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OutdoorsWeekly.com Minnesota Archived News
Minnesota News

May 2016

 

Fishing opportunities abound in metro

While heading north for the big fishing opener may be a Minnesota tradition, people living in the Twin Cities need not worry about missing out on quality angling if circumstances keep them at home. As far as major urban areas go, the Twin Cities metro region probably has no equal when it comes to combining big city amenities with top-notch fishing opportunities.

“If you love angling and want to live in a big city, you couldn’t do any better than the Twin Cities metro,” said Daryl Ellison, west metro area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Bright lights, big fish – we’ve got it all.”

That status is largely the result of the region’s quantity and quality of water, encompassing a wide variety of angling opportunities. For starters, three of the state’s major rivers converge in the metro region: the Minnesota, Mississippi and the St. Croix. Flowing through the heart of the region, the Mississippi’s northern reaches are well-known as a top-notch bass fishery.

Then there’s Pool 2, the area between the dams at St. Paul and Hastings. A few decades ago, it was so polluted that bullheads could barely survive. Now it’s recognized as a world-class year-round catch-and-release fishery for walleye and sauger – thanks in large part to the federal Clean Water Act and state and local efforts to clean up the river.

The St. Croix offers anglers the chance to hook Minnesota’s largest and longest lived fish, the lake sturgeon: both a catch-and-release season and a fall season for harvesting one of these monsters with an appropriate tag (consult the regulations for details). All three rivers provide excellent opportunities for catfish, with the record channel cat having been pulled from the Mississippi in Hennepin County, and the record flathead harvested from the St. Croix in Washington County.

“If you’re looking to just drift a ways, you never know what you might pick up on the St. Croix,” said east metro fisheries supervisor T.J. DeBates. “A one-pound redhorse or a 30-pound catfish – or even a sturgeon.”

Numerous smaller rivers and streams also flow through the region, including the Rum, the Crow and the Vermillion, a designated trout stream with a reputation for harboring lunker brown trout.

The Twin Cities region also features a number of consistently productive large lakes. Waconia, Minnetonka, Prior, Independence and Medicine in the west metro area, along with White Bear, Bald Eagle, Forest, Marine and Coon Lakes in the east metro area – all are reliable for yielding up bass, panfish, pike and walleye. Production of bass, panfish and pike occurs through natural reproduction, while the walleye and muskies found there are the result of stocking. Those large lakes can also generally be counted on if you’re looking for something for the frying pan, although anglers are advised to consult fish consumption advisories and stick to smaller fish for eating.

Smaller lakes also abound. Clear Lake in Washington County, for instance, holds walleye in above average numbers and weights, as well as northern pike and hybrid muskies. West of the Mississippi, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes provides good walleye fishing, especially on Cedar and Harriet, both of which are regularly stocked. Both lakes lend themselves to shore fishing.

While catching fish is pleasing, watching kids do it can be even more rewarding. The Twin Cities is rich in opportunities there, too. The DNR Fishing in the Neighborhood Program (FiN) stocks catchable size fish in more than 60 smaller bodies of water around the metro region. Those small lakes are an excellent choice for getting some big grins and squeals of excitement from young anglers.

One of FiN Program Specialist Matt Petersen’s favorites is Wolfe Lake in St. Louis Park.

“Everybody catches fish there,” Petersen said. “They’re mostly small to medium size bluegills, but everybody catches fish.”

Centennial Lake in Edina, Smith Lake in Bloomington, Powderhorn in south Minneapolis – all offer good shorefishing for kids. Nearly any lake with a fishing pier is likely to be “filled with hungry little bluegills,” according to west metro’s Ellison.

“This region just offers an abundance of angling potential,” Ellison said. “No matter where you live in the Twin Cities, there’s good fishing nearby. All you need is a license and some fishing tackle.”

If you’re under 16, you don’t even need a license, and if you go to one of the growing number of area parks that offer free loaner tackle, all you need is some bait – and a desire to enjoy some of the best fun in town.

For more information on where to fish in the Twin Cities metro region, visit www.mndnr.gov/fin

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DNR releases walleye fry into Mille Lacs Lake, capping milestone in renewed management efforts

Nine months after increasing its management efforts on Mille Lacs Lake, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently released 10 million walleye fry into the lake as part of a major research project.

The mosquito-sized baby walleye were released over several days starting May 5 at various locations around the lake. Given a special chemical marker, the fry can be differentiated from wild walleye by fisheries biologists. When biologists survey the lake’s young fish this fall, they will be able to compare the number of wild walleye to the stocked ones.

This comparison will provide an estimate of the wild fry hatched in the lake this spring.  Mille Lacs currently has enough spawning walleye, but if natural production ever dropped to a level where stocking became necessary, the information from the study will also help DNR determine an appropriate stocking rate.

Last August, the DNR committed to the stocking plan and study as a part of a long-term project aimed at improving the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population while building a closer working relationship with the Mille Lacs community.

“The walleye fry release marks another milestone in our efforts to ensure the long-term health of Mille Lacs Lake,” said Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Mille Lacs is in many ways a world-class fishery, and we are committed to making it better.”

In addition to better understanding walleye population dynamics, Landwehr said the DNR is using regulations to help build the lake’s walleye population. The state instituted catch-and-release regulations earlier this year aimed at protecting young walleye so they could grow older and reach spawning age.

The walleye fry project started earlier this spring when DNR biologists collected 160 quarts of walleye eggs from Mille Lacs Lake and fertilized them. The fry were hatched at a St. Paul facility and marked with oxytetracycline, a common antibiotic that places a mark on the fish’s ear bone. Biologists will catch them along with wild walleye this fall, look for the hatchery mark, and learn more about the lake’s walleye reproduction.

In addition to releasing walleye fry into the lake, the DNR is conducting a major study to better estimate how walleye survive after being caught by anglers and released. Data from the “hooking mortality” study will aid the agency in setting future walleye regulations. The DNR has also studied what predator fish eat to better understand the predator-prey relationships in the lake. Future work may also include a more detailed look at the food web of the lake, including potential effects of invasive species on the production of key prey fish including tullibee (cisco) and yellow perch.

Here are other significant management steps the agency has undertaken in the last nine months:

Created a new advisory committee: The DNR created a 17-member Mille Lacs Lake Advisory Committee to help guide future management decisions. The committee has met eight times since last October and has covered topics such as walleye population monitoring, fisheries treaty management, creel surveys, hooking mortality, stocking, and fishing regulations. The Committee is now working to identify new issues the DNR should consider.

Proposed a new fisheries facility: The DNR is hoping the Legislature will approve a $3.5 million bonding project this session, proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, to build a new fisheries management facility on the lake. In addition to a cool-water hatchery, the facility will accommodate educational, research, visitor and interpretive functions, and serve as a location for public meetings. Lawmakers have until May 22 to approve the proposal.

New staff:  Staffing assignments have been adjusted to focus exclusively on Mille Lacs, including a new outreach specialist and a new Mille Lacs project leader. These staff will provide more capacity for monitoring, foster better communication with local stakeholders, help with various expanded efforts, and assist the community with outreach and marketing efforts.

Promoting other fishing and outdoor recreation: The DNR is promoting the other great fishing in the lake, including northern pike, smallmouth bass and muskellunge, and the many recreational resources in the region. In an ongoing partnership with Explore Minnesota Tourism, the DNR is collaborating on the Do the Lake outreach campaign to draw more visitors to the lake.

Increased transparency of quota setting: The DNR has increased the transparency of the quota-setting process by inviting both DNR and band members of the fisheries technical committee to report on the process at an advisory committee meeting. A long-standing policy of inviting key legislators will continue and will be encouraged as well.

Learn more about the DNR’s efforts to improve Mille Lacs Lake at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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Get out there: Fishing already open for many species

Each year about 500,000 anglers flock to the water on the opening day of the fishing season for walleye, northern pike, bass and trout in lakes. Despite all the opener fanfare, fishing already is open for a variety of species.

“Don’t wait to fish. You can already be out fishing for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and a variety of other species, and when the weather is as nice as it has been, it’s even more of an incentive to get outdoors,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t even need a boat because you can catch panfish from shore.”

When anglers talk about the fishing opener, they usually mean the May opener for walleye, pike, bass, and trout in lakes. However, at this point in the year fishing is already open for species that are popular among anglers all year, like crappie, bluegill and trout in streams. In fact, in some Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters, walleye fishing is open all year long.

So what is the reason for a closure on walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes? The short answer centers on the Minnesota state fish – the walleye. The walleye fishing closure is borne out of the need to protect spawning populations of walleye as they congregate in areas like shallow shorelines and riffle areas of rivers. Opening fishing for them at this point could make walleye highly vulnerable to getting caught by anglers in large numbers.

Even if there were other ways to protect walleye at this time of the year, such as a catch-and-release season, the idea of doing away with fishing opener could make planning for the upcoming fishing season difficult for resort owners and anglers who traditionally plan on fishing the opener.   

And pike? They spawn before walleye, but closing the season for pike allows the walleye closure to be enforceable, because fishing methods can be similar for the two species.

“The tradition of fishing opener in Minnesota – where walleye is king – remains strong. We know fishing is big business and people’s fishing traditions are important. Still, our biggest concern remains about protecting spawning walleye,” Stevens said.

On inland waters this year, fishing opens for walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes on Saturday, May 14. Bass fishing remains catch-and-release in most of the state for another two weeks. Fishing is open now for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and rough fish. Sturgeon fishing is catch-and-release from mid-June to mid-April. Muskellunge fishing opens each year in early June.

On border waters, the picture changes considerably depending upon where one wants to fish. For example, walleye fishing is open all year in Minnesota-North Dakota border waters and parts of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters. And the lake sturgeon season is open on the Minnesota-Canada border waters.

When fishing is closed for a species, it is illegal to target that species when fishing.

“If you’re fishing with a crankbait or spoon before the walleye opener, that’s not allowed because it’s obvious the target is a walleye, bass or pike,” Stevens said. “However, if you’re fishing with a bobber and live bait and accidentally catch a bass, you’re fine as long as you immediately release the fish.”

Overall, regulations are meant to protect fish populations when they need protecting while preserving fishing opportunities whenever possible.

“The great thing about fishing in Minnesota is there are opportunities to fish all year, depending on your location and the species you want to catch,” Stevens said. “The fishing opener for walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes is a big deal, but don’t let that stop you from getting out there with a rod and reel.”

For more information on fishing seasons and regulations, visit www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.

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DNR to implement northeast deer permit area changes in 2017

Public response to a proposal to re-align a handful of deer permit areas in the northeast part of the state has prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to wait to implement the change in 2017.
“We remain committed to the boundary changes, which benefit both deer and moose,” said Adam Murkowski, DNR big game program leader. “However, it is important that we take the time needed to do more outreach with the public about the proposal, the specific changes being proposed, and what the proposal means for deer and moose.”
He added that the DNR does not want to implement any changes until after completion of an ongoing evaluation of the state’s deer management program by the Office of the Legislative Auditor in case any findings would influence the roll-out of the new boundaries.
The agency made the proposal and asked for public comment about it earlier this year, with possible implementation as soon as this fall. However, comments on the proposal showed that the information presented did not clearly explain the reasons for the proposed changes, implications for deer populations and potential health benefits for moose.
“We could have been clearer about the reasons behind the proposal, and the additional time prior to implementation will allow us to better address concerns and questions,” Murkowski said.
Prior to the 2017 deer hunting seasons the DNR will:

  • Clarify the agency’s overall goals for moose management and how the proposal supports that work.
  • Provide detailed deer population estimates and trends, detailed deer harvest reports by permit area, public survey information, and 2015 deer goal setting process and outcomes.
  • Describe how the proposal would maintain current deer populations in the moose emphasis areas, and increase deer populations elsewhere in the region.
  • Better explain the relationship of habitat, winter weather and predation to both deer and moose. In addition, data being collected from ongoing studies at the University of Minnesota investigating deer and moose, as well as wolf and moose interactions, will be integrated into these efforts.

Information about deer can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer. Deer hunting information is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

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State record fish program to include catch-and-release records

Change applies to muskellunge, flathead catfish and lake sturgeon

Minnesota’s state record fish program will now include catch-and-release length records for lake sturgeon, flathead catfish and muskellunge.
“State records for sturgeon, flathead catfish or muskies can now be set without harvesting the fish,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “However, the traditional catch-and-keep records for all species will remain an option.”
The traditional records are based on certified weight. The new catch-and-release length records for muskellunge, lake sturgeon or flathead catfish require anglers to measure and take a photograph of the fish before releasing it.
Several factors led to the adoption of catch-and-release records. Primarily, the popularity of catch-and-release fishing is growing, and many anglers are reluctant to harvest muskies, flathead catfish and sturgeon to qualify for a state record. Additionally, in 2015 a higher minimum length for muskellunge and a statewide catch-and-release season for lake sturgeon were adopted, meaning fewer opportunities to keep muskies, and a greater number of locations where anglers can target lake sturgeon.
“We sometimes hear reports of large fish caught and released that may have been state record weight. Now we have a way to formally honor the skill of those who catch and release these fish and recognize Minnesota’s outstanding fishing opportunities for these species,” Kurre said.
Kurre also reminds anglers to obtain a valid license and check that the season is open before going fishing. “Anglers may fish for a species only when the season is open, even when catch-and-release angling,” he said.
The certified weight record and catch-and-release length record each have an individual set of guidelines for submitting a state record fish. Guidelines and application forms are available at www.mndnr.gov/recordfish, while fishing regulations and season dates can be found at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.
Anglers who catch large fish also have the option of participating 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.

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Youth archery continues to grow in popularity statewide

Nearly 1,400 youth from 72 schools participated in the state high school archery tournament in Minnesota in early April, representing only a fraction of the nearly 200,000 students in Minnesota who participate in Archery in the Schools programs.
“There continues to be strong interest in youth archery in Minnesota and beyond,” said Kraig Kiger, who oversees the Archery in the Schools program for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Who knows, there may be a skilled youth archer just down the street or in your town with a story to tell about why they’re involved in this growing sport,” added Kraig.
The state tournament in Bemidji, held April 1-2, was sanctioned by the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and run by the North Country Bow Hunters Chapter of Safari Club International. To see which schools had archers advance to the state tournament, visit www.nasptournaments.org. Click on “tournaments” and select “Minnesota” and “completed 2016.”
In the schools, NASP aims to train teachers and provide students with the best equipment, training and curriculum available for the lowest price. Most schools with archery programs hold activities during the school day, but about 10 percent have an additional after-school archery program that develops into a competitive team.
Through the DNR, schools can receive grant money for archery programs. The DNR can help match a school’s contribution toward starting an archery program, with the school’s minimum financial contribution set at $1,600.
For more on the DNR archery grants, visit www.mndnr.gov/grants/epr/archery.

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