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From the Minnesota DNR:
2017 was a great year for hunting, fishing and getting outdoors in Minnesota
The year 2017 saw an increase in the number of Minnesotans getting outdoors and enjoying the state’s abundant natural resources, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR opened two new state campgrounds, added new resources to combat aquatic invasive species, connected more Minnesotans to information about the state’s natural resources, and engaged Minnesotans in the decision-making process on how to best plan for the future of the state’s natural resources.
“Minnesotans had more occasions in 2017 to engage with us on conservation decisions,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “I want to thank the outdoors-loving residents of this state for taking the time to share their ideas and opinions with us.”
Outdoor highlights for the year include:
More people got outdoors and visited state parks – New and returning visitors flocked to Minnesota state parks and trails. Year-to-date overnight stays at state parks in 2017 were up 4.1 percent compared to 2016 and sales of year-round state park vehicle permits were up 4.5 percent.
New campgrounds and trail rehabilitations – The DNR opened two new state campgrounds, one at Whitewater State Park and partially opened a new campground at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The DNR also reopened two state trails after extensive repairs. Following the completion of a five-mile segment severely damaged by flooding in 2012, the 70-mile Willard Munger State Trail is now completely open for the first time in more than five years. A six-mile segment of the Glacial Lakes State Trail is also open, after being widened and resurfaced between Willmar and Spicer.
New parks benefits for veterans – Active military personnel in any branch or unit of the United States Armed Forces and veterans with a service-related disability are now eligible to receive a free year-round state parks vehicle permit, providing unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. These new benefits were proposed by the DNR and approved by state lawmakers during the 2017 Minnesota legislative session.
Expanded information center hours – Responding to public demand, the DNR expanded its Information Center hours into weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. The hotline is a great resource to get many outdoor questions answered from fish limits on lakes to trail conditions for snowmobile and skiing. The project started as a pilot project late in 2016, but public response was so overwhelmingly positive that operational hours were made permanent. The DNR’s Information Center received 85,146 calls in 2017; more than 12,000 of those calls were taken during the new weekend and evening hours. Anyone can call 888-MINNDNR (646-6367) and talk to an information consultant – 21.5 more hours a week – from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.
Good deer season – Minnesota deer hunters had one of their better deer seasons in several years, with fall harvest expected to total nearly 199,000 deer with some late season hunting yet to come, compared to 173,213 in 2016. The state has about 500,000 deer hunters each year.
Statewide Deer Plan engagement – The DNR is committed to ensuring sustainable and healthy wildlife populations across the state. In 2017, the DNR held a series of 12 public meetings statewide with people interested in deer to discuss goals and values that would define Minnesota’s first-ever statewide deer management plan. A diverse citizen advisory committee met monthly to discuss the plan and further input was gathered through public surveys. The draft plan will be finalized in 2018.
Chronic wasting disease down – Chronic wasting disease was not found in precautionary testing of nearly 11,500 samples from deer that hunters harvested in north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota outside deer permit area 603. Within permit area 603 the disease was identified in 2016, and this past season six new cases of CWD were confirmed. Overall, the results lent confidence that the disease has not spread across the landscape. Hunter cooperation and public support were both very strong during the monitoring effort.
Forestry initiative – Minnesota’s forest products industry has seen increased global competition, high raw material prices, and increased demand for state timber in recent years. These and other developments underscored the need to update the sustainable timber harvest level from DNR-administered forest lands.
The DNR is working closely with a stakeholder advisory group to evaluate the implications of various harvest levels for the forest ecosystem and economy. Specifically, the analysis will examine the sustainability of harvesting 1 million cords of timber per year from DNR-administered forest lands. If the analysis does not support that level of harvest, the DNR will use information from the analysis to determine what is the sustainable harvest level.
DNR-administered lands provide 30 percent of the wood fiber in the state. The state’s forest products industry is the fifth largest manufacturing sector in Minnesota by employment, with a $17.8 billion economic impact supporting 64,000 jobs.
New state forest maps – The DNR created seven new, state-of-the-art maps that make it easier and safer for people to explore, hunt and recreate in state forests. The maps were developed for Paul Bunyan State Forest, Badoura State Forest, St. Croix State Forest, Huntersville State Forest, Lyons State Forest, General C.C. Andrews State Forest and Chengwatana State Forest. In addition to paper maps, a geoPDF map allows users to download a map onto a mobile device using a variety of map apps and then track their location on the screen. The agency plans to produce 52 more new state forest maps in coming years.
New state fish records – New state records were recorded for golden redhorse (4 pound 7 ounces), short-nose gar (5-pound 4-ounces), catch and release flathead catfish (53 inches), and two caught and released lake sturgeon that were 70 inches long. There are more than 1.4 million anglers in Minnesota.
Buffer map completed – After processing 4,200 public comments and making 2,800 changes to Minnesota’s buffer protection map, the DNR updated a map of public waters and ditch systems that require buffers under a state law. Minnesota’s buffer law, passed in 2015 with bipartisan support, requires landowners to establish perennial vegetation buffers, up to 50 feet wide, along rivers, streams and ditches to help protect clean water quality across the state. Over 97 percent of public waters are now in compliance with the state’s buffer law.
New resources to fight invasive species – Two new K9 dogs, Shelby and Storm, were added to the agency’s resources to quickly locate zebra mussels attached to all types of water related equipment such as boats, trailers and docks. Shelby and Storm join veteran mussel-sniffing dogs Brady and Reggie.
The DNR also captured a 37-pound, 43-inch bighead carp in the St. Croix River, surgically implanted a thin, 4-inch long tracking tag, and returned the fish to the river. The fish will give scientists better data about the fish’s movements, precise range, feeding areas and other details about the types of conditions these invasive species prefer. The information will help the agency to develop future strategies to control invasive carp.
Find out more about the DNR at mndnr.gov.
Special fishing regulations will change March 1 on a number of Minnesota waters following an annual public input and review process, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Anglers need to know special regulations because they take precedence over statewide regulations,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the DNR. “We have special regulations to improve fish populations and make fishing better or more sustainable.”
Special regulations for individual waters are listed in a separate section of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and at mndnr.gov/fishmn, and are posted at public accesses.
For this spring, new statewide northern pike zone regulations that take effect on inland waters will make it possible to do away with several previously existing special regulations that apply to individual waters and aim for similar outcomes as the zone regulations. The new statewide pike regulations go into effect in time for the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.
On waters that have a special fishing regulation, anglers are required to follow the special regulation and unless otherwise mentioned, all other regulations apply.
Public process for special regulations
Special regulations are put in place after fisheries managers write plans for the lakes they oversee and each provides objectives for achieving management goals. Before changes are made to special regulations, the DNR evaluates each regulation, shares what’s found in the evaluations and angler surveys, hosts public input meetings in the fall and reviews comments from the public about the regulations. Goals of individual lake management plans also are considered.
“We need the public to tell us what they want for the process to work well, and we do value the input,” Stevens said.
For this spring, 29 lakes and connected waters were reviewed.
Pelican Lake in St. Louis County: A special regulation on bass will be made permanent, while a regulation on northern pike will be dropped. An evaluation of the regulations showed that the 14-20 inch protected slot limit with one over 20 inches in possession on bass maintained a quality bass fishery, while allowing for an opportunity to harvest smaller bass. The regulation was generally popular with anglers and will continue. The 24-36 inch protected slot limit on northern pike provided some benefit to the pike population; however, the benefits of the regulation are similar to the new statewide zone regulation, which provides the opportunity to drop the regulation and simplify regulations complexity for anglers.
Sand Lake and connected waters (Little Sand, Portage, and Birds Eye lakes) in Itasca County: A special regulation for northern pike will be dropped, and the lakes will change to the statewide limits. The new statewide zone regulation for northern pike will likely be just as effective as the special regulation in encouraging harvest of abundant small pike while improving sizes of pike.
Big Swan Lake in Todd County: A 24-36 inch protected slot limit with only one fish over 36 inches will be made permanent after the review showed sizes of pike have improved. Also, the regulation’s expanded possession limit of six, with only one fish over 36 inches, will remain in effect as the number of small pike has continued to remain higher than desired.
Balm, Big Bass, South Twin and Deer lakes in Beltrami County; Portage Lake in Cass County; and Flour, Hungry Jack and Two Island lakes in Cook County: These eight lakes with restrictive size regulations (either a 12-20 inch protected slot or catch-and-release only regulation) on bass will be modified to a less restrictive, 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches to allow additional harvest of small bass while still protecting quality sized fish. Although the existing regulations were shown to be effective, the new protected slot is expected to provide a similar protection to quality fish and with the added benefit of allowing additional harvest of abundant smaller bass.
Itasca, Ozawindib and Mary lakes in Itasca State Park: Special regulations on sunfish, black crappie and bass for three lakes in the park will be standardized among the lakes. While the existing regulations largely have been effective and have been generally popular with park visitors, the DNR will standardize sunfish and crappie possession limits to five, drop a minimum size restriction on crappie for Ozawindib Lake and modify the current restrictive bass regulations (catch-and-release on Mary Lake and the 12-20 inch protected slot on Ozawindib Lake) to a 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches for both lakes. The goal is to simplify regulations for park visitors while maintaining fishing quality.
Sissabagamah and Long lakes in Aitkin County: Special regulations on northern pike will be dropped in favor of the new statewide zone pike regulation. Some benefits to the sizes of pike have been seen since a protected slot regulation was enacted; however, the north-central zone pike regulations may provide a similar or even better outcome and also serve to reduce regulation complexity.
Bass Lake in Todd County and Cedar Lake in Morrison County: Trophy regulations (40 inch minimum length requirement, possession limit of one) on northern pike will be modified to a 26 inch maximum with a possession limit of three. While trophy northern pike still exist, growth rates of smaller pike in these lakes have declined. Allowing harvest opportunity on pike under 26 inches may help the population while still protecting medium to large pike.
Kraut, Peanut, North Shady, Squash and Tomato lakes in Cook County: Catch-and-release regulations on trout in these five lakes will be dropped this spring. Additionally, the ban on winter fishing and special tackle restrictions for these lakes will go away. The catch-and-release with tackle restrictions and the winter fishing closure did not meet management goals for these stocked trout fisheries. They are remotely located and special regulations and the closed winter season did not provide quality fishing in these lakes. But the same special regulations will continue on three other lakes – Thompson, Thrush and Turnip lakes – that were reviewed at the same time.
Moody Lake in Crow Wing County: This lake will reopen to fishing after having been closed to fishing since 2001. Entirely located within an aquatic management area, the lake has been used as a fisheries research lake and at times was used for rearing walleye. It no longer is needed for that purpose and plans are to reclaim the lake by using rotenone to remove undesirable fish and then restock with walleye, yellow perch and bass, and implement a catch-and-release regulation to maintain quality sized fish for anglers to enjoy.
Little Boy and Wabedo lakes in Cass County: These lakes will have an 18-26 inch protected slot, with one over 26 inches, in a possession limit of four walleye – which will be in effect for 10 years and then re-evaluated. The regulation was proposed in response to local requests to improve and protect the walleye population, which will likely benefit from restrictions on harvesting walleye longer than 18 inches.
Visit mndnr.gov/fishmn for more information on special fishing regulations. Special regulations that change March 1 will be listed in the 2018 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.
No chronic wasting disease was detected in more than 11,000 precautionary samples from deer that hunters harvested this fall in north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“This is good news for Minnesota,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR. “The results lend confidence that the disease is not spread across the landscape.”
In all, 7,813 deer were tested in the north-central area, 2,529 in the central area and 1,149 in the southeastern area outside deer permit area 603, the CWD management zone. Researchers still are submitting samples from cooperating taxidermists so final results will updated online at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck as they become available.
Given no deer with CWD were found in north-central and central Minnesota, the DNR will narrow surveillance next fall to areas closer to the farms where CWD was detected. A fourth precautionary surveillance area will be added in fall 2018 in Winona County because CWD recently was detected in captive deer there.
Precautionary testing in north-central and central Minnesota became necessary after CWD was found in multiple captive deer on farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. It also was conducted in the deer permit areas directly adjacent to southeast Minnesota’s deer permit area 603, the only place in Minnesota where CWD is known to exist in wild deer.
Minnesota’s CWD response plan calls for testing of wild deer after the disease is detected in either domestic or wild deer. All results from three consecutive years of testing must report CWD as not detected before DNR stops looking for the disease.
Three years of testing are necessary because CWD incubates in deer slowly. They can be exposed for as long as 18 months before laboratory tests of lymph node samples can detect the disease.
Proactive surveillance and precautionary testing for CWD is a proven strategy that allows the DNR to manage the disease by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it. These actions, which were taken in 2005 to successfully combat bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota deer and in 2010 to eliminate a CWD infection in wild deer near Pine Island, provide the best opportunity to eliminate disease spread.
Precautionary testing is necessary to detect the disease early. Without early detection, there’s nothing to stop CWD from becoming established at a relatively high prevalence and across a large geographic area. At that point, there is no known way to control the disease.
“Overall, hunter cooperation and public support has been tremendous,” Cornicelli said. “While there are always challenges when you conduct this type of surveillance effort, it really couldn’t have been successful without the cooperation of hunters, taxidermists, landowners and the businesses that allowed us to operate check stations.”
Complete information about CWD and DNR efforts to keep Minnesota deer healthy are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
Boundaries for a special late-season deer hunt to help control chronic wasting disease in southeastern Minnesota’s Fillmore County have been expanded to include portions of three surrounding deer permit areas, the Department of Natural Resources said.
The expansion of boundaries for the nine-day hunt that lasts from Saturday, Jan. 6, to Sunday, Jan. 14, became necessary when CWD test results of harvested deer revealed two infected deer in Forestville State Park and a suspected infection north of the disease’s core area around Preston.
During the upcoming hunt, deer may be taken in an approximate 10-mile radius surrounding the new discoveries. That area includes all of deer permit area 603 as well as the portion of permit area 345 south of Interstate 90, the southern portion of permit area 347 and the northern portion of permit area 348. A map of the area and complete details are available on the DNR’s website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
“Hunters must plan ahead,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research manager. “Private land makes up most of the area and hunters must have landowner permission. Public land in the area likely will be crowded. And hunting opportunities will be limited and available only by permit at Forestville State Park and Pin Oak Prairie Scientific and Natural Area.”
Within 24 hours of harvest, each deer must be taken to one of four stations where DNR staff will register the deer and collect lymph node tissue for CWD testing. All electronic registration will be turned off.
With the exception of fawns, deer cannot be moved from the hunt area without a test result that shows CWD was not detected. Prior to test results, hunters may properly quarter their deer and bone-out meat but the head, spinal column and all brain material must remain in the area until the animal’s test results show a not-detected status.
Designated dumpsters where hunters can dispose of carcasses and parts will be available in Preston and Forestville.
A refrigerated trailer will be available in Preston for temporary storage of the entire carcass if hunters choose to wait for the test result before processing their deer. After receiving a not-detected test result for the deer, the hunter can take the entire deer out of the area.
Since the mid-September start of the archery season 1,334 deer have been tested in permit area 603 and results have shown six confirmed and one suspect cases of CWD. Although the number of CWD-infected deer is down from the 11 positives found last season, three of the new positives were found outside the core area.
“We were glad to see the prevalence go down but we’re unsure if we have a disease expansion or if males recently moved into a new area,” Cornicelli said. “Test results of deer taken during this special hunt will help us determine what the new disease management zone boundary will look like in 2018.”
Complete information about CWD and DNR efforts to keep Minnesota deer healthy are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
Special hunt rules
Hunting at Forestville, Pin Oak Prairie and Cherry Grove
Forestville State Park and Pin Oak Prairie SNA will both be open to limited deer hunting during the special hunt. To avoid overcrowding, permits for these areas will be issued on a first come, first served basis starting at noon on Monday, Dec. 18.
Forestville State Park will remain open to visitors during the special hunt.
Hunters must have a filled or unfilled 2017 firearm or muzzleloader license to obtain a permit.
There is no group application for these hunts. Permits can be obtained online or wherever DNR licenses are sold. There is no fee for these permits.
The same hunt rules as described for permit area 603 apply to these areas. Successful hunters can use any unfilled tag, or purchase disease management permits for $2.50.
Specific hunt numbers, dates and available permits are:
The Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA, which adjoins the Cherry Grove Wildlife Management Area, also is open to deer hunting and no special permit is required.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, to date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. However, the CDC advises people not to eat meat from animals known to have CWD. Go to www.cdc.gov for more information.
Anglers and spearers pursuing northern pike this winter can prepare for new pike regulations that will be in effect for the spring fishing opener on Minnesota’s inland waters.
“Pike regulations remain the same this winter, with major changes coming this spring,” said Chris Kavanaugh, northeast region fisheries manager. “As anglers continue fishing for pike, we encourage them to get used to measuring their catches and even consider keeping some of the smaller ones in the north-central part of the state.”
The new regulations on inland waters will be in effect starting March 1; however, fishing for northern pike is not allowed on these waters until the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.
Spearing season opened Nov. 15 and pike fishing remains open until Feb. 25, 2018. Current statewide regulations including the daily and possession limit of three northern pike is still in effect. So, too, are special and experimental regulations listed for specific waters in the 2017 Minnesota Fishing Regulations.
The new fishing regulations beginning in the spring take a cue from hunting regulations and will set up three distinct zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota.
“Anglers and spearers have an opportunity to use this winter as a transition period and become accustomed to measuring their catch before the new rules take effect,” Kavanaugh said. “We know many anglers already do measure fish, and spearers judge fish size, but we want to highlight the importance of those practices when it comes to northern pike.”
Pike zones begin this spring
When the new regulations take effect this spring, the majority of the state will be in the north-central zone where the issue is overpopulation of small pike. Anglers here will be able to keep 10 northern pike, but not more than two pike longer than 26 inches, and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released. Northern pike taken by spearing follow the same rules except one pike may be between 22 and 26 inches and one longer than 26 inches.
In the northeast zone, the new regulation will maintain harvest opportunity and protect large fish already present and anglers here will be able to keep two pike and must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession. Spearers also will be able to take two pike but only one may be longer than 26 inches.
In the southern zone, the regulation will intend to increase pike abundance and improve the size of fish harvested. Anglers and spearers will be able to keep two fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches.
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