DNR’s rainbow trout report is out

Fisheries officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at French River have published their 2014 Rainbow Trout Management Summary online here. It’s a look at catch rates for steelhead and Kamloops rainbow trout on the North Shore, as well as a report of how many fish entered DNR traps at French River and Knife River. Check it out.

Minnesota DNR announces two high-level appointments

Former Two Harbors resident Luke Skinner has been named director of the Ecological and Water Resources Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the agency announced Tuesday. Previously, Skinner had been deputy director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.

Also on Tuesday, Sarah Strommen, acting deputy director at the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), was appointed DNR assistant commissioner. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced two appointments.

Skinner replaces Steve Hirsch, who retired. Skinner has 24 years of DNR experience in roles ranging from natural resources specialist to supervisor. Most of his DNR career has been spent in the Ecological and Water Resources Division working in the invasive species program, including six years as unit supervisor.

As DNR assistant commissioner, Strommen will oversee two divisions for the commissioner’s office, Parks and Trails and Fish and Wildlife, and the agency’s strategic direction with land management and the Legacy amendment. She fills the position vacated by Assistant Commissioner Mike Carroll, who retires Jan. 13.



Duluth bow hunters register 446 deer in city hunt

Bow hunters in Duluth’s city deer hunt registered a preliminary total of 446 deer during the 2014 season, according to the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the hunt for the city. In 2013, hunters killed 399 deer in the city bow hunt.

Of the 2014 total harvest, 371 were antlerless deer and 75 were antlered deer. Hunters are required to take at least one antlerless deer before shooting a buck in the hunt. The hunt opened Sept. 13 and ended Dec. 31. A total of 353 hunters took part in the hunt, according to the ABA.

The 2014 total harvest of 446 deer, though up from 2013, was well below the average of 534 deer registered from 2008 to 2013.

“We continue to see that hunters are moving deer out of the city and trying to bring the population down,” said Phillip Lockett, chair of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance. “The feeling from the public is that we’re starting to reach those population goals and seeing fewer and fewer deer.”

Fewer people are calling the ABA to request hunters come into areas called hotspots, where deer congregate in small areas, Lockett said.


Duluth’s owls, fat-biking featured in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

A snowy owl flies over a field near Duluth. (Michael Furtman photo)

The writing and photography of a couple of Duluth-area residents are featured in the January-February 2015 issue of the DNR’s Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine. Wildlife photographer Michael Furtman’s photos of snowy owls made up a photo essay. He photographed most of the owls last winter, when several of the birds were wintering in the Duluth area. Snowy owls are native to the Arctic, but in some winters many of them move south to find more prey.

In addition, Hansi Johnson of nearby Thomson wrote a feature on the popularity of fat-biking. The photos of Layne Kennedy accompany the story, and all of the photos were taken in the Duluth area.

Spring turkey hunt application is Friday

If you’re a Minnesota turkey hunter, don’t forget that the deadline to apply for early season spring wild turkey hunting permits is Friday, Jan. 9, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The spring season, which runs from April 15 to May 28, is divided into eight time periods. Only people age 18 and older who want to hunt during the first three time periods (A-C) need to apply for a spring turkey permit. Permits for the remaining time periods (D-H) can be purchased over-the-counter.

Permits for the last five time periods and youth licenses for any time period are sold over-the-counter starting March 1. Surplus adult licenses from the first three time periods, if available, are sold starting around mid-March.

Engwall named to head Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association today named Craig Engwall as its new executive director. Engwall has more than 20 years’ experience in law, natural resources and conservation and  served as northeast regional director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Grand Rapids from 2006 to 2013..

Engwall, an attorney, is currently forest legacy projects coordinator with the DNR at Hibbing. He will assume his duties with MDHA on Jan. 2.

“I’m ecstatic. This is awesome,” Engwall said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I’ve worked in natural resources pretty much my whole career. This lets me mesh my personal life with my professional life.”

Engwall, 51, lives on Dora Lake near Northome, about 50 miles northwest of Grand Rapids.

He said his experience in partnering with other agencies and businesses will help him in his role at MDHA.

“One of the things I look on with pride is that partnerships are key,” he said. “I think MDHA can partner with the state, and I’ll be looking to counties, too, looking at some habitat projects that the counties would be willing to support in northern Minnesota.”

Engwall grew up in the Twin Cities. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1986 and the University of Minnesota Law School in 1991, He has worked on natural resources and agriculture issues at both the state and federal levels, including the linkage between the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program and the Federal Conservation Reserve (CRP) and Wetlands Reserve Programs (WRP). Engwall was a key player in Minnesota acquiring the largest conservation easement in state history, the nearly 200,000-acre Blandin Paper Company project that protects forest lands.


Minnesota ‘Pheasant Summit’ offers ideas to increase bird numbers

I didn’t make it to Gov. Dayton’s “Pheasant Summit” in Marshall, Minn., on Saturday, but from various news reports, it appears the 300 people who attended offered up several ideas for making Minnesota more pheasant friendly. Here’s an account of the meeting from outdoors editor David Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Pheasant hunters walk across a grassland on a December hunt. (Sam Cook photo)

Among the suggestions, according to Orrick’s account and others, is for the state to more vigorously enforce laws that require grassland buffer zones along streams and laws that restrict mowing of ditches and the planting of crops along roadsides.

Another idea that proved popular was using state bonding money to buy land for more Wildlife Management Areas. Those areas provide wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities.

The DNR plans to develop an accelerated action plan to enhance pheasant habitat and present the plan at its annual roundtable meeting with stakeholders on Jan. 16.

While the state wants to do everything it can to improve the pheasant population, most hunters believe federal farm policy drives pheasant numbers by offering programs that pay farmers to set aside lands in grass cover. In recent years, farmers have been opting out of those programs to put land back into crops while commodity prices are higher than they’ve been in recent years. Payments to farmers through federal farm programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program can’t currently compete with the rental rates farmers can charge for land in production.







DNR announces more trails open for fat-bike riders

A fat-bike rider cruises down a segment of the Duluth Traverse in Lester Park. (News Tribune file photo)

Winter fat-bikers will now have more trails to ride. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today that it has expanded the number of trails available to fat-bikers at state parks and trail systems, including more than five miles at Jay Cook State Park near Carlton and nearly nine miles at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park near Two Harbors.

These new riding opportunities are in addition to 20 miles of existing trails at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Brainerd, Minn. Winter fat bike riding opportunities in Minnesota state parks and trails now total 78 miles.

Fat bikes are bicycles with large, low-pressure tires designed for travel over snow or sandy soil. The bike tires are often wider than 3½ inches with tire pressure less than 10 psi.

Outdoors enthusiasts can now ride fat bikes at the following locations in northern Minnesota:

Jay Cooke State Park: 5.4 miles of trails to be groomed for fat biking

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: 8.7 miles of trails to be groomed for fat biking and skate-skiing.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (Ironton): 20 miles of groomed trails for fat biking.

The DNR advises anyone riding a fat bike to avoid snowmobile and cross-country ski trails because almost all of these trails are not open to other uses during the winter.


Seasonal greetings along the Superior Hiking Trail

A holiday basket full of holiday candy canes hangs along a spur of the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth. (Sam Cook photo)

Walking along a spur of the Superior Hiking Trail near Hawk Ridge in east Duluth on Saturday, I was surprised to come upon this holiday basket hanging alongside the trail. In it was a Christmas card and a lot of holiday candy canes. The card, signed by a family but without last names, wished hikers a good day and suggested they take a candy cane along on their walks.

It was a dank and dreary day, the sixth in a row without sun in Duluth. I was hiking through remnant snow and patches of ice with my ski poles, trying to make the best of a drippy, non-winter day in December. The world seemed gray and soupy and heavy, but now I had stumbled upon this splash of color and a warm season greeting. I didn’t need a candy cane, but I appreciated the sentiment. The holidays bring out the best in people, it seems. Little gestures of good will, often surprising and anonymous, come out of nowhere to surprise us in the best ways.

Here’s what was in the basket:

Candy canes fill a basket hanging along the Superior Hiking Trail.

Wisconsin to lower lake trout limits on Lake Superior

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board today approved an emergency rule lowering the lake trout limit in the Apostle Islands area because of declining lake trout populations, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced.

The rule change comes after a Dec. 1 stakeholder meeting in Ashland.

The 2014-15 emergency rule reduces the daily lake trout bag limit from three to two, one of which may be 20 to 25 inches in length and one longer than 35 inches. For waters west of Bark Point, regulations for lake trout remain unchanged at three lake trout with a 15-inch minimum length and only one lake trout longer than 25 inches.

The recreational lake trout open season runs from Dec. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015. The commercial fishing season is open Nov. 28, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015.

Population assessments over the past six to eight years indicate the decline is tied to harvest levels, DNR biologists said. In addition to the board’s adoption of the emergency rule, the DNR is seeking public input to identify Lake Superior fisheries priorities to help guide long-term management of the fishery.

“We recommended the emergency rule to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery as well as the welfare of the state-licensed commercial fishers, Chippewa commercial fishers, recreational anglers and associated businesses that depend on lake trout,” Terry Margenau, DNR Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, said in a statement. “Lake trout are a slow-growing species and harvest reductions are needed to allow some recovery.”

The goal of the new regulations is to help reduce the overall harvest to 50,000 fish in the zone known as WI-2, surrounding the Apostle Islands. That target is still higher than the targets set in other lake trout management units.

In addition to the emergency rule, the DNR continues to gather comments regarding future management options and priorities for the fishery through the end of December. Citizens may provide feedback by mailing Terry L. Margenau, Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 589, 141 S. Third Street Bayfield, WI 54814; or emailing terry.margenau@wisconsin.gov.

For more information about the recent public meeting, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov and search Lake Superior fisheries management meeting.