?

The most insidious threat to healthy fisheries is the piece-by-piece degradation of habitat that occurs over time. That’s why I am such a strong advocate for robust habitat and clean water conservation efforts funded through the Legacy Amendment and other sources. When you look at our agency’s history we’ve made great progress in designing and implementing special fishing regulations that maintain the size quality of our fish. We’ve also done a good job rearing fish, stocking fish and monitoring fish populations. Now is the time to invest more heavily in protecting nature’s fish factory. Nutrient loading and siltation rates of our waters are not sexy themes but what happens on the land affects our water and ultimately the quality of our fishing.

What’s the most challenging part of being fisheries chief?

The big challenge is finding the right balance between how many fish an angler can take home and eat and how many fish must be returned to the water so they create future generations of fish or provide high quality fishing experiences. It’s a fine line. That’s why our social science studies and citizen engagement processes are so important.

Where has citizen input had the most impact? 

Perhaps the best example is our special fishing regulations. Twenty-four years ago we met with a group of anglers who were concerned about the declining average size of Minnesota’s fish. This was meeting was the first Fisheries Roundtable. That meeting led to what we called individual lake management, which meant developing and applying certain restrictive harvest regulations tailored to the needs of specific lakes for the purpose of increasing the number of medium- and large-sized fish. It was controversial at the time but is widely accepted now. This input ultimately reversed downward size trends for a number of fish species, thereby allowing anglers to catch larger fish while also providing opportunities to take home a meal.

Have you fished lately, and how was it?

My most recent trip was to the Rainy River for the spring lake sturgeon season. I caught two fish in the mid-50 inch range. It was an amazing experience – an experience with roots clear back to the habitat improvements generated by the Clean Water Act of the 1970s. Better water quality led to an improved fishery that has sparked growth in the early season fishing economy in the Baudette area. It took decades to occur but is a welcome sight today.

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                           May 5, 2014
Metro waters home to big catfishThe walleye may well always win the piscatorial popularity contest among Minnesotans. But for a growing number of people, the fish that gets them talking is one that can dwarf even the state record 17.5-pound walleye.Sometimes wrongly spurned as a bottom-feeding rough fish, flathead and channel catfish are unique predators with taste buds all over their bodies. They can provide an exciting and challenging angling experience. And, with three large rivers flowing together – the Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix – the metro region is prime territory for chasing cats. In fact, the state record flathead, a 70-pound behemoth, was hoisted from a Washington County stretch of the St. Croix River. And the state record channel catfish, a 38-pounder, was pulled out of the Mississippi River in Hennepin County.In the last five years, DNR fisheries biologist Joel Stiras has led a project to better understand the habits of catfish and those who pursue them. He’s tagged around 2,000 fish in metro rivers, to get a better handle on their population and movement. He’s solicited data from anglers, and monitored their online forums for information. He sums up metro catfish resources in just a few words: “Very good, under-utilized and growing in popularity.”

That increase in popularity, Stiras said, is largely a function of size and cost.

“It’s an opportunity to catch a really big fish,” Stiras said. “And you can get started relatively cheaply.”

All you need is a medium to heavy rod and reel, heavy sinkers (one-half to 1 ounce), and some stout hooks. Night crawlers work well for bait. And anglers can fish from shore at places like Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis with Hidden Falls nearby across the river and Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul.

Flatheads are best pursued at night. Channel cats can be caught on a worm anytime. Stiras described the Minnesota River as a veritable “flathead factory,” noting that Pool 2 of the Mississippi – located above the dam at Hastings and extending upstream to the Ford Dam – also yields good results.

While catfish are considered a tasty meal by some, many people fishing the rivers practice catch-and-release, partly out of misplaced fears about pollution and the safety of eating river fish. According to fish consumption advisories published by the Minnesota Department of Health, however, it’s generally safe to eat one meal of catfish per week from any of the three large metro rivers. Pregnant women and children may be advised to limit consumption to one meal per month, depending on fish size and where it was taken. Check the Department of Health website for more information:www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/fish.

Rivers aren’t the only place to catch catfish. The DNR has been stocking channel cats in select metro lakes for more than 15 years. Ten lakes in the east metro area receive about 8,000 to 9,000 yearling catfish each year, and another 14 lakes all around the region receive adult catfish ranging from one to four pounds. Many of the fish are put into smaller basins managed by the DNR’s Fishing in the Neighborhood (FiN) program, which works with local parks and others around the region to provide close-to-home angling opportunities for kids and families. More information on FiN can be found atwww.mndnr.gov/fishing/fin.

“Imagine some kid sitting on a fishing pier and hooking a six or seven pound catfish,” said Jim Levitt, who leads the east metro FiN program. “The kid has hooked a big fish, and hopefully we’ve hooked the kid on fishing.”

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     May 5, 2014

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       May 5, 2014
Mobile website lets Minnesotans explore the landscape in new detail 
View and download new elevation data

With detailed elevation data and mapping resources, a new mobile website called MnTOPO gives outdoor enthusiasts and scientists a chance to explore Minnesota’s landscape on desktop PCs, tablets, and smartphones, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced.

“This is a great way to use technology to illustrate the shape of earth’s surface and link people to the outdoors,” said Sean Vaughn, a DNR GIS hydrologist. “We can now give people a mobile way to cross Minnesota’s digital terrain to explore interesting places, understand water movement and navigate recreation lands.”

Under the Minnesota Elevation Mapping Project, high-accuracy elevation data was collected for the state using LiDAR technology. The MnTOPO website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/mntopo/index.html makes this data available so users can view topographic information as 3-D terrain and/or contours for all of Minnesota in a seamless panning environment.

“They can choose color aerial photography as a background base map, for example, and then drape contours over the imagery to expose terrain features hidden by vegetation in the imagery,” Vaughn said. “We created this with mobility in mind so that it can be easily accessed while in the field on just about any device using a modern web browser.”

MnTOPO has undergone extensive review since it was first released in late 2013 for testing.

It was developed with two primary audience applications in mind: visual terrain exploration and digital terrain data download. People who use the application will find the ability to peruse Minnesota’s 3-D topographic landscape exciting and beneficial, Vaughn said. Those interested in working directly with the data can download digital elevation models and LiDAR elevation data for their area of interest.

“We are only beginning to realize the value and usefulness that tools like this are providing to the public and scientists alike,” said Jason Moeckel, the inventory, monitoring and analysis section manager for the DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division. “The visual representation of accurate and modern topographic contours combined with aerial photography is extremely powerful for understanding how water moves across the landscape. We can apply that knowledge to help improve Minnesota’s water quality.”

MnTOPO’s mapping system shows landscape features and contours, but it is a general reference only and should not be used in place of a legal survey, or as a sole navigation aid.

This website was funded by the Clean Water Legacy Amendment. A portion of the state’s sales tax is dedicated to the Clean Water Fund, which supports projects and products that help protect, preserve and improve the water quality of Minnesota. Find out more about the DNR projects funded by the Legacy Amendment at www.mndnr.gov/legacy.

For more information:

Minnesota Elevation Mapping Project

www.mngeo.state.mn.us/committee/elevation/mn_elev_mapping.html

Minnesota LiDAR data
www.mngeo.state.mn.us/chouse/elevation/lidar.html

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                           May 5, 2014

 

DNR’s nongame wildlife program urges wildlife-friendly erosion control The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ nongame wildlife program urges local governments and private construction companies to use wildlife-friendly erosion control materials. Erosion-control materials are frequently used along roadways and recreational trails, and during new building construction.Wildlife entanglement in, and death from, plastic netting and other man-made plastic materials has been documented in birds, fishes, mammals and reptiles. Unfortunately, the use of these materials for erosion control continues, often without consideration for wildlife impacts. This plastic netting can not only hurt terrestrial and aquatic wildlife populations, but can also snag in maintenance machinery, resulting in costly repairs and delays. The good news is that erosion-control materials that are wildlife friendly exist and are readily available through many large companies (including Minnesota-based companies).“We are not just worried about entangling wildlife in the immediate construction area,” said Christopher Smith, DNR central region nongame wildlife biologist. “Plastic erosion-control mesh is often shredded when mowed over during ditch and trail maintenance, and these small fragments are then blown by wind into nearby natural areas, including ponds, lakes, and rivers. Because the mesh is plastic it remains a hazard for months or even years, long after we have stopped thinking about the impact of a particular construction project on wildlife.”

Relatively simple changes like using 100 percent biodegradable products (not plastic or polymer photodegradable products) that have flexible nonfixed/nonwelded mesh, and/or rectangular-shaped mesh, make the material less likely to entangle wildlife. People should use erosion mesh wisely; not all areas with disturbed ground necessitate its use. Where possible, avoid using plastic photodegradable mesh unless it’s specifically required. Photodegradable products need sunlight to degrade, and are often quickly buried or shaded out by vegetation, resulting in the product remaining on the land for years. Erosion-control options that use natural fibers or straw are preferable.

To learn more about wildlife-friendly erosion control, check out the DNR’s nongame wildlife program’s flyer on the topic: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/wildlife-friendly-erosion-control.pdf.

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DNR NEWS — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         May 5, 2014

 

Become an aquatic invasive species volunteer The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is offering free training to people interested in becoming a volunteer at public water accesses to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).The training sessions are offered in each region of the state by watercraft inspection program staff from the DNR. The class includes an introduction to AIS and the problems the species cause, information about the laws and how to work with the public.“With more than 11,000 lakes at risk, the more people we can train the better equipped we’ll be to educate the public about AIS,” said Adam Doll, DNR acting watercraft inspections coordinator. “We encourage everyone who recreates on Minnesota lakes and rivers to become aware of the threat and help prevent the spread of aquatic invaders.”

By taking a few easy steps to clean boats and equipment and drain all water, anglers and boaters can ensure they’re not spreading invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil.

After completing a training session, volunteers will be able to help educate watercraft users at public water accesses about the risks of aquatic invasive species.

For a list of volunteer training locations visit:  www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/ais_volunteer.html. Additional training sessions can be scheduled for groups of 20 or more. Contact area regional watercraft inspection supervisor atwww.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/ais/contacts.html.

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                             May 5, 2014

DNR safety instructors honoredThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is honoring 586 DNR safety education instructors for multiple years of volunteer instruction. DNR’s safety programs train 23,000 students each year in firearms, hunter, recreational vehicle and boat and water safety.Harold Kick of Pine City was recognized for 50 years of service as a firearms safety instructor.Since 1963, Kick has taught thousands of students the importance of firearms safety. His classes were so effective that they were videotaped and used by state agencies as an example of how to organize and conduct a successful firearms safety program. Kick was awarded the DNR’s Firearms Safety Education Volunteer Instructor of the Year award in 1999.

“Harold Kick and the more than 4,700 dedicated volunteer DNR safety education instructors throughout the state are committed to the future of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation heritage,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR hunter education program coordinator. “Minnesota’s hunters and motorized recreation enthusiasts owe them a debt of gratitude.”

The agency presents a pen and a challenge coin at five years, a crystal paperweight at 10 years, a 16 function multi-tool (men) or a Terry Redline oak-hinged wooden box (women) at 20 years, a framed and engraved print at 30 years, an engraved decree at 40 years and an engraved watch to commemorate 50 years of service.

“Volunteer instructors are the heart and soul of the hunter education program in Minnesota,” Hammer said. “The service of these dedicated men and women has made a significant difference in ensuring safe, ethical and responsible behavior while enjoying Minnesota’s outdoors. No one knows how many injuries were prevented and lives saved because of their efforts.”

The DNR is always looking for experienced people who want to pass on the tradition of outdoors safety and responsibility to the next generation. Those interested in becoming a volunteer instructor, call 800-366-8917, ext. 2504, or visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/instructors/index.html.

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NOTE TO MEDIA: Image available at ftp://mediaroom.dnr.state.mn.us in folder named “news release resources,” then in folder named 05-05-14 Kick.”

PHOTO: (L-R) Harold Kick and CO Eugene Wynn of Pine City.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       May 5, 2014

Roadsides for Wildlife poster contest winners announcedStudent artists are helping give roadsides a better image by showing how important they are to wildlife habitat, through a Roadsides Are for the Birds  poster contest run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.“The purpose of the contest is to help increase awareness of the growing importance of roadsides for wildlife, particularly for ground nesting birds,” said Carmelita Nelson, DNR prairie grassland coordinator. “As wildlife habitat continues to disappear, roadsides nesting habitat is becoming more critical.”Roadsides can provide bird-nesting habitat if mowing and other disturbances of roadsides are delayed until after the nesting season, usually around Aug. 1.

“The quality of artwork was excellent this year,” said Nelson. “In this age of electronics, it is good to see that students are still being taught the skills of drawing and painting the natural world.”

Seventh and eighth grade students from Becker, Kellogg and Wabasha were the top winners in the 30th annual contest. Nearly 80 students from 20 schools entered works in this year’s contest.

Hannah Iverson-Jones and Zach Gillespie from Wabasha-Kellogg High School and Victoria Gibson from Becker Middle School were selected as first prize winners.

Special recognition awards in the contest went to:

  • Victoria Gibson of Becker Middle School in Becker for biological accuracy and expression of theme.
  • Karlee Freihammer of Wabasha-Kellogg High School in Wabasha for best pen/pencil work.
  • Susan Hart of Parker Prairie High School in Parkers Prairie for creative use of material.
  • Mariah Ruiz Mendez of Tri-City United Middle School in Le Center for humor.
  • Judge’s Choice Award went to Hannah Iverson-Jones of Wabasha-Kellogg High School.
Prizes and contributions for the contest were donated by: the Wildlife Heritage Association; Minnesota Pheasants, Inc.-Steele County; Pheasants Forever;  Minnesota Waterfowl Association; National Camera Exchange, Golden Valley; and the DNR Roadsides Program. Ross Frame Shop and Universal Framing, both of Minneapolis, and The Frame Gallery of New Ulm donated framing of the posters.

The three first-prize winners will also have their work displayed during the 2014 Minnesota State Fair in the DNR building. Works of the top 40 prize winners will be displayed at the Minnesota Deer Classic and Sports Show at the National Sports Center in Blaine, March 68, 2015.

For more information on Roadsides for Wildlife, visit www.mndnr.gov/roadsidesforwildlife.

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: What is Minnesota’s tallest tree?

A: A white spruce (Picea glauca) in Koochiching County was last measured in November 2013 at 130 feet. It was a national champion until 2011 when a taller tree was found in another state. Access to the tree, growing on School Trust Fund land, is difficult.

Find more information about big trees in Minnesota at www.mndnr.gov/bigtree.

-Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist

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