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A spring conservation harvest of light geese will open Wednesday, March 1, and run through Sunday, April 30, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Light geese are snow geese, blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross’s goose.
A federal conservation order permits the take of light geese during the spring to reduce the population of snow geese and Ross’s geese that breed in Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay. High populations of the birds have caused considerable habitat damage to these fragile ecosystems.
The conservation order is authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which allows harvest of specific bird species during times when other waterfowl seasons are closed. Minnesota has participated in this spring conservation harvest each year since 2000. Harvest of light geese in Minnesota has varied from a few hundred to several thousand birds each spring.
To participate, a spring light goose permit is required and may be obtained wherever Minnesota hunting licenses are sold, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense. There is a $2.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit. No other license, stamp or permit is required.
A summary of regulations is available at mndnr.gov/waterfowl, from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices or by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 or 651-296-6157.
Anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will be able to keep three bass starting Saturday, May 27, when the bass harvest season begins. Catch-and-release bass fishing opens the same day as the walleye and northern pike fishing opener on Saturday, May 13.
“It’s no secret that Mille Lacs is a nationwide destination for smallmouth bass fishing,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. “Knowing that we have something special here, we’re proceeding with caution and dropping the possession limit from four to three, which is a good balance between desire to harvest fish and preserving the trophy-sized bass that have made Mille Lacs famous.”
Anglers can keep three bass in any combination of smallmouth and largemouth. All bass 17-21 inches must be immediately released, with only one bass over 21 inches allowed to be kept. Mille Lacs’ exemption to the statewide fall and winter closure of the smallmouth bass season remains, meaning that anglers may keep up to three smallmouth bass on Mille Lacs through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2018.
“We know some anglers are concerned with protecting bass through tight restrictions. We agree with proceeding cautiously, encouraging more catch-and-release fishing while also recognizing that some anglers may expect the occasional fish dinner,” Pereira said.
Bass in Mille Lacs grow fast relative to most populations in the state. The DNR plans an intensive tagging study this year to learn more about bass populations and how they are affected by anglers.
“We think the lake’s bass harvest is sustainable from a biological standpoint, based on our angler surveys,” Pereira said. “There is some uncertainty in the abundance of bass in Mille Lacs, and the tagging study this year will tell us more.”
Learn more about bass fishing on Mille Lacs Lake at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.
Minnesota’s world-class natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities would be maintained and improved under a budget being proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota has great fishing, access to millions of acres of public hunting lands and a growing deer herd, and a state park and trail system currently experiencing annual double-digit growth in popularity. Minnesotans enjoy 75 state park and recreational areas; 23,800 miles of snowmobile, cross-country skiing and all-terrain vehicle trails; and nearly 2,000 public water access sites and fishing piers across the state.
Minnesotans also count on abundant clean lakes, rivers and groundwater and healthy forests for a good quality of life and to support tourism and industry.
However, these quality of life amenities are threatened in the near future with inadequate funding. The DNR funds many of these activities through licenses and user fees – many of which are facing deficits in the next few years.
Without raising these user fees – some of which have not been increased for more than a decade – Minnesotans and visitors will see deteriorating parks and trail facilities and reduced visitor assistance. There will be declining fishing opportunity and quality, less habitat management on wildlife areas and other public lands and waters, fewer hunting opportunities, and fewer conservation officers to protect resources from poaching and misuse.
The governor’s budget also seeks to make key investments from the state’s General Fund to replant forests, conduct studies to help protect water resources, and upgrade the DNR’s technology.
“Minnesotans have come to expect top-shelf parks, trails, fishing and hunting experiences, clean water and healthy forests. These are an essential part of our outdoors culture and key to our state’s economic future,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
Landwehr said the governor’s proposed DNR budget seeks to restore funding to programs that are slipping toward deficits, maintain other programs at current levels and make strategic investments for the future.
Only about 15 percent of the DNR’s budget comes from the state’s general fund, but it is a critical part of the agency’s budget, Landwehr said. The vast majority of state DNR funding (85 percent) comes from user fees, sales of licenses and permits, and dedicated funds from the Legacy amendment and the state lottery.
Here are key elements of Dayton’s DNR budget proposal:
Game and Fish Fund
The DNR’s main fund for fish, wildlife and their protection, the Game and Fish Fund, relies primarily on sales of hunting and fishing licenses. This fund is critical to delivering the research, management and law enforcement necessary to maintain and improve healthy fish and wildlife populations and the quality habitats they depend upon.
The Game and Fish Fund is expected to slip into a deficit starting in 2019. To maintain the fund’s basic level of services, the governor’s budget proposes adjustments to fishing and deer-hunting license fees. Under this plan, a resident annual angling license would be adjusted by $3 (from $22 to $25), while a nonresident annual angling license would be adjusted by $6 (from $45 to $51). A resident deer hunting license would increase from $30 to $34; a nonresident deer hunting license would increase from $165 to $185.
A healthy Game and Fish Fund will allow the DNR to continue stocking of Minnesota’s state fish through a cost-effective walleye stocking program; make improvements to more wildlife management areas, allow Minnesotans easy access to quality hunting opportunities; ensure we keep deer herds healthy and the Minnesota “deer camp” tradition strong; and implement the new statewide northern pike rules.
Parks and Trails
Minnesota’s state parks and trails are treasured places. They are highly valued by more than 10 million visitors each year. And, while the DNR is meeting its goal of getting more Minnesotans outdoors, the state’s parks and trails have been stretched to a critical point where basic maintenance and staff services are no longer meeting visitor expectations. For example, due to failing infrastructure, Blue Mounds State Park no longer has safe drinking water for campers.
State park permit fees have not been raised since 2003, while visits, as evidenced by permit sales, have increased by about 30 percent in just the last three years. The governor’s budget proposal would adjust daily park permit fees by $1 (from $5 to $6) per day. Annual permits would increase by $5 per year (from $25 to $30). The fee increase as well as $9.3 million in new General Fund money will be used to support parks and trails operations in order to meet the needs and expectations of a wide variety of outdoor recreationists.
Outdoors protection and safety
The governor’s budget proposal includes $5.5 million from the General Fund to assist in filling 21 empty conservation officer stations across the state. Each conservation officer’s patrol area averages 650 square miles, which means there are 13,650 square miles in the state that don’t have adequate natural resource protection. That is an area larger than the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined.
Recreational and trail accounts
Snowmobiling, skiing and boating are among the most popular outdoor recreation activities in Minnesota. State funds that help maintain more than 21,000 miles of snowmobile and all-terrain grant-in-aid trails are projected to go into deficits starting in fiscal year 2018. The water recreation account, which supports boat access and safety programs and other water-related efforts, is also projected to go into a deficit in fiscal year 2018. Minnesota’s cross-country ski fund, which maintains more than 700 miles of ski trails, currently is unable to cover trail grooming at DNR facilities across the state.
With account deficits, state trails and water recreation services and facilities, as well as local grant-in-aid programs, will be reduced. To make sure Minnesota’s recreational trails are properly maintained for current users and future generations, the governor’s budget proposes the following adjustments: to raise the three year registration fees for snowmobiles by $10 per year (from $75 to $105) and ATVs by $5 per year (from $45 to $60); three year boat registration fees would increase in a range from $2 to $60, depending on the length of the watercraft. For example, fees for a 17-19 foot watercraft would increase by $18. The state’s daily ski pass would rise by $2 (from $5 to $7).
Forests and clean water
The governor’s proposed budget includes $2.5 million from the General Fund to reforest state lands. This investment will help support the state’s important forest-products industry and includes $500,000 to complete a study of sustainable timber harvest on state lands.
The governor’s budget also proposes to adjust the annual watercraft surcharge fee from $5 to $12 to fight aquatic invasive species and support research for long-term control methods. (The surcharge was last increased from $2 to $5 in 1993.) The governor’s proposal includes $18.5 million from the Clean Water Fund for the DNR’s work to fix and prevent water pollution and prevent overuse of groundwater. With this funding, the DNR monitors and manages water use and provides local government and other state agencies with the information, analytical tools, and expertise needed to focus their water quality efforts most effectively.
The governor’s proposal includes $4 million to replace the agency’s aging forestry data system. This will help improve the quality and timeliness of forest management decisions. This initiative is part of the governor’s proposed $51 million in IT improvements to build a modern digital infrastructure that will ensure state government works at the speed of business. Additionally, the governor’s budget would invest $2.1 million from the General Fund to upgrade and modernize the DNR’s website so customers have greater access to recreation information and mobile-friendly applications.
“The DNR strives to protect and manage the public’s precious natural resources, while ensuring that fees are kept at a very affordable level,” Landwehr said. “We think the governor’s budget proposal does a good job of balancing the needs to maintain and improve the system with the desire to keep outdoor recreation affordable. The quality of life in Minnesota is phenomenal because of these opportunities,” he said, “and we need to ensure that we work hard to keep it that way.”
For additional information, visit mndnr.gov/aboutdnr/legislativeinfo.
MN DNR PHOTO
It’s official – a Minnesota resident holds the state record for a fish species with a much maligned appearance and many names including freshwater ling, lawyer, eelpout and burbot.
Brent Getzler of Roosevelt is the new record holder of a 19-pound, 10-ounce burbot taken from the Minnesota waters of Lake of the Woods.
“When photos surfaced of this huge pout, it certainly got people talking,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “As the reaction to this record shows, burbot have has a certain charm despite the eely looks – and at 19 pounds, what a fish.”
The fish was 33 inches long with a belly full of girth at 23-7/8 inches. Getzler caught it while fishing for walleyes with an orange jigging spoon tipped with a minnow on Dec. 19.
“Brent along with his buddies Rob Anderson and Chad Thompson thought he was battling a monster walleye and they were recording the three minute fight. But after realizing it was a ‘just a pout’ they quit filming,” Kurre said. “Little did they know the burbot was a state record, until they got it on a scale.”
Anglers can set state records for certified weight for most fish species, or catch-and-release length for muskellunge, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. Guidelines differ for each type of record and application forms are available at www.mndnr.gov/recordfish.
In addition to the DNR’s state record fish program, anglers have the option to participate in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame’s Master Angler Program, which recognizes 60 fish species. Information about that program is available at www.fishinghalloffamemn.com/master-anglers.
Trout anglers have all the more reason to visit Chatfield, Lanesboro, Preston and Spring Valley in southeastern Minnesota thanks to a change that effectively allows trout fishing all year long in these cities.
“We’re pleased to offer this new opportunity for catch-and-release stream trout fishing during the fall, when the trout season is traditionally closed,” said Ronald Benjamin, Lanesboro area fisheries supervisor. “This fills the gap between open trout seasons and makes these special regulations match the popular year-round season established in three nearby state parks.”
The change allows catch-and-release trout fishing in the fall in these cities, which means anglers can either catch and release, or catch and keep trout depending on the time of year, on the South Branch Root River in Preston and Lanesboro; Mill Creek in Chatfield; and Spring Valley Creek in Spring Valley.
“Adding this new opportunity is great for anglers and it’s sensitive to the needs of surrounding landowners. During the fall, deer hunting is a big deal here and anglers will have more places to fish, but not outside the cities where there’s a greater chance anglers could disrupt deer hunts,” Benjamin said.
The change is one among several to fishing regulations that are specific to individual waters and go into effect March 1. Following public review that wrapped up this past fall, fishing regulations will change on six lakes and three streams starting in March, while existing regulations on three lakes will become permanent and a regulation on one lake will be extended.
These changes include new regulations that have not yet been in effect; regulations that have been in effect but will be modified or dropped; and regulations turning permanent that were reviewed and will now be in effect indefinitely.
Regulations that are specific to individual waters take precedence over statewide regulations. Special regulations can be found in their own section of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn using LakeFinder, and posted at public accesses.
Lake Vermilion (St. Louis County): Anglers on Lake Vermilion will be able to keep walleye up to 20 inches long, with one allowed over 26 inches, starting with the May fishing opener. The new regulation will require release of all fish from 20 to 26 inches with only one allowed over 26 inches. The four-fish bag limit will remain the same.
Little Webb Lake, Moccasin Lake and Lake Thirteen (Cass County): Five-fish bag limits on sunfish and on black crappie on Little Webb and Moccasin lakes, and a bag limit of five on sunfish for Lake Thirteen, are being adopted and will be reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they maintain quality sunfish and crappie for anglers.
Sections of the South Branch Root River in Preston and Lanesboro; Mill Creek in Chatfield; and Spring Valley Creek in Spring Valley (Fillmore and Olmsted counties): Catch-and-release fishing allowed roughly within these city limits from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31. Although the boundaries of where anglers can fish through this change roughly encompass the length of the streams in these four cities, the boundaries are not the actual city limits. Specific boundaries will be listed in the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, available in March.
REGULATIONS TURNING PERMANENT
Carnelian Lake and Pleasant Lake (Stearns County): Experimental regulations on sunfish that have been in effect since 2007 will become permanent. A reduced bag limit of five sunfish were shown to have effectively maintained quality populations of sunfish.
Sugar Lake (Wright County): Northern pike and black crappie experimental regulations that have been in effect since 2007 have shown to improve the sizes of northern pike and crappie and will become permanent.
Bowstring and Round lakes and connected waters (Itasca County): Experimental regulations on northern pike will be dropped and return to the statewide regulation. The regulation objective to encourage harvest of abundant small pike will likely be achieved by the new northern pike zone regulation set to be adopted in the spring.
CONTINUING EXPERIMENTAL REGULATIONS
Sand Lake and connected waters (Itasca County): Implemented with regulations on Bowstring and Round lakes, the experimental regulations on northern pike will be continued for one year, allowing additional time to collect survey data in 2017 before making a final decision on retaining or dropping next fall.
Anglers on Lake Vermilion in northeastern Minnesota will be able to keep walleye up to 20 inches long, with one allowed over 26 inches, starting with the May fishing opener, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The new regulation will require release of walleye from 20 to 26 inches, a change that is less restrictive compared to the current regulation that requires release of walleye from 18 to 26 inches. The four fish bag limit will remain the same.
“Lake Vermilion has abundant walleye with good numbers of large females,” said Edie Evarts, Tower area fisheries supervisor with the DNR. “The regulation change allows slightly more harvest while still protecting plenty of mature female walleye that produce future year classes.”
The DNR considered and modeled several options for the regulation change, and sought opinions from the public, as well as from the Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group that represents lake and statewide interests.
The group generally was in favor of a regulation change although had no majority opinion on a specific regulation. The broader public also had a range of preferences, with two-thirds supporting a regulation change and one third preferring no change.
“We went through a rigorous regulation review that allowed us to take the biological and sustainability considerations into account while trying to satisfy a diverse angling public,” Evarts said.
The DNR chose the 20-to-26 inch protected slot because it has a lower risk of harvesting too many fish and is in line with public input indicating a preference for less risk.
In Lake Vermilion, walleye abundance has remained relatively steady during the last 20 years and the proportion of mature females in the population has increased.
Harvest levels have changed over the years. In 2006, regulations were put in place that had a protected slot, which requires release of certain lengths of fish, and a reduced bag limit. The goal was reducing walleye harvest to a sustainable level – 65,000 pounds for the open water fishing season – following years in 2002 and 2003 when harvest had been more than 22,000 pounds above that level.
More recently, harvest has been significantly lower, falling to the 40,000 to 45,000 pound range. This lower harvest allowed the DNR to consider a less restrictive regulation while also taking into consideration the health of the fishery, potential harvest levels and public interest.
More information on Lake Vermilion is available at www.mndnr.gov/lakevermilion.
DNR asks deer hunters to use head boxes in Lanesboro, Preston, Chatfield, Harmony
No additional deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease from samples collected this fall in southeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Nearly one-third of all deer harvested during southeastern Minnesota’s first firearms deer season and the first three days of the second season were tested for CWD. Only two of the 2,866 deer tested returned positive results. Both were harvested about 1 mile apart west of Lanesboro in deer permit area 348.
“This was an extensive surveillance effort,” said Dr. Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR. “While we’re disappointed we found two positive deer, we remain optimistic the infection is localized and not widespread throughout the southeast.”
The DNR now is planning and implementing its CWD response plan, which will include a December public meeting announcing the response plan details and continued opportunities for hunters in permit areas 347 and 348 to have their harvested deer tested.
Hunters can get a simple form, complete it and place it – along with the head of a harvested deer – in boxes located at the:
Samples are submitted for testing weekly. Test results become available the following week. Hunters will only be notified if a deer tests positive for CWD.
Instructions on how to use the head boxes are at the boxes and available on the DNR’s CWD homepage at www.mndnr.gov/cwd.
“The DNR is in the process of developing more specific CWD management actions,” Cornicelli said. “We will engage and fully inform the affected communities – particularly landowners – as we develop and implement quick and aggressive response actions that can limit the spread of the disease.”
CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. Prior to this discovery, the disease was only found in a single other wild deer harvested near Pine Island in 2010.
The DNR discovered the two infected deer during this fall’s enhanced CWD surveillance program, which was initiated because the region abuts Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. Wisconsin has 43 counties affected by CWD and the disease has been detected in northeastern Iowa’s Allamakee County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization have found no scientific evidence that the disease presents a health risk to humans who come in contact with infected animals or eat infected meat. Still, the CDC advises against eating meat from animals known to have CWD. Hunters should take these recommended precautions when harvesting deer:
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has selected a 20-member advisory committee to provide the agency with feedback and advice on deer management as it develops a statewide deer plan.
“These committee members represent a broad range of interests,” said Adam Murkowski, DNR big game program leader. “We’ll use recommendations from the committee and broader public input as we set strategic direction and guiding principles for deer management.”
Over the next year, the Deer Management Plan Advisory Committee will review technical information and also public input that will be collected this winter through regional public meetings, online and through written comments. The committee will make recommendations to the DNR for the plan that will be in effect for 10 years.
“We value this open and public process to develop the plan,” Murkowski said. “Committee recommendations and input from the public will be vitally important.”
Committee members represent archery, firearm and muzzleloader hunters as well as nonhunters; landowners; farmers; livestock producers; land managers; wildlife photographers; local government officials; community activists; natural resource scientists; public health officials; and members and employees of hunting, conservation and agricultural organizations.
Thirteen seats are being filled by invited representatives of organizations.
Additionally, seven “at-large” committee members were selected from an open call for applications this fall. More than 200 people applied to participate on the committee. Applicants were selected based on criteria including their knowledge of deer management, interests related to deer, familiarity with different areas of the state, and their interest and experience working collaboratively with a diverse group of individuals.
The plan is expected to be finished by the spring of 2018. More information about the planning process and the committee is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/deerplan.The DNR strives to maintain a healthy wild deer population that offers recreational and economic opportunities, while addressing conflicts between deer, people and other natural resources. Habitat management, hunting, research and monitoring are several primary tools used to manage the Minnesota deer population. More information on deer management can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer.
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