Night fishing will open July 21 on Mille Lacs Lake

The night-fishing ban for walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will be lifted July 21 at 10 p.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In past years, the Mille Lacs Lake night closure, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., began the Monday after the May opener and continued through mid-June. This year’s regulations originally extended the closure to Dec. 1 to help ensure state-licensed anglers did not catch more walleyes than the lake’s safe harvest limit allowed. If that limit was reached, anglers would have had to release all walleyes instead of being allowed to keep two. The possession limit is two fish from 18 to 20 inches. One fish may be longer than 28 inches.

The night-fishing ban was lifted because anglers are catching fewer walleyes on the lake this summer. So far, anglers have caught about 10,000 pounds of walleyes, DNR officials said. Fisheries officials believe anglers won’t catch more than the harvest limit of 42,900 pounds of walleyes.

Anglers have caught fewer walleye because walleyes are feeding on an abundance of perch in Mille Lacs this year and because of reduced fishing pressure.

“The DNR is not removing the night closure because Mille Lacs Lake has recovered,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. “More young walleye still need to survive their first year and keep growing from year to year into larger walleye. Conditions this year combined for a slow bite, allowing DNR to re-open an activity that helps the Mille Lacs area economy and is a tradition among many fishing families.”

When miniature hot-air balloons go bad

Here’s an entry from today’s conservation officer reports from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Conservation officer Matt Miller (Marine Unit, Lake Superior) checked big-water anglers (on Lake Superior)… A group launching small paper-and-bamboo balloons out over Lake Superior was asked what their plan was to retrieve the balloons. When they said they were not going to, they were reminded that litter is litter, whether it is dropped out of a moving vehicle or launched for fun over the lake.

Images of high summer in the North

A great blue heron flies along the shoreline of Fish Lake north of Duluth on Wednesday evening. (Sam Cook photo)

This time of year is what a friend of mine calls “high summer.” We’ve reached the high point of summer’s fullness. Fish are chunky and full of feed. Deer are wearing their deep red. Baby birds are growing stronger. The roadsides are a blur of daisies, lupine, orange hawkweed and buttercups. Soon: Fireweed.

Food is plentiful. Life is good. The light is rich and full.

A few images from recent days seem to reflect this mood of high summer. I saw the great blue heron, above, walking along a shoreline of cattails Wednesday evening while I was doing a fishing story on Fish Lake. When he took flight, I grabbed a few shots of him. Such a graceful creature.

Here are a few more photos that seem to capture the essence of high summer in the North.

Sarah Stirewalt took this photo of Minnesota’s state flower, the showy lady slipper, while she was biking on the Munger Trail in Duluth this week. (Sarah Stirewalt photo)

Loon chicks are growing fast now. Here’s a loon family riding the waves of Pelican Lake near Orr on Thursday. (Sam Cook photo)

Nothing says summer like a beefy largemouth bass draped in aquatic vegetation and wearing a saucy swim jig in its lip. This largemouth bass was caught by Butch Furtman of Orr on Pelican Lake on Thursday afternoon. (Sam Cook photo)



MDHA issues final report on 2014 emergency deer feeding

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has prepared a final report on this past winter’s emergency deer feeding effort. For the complete report, go to the MDHA website at

Here are some highlights from that summary:

  • The program was paid for by the DNR through an account funded by a surcharge of 50 cents per deer license. The fund was initiated by the Minnesota Legislature in 1996.
  • A total of 1,056,000 pounds of feed, or 528 tons, was purchased and distributed across more than 12,000 square miles during the six-week initiative. A total of 969 individuals obtained feed through the program. These volunteers put feed out at 1,123 documented sites across the 13 DNR-approved Deer Permit Areas in Northeastern Minnesota.
  • A total of $200,225 was spent on feed procurement and shipping/handling. Under the terms of the grant, MDHA paid the feed procurement expenses as they were incurred, and subsequently requested reimbursement from the DNR. DNR reimbursed MDHA for appropriate expenses from the “Emergency Winter Deer Feeding/Wild Cervid Health” account.
  • A minimum of 72 volunteers handed out feed on a weekly basis at the eight distribution points for a total of 288 volunteer hours per week and 1,728 total volunteer hours for the six-week period. A total of 885 hours of MDHA staff time was used to support the feeding program. The cost of this staff time was $32,990.




Unfortunate encounter with a woodchuck along Lutsen’s Alpine Slide

Paul Sundberg of Grand Marais, shared the following story about an unlikely encounter with a woodchuck recently. Sundberg was for years the manager of Gooseberry Falls State Park for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He’s a professional photographer who each week shares his recent photos of the outdoors and other happenings at his website,

Be warned: The story about the woodchuck has a sad ending.

Sundberg’s  granddaughter, Addie, 6, was visiting from the South, and on the last day of their visit, they took a ride on the Alpine Slide at the Lutsen Mountains ski area. At the Alpine Slide, visitors ride small sleds down a long hill in a winding concrete trough. Here’s Sundberg’s account:

“We took (Addie) on the Alpine slide. She rode down on my lap. About two-thirds of the way down, we are flying along and here in the middle of the concrete runway ahead of us is a woodchuck that fell into the track,” Sundberg wrote in an e-mail.

“They tell you not to stop because you can get hit from behind by another rider. I slow up and it looks like the woodchuck is going to climb out. At the last second he slips on the concrete and slides back in again. Now I can’t stop in time and know I am going to hit him. He is either going to come on top of the slide and end up in Addie’s lap or he is going under the sled.

“He goes under, and I think he is far enough on the side that he goes through. Not so. Soon the sled is going slower and stops. I quickly grab Addie and throw her out of the sled on the grass so nobody hits us. I jump out and pick up the sled.”

The woodchuck, Sundberg said, had been hit by the sled but did not immediately die. It managed to crawl off into the woods, although Sundberg feared the animal would not survive.

“Addie looks up at me and says, ‘I didn’t do that, Poppy. You were driving,’ ” Sundberg wrote.

As a result of the incident, they received another ride down the slide, compliments of the Alpine Slide staff, he said.

“The guy standing in line ahead of us said that the same thing happened to him 12 years ago,” Sundberg said.




Wisconsin sets wolf season quota at 156

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board today  set the state’s 2014 wolf season quota at 156, down from last year’s quota of 275. The quota is the same as that proposed by the Department of Natural Resources Wolf Advisory Committee.

Minnesota expects to set its wolf hunting and trapping quotas sometime in July, said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.


The quota was set with the intention of continuing to reduce the state’s wolf population in accordance with the goals identified in the wolf management plan, DNR officials said in a news release.


Last fall, hunters and trappers in Wisconsin took 257 wolves. The state’s current late-winter 2014 minimum count is 660-689 wolves. This count represents a decline of 18 percent from the 2013 winter count of 809-834.


The DNR Wolf Advisory Committee is comprised of DNR staff, the Chippewa tribes, partner natural resource agencies and stakeholders representing the agriculture industry, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, sporting groups and organizations with an interest in wolf management.


Though the quota has been decided, the amount of wolves harvestable by state trappers and hunters may be adjusted dependent on tribal harvest declarations.


The department will maintain the 10-to-1 license-to-quota ratio from the 2013 season. One half of available permits will be issued randomly among all permit applications and the second half will be issued through a cumulative preference-point drawing.


Those interested in obtaining a license or a preference point for the 2014 season must apply by Aug. 1. The permit application fee is $10, and applications may be purchased from authorized license agents, over the Internet through the DNR Online Licensing Center or by phone at (877) 945-4236 toll-free.


The state’s wolf season will begin Oct. 15 and will run in each zone until the zone is closed or the last day of February, whichever occurs first. The department has the authority to close hunting zones when quotas are met or if deemed biologically necessary.

Minnesota DNR officials say they plan to set the state’s wolf season quotas in July.

Quetico wilderness trip offers solitude, nice fish

Duluth’s Scott Neustel holds a 40-inch northern pike he caught on a lake in Quetico Provincial Park, just north of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Ontario. (Sam Cook photo)

Six of us — Scott Neustel, Mark Neustel, Wayne Bogen, Clint Moen, Terry Christensen and I — made an eight-day canoe trip to Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park this past week. Quetico Park is just across the Minnesota-Ontario border north of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We caught plenty of walleyes (up to 28 inches), northern pike (to 40 inches), lake trout (to 30 inches) and a few smallmouth bass (to 20 inches). Quetico is a spectacular wilderness park, very lightly traveled. We saw about nine other parties in eight days and saw nobody else on three days. Some rain, some wind, some bugs.

We released most of the walleyes we caught, but we kept a few each day for supper. (Sam Cook photo)

The crew in a rain-dampened camp. From left, Mark Neustel, Clint Moen, Scott Neustel, Wayne Bogen. (Sam Cook photo)

Just past sunset on a Quetico lake. (Sam Cook photo)

Red pines reflect in the water of a Quetico park lake at sunset. (Sam Cook photo)

Supper: Fresh walleye fillets and Clint Moen’s chutney rice side dish. (Sam Cook photo)

Boot-drying rack in camp. Day Two. (Sam Cook photo)

Images from the Canadian bush

Duluth’s Steve Harrington and Gary Larson paddle along the shoreline of a lake in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park on a lake-trout fishing trip over Memorial Day weekend. (Sam Cook photo)

I’ll just share a few images from a recent fishing and camping trip to Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. Quetico, a 1.2-million-acre wilderness canoeing park, is right across the Ontario border from Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The country is much the same as the Boundary Waters but far less traveled. We typically go early in the season to catch lake trout. We caught some lake trout, although we were on a lake that was new to us and we didn’t catch as many as in some years. Here are a couple more photos.

The crew: Gary Larson, Mark Helmer, Steve Harrington. We’re offering helpful commentary to Helmer as he prepares to fry fish. (Sam Cook photo)

Breaking camp on our final morning, I noticed this spider web in the brush. (Sam Cook photo)

Water tumbles down a set of falls along a portage between two lakes in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. (Sam Cook photo)

We had plenty of time for conversation around the fire. (Sam Cook photo)

Visit a Minnesota state park free on Saturday

What are you doing Saturday?

How about making a free visit to one of Minnesota’s 75 state parks?

On Saturday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will waive the requirement for a vehicle permit ($5 one-day or $25 year-round) and provide free admission at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day. The goal of National Get Outdoors Day is to introduce first-time visitors, especially families with young children, to the fun of outdoor recreation at state parks, state trails, fishing piers and other public lands.

Special programs are taking place at some parks, including a birding hike at Tettegouche State Park near Silver Bay. For a complete list of those special programs, go to (