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
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.
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.
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.”
DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 5, 2014
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
Minnesota LiDAR data
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.
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.
DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 5, 2014
“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.
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
“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.
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 6–8, 2015.
For more information on Roadsides for Wildlife, visit www.mndnr.gov/roadsidesforwildlife.
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