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OutdoorsWeekly.com Minnesota Archived News
Minnesota News

Nov 2016

 

Red Lake winter walleye regulations announced

Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake this winter will be able to keep three walleye of which only one may be longer than 17 inches, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The regulations, effective Thursday, Dec. 1, are the same regulations that were in place last winter.

“These regulations were very well accepted by anglers, and meet our harvest plan objectives by spreading harvest over a wide range of sizes and removing some of the surplus spawning stock,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor with the DNR.

In fall assessment netting by the DNR and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, walleye abundance was excellent with large numbers of fish from 12 to 20 inches.

More information on Red Lake fishing regulations are available at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

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Hunters register 68,958 deer during first weekend of season
Harvest down 3 percent from a year ago

Minnesota firearms hunters registered 68,958 deer during the first two days of firearms deer season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Preliminary numbers from opening weekend show that the number of deer registered fell 3 percent from 2015. Of the deer harvested, 67 percent were bucks, compared to 68 percent of the first weekend harvest of 2015.

In Zone 1, in northeastern Minnesota, total firearms harvest was up 16 percent. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, harvest was down 7 percent and Zone 3, in southeastern Minnesota, was down 28 percent.

“Even with record-high temperatures statewide, the opening weekend harvest in Zone 1 is at least 16 percent higher than last year,” said DNR big game program leader Adam Murkowski. “Since these are preliminary numbers, it’s too soon to say if the unusual weather had any impact on harvest elsewhere in the state, but as conditions change and hunting continues, we’ll get a better sense of how the season is progressing.”

Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2016 total deer harvest to be between 165,000 and 185,000 deer. The 2015 total harvest was a little more than 159,000.

In much of Minnesota, the deer season continues through Sunday, Nov. 13. Additional deer will be harvested during the northern rifle zone season, which continues through Sunday, Nov. 20; the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 27; and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 26, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 11.

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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Minnesota’s elk hunts successful

The 2016 elk hunts in northwestern Minnesota wrapped up on Sept. 18 with another successful season in the Kittson County area, according to the Department of the Natural Resources. Five of seven hunters harvested bulls.

Two zones were open to hunting and all permits were bull only. In the Caribou-Vita herd (Zone 30), which migrates between northern Kittson County and Manitoba, two permits were issued and both hunters successfully harvested 6x6 bulls, meaning each bull had six points on each side. One bull was harvested on private land and one on the Caribou Wildlife Management Area.

In the Kittson-Central herd (Zone 20), located near Lancaster in Kittson County, three of five permits were filled with 5x6, 6x6 and 6x7 bulls, all on private land.

“We are excited to be able to offer elk hunters the opportunity to take part in these once in a lifetime hunts in northwestern Minnesota,” said Ruth Anne Franke, Karlstad area wildlife supervisor. “The large tracts of public land and willingness of landowners to allow elk hunting on their properties make Minnesota an excellent elk hunting destination. We are grateful to local landowners for their support.”
The elk season was timed to coincide with the elk rut (breeding season) and elk were actively bugling. This gave hunters the opportunity to locate the bulls by listening for their bugles, and test their bugling (calling) and stalking skills.
Once again, a hunting season was not offered in the Grygla area where herd numbers remain below the population goal of 30-38 elk. The Grygla herd survey last winter recorded 21 elk. Previous estimates are 18 in 2015, 20 in 2014 and 28 in 2013. This herd hasn’t been hunted since 2012.

Elk management in Minnesota
The DNR’s goal is to maintain a free-ranging, wild elk population in northwestern Minnesota. The department envisions a healthy population that offers recreational and economic opportunities while actively addressing conflicts between elk and people. Habitat and herd structure will be maintained. Hunting seasons are used to help manage problem animals and herd size.

Information on Minnesota’s elk and the current management plan is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/elk.

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Mille Lacs Lake to be open for winter fishing season

Winter fishing limits 1 walleye, 5 northern pike per angler

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources today announced that the winter walleye regulation will allow anglers to keep one walleye between 19 and 21 inches or one longer than 28 inches.

The 2016-17 winter regulation continues last winter’s one fish limit but moves the harvest slot up slightly from last year’s 18 to 20 inches.

The winter walleye season begins Thursday, Dec. 1, and extends through Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Tribal and DNR biologists met Nov. 1 to evaluate the status of the walleye population following the completion of the 2015-2016 fishing season. The key conservation goal of conserving the abundant 2013 year class was achieved, with minimal fishing mortality occurring during the past year and key population benchmarks successfully met. Those factors combined to support a modest winter harvest for Mille Lacs Lake walleye.

“The winter season regulation enables Mille Lacs anglers to catch and keep walleye while providing necessary fish conservation and support to the Mille Lacs area economy,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief.

“This regulation allows continued protection of walleye in Mille Lacs’ abundant 2013 year class, which are the lake’s future spawners,” Pereira said.

Northern pike will provide anglers and darkhouse spearers with additional opportunity to harvest fish on Mille Lacs this winter. Like last winter, ice anglers and spearers can keep up to five fish with one longer than 30 inches. However, in order to keep the one northern pike longer than 30 inches, anglers and spearers must have caught or speared two northern pike shorter than 30 inches and have both smaller fish in immediate possession.

The pike regulation goes into effect on Dec. 1. It continues through Sunday, March 26, 2017, for angling and Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 for spearing.

For now, bass regulations will remain the same. But on the heels of a very successful Toyota Angler of the Year tournament and the increased attention it has focused on Mille Lacs’ world-class smallmouth, discussions with the Mille Lacs advisory committee will be ongoing to determine if changes may be warranted for the open water bass season.

More information about Mille Lacs Lake management is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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Good conditions greet hunters during Camp Ripley hunts

Archers took 113 deer during this year’s bow hunts at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls. 

There were 2,995 permits issued, with 2,270 hunters participating. Participation and harvest declined this year since bonus permits weren’t allowed, and the harvest was heavily dominated by bucks, which comprised 75 percent of the take.

This year, Central Lakes College Natural Resources Program coordinated morning check-in and provided deer registration services at the hunts, which took place Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 29-30.  

“We have a strong partnership with Central Lakes College and the event is a good opportunity to train students pursuing a career in wildlife management,” said Beau Liddell, DNR wildlife manager at Little Falls.

Brian Sanoski of Randall took the largest buck registered during the hunts, tipping the scales at 218 pounds. Hunters registering other large bucks included Urban Brady of Bowlus (212 pounds), Matthew Tester of Andover (208 pounds), Jordan Torma of Menahga (207 pounds), Daniel Austad of Staples (198 pounds), Michael Barnes of Little Falls (198 pounds), and Paul Paine of Mound (198 pounds).

Of adult does registered, the largest weighed in at 148 pounds, taken by Devin Nelson of Watkins, and 124 pounds taken by Richard Reginek of Hutchinson.

The archery hunt at Camp Ripley is an annual event. The DNR coordinates the hunts in collaboration with Central Lakes College Natural Resources Department, and the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

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Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early

With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any potential system issues associated with the high sales volume. The 2016 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 5.

“Don’t wait until the last minute to buy a deer license. There can be long lines of people waiting to buy licenses in the days before deer opener. Last year we sold more than 145,000 licenses the Thursday and Friday before opener,” said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director. “Buy early and you can spend more time getting ready to hunt and enjoying time with family and friends.”

Deer licenses can be purchased at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. There are additional fees for telephone and internet transactions. Deer licenses and tags ordered by phone and internet take three to five business days to arrive, so hunters who choose these options should allow enough time for delivery. Hunters must have a valid deer license and tag in their possession when hunting deer.

Hunters need to be familiar with deer hunting regulations, which are available at any DNR license agent or online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting. License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

Maintaining quality habitat to support an appropriate population level is good for deer, deer hunters and the habitats that sustain them. Deer populations, which vary in density from place to place and year to year are influenced by the severity of winter weather. Deer are ecologically, socially and economically important in a state where hunting and wildlife watching generate more than $1.3 billion in annual economic impact.

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DNR creates new online tool for finding public hunting land

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has created an improved search tool that makes it easier for people to find places to hunt or enjoy the outdoors at wildlife management areas (WMA).

The tool is at www.mndnr.gov/wmas.

“We’ve built a WMA finder application that replaces a web app that was over a decade old,” said Steve Benson, DNR Wildlife MNIT coordinator. “People can now search for WMAs anywhere in the state based on features important to them.”

Acreage in WMAs totals 1.3 million acres, spread among 1,500 WMAs located in 86 of the state’s 87 counties. Using the WMA finder, users can search by:

  • Name of WMA (or partial name).
  • County.
  • Game species.
  • Wheelchair accessibility.

Once users have found a WMA, interactive maps are available that allow zooming in and toggling between maps and aerial photography, as well as toggling the view to full screen to see other public lands nearby.

“Another important feature with the new WMA finder is providing users with more information about WMAs, contact information for DNR area wildlife offices, and specific rules if they apply to a WMA,” Benson said.

WMA information can now be updated daily, including special announcements if conditions change, such as an access road under construction. In the future, users will also be able to find more information about aquatic management areas in similar formats to the WMA pages.

Funding for the work behind this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The trust fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by Minnesotans to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife and other natural resources.

There are other types of public land available for hunting or other recreation use. Those types of land are displayed both through the WMA finder maps, and through the interactive Recreation Compass tool available on desktop computers at www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html and on mobile devices through www.mndnr.gov/mobile.

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Proposed rule changes would improve northern pike fishing

Comment period for new rules opens

New regulations for those who want to help manage northern pike in Minnesota will get another look by the public over the next month, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This follows several years of public outreach that has returned broad support for the proposed changes.
“We’ve had very positive and broad support for new pike fishing regulations since we started discussing this idea with anglers and interested groups in 2013,” said Don Pereira, fisheries section chief. “Now we’re going through the formal and required step of allowing comments on the proposal before moving forward with new regulations.”
Those interested in the proposal can comment on it from Monday, Oct. 3, through Monday, Nov. 7. The comment period is a formal step as part of a rulemaking process, and follows a public outreach process that included in-person meetings, online comments and very positive hearings at the Legislature and meetings with stakeholder groups.
The proposed regulations would divide the state into three zones, each with a set of regulations tailored for the zone. The changes could go into effect in the spring of 2017.
“The zone proposal is meant to address a serious problem in a number of lakes in the central and north-central part of the state plagued with small or ‘hammer-handle’ pike,” Pereira said.
In the northeastern part of the state, regulations will serve to maintain the potential for pike to grow large in many of the Arrowhead region’s waters. In the south, where pike abundance is often low but growth is fast, regulations will allow pike to reach an acceptable size before harvest.
“We heard the desire from darkhouse spearers to be able to take pike without fear of taking the wrong size, so we have accommodated that need after extensive consultation with spearing groups,” Pereira said.
More information about the pike proposal can be found at www.mndnr.gov/pike. People can view details on the proposed rule and how to submit comments or request a formal hearing by following the links on the DNR rulemaking page at www.mndnr.gov/input/rules/rulemaking.html.

Written comments can be submitted directly to Al Stevens, Minnesota DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155 or al.stevens@state.mn.us by Nov. 7.

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