Houston to share fishing tips at Duluth ‘Boat Show’

Jarrid Houston of South Range shows off a 20-inch walleye he caught on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward during the Wisconsin during the 2014 fishing opener. (Sam Cook photo)

Jarrid Houston of South Range shows off a 20-inch walleye he caught on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward during the Wisconsin during the 2014 fishing opener. (Sam Cook photo)

Fishing guide Jarrid Houston will be doing fishing seminars daily during the Duluth Boat, Sports, Travel and RV Show, which runs Feb. 17-21 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The show opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Gunflint Pines Resort loses a good friend

I received this note from Shari Baker at Gunflint Pines Resort on the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais today about the loss of their family dog:

“With heavy heart, we must report that we lost Sota early this morning. We will
miss her greatly. She was a major part of our life here at the Gunflint Pines
Resort. She was the camp greeter and often could be found opening the door to
run out and greet the next guest as they arrived.
“She often guided guests on hikes to Lonely lake or High Cliffs. Many a guest
would start off hiking only to find her flushing the path in front of them and
waiting at the intersections to be sure they were on the right path. But many
a guest would also come back without her, distraught, only to have us ask how
long they were hiking. We knew that if they had taken a short hike, she had found
others to hike with before coming home. She was an excellent bird dog,
squirrel or chipmunk chaser and mouser. She was smarter than and had more
grace than many humans (I swear!) and was nothing but loving to everyone.
Sota was 11 years old and had a good life. She was loved and adored by many
children who returned each year only to ask where she was so they could pet
her belly.
“Sadly we feel we must also tell you that she was killed by wolves. At 3 a.m. this
morning, she had to go to the bathroom. Within minutes we heard them. We quickly
dressed and scared them off. It was too late. This happened within 30 feet of
the building. It is a testament to the severity of the wolf situation. We
understand that this was always a possibility and that the wolves are just
trying to survive. We also know there are those out there who will criticize
us for even mentioning the wolf situation, but those who do not live here
have no idea how large the population is.
“We used to have a deer herd of roughly 100 on the south shore of Gunflint Lake.
This year I have seen fewer than four. Please understand that we also love the
wolves and appreciate their need for balance in nature, but our position has
and always been and will remain this: If you are going to manage the moose, deer, small
game, etc., populations, you must also manage the wolf population. There is no
longer a balance in our area. The wolves are beginning to become desperate.
How long before they begin starving and become aggressive?
“Rest in peace Sota. Many will miss you!”

On the trail in Kenya

A cape buffalo stares down a visitor to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. (Sam Cook photo)

A cape buffalo stares down a visitor to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. (Sam Cook photo)

I was fortunate to be able to spend about 10 days over the holidays in Kenya, where our daughter and son-in-law live. They had arranged travels that included a visit to the Mara Explorers Camp at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. We spent three days on game drives there, watching animals and looking at the expansive grasslands. We were guided by Jackson Nkuiti, a Maasai man whose ancestors have lived in the region for thousands of years.

The Maasai Mara borders Tanzania’s much larger Serengeti National Park to the south. The areas are known for their wealth of game animals, including, lions, buffalo, rhinoceros, leopards, cheetahs and many more.

We stayed in a tent camp and ventured out into the Mara each day in a Toyota Land Cruiser. For a couple of stories about our travels in Kenya, read this Sunday’s Duluth News Tribune and online at duluthnewstribune.com.

Meanwhile here are a few more photos:

An adult elephant throws dirt on its back. Jackson, our guide, said elephants do this to help cool down. (Sam Cook photo)

An adult elephant throws dirt on its back. Jackson, our guide, said elephants do this to help cool down. (Sam Cook photo)

A leopard makes its way down an acacia tree. It was going to meet its mother and a sibling on the ground. (Sam Cook photo)

A leopard makes its way down an acacia tree. It was going to meet its mother and a sibling on the ground. (Sam Cook photo)

A black rhinoceros looks up from a patch of brush where it had been resting and feeding at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. (Sam Cook photo)

A black rhinoceros looks up from a patch of brush where it had been resting and feeding at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. (Sam Cook photo)

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DNR names Rodmen to head enforcement division

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today that Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, assistant director and 19-year veteran of the department, will be the next director of the agency’s Enforcement Division.

“Rodmen brings a wealth of on-the-job knowledge and experience to the position, and understands first-hand the challenges facing natural resources law enforcement,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “I’m looking forward to working with Rodmen to enhance the division’s communications and public outreach and accelerate our efforts to diversify the department and solidify our reputation as a top-shelf natural resources agency.”

As division director Smith, 44, will oversee a $38 million annual budget and a staff of 250 employees, more than 200 of whom are licensed conservation officers. The division is responsible for enforcing the state’s laws related to game and fish; public lands, waters and natural resources; units of the outdoor recreation system and outdoor recreation-related public safety.

Smith began his career with the DNR in 1997 as a conservation officer. He was assigned to patrol areas in central and northern Minnesota, and later became a district supervisor, a regional enforcement director and then the division’s operations manager. In 2011 he was promoted to the division’s assistant director where his job responsibilities included the division’s budgeting, policy formation and legislative liaison.

“I see three immediate priorities for the division,” Smith said in a statement. “We need to continue to improve our service to Minnesota citizens. We need to recruit and hire new officers who not only exceed our high standards, but more accurately reflect the diverse community we serve. And we need to continue to provide field staff with the best training and tools to do their job safely, effectively and efficiently.”

Smith  replaces Col. Ken Soring, who retired in December after more than 35 years with the DNR.

DNR names big-game program leader

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has hired Adam Murkowski as big game program leader for the agency, starting Jan. 11. Murkowski will oversee deer, elk and moose populations and hunting seasons for deer and elk.

Murkowski worked in a similar position, deer project leader, in Vermont from 2012 to 2015. Since March 2015, he has worked for the Wisconsin DNR as assistant deer, bear and wolf ecologist in Madison.

“Adam is passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I think he is particularly well-suited to our big-game job because of his strong interest in big game and his professional experience,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager, in a statement. “He is also highly trained and experienced in wildlife science and engaging the public. He is well-positioned to continue our approach of using science-based information and effective public engagement processes to manage Minnesota’s white-tailed deer and other species.”

The primary responsibilities of the big game program leader are to manage deer and elk populations and harvest seasons, and to work with groups and individuals interested in big game management to address the expectations of a diverse public.  

Murkowski was born and raised in Wisconsin, where he attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and received a bachelor’s of science degree in wildlife management and ecology. He also has a master’s degree in forest resources (with a wildlife emphasis) from the University of Arkansas-Monticello where he worked on bear, deer and elk research. He has held temporary jobs working on deer projects in North Carolina and Colorado.  

He replaces Leslie McInenly, who left the big game program leader position in October when she was promoted to the DNR wildlife section’s forest habitat team supervisor.

Caution urged for riders on C.J. Ramstad North Shore State Trail

Snowmobile riders on the C.J. Ramstad North Shore State Trail should be aware that, despite snow depths of 4 to 12 inches, the trail is in early-season condition, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Some wetlands may not be frozen beneath the snow, and riders should use caution, said Joe Russell, DNR Parks and Trails area supervisor at Two Harbors.

Here are snow depths along the trail, which runs from Duluth to Grand Marais, according to Russell:

Duluth to Two Harbors, 4 to 8 inches

Two Harbors to Finland, 8 to 10 inches

Finland to Caribou Trail (Cook County Highway 4), 10 to 12 inches

Caribou Trail to Gunflint Trail (Cook County Highway 12), 8 to 12 inches

Gunflint Trail into Grand Marais, 3 to 8 inches

“Riders should be aware that the heavy rains of past three weeks have saturated the ground,” Russell said. “With the snow insulation on top of the thawed ground, there’s not much frozen ground under the heavy, wet snow.”

In addition, some areas may have brush and limbs hanging over the trail, weighted down by the snow.

For North Shore State Trail conditions, call (218) 834-1439. Information will be updated after 3 p.m. today.

For snowmobile, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing conditions at Minnesota state parks and trails, go to mndnr.gov.

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DNR announces more liberal turkey season framework

Minnesota wild turkey hunters will see longer hunting periods and more weekend hunting time in changes to the state’s spring turkey season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced.

A Minnesota turkey hunter calls gobblers in Carlton County. News Tribune file photo

A Minnesota turkey hunter calls gobblers in Carlton County. News Tribune file photo

Turkey hunting time periods will be longer, all will include weekends and more time periods will be available to each hunter. Five one-week time periods will be followed by one longer time period ending on May 31. Previously, there were eight time periods, and not all included weekends. The bag limit will remain one bearded turkey.

The DNR made the changes following a public process, in hopes of increasing hunter opportunity and satisfaction while maintaining hunt quality, officials said.

“A significant change will be that hunters who don’t bag a turkey during their first time period will also be able to hunt the last time period using their original license,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager. “This will make the experience more relaxing, as snow or rain storms that could ruin an entire hunt will not be as much of a problem.”  

Hunters who hunt a second time during the last time period will need to hunt in the same zone that they hunted in during their first hunt period, DNR officials said.

Firearms hunters who want to hunt either of the first two time periods will need to enter into a lottery to participate. In past years there were lottery drawings for the first three time periods. People can apply to the lottery through Jan. 22.

In another change, archers will be able to hunt the entire season and in any zone from when the first time period begins on April 13 through May 31. Hunters must choose between a firearms or archery turkey hunting license.

For more information, look here.

Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show opens at DECC

Lots of ice-fishing shelters and gear were on display at the third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show at the DECC on Friday afternoon. (Sam Cook photo)

Lots of ice-fishing shelters and gear were on display at the third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show at the DECC on Friday afternoon. (Sam Cook photo)

The third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show has hit town. The show opened at noon today at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. I took a stroll through this afternoon. Lots of portable fishing shelters, crank-downs and skid shelters, along with snow machines, ATVs and more. Also lots of clothing, rods, reels, tackle and ice-fishing destinations. I watched folks fishing for trout and prizes at the Frozen Basin, and I watched a couple of black-footed penguins doing laps in a tank of water. The show is open until 9 p.m. tonight; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Ice" anglers try their luck at catching trout, some of which were worth merchandise, during Friday's opening day of the third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. (Sam Cook photo)

“Ice” anglers try their luck at catching trout, some of which were worth merchandise, during Friday’s opening day of the third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. (Sam Cook photo)

Wisconsin board increases lake trout limit in Lake Superior

An emergency rule governing the lake trout harvest in Lake Superior gained approval Wednesday from the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. The rule calls for a daily bag limit of three lake trout in key recreational areas.

A Lake Superior lake trout. (News Tribune file)

A Lake Superior lake trout. (News Tribune file)

The new rule, which will be sent to Gov. Scott Walker for review and approval before it takes effect, establishes a recreational daily harvest limit east of Bark Point at two fish between 20 and 25 inches and one fish greater than 40 inches. Throughout the open harvest season in these waters, if the recreational lake trout harvest reaches 7,350 or 75 percent of the allowable recreational harvest of 9,800 fish, the fishery will transition to catch-and-release only for the remainder of the season, which ends Sept. 30.

For waters west of Bark Point, the three-fish total daily bag limit includes a 15-inch minimum size limit and only one fish that is greater than 25 inches. Bag limits in the waters west of Bark Point will not be affected by the 75-percent requirement.

Population assessments over the past six to eight years indicate a decline in lake trout abundance. The new emergency rule follows a previous emergency rule that had reduced the daily bag limits on lake trout to two fish.

The new rule also separates lake trout from other trout species for clarification. This change will allow sport anglers to harvest five trout in addition to their lake trout bag.

The rule also revises harvests for commercial fishers and prohibits previously allowed fishing in the Gull Island refuge. However, because of agreements among the parties to the Lake Superior Fishing Agreement, the rule also removes restrictions from the Hagen’s Beach area, opening this area to commercial fishing between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2016.

County-by-county totals out for Wisconsin deer season

Hunters took 201,812 deer during Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season, which ended Nov. 29. That’s up just more than 1 percent from the 199,583 taken in 2014, according to preliminary harvest figures compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Here’s how the harvest compared to last year’s in several Northwestern Wisconsin counties:

Douglas — 1,625 this year, 1,523 last year, up 6.7 percent

Bayfield — 1,610 this year, 1,502 last year, up 7.2 percent

Ashland — 496 this year, 613 last year, down 19 percent

Iron — 226 this year, 206 last year, up 9.7 percent

Sawyer — 1,167 this year, 1,105 last year, up 5.6 percent

Washburn — 2,589 this year, 1,477 last year, up 75 percent

 

More than 612,000 deer hunters took part in the hunt compared to more than 608,000 last year.

State wildlife officials had predicted the harvest would be up somewhat this fall, although the deer herd is still rebounding from a severe winter in 2013-14 and what some observers say were seasons in which antlerless deer harvests were too liberal.