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Minnesota News
Minnesota News


 

Upper Red Lake walleye regulations more restrictive this winter season

Walleye regulations will be more restrictive on Upper Red Lake following record walleye harvests the past winter and summer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Effective Dec. 1, anglers can only keep three walleye, and the possession limit is also three. Anglers must immediately release all walleye from 17- to 26-inches. Only one walleye in possession may be longer than 26 inches.
“More restrictive walleye regulations are not an indication of any biological problems with the walleye population on Upper Red Lake,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor. “The current walleye fishery is in excellent shape, but the great fishing has attracted considerably more angling pressure, which resulted in walleye harvest exceeding the safe harvest range for the first time since walleye angling reopened in 2006.”
The DNR and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa jointly developed a harvest plan for Red Lake’s walleye stocks in 2006 prior to reopening the fishery that governs walleye harvest on an annual basis. The plan allows for some excess harvest in an individual year, but requires a regulation adjustment to manage harvest back within a target range on a three-year average. 
Harvest reduction scenarios were the topic at an Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee meeting in late September.
“Previous advisory meetings were easier when we were relaxing regulations, but everyone on the committee understands the importance of protecting this fishery and adhering to our joint harvest plan,” said advisory committee member Joe Corcoran.
The regulation package had full support from the committee as the best way to balance harvest reduction with business and angler interests, Corcoran added.

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Mille Lacs open to pike spearing; walleye regulation unchanged

Dark-house spearing of northern pike will be allowed at Mille Lacs Lake for the first time since the winter of 1982-83, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Anglers and spearers can keep 10 northern pike, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. Anglers also will be able to fish for northern pike for a longer period of time this winter. The close of the northern pike angling season will be extended from mid-February to the last Sunday in March.
“With the high number of northern pike under 30 inches, we’re providing more opportunity to harvest these surplus fish,” said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR Aitkin area fisheries supervisor.
The lake’s walleye fishing regulations will not change this winter.
Anglers can continue to keep two walleye from 18- to 20-inches, except one out of the two walleye anglers can keep can be longer than 28 inches.
“We’ll continue to protect small and large walleye by extending the existing walleye regulation,” Bruesewitz said.
Although the catch of bass in winter is extremely rare, anglers on Mille Lacs are exempted from the statewide catch-and-release regulation that begins in mid-September. This means anglers may harvest smallmouth bass from the opener until the last Sunday in February. Anglers may keep six fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches.

For more information on Mille Lacs Lake, visit www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake

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Hunters register 102,000 deer through second weekend

Minnesota hunters registered 102,000 deer through the second weekend of firearms deer season, down 31,000 from the same period in 2013, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
So far this year, hunters during special hunts, and the archery and firearms seasons, have harvested 115,000 deer, down from the 2013 to-date harvest total of 147,500.
“Comparing this year’s harvest to harvests in previous years doesn’t necessarily reflect hunter opportunity or the number of deer on the landscape in 2014,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. This year’s lower harvest is by design because regulations were implemented to place more deer – particularly does – off limits to increase Minnesota’s deer population.
The DNR’s ongoing deer management work also includes upcoming revisions to the deer population goals for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota. This is part of a multi-year goal-setting process for the entire state. People interested in helping set these deer population goals can get more information on the process and opportunities for involvement at www.mndnr.gov/deer.
In much of Minnesota, the deer season concluded on Sunday, Nov. 16. Additional deer will be harvested during the northern rifle zone season, which continues through Sunday, Nov. 23; the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 30; and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 29, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 14. The archery season also runs through Wednesday, Dec. 31.

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Conservative 2014 deer season will rebuild herd, challenge hunters   

By Tom Landwehr, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Like more than 400,000 others, I am anxiously awaiting Saturday, Nov. 8, when Minnesota’s firearms deer hunting season begins.

There’s nothing like it. The days of advance scouting. The physical struggle of putting up the new stands. The straining for vision and sound in the pre-dawn light of opening day. Anticipation is in full swing for weeks, and then it is upon us.

As I prepare for this year’s hunt, I am fully aware that I, like many other hunters, am less likely to bag a deer than in recent years. In fact, the lowest deer harvest in decades is expected under a harvest plan designed to rebuild the herd. We are conserving deer – does in particular -- this season to improve deer numbers in the future.  

Overall, most hunters in the state will be able to harvest only one deer. In much of northeastern Minnesota, where two consecutive severe winters took a toll on deer, hunters will only be able to shoot bucks. For me, someone who loves to eat venison, it will be tough to let a big doe go by.  But, the deer herd can rebound quickly, and passing on the doe this year will contribute to a much larger herd next year.

For much of the recent past, the deer herd has been at historic high levels, and harvests have reflected that. In the past five years, and under a plan devised with hunter and landowner input, the DNR deliberately reduced the size of the herd. Today’s populations are close to the goal numbers we set some six years ago. The severe winters of the last two years have driven herd levels lower than where we’d wanted them.

Over the past two years, we at the DNR have heard from hunters that deer numbers are now too low and that efforts to reduce deer numbers have gone too far. In listening sessions and in other ways, many have said it is time to rebuild the population. We agree.

So, this will be a conservative deer season with more protections for antlerless deer throughout much of the state. The harvest could be as low as 120,000. That’s not many deer compared to recent harvests that have approached 200,000 animals.  But, because they respond quickly, we will likely see some liberalization even next year.

Meanwhile, do know the DNR needs your help in re-evaluating deer population goals across the state. This goal-setting process began in 2012 in southern Minnesota and moved to southeastern Minnesota in 2014. Goals for the remainder of Minnesota will be set in 2015 and 2016. We want to hear from you.

How can you get involved? Starting in January, you can send in comments or attend public meetings to discuss deer populations in the region or area where you hunt, live or work. You’ll also be able to provide input through a questionnaire designed for the process. You can even volunteer to serve on one of five advisory teams that will recommend deer population goals for each goal-setting block. You can nominate yourself through Monday, Nov. 17. Apply online at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

Even with the reduced harvest, I am really looking forward to the deer opener. I will be spending much of the season with my son, Hunter. He’s a good partner. Like me, he enjoys the sights and sounds of the woods, likes sharing stories at the end of the day, and really likes the report of his trusty .308.

It’s possible we’ll see some antlerless deer we can’t harvest, like many other folks. And that’s OK. It’s OK because we are rebuilding the herd. And it’s OK because for us success is not only about filling tags. It’s also about spending time together, being hunters, enjoying the outdoors and building the memories. We’Il have a good time together. And I expect even better times ahead.

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DNR announces process to revisit deer population goals in 2015

Preliminary details of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ upcoming 2015 deer population goal-setting process now are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/deer.
“Working with citizens to achieve conservation and management goals is integral to the mission of the DNR,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “To make sure that goals are based on the broad range of public interest in deer, we use a public process to help determine how many deer to manage for in a given area.”
Deer population goals will be set for 40 of Minnesota’s 128 deer permit areas during the upcoming process, which formally kicks off in October when nominations open for advisory team members and concludes in May 2015 with the announcement of final goals. Large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota will be affected.
Areas selected for goal setting in 2015 are:

  • Area 1 - Superior Uplands Arrowhead, which include permit areas 117, 122, 126, 127, 180.
  • Area 2 - North Central Plains Moraines, which include permit areas 169, 172, 184, 197, 210, 298.
  • Area 3 - Pine Moraines, which include permit areas 241, 242, 246, 248, 251, 258, 259, 287.
  • Area 4 - East Central Uplands, which include permit areas 152, 155, 156, 157, 159, 183, 221, 222, 225, 247, 259.
  • Area 5 - Sand Plain-Big Woods, which include permit areas 223, 224, 227, 229, 235, 236, 249, 285, 338, 339.

There will be opportunities for broad public input through public meetings as well as online and written questionnaires prior to convening a citizen advisory team for each area. The DNR also is collecting representative data on public desires using hunter and landowner mail surveys administered by the University of Minnesota.
“The public participation process has been designed to include input from anyone who has an interest in deer management,” McInenly said. “Citizen team members also will be selected to represent the range of public interests, including hunting, wildlife viewing, natural resource management and local business interests.”
This is the third year the DNR has worked with citizens to reassess and re-establish deer population goals in Minnesota. Goals for southwestern and a portion of northern Minnesota were set in 2012. Goals for southeastern Minnesota were set last year. Goals for the deer permit areas not part of the 2015 process will be set in 2016.
A timeline showing opportunities for public input is available online at www.mndnr.gov/deer.  The DNR will seek advisory team nominations for each of the five affected areas in October and select members in January 2015. Each team will review relevant biological and social data as well as public input. Teams will recommend population goals for each deer permit area in their assigned areas. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the advisory teams’ recommendations before the DNR makes its final decision about goals.
White-tailed deer are an important resource to the state of Minnesota. Nearly 500,000 individuals hunt deer and countless other people enjoy viewing deer in the state.
Nationally, deer managers look at deer density goals as a societal issue more so than a biological issue. Deer are capable of achieving high densities so are generally managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that can be supported by the habitat. This involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer who may favor lower deer densities.
People interested in learning more about deer management and public input opportunities during the goal-setting process should subscribe to the DNR’s Deer Notes email newsletter at www.mndnr.gov/deer

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DNR designates new wildlife lands for public use

Hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife populations now have 4,254 more acres of state wildlife management areas (WMA) available in an expansion that includes 31 existing WMAs and eight new ones in 24 counties.
“These jewels of Minnesota’s landscape can be found in more than 1,500 different WMAs in 86 of the 87 counties in the state,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Adding more acreage to the WMA system would not be possible without the work of conservation-minded individuals and groups that partner with the DNR to acquire land for future generations to enjoy.”
Landwehr noted that more than 2,900 acres of the new WMA land was acquired through partners including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, and numerous other individuals, groups and government organizations.
The total area managed as WMAs is more than 1.3 million acres in Minnesota. Nearly all WMAs are open to public hunting and trapping, as well as other uses such as hiking, wildlife watching and cross country skiing.
“Most of the newly added tracts of WMA land represent additions to existing WMAs, which complements our previous investment in wildlife habitat,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “The newly designated land will expand outdoor opportunities. Many of these additions help meet the DNR’s priority to protect the remaining native prairie lands in the state.”
One example is the newly added 615-acre Minnesota Veterans WMA in Wright and Stearns counties, which received support from a long list of donors.
“This amazing property is large and diverse, with many outstanding natural features,” said DNR Area Wildlife Manager Fred Bengtson. “It includes restored prairie, mature oak forest, planted oaks, sedge meadow, emergent marsh, over a half-mile of the Clearwater River, and a small lake.”
Public funding
Statewide, more than 2,600 of the 4,254 new acres were purchased with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota citizens in 2008. The Outdoor Heritage Fund receives one-third of the money raised by the sales tax increase that resulted from passage of the amendment.
 
Other major funding sources include appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, the $6.50 surcharge on each small game hunting license sold, and the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching Program that equally matches private donations of cash or lands.
The RIM matching dollars come from the sale of the critical habitat license plates. The $30 per year charge for each of these colorful plates generates over $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations. The RIM matching dollars are used to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state.
WMA locations
Those looking to find existing public hunting, fishing and trail access can use the DNR Recreation Compass feature online at www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html, or can purchase DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota's Bookstore, or several sporting goods and map stores around the state. PRIM maps may also be purchased online at www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/mnbookstore.asp?page=mnprim.
Maps of the newly dedicated WMA lands are not currently available, as managers will be posting and developing parking lots and accesses on the lands over the next several months. The newly designated WMA lands will be added to the Recreation Compass and the PRIM maps in the future.
 New WMAs

  • Hog Island WMA, 11.7 acres, Blue Earth County.
  • Coal Mine Creek WMA, 142 acres, Brown County.
  • Pat’s Pasture WMA, 182 acres, Cottonwood County.
  • State Line Lake WMA, 44.9 acres, Freeborn County.
  • Thoen Lake WMA, 100.3 acres, Meeker County.
  • Prairie Creek WMA, 460 acres, Rice County.
  • Minnesota Veterans WMA, 615 acres, Wright and Stearns counties.
  • Dennis Haaland WMA, 80 acres, Yellow Medicine County.

Expanded WMAs

  • Carlos Avery WMA, 80 acres, Anoka County.
  • Ogema Springs WMA, 84.4 acres, Becker County.
  • Lac qui Parle WMA, 25 acres, Big Stone County.
  • Rosenau-Lambrecht WMA, 156.5 acres, Brown County.
  • Farhagen WMA, 105 acres, Cottonwood County.
  • Save the Wetlands WMA, 25 acres, Faribault.
  • Magaksica WMA, 58 acres, Freeborn County.
  • Heron Lake-W. Heron supplement, 237 acres, Jackson County.
  • Minneota WMA, 40 acres, Jackson County.
  • Sweetwater WMA, 65.5 acres, Lac qui Parle County.
  • Diamond Lake WMA, 46.1 acres, Le Sueur County.
  • Kvernmo WMA, 104.15 acres, Lincoln County.
  • Caron WMA, 14.5 acres, Martin County.
  • Teal Scurry WMA, 68.8 acres, Meeker County.
  • Swan Lake WMA, 130.9 acres, Nicollet County.
  • Neal WMA, 160 acres, Norman County.
  • Syre WMA, 157.1 acres, Norman County.
  • Waukon RIM WMA, 64.6 acres, Redwood County.
  • Boyd Sartell WMA, 146 acres, Rice County.
  • Severance Lake WMA, 85 acres, Sibley County.
  • Sibley WMA, 5.6 acres, Sibley County.
  • Anchor Lake WMA, 0.85 acres, St. Louis County.
  • Femroy WMA, 12.8 acres, St. Louis County.
  • Stearns Prairie Heritage WMA, 291.8 acres, Stearns County.
  • Everglade Marshes WMA, 80 acres, Stevens County.
  • Selk WMA, 41 acres, Stevens County.
  • Clair Rollings WMA, 134 acres, Swift County.
  • Danvers WMA, 40 acres, Swift County.
  • Osakas WMA, 0.5 acres, Todd County.
  • Pelican Lake WMA, 44.8 acres, Wright County.
  • St. Michael Meadows, WMA, 33.1 acres, Wright County.

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Small game hunter survey results released

Fewer game bird hunters took to Minnesota’s fields and forests in 2013, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources annual small game survey.
In 2013, the number of pheasant hunters was 62,100, representing a decrease of 19 percent from 2012.
An estimated 77,900 people hunted ducks, a decrease of 5 percent from 2012.
Ruffed grouse hunter numbers were estimated at 81,100, a decrease of 11 percent from 2012.
Statewide estimates show small game hunters harvested about 169,100 pheasants, 782,800 ducks, and 288,400 ruffed grouse in 2013, with margins of error in the results of between five and six percent.
Individual hunter success rates were comparable to 2012. Pheasant hunters harvested an average of 2.7 pheasants in 2013 compared to 3.3 pheasants in 2012. Duck hunters harvested an average of 10.2 ducks in 2013 compared to 9.1 in 2012. Ruffed grouse hunters harvested an average of 3.6 grouse in 2013 compared to 3.7 in 2012.
The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2013 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,589 surveys were returned and usable.
The complete report is on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/publications/wildlife.

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Public invited to comment on special fishing regulations

Anglers and others can give their opinions about fishing regulations that are in place or are newly proposed on 16 lakes and two river segments.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has scheduled 13 public meetings across the state in coming weeks to review regulations, and the DNR is also accepting written and verbal public comments on the regulations before and 10 days after each meeting.  
The meetings will include:

  • Review of the walleye regulation on Lake Winnibigoshish.
  • Review of the existing panfish, bass or walleye regulations on Pimushe, Star, Clitherall, Jewett, Pickerel, Sewell, Cottonwood and Big Mantrap lakes and the Mississippi River near Winona.
  • Review of the existing northern pike regulation on Big Birch Lake in Todd County.
  • Review the existing lake trout regulation on Lake Mukooda and a proposal for similar regulations in Little Trout Lake, both in Voyageurs National Park.
  • Discussion of a proposal for new walleye regulations for Saganaga, Sea Gull and Gull lakes near Grand Marais. 
  • Discussion of a proposal for new catfish regulations for the Sauk River chain of lakes in Stearns County.
  • Review of a proposal for new bass regulations on Lake George in Hubbard County.

“The goal of experimental and special regulations on individual waters is to expand opportunities for anglers to experience quality fishing,” said Al Stevens, DNR fisheries program consultant. “We also need to sustain good fishing in light of more people fishing, and anglers who are catching more fish.”
During the past 30 years, fisheries managers have monitored a variety of regulations across Minnesota and learned much from efforts to improve fish populations using regulations that limit the length and number of fish anglers can keep. 
“We have shown that we can sustain quality populations of panfish, northern pike, bass and walleye by using special regulations,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. “And if experimental regulations are successful, then regulations can be replicated on similar waters where fisheries managers and anglers agree they would help improve or maintain quality fishing.”
Experimental regulations are in effect for a specific period of time, typically 10 to 15 years. Before the regulation ends, fisheries managers must evaluate the regulation and then gather input from public meetings to help determine whether to extend, modify or drop the existing experimental regulations.
“Public participation is critical in determining whether proposed and existing regulations are meeting angler expectations,” Stevens said. “DNR fisheries managers welcome the chance to hear opinions from anglers.” 
In the spring of 2014, signs were posted at public access points at waters that will be evaluated this year. Public notices for each meeting will be published in local newspapers. For more information about a specific meeting, check online at www.mndnr.gov/fishing/meetings.
Open house details
Written or verbal comments also will be accepted at local fisheries offices up to 10 days following a local meeting. Telephone numbers of local fisheries offices can be found online at www.mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries, or on page 85 of the 2014 Fishing Regulations handbook.
For those unable to attend a local meeting, there will be an open house at the St. Paul DNR headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24. No formal presentations will be made. However, staff will be available to take comments on any proposal. Comments will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 3, and may also be submitted by email to al.stevens@state.mn.us or by calling 651-259-5239.
Open house details include: 

  • Cook County, discussion of implementing new restrictions on walleye for Saganaga, Sea Gull and Gull lakes, and the Sea Gull River, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, in the Cook County Community Center, 317 W. Fifth St. in Grand Marais.
  • Beltrami County, the existing bag limit on bluegill in Pimushe Lake will be reviewed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Northwest Technical College, 905 Grant Ave. SE. in Bemidji.
  • Grant County, the existing regulations on sunfish and walleye in Cottonwood Lake will be discussed at a meeting 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, in the Donnelly city hall.
  • Hubbard County, a review of the existing regulation on crappie in Big Mantrap Lake and a review of a proposal for a bass slot limit for Lake George will be discussed from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in the community meeting room at Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids.
  • Itasca County, the existing walleye slot regulation on Lake Winnibigoshish will be discussed at a meeting this October. Look for upcoming announcements for details on place and time. 
  • Otter Tail County, existing sunfish regulations on Star Lake and bass regulations on Clitherall, Jewett, Pickerel and Sewell lakes will be discussed at two meetings.  The first will be 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the DNR headquarters, 1509 First Ave. N., in Fergus Falls. The second meeting will be held 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Lakes Area Community center, 112 W. Main St. in Battle Lake.
  • St. Louis County, the existing catch-and-release regulation on lake trout in Mukooda Lake and a proposal to add the same regulation on Little Trout Lake, both in Voyageurs National Park, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Crane Lake Fire Hall, 7400 Handberg Road in Crane Lake.
  • Stearns County, a proposal to expand the bag limit for channel catfish regulations on the Sauk River Chain of Lakes will be reviewed on 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Cold Spring city offices, 27 Red River Ave. S. in Cold Spring.
  • Todd and Stearns counties, the existing regulation on northern pike in Big Birch Lake will be reviewed at a meeting 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at Linda B’s restaurant, 41947 County Road 167 in Freeport.
  • Wabasha, Winona counties, the existing bag limit for sunfish on Mississippi River pools 5, 5a, and 8 will be discussed at an October meeting. Look for upcoming announcements for details on place and time.                                                                    

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