Pointers show their stuff

Scooby, a 4-year-old Vizsla, retrieves a bobwhite quail during a Lake Superior Pointing Dog Club hunt test held Saturday and Sunday near Sturgeon Lake. Scooby was handled by Jodi Hines of Willow Creek Kennels in Little Falls, Minn. (Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.com)

      While most of us are thinking about fishing, lots of pointing-dog owners gathered near Sturgeon  Lake on Saturday and Sunday for the club’s spring hunt test. A total of 49 dogs went afield in quest of their Junior, Senior or Master hunter titles. I was there to take some photos and gather information for a story we’ll publish in the Duluth News Tribune this coming Sunday.

       It was good to see such a variety of pointing dogs — German shorthairs, English pointers, Irish red and white setters, Gordon setters, English setters, Vizslas, Brittanies and at least one wire-haired pointing Dutch Griffon. Several Duluth-area and Northeastern Minnesota hunters were among those who handled dogs in the event.

       Depending on the level of test (junior, senior or master), the dogs were judged on their ability to point birds, hold steady at the shot, to retrieve and to honor another dog’s point.

        Here’s one more photo from the day:

Ruger, a Gordon setter, holds a stylish point on a bobwhite quail. Ruger was handled by Jodi Hines of Little Falls, Minn.  He was purchased by Mike Filas of Andover, Minn., from Dean and Jill Fries of Clearcut Kennels in Culver.

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Kids and trout: Stocking Chester Creek

Grace Rennquist (left) and Dakota Knase, fourth-graders at Kenwood Edison School, pour brook trout into Chester Creek Thursday as part of a stocking project with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Fourth-graders at the school, assisted by DNR fisheries biologists and members of the Arrowhead Fly Fishers club, stocked 470 yearling brook trout in the creek where it passes through the College of St. Scholastica. (Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.com)

 Another brook trout goes head-first into Chester Creek.

Aadi Hand (left) and Alex Frantz, fourth-graders at Kenwood Edison School in Duluth, dump yearling brook trout into Chester Creek on Thursday. Before the students stocked the creek, a DNR fisheries biologist explained why good water quality is important to trout.


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Canoeist Erik Simula holds fireside chat tonight


  Erik Simula of Hovland hopes to paddle his 13-foot birch-bark canoe more than 1,000 miles in a circuit route around Northeastern Minnesota this summer. (Steve Kuchera / News Tribune)

      Erik Simula, who’s paddling his birch-bark canoe 1,000 miles around Northeastern Minnesota this summer, will hold a fireside chat open to the public at 7 p.m. tonight at Indian Point Campground on the St. Louis River. Simula will be at campsite number 53. He’ll discuss his trip.Indian Point Campground is at 7408 Grand Ave., near the Willard Munger Inn.

      Simula, of Hovland, began his journey April 22 from Grand Portage, paddling his 13-foot canoe along the North Shore of Lake Superior to Duluth. He arrived in Duluth Tuesday and took on water as he tried to negotiate the Duluth ship canal in choppy seas. He was rescued by the Duluth Fire Department. After drying out clothing and making some repairs to his canoe, he paddled another six miles to Indian Point Campground. He is laying over there today because of high winds.

      Simula, 44, plans to continue up the St. Louis River to Floodwood, then portage to the Mississippi River. From there he’ll paddle north to Grand Rapids, where he will watch his daughter Anna graduate from high school. He’ll paddle Lake Winnibigoshish and Bowstring to the Bigfork River, then north to the Rainy River and east to Grand Portage through Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

      He hopes to arrive home by Aug. 7.





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Phantom 25-inch smallmouth reported

    No, don’t believe it. I didn’t either.

    Kris, who handles our Nice Fish listings here at the Duluth News Tribune, told me earlier today she had received notice of a 25-inch smallmouth bass that reportedly had been released by an angler on Lake Vermilion over the weekend.

     My first reaction: Skepticism.

     Smallmouth bass of that size are rarely reported. Perhaps a few exist in Minnesota waters, but you rarely hear of them. We hear of 20-inchers each year, maybe a few 21s, even a 22. But 25?

     I called the resort where it had reportedly been listed. The owner was skeptical, too. I gave him the name of the angler, and he gave me the angler’s phone number. It was a man from the Twin Cities area. I called him.

     You have to be tactful doing something like this. You don’t want to imply that the person is outright lying. I told him I was trying to verify his catch of the 25-inch smallmouth.

      He laughed.

      "It was a nice fish, but come on!" he said. "It was 17 and 5/8 inches."

      There you have it. He didn’t know how the fish might have been listed as 25 inches. I asked if possibly a friend had done it as a spoof. He didn’t know.

      But the matter goes to illustrate something we all know about big fish: Some of them tend to be larger than life. Don’t believe everything you hear.

      We don’t verify every fish that comes in to our "Nice Fish" listing that we publish in Outdoors every Sunday. But I do check out suspiciously large fish, and we’ve disallowed some before. I recall a 60-inch muskie reportedly caught on Lake Vermilion that turned out to be a bit of a stretch. That one didn’t make the list, either.

       We list released fish because we encourage selective harvest and because many, many anglers do release a portion of the fish they catch. We’d like to recognize them. Is it possible that we get taken advantage of by less than honest anglers? Sure.

        But I’ll have to see a 25-inch bass on a tape measure before it makes the list.


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Hi Sam,
No, this is not normal…I counted over 200 American White Pelicans on three occasions. I guess they were there over a week. My guess is that they were either on their way up to the Lake of the Woods colony or non-breeders. Many pelicans just hang out for the summer and do not breed. But my hunch is that they were on their way north to breed as I saw plenty of pairs that seemed to be bonded.

There are only a couple breeding colonies in the state…Marsh Lake in western MN, Lake of the Woods and I guess some smaller ones in southern MN (not sure if they are still active).

Usually we only see small flocks along the St. Louis in May and they usually leave in a day or two. I know Karl Bardon has counted good numbers of Pelicans from the Enger Tower spring hawk count www.hawkridge.org

Attached is my only photo that I have at work. I will send more tonight or tomorrow. Yes, you can use it…credit Sparky Stensaas/sparkyphotos.com


Sparky Stensaas
2515 Garthus Road
Wrenshall, MN 55797
218.341.3350 cell




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Pelicans visit the St. Louis River


 This white pelican on the St. Louis River looks as if he’s waiting for an air-drop. More than 200 white pelicans gathered on the river in Duluth for about a week this spring, said naturalist and photographer Sparky Stensaas, who made the photograph above. Many left the river on Sunday or Monday, according to observers, but Stensaas saw about 80 of them on Thursday morning. Below is a photo of a pelican in flight. (Sparky Stensaas / sparkyphotos.com)

    Although white pelicans often pause in small groups on the St. Louis River on their way north in the spring, this year’s gathering of more than 200 was unusual, said naturalist Sparky Stensaas of Wrenshall. And they usually don’t stay for a week, as this flock did.

     Stensaas suspects they are on their way north to nest. The only two major white pelican nesting colonies in Minnesota are on Lake of the Woods and on Marsh Lake in western Minnesota, he said. Some of the birds can be seen on Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota in mid-summer, but those might be non-breeding birds affiliated with the Lake of the Woods breeders.

     For more of Stensaas photographs, go to his Web site, www.sparkyphotos.com.



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Contests release walleyes alive

    Early-season walleye fishing contests in Duluth have a pretty good record of releasing fish alive after weigh-ins. Nearly all of the fish entered in this past weekend’s contests at Moldeez Bar and Shotz Bar were released alive unless a participant wanted to mount a fish.

     This coming weekend’s Grand Slam Walleye Contest on the St. Louis River, now in its eighth year, also releases nearly every walleye alive after a quick weigh-in. In several years, those fish have been released under the watchful eye of Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists. These releases have been successful in part because water temperatures are favorable — still cool enough — and in part because contest organizers have streamlined weigh-ins to minimize stress on fish.

      Tom Pfister, who has conducted all the Grand Slam contests, this week provided a summary of his past contests. In the seven years (eight contests, because two were held last spring), just five fish have been killed among 1,786 caught, Pfister said.

Here’s a breakdown of past Grand Slam results, provided by Pfister:

  • 2002: 219 walleyes caught, weighing 619 pounds
  • 2003: 364 caught, 812 pounds
  • 2004: 233 caught, 718 pounds
  • 2005: 292 caught, 768 pounds
  • 2006: 218 caught, 492 pounds
  • 2007: 231 caught, 664 pounds
  • 2008 (May contest): 200 caught, 591 pounds
  • 2008 (June contest): 29 caught, 106 pounds     
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Trout stocked in Duluth-area waters


Brook trout lie on grass after a morning of successful fishing. (News Tribune file)

Again this year, Duluth elementary-school students are helping Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials stock brook trout in local waters. DNR fisheries specialist John Lindgren uses the stocking process to teach students about water quality and good trout habitat. While anyone may fish for these stocked trout, they are intended especially as a resource for young anglers.

      Here’s the schedule of stocking this spring:

  • Twin Ponds: Was stocked on May 6 and will be stocked again May 21 with 200 rainbow trout each date
  • Kingsbury Creek: Was stocked on Tuesday with 465 yearling brook trout
  • Chester Creek: Will be stocked Thursday with 470 yearling brook trout
  • Tischer Creek: Will be stocked on May 20 with 600 yearling brook trout
  • Lester River: Will be stocked on May 19 with 800 yearling brook trout

In the past, other waters had been stocked with brown trout with the assistance of elementary-school students. Because brown trout come from a more distant fish hatchery, they had to be held for a short time in the DNR’s French River fish hatchery before stocking. However, because of concerns about the fish disease VHS, those fish can no longer be held at French River.

Those brown trout still will be stocked in area waters, but without the assistance of the students, said Deserae Hendrickson, DNR area fisheries supervisor at French River. The stocking of yearling brown trout will take place in early June, she said, in the following waters:

  • Otter Creek
  • Kingsbury Creek
  • Midway River
  • Chester Park pond
  • Hartley Pond
  • Us-Kab-Wan-Ka River


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One man’s connection to the Honking Tree

I received the following e-mail from Jason Rice, a former television journalist here in Duluth who now works for Stanley LaBounty in the southeastern United States. He had a perspective on the white pine known as the "Honking Tree" in the Minnesota Highway 61 Expressway median near Two Harbors.

Here are his thoughts:

"After reading about the news of the Honking Tree’s demise from a cold hotel room in Tennessee, I was compelled to share a few thoughts with the only man I know who probably thought about that tree more than just honking at it. Feel free to use my words as inspiration for an essay of your own.

"In 1999, a friend shared with me the story of the Honking Tree. But he really didn’t know the story behind that tree. Oh what a pleasant story it was, that story about a tree. As an outdoors reporter myself at the time, it drew my curiosity. Why do people honk at the precise moment they pass that ol’ pine and what do the neighbors think of the beep-beeps at all hours of the night?

"I called John Bray. He must know why they honk. The story of Charlie Hensley flowed from John and I sensed he was proud to tell the TV camera a pleasant story instead of discussing potholes and construction delays. John was–and probably still is–proud of that true story of a simple man who decided to make a simple difference with his simple choice.

"That tree was a sort of turning point in my fledgling career as a journalist. I started to look at the landmarks and scenes of our region with more in mind than just the stream before me, the campfire I sat beside, the grouse that watched me work a riffle with a fly rod. These scenes, these things we come upon in our travels become ingrained in our expectations and that first-time-you-saw-it feeling drifts on down the river.

"That feeling never drifted away for me when it came to that tree. No, I didn’t hug it or worship it or think it had some power that it didn’t. But I did recall that feeling every time I passed that tree… and I would pass it many more times. As a Duluthian working in Two Harbors for several years, that tree would give me pause in good moods, in bad. That tree was my vision as I listened to news or rock-n-roll on the car radio. That tree looked as if placed in a painting on stormy days headed southbound. It complemented the moods of the Northland sky and got carloads of travelers just a little bit more excited to be "up north". It was my symbol, my sight cue that I was heading to the BWCA every time.

"The first few passes, I did honk. In later journeys I guess I forgot or thought it might not be a good idea late at night. But on my last journey before relocating to South Carolina this winter, I did pay what turned out to be one last fitting tribute. There was Charlie’s tree, steady as always, reminding me of a northern scene I was about to leave behind. This time I remembered and did what I was supposed to… HONK! HONK! That one was for you, Mr. Hensley."

Jason Rice
Southeast Region Manager
Cell: 704-307-9258

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Another nice walleye, still swimming


     Matthew Dzuck of Duluth caught this 28-inch walleye on the St. Louis River on Saturday, opening day of Minnesota’s fishing season. He released the fish. (Submitted photo)



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