Spirit Mountain biking trail a national finalist — voting underway now

The competition has begun.

Duluth is one of three finalists in a national online competition for a $100,000 mountain bike trail grant, courtesy of Bell Helmets.

Duluth, representing our nation’s central region, will vie against West Coast finalist Mariposa, Calif., and East Coast finalist Knoxville, Tenn.

The Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores — called COGGS for short — proposes to use the grant funds to help build out the Spirit Mountain Bike Park, and Duluth Mayor Don Ness has pledged $50,000 in additional city funding if the group wins the Bell grant.

In the semifinal round, Duluth beat out two projects proposed in New Mexico — one in Gallup and another in Ruidoso.

The online voting in the final round began today and will run through June 4. Only the top vote-getter will receive the $100,000 grant.

Vote here.

 

COGGS now a finalist for $100,000 trails grant

Jim van Druten of Duluth competes in  the 2014 Duluth Enduro Series on the new portion of the Duluth Traverse trail in Lester Park recently. Duluth competes in one leg of the Duluth Enduro Series on the new portion of the Duluth Traverse trail in Lester Park recently. The Duluth Enduro Series is  a series of enduro style mountain bike races hosted by COGGS that showcase some of the best trails in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Jim van Druten of Duluth competes in the 2014 Duluth Enduro Series on the new portion of the Duluth Traverse trail in Lester Park. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The cycling group COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) has won a semi-final round for a chance at $100,000 for mountain-biking trail construction in Duluth. Now, the group is one of three finalists nationwide for the $100,000 grant offered by Bell Helmets. Voting for in the finals round will take place from May 25 to June 5. To vote, go to voteduluth.com.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness has pledged another $50,000 from the city if COGGS wins the overall grant competition. The money would be used to build more mountain-biking trails at Spirit Mountain, according to the club.

Good times at the governor’s fishing opener

I had a great time fishing with Dennis Highby and Jim Regas at the Governor’s Fishing Opener on Lake Vermilion on Saturday. Those gentlemen know how to find fish and catch fish.

It was a good day on Vermilion, and everyone seemed to be catching fish — including Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.

For a video by News Tribune photographer Clint Austin and several of his photos and our story, look here.

I don’t cover many governor’s openers, but this one was in our back yard, and I know a bunch of the fishing guides and others on the lake. It just seemed like the place to be. I didn’t know Highby and had met Regas only briefly last summer, but they were a joy to be in the boat with. Lots of laughs and good stories, and Highby knew where we were likely to find walleyes. We trolled Lindy rigs with minnows, and that presentation caught some fish. But our most productive presentation was trolling a spinner rig with two minnows behind a bottom-bouncer. We fished mostly in water from 21 to 31 feet deep along shorelines. We caught nine walleyes and a few perch in about three hours, the largest walleye about 16 inches. Most anglers seemed to be catching walleyes of similar size on Saturday. A few decent northerns and some plump perch were boated, too.

The governor’s boat was full of smiling faces back at the midday landing at Fortune Bay Resort. With Lake Vermilion guide Tim “Buck” Lescarbeau, the governor, along with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt had caught a bunch of walleyes.

A couple other things of note happened during the weekend’s festivities. Ground was broken for a new campground at Lake Vermilion State Park, which is still under construction. Dayton invited former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tim Holsten to be part of that ceremony. The park had its germination during Pawlenty’s term as governor, when Holsten was DNR commissioner. I thought it was classy of Dayton to extend that invitation to them, and nice that they both came. Of course, current DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr was present for all the Governor’s Fishing Opener festivities.

One other nice moment occurred just after midnight on opening day. The governor had been scheduled to fish from a dock at the home of Brian Anderson, public relations manager at Fortune Bay, on Pike Bay. The governor couldn’t make it, but Lt. Gov. Tina Smith showed up. It was a very cool evening, with a northeast wind blowing right at the dock and the temperature in the 40s. Young Drew Anderson, 10, fished with the lieutenant governor. She kept a lively conversation going with him, and I’m sure he felt like he was a pretty important young guy. Brian and his wife, Terri — I hope I have that spelled correctly — kept a campfire burning to keep other guests warm. No fish were caught, and the fishing was over in about 40 minutes, but Smith was a gracious participant.

 

COGGS in heated semi-final voting for trail funds

Todd McFadden of Duluth rides Spirit Mountain's flow trail. (Clint Austin photl)

Todd McFadden of Duluth rides Spirit Mountain’s flow trail. (Clint Austin photo)

The cycling group COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) has a chance to get another $100,000 for mountain-biking trail construction in Duluth, but it needs some help. COGGS is a semi-finalist for a Bell Built Grant, and voting in the semi-final round closes Sunday. The club is hoping that lots of bikers will go to voteduluth.com and vote for Duluth, which is running neck-and-neck with a biking club in New Mexico. If Duluth wins this round, it will be a finalist for the grant. Duluth Mayor Don Ness has pledged another $50,000 from the city if COGGS wins the overall grant competition. The money would be used to build more mountain-biking trail at Spirit Mountain, according to the club.

Minnesota anglers buying licenses at fast pace

Sales of Minnesota fishing licenses are outstripping last year by a long shot and are running ahead of the past several years, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Minnesota’s inland fishing opener is Saturday. Sales through the weekend before opener were at 315,252, up from about 237,000 last year and about 152,000 in 2013.

Aaron Ramsey at Fisherman’s Corner in Duluth thinks he knows why: “Basically, because we’re going to have an opener,” Ramsey said.

He’s referring to the fact that the past two winters have lingered far too long into spring, and anglers were unsure whether ice would leave many northern lakes before opening day. This year, the snowmelt and ice out were ahead of schedule, and warm weather has gotten anglers to thinking about fishing — and buying their licenses.

You’d have to go back to 2005, 2006 and 2007 to find years when license sales were ahead of this year’s.

Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids, says several factors play into fishing license sales before opener.

“Certainly, it’s linked to the nice weather and the early spring,” Goeman said. “People are just planning to go fishing. A lot of anglers are pretty fair-weather anglers. They’ll go when it’s nice, but if it’s not nice or they’d have to contend with ice on the water or nasty weather, they don’t go fishing.”

But factors such as relatively low gasoline prices (at about $2.35 instead of near $4 per gallon) also can make a difference, Goeman said.

“It’s also been a while since we’ve had a license fee increase,” he said. “Initially, that keeps some people away.”

While early license sales are encouraging to the DNR, the whole story won’t be told until season’s end.

“Were there more people fishing, or is the total not much different?” Goeman said. “But typically, early sales are an indicator of total sales.”

Ramsey, at Fisherman’s Corner, said it’s ironic that license sales are up and anglers are eager to fish, when low water levels may make launching boats more difficult on some lakes, especially reservoir lakes in the Duluth area.

“Everything is so low,” Ramsey said Tuesday. “On Island and Boulder (lakes), I don’t think you can get a boat in right now, unless it rains a good 2 or 3 inches in the next couple of days.”

Ma and the cubs come to visit the Johnsons

Four bears roam the yard of Bill and Mary Johnson of rural Two Harbors. (Mary Johnson photo)

Four bears roam the yard of Bill and Mary Johnson of rural Two Harbors. (Mary Johnson photo)

Bill and Mary Johnson had a surprise last Wednesday night at their home about two miles west of Two Harbors. Mary looked out and saw what at first she thought to be three bears. But then she and Bill spotted a fourth. It appeared to be a sow in the distance and three yearling cubs closer to the house.

“The three cubs were under bird feeder,” Mary said. “The mother was off in the distance. I could hear her making noise back there.”

She said the couple hasn’t seen bears in their yard for several years.

When Mary first went out to take a photo, the cubs scampered up pine trees. But she was able to get a photo a bit later. The cubs stayed around for about an hour, Mary said.

Slow — but pleasant — day at the French River

Ben Anderson (foreground) of Cloquet fishes for Kamloops rainbow trout near the mouth of the French River on Friday afternoon as other anglers fish near the mouth of the river. It was a pleasant day for fishing, and anglers could see the rainbows in the water, but nobody was getting bites. (Sam Cook photo)

Ben Anderson (foreground) of Cloquet fishes for Kamloops rainbow trout near the mouth of the French River on Friday afternoon as other anglers fish near the mouth of the river. It was a pleasant day for fishing, and anglers could see the rainbows in the water, but nobody was getting bites. (Sam Cook photo)

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Anglers afoot and afloat fished for Kamloops rainbows at the mouth of the French River last Friday afternoon. (Sam Cook photo)

 

McKenzie Holt, a University of Minnesota Duluth student, keeps an eye on her fishing line while applying sparkling teal fingernail polish last Friday afternoon at the mouth of the French River. She and friend Blake Anderson were fishing for Kamloops rainbow trout. (Sam Cook photo)

McKenzie Holt, a University of Minnesota Duluth student, keeps an eye on her fishing line while applying sparkling teal fingernail polish last Friday afternoon at the mouth of the French River. She and friend Blake Anderson were fishing for Kamloops rainbow trout. (Sam Cook photo)

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Blake Anderson re-rigs with lighter line while his friend McKenzie Holt touches up her nail polish on Friday afternoon at the mouth of the French River. Both are distance runners for the University of Minnesota Duluth who had an afternoon off from practice. (Sam Cook photo)

 

Project aims to determine number of St. Louis River walleyes

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Another good-size walleye comes to the net during a population assessment on the St. Louis River being conducted by both the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources. At right are electrodes dangling in the water that momentarily stun the walleyes so they can be netted. They’re released unharmed. (Steve Kuchera photo)

I was on the St. Louis River last week with biologists from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources who are doing a population assessment on the river’s walleyes. Through electro-fishing, the agencies hope to capture and tag up to 7,000 walleyes. Later, when some of those fish are recaptured by anglers, the DNRs will be able to estimate the river’s walleye population. Currently, the agencies think the walleye population is stable and has a good age distribution of fish. Results of the assessment won’t be known until probably the fall of 2016. For a complete story and more photos of the population assessment, visit duluthnewstribune.com and search “walleye.”

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Kirk Olson of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources uses a tagging gun to insert a small tag near the dorsal fin of a walleye. (Steve Kuchera photo)

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A crew with fisheries biologists from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources use an electro-fishing boat to capture walleyes from the St. Louis River. (Steve Kuchera photo)

 

Smelt run still in early stages

The smelt run in the Duluth area hasn’t really begun with any consistency, according to reports. Dick Martin of the Lake Superior Fish Co. in Superior said his crew picked up a few smelt on Monday but he’s unsure of the status of the run.

“I’d like to see a couple or three days before I say anything,” Martin said.

At the Bait Box in Superior, Steve Dinda said he has heard sporadic results of success by smelters at the Brule River and at Park Point.

“It’s not hot and heavy,” Dinda said.

Cooler temperatures this week may slow things down after warmer weather last week. Smelt generally enter streams in mid- to late April when the water in the tributaries warms into the upper 40-degree range, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Smelt are light sensitive and run in shallow water at night, so most smelting takes place at night, when the fish are moving into the streams.

People seeking smelt on the North Shore typically use a long-handled dip net and stand in streams with waders to intercept smelt heading upstream. Others uses seine nets in the shallows of Lake Superior along the Park Point beach.