What the rushing Amity tells us

Wow. Things are busting loose all over.

Running along Amity Creek last night, I saw that the river was flowing wholesale over the ice and down the drops. Not just a trickle, but a full-fledged torrent running like pale root beer atop the milky ice below, racing down the long slides in a rush to get to Lake Superior. I had to stop to watch and listen.

When I got to the last bridge at the top, I saw a young man standing atop the bridge, staring upstream where the Amity danced and twisted down a series of ledges and around ice-capped rocks.

“It’s so beautiful, the rapids,” he said.

His mountain bike was leaning against the stone bridge, waiting for the rest of his ride.

John Chalstrom, of Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle, is training for another marathon. I talked to him on the phone the other day. He told me about a recent run in the balmy weather.

“I was running in shorts and a t-shirt,” he said, “and sweat was running into my eyes.”

He said it with an air of disbelief. It has been a long time.

My wife tells me everyone at work is happy, upbeat. It’s the sunshine, the weather, this great lifting of winter’s weight from our shoulders, she says.

By last Sunday, Frank Nicoletti had already counted 114 bald eagles in the West Skyline Hawk Count this season, 93 alone on Sunday. The migration is on.

At the mouth of the Lester River last night, I looked up and saw a merganser flying over the ice that still gripped Lake Superior. He twisted one way, then the other, like a fighter jet, looking, looking. I hope he found what he was searching for.

Solitary gloves and mittens, long ago lost by unfortunate kids on their way home from school during winter’s grip, appear on top of snowbanks now. When the snow finally recedes from beneath them, homeowners will know it’s time to pluck them from the wet and gritty grass and deposit them in the trash. Closure.

We will likely get cool again. Snow will probably fall another time or two. Temporary setbacks.

The Amity promised me that last night.


Neustrom named to Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame

The Fishing Hall of Fame of Minnesota has named long-time fishing guide and fishing ambassador Tom Neustrom of Grand Rapids among individuals and companies to be inducted in the hall on March 28. Other inductees include Duane Peterson of Northland Fishing Tackle Peterson, angler and teacher LeRoy Ras, Vexilar and Northland Fishing Tackle.

Neustrom has been a tireless promoter of the fishing industry for 33 years, a popular multi-species fishing guide in the Grand Rapids area who has written about fishing for several publications.

Neustrom is active in Minnesota’s Fishing Roundtable. He’s a member of the Red Lake Advisory Council and Minnesota’s Walleye Advisory Committee. He also has been named a “Legendary Guide” by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

Peterson is lure innovator, product promoter and good will ambassador for fishing. He Northland Fishing Tackle in 1975. He has sat on the Minnesota Walleye Advisory Committee and the Upper Red Lake Management Committee and is a veteran of more than 250 fishing tournaments.

DNR: Mild winter will help deer rebound

If this winter’s mild conditions persist, those conditions combined with a conservative 2014 deer harvest could signal the start of a rebound in the state’s white-tailed deer populations, say wildlife officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Now past the half-way mark in a typical winter season, most areas of Minnesota are accumulating relatively few points on the winter severity index (WSI) map,” said Jeff Lightfoot, regional wildlife manager with the DNR at Grand Rapids. “Last year at this time, indices in much of northern Minnesota were already building toward a severe winter.”

The winter severity index is a general measure of winter conditions based on prolonged cold temperatures and deep snow that can restrict deer movement and access to food. The current WSI in most of northern Minnesota was 79 or less as of Monday.

An area can accumulate points each day throughout the winter season. One point is assigned when the daily temperature reaches zero degrees or lower, and another point is assigned when snow depth is 15 inches or more. Each day can accumulate 0, 1 or 2 points.

End-of-season values less than 100 indicate a mild winter. End-of-season values more than 180 indicate a severe winter. In general, northern Minnesota wildlife managers start seeing significant increased fawn mortality around 130 to 150; does around 180. Of the two factors, deep snow is the greater challenge for deer because of the energy expended to navigate in it and its decreasing effect on food availability as snow continues to cover food sources.

Deer exist in Minnesota today because they have evolved to withstand severe winters. Despite the current decline in the deer population, wildlife managers are certain about a rebound in deer numbers, DNR officials said.

Following the two consecutive severe winters of the late 1990s, the deer population rebounded to pre-severe winter levels within two to three years and was at near record high levels within five to six years.

A landmark 15-year study (1991-2005) by the DNR followed 450 collared does through mild, average and very severe winters. The study yielded a wealth of data on the food habits, migration patterns, survival and cause-specific mortality rates, and reproductive ability of deer in Minnesota’s forested zone.

“Deer have an incredibly high reproductive potential with mature females 2-1/2 to 15-1/2 years old nearing a 100 percent pregnancy rate each fall,” said DNR wildlife research scientist Glenn DelGiudice. “If mild conditions persist, we could expect to see good fawn production with healthy birth weights, along with does that are in good condition to meet the physical demands of nursing.”

Fluctuations in deer populations are a normal aspect of wildlife management, DNR wildlife officials say, and with proper management and favorable conditions, populations can rebound  quickly.

Piebald deer visits rural Duluth home

A piebald deer walks through the snow near the home of Zach and Sara Swart of rural Duluth on Thursday. (Sara Swart photo)

A piebald deer walks through the snow near the home of Zach and Sara Swart of rural Duluth on Thursday. (Sara Swart photo)

At age 6, Parker Swart is a serious student of deer and a lot of other wildlife. He watches deer from his home in rural Duluth, and his family takes photos of them. On Thursday, Parker and his family saw the most unusual deer they had ever seen — a so-called “piebald” deer.

His grandmother, Colleen Jeronimus, was at his home and saw the deer first.

“I saw what I thought was a moving snowbank,” Jeronimus said. “I thought, ‘How could a snowbank move?’ It was just an incredible sight.”

The deer came to some feed that Parker’s family had put out. His mom, Sara Swart, was able to get several photos of it.

Nancy Hansen, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Two Harbors, confirmed that the deer is piebald.

“It’s an inherited trait and occurs (in general) in about 1 percent of the population,” Hansen said in an email. “Some local populations, especially if the deer are protected from harvest, may have higher levels of piebald occurrence. True albino deer (pure white coats and pink eyes) are rare. The same is true for melanism (very dark coloring) in deer.

“Sometimes piebald deer don’t just show coat color differences but also have physical deformities. This can include skeletal abnormalities such as dorsal bowing of the nose, short/malformed legs, curvature of the spine and malformations of internal organs. Severely deformed fawns usually don’t survive very long after birth. Outside of winter, piebald deer are usually at a disadvantage compared to other deer because they are much more visible on the landscape.”
For now, it appears, this deer is well-camouflaged.


The piebald deer pauses to check the territory on the Swarts’ back yard. (Sara Swart photo)


Who pulls who here?


Larry Marxen fishes on Saganaga Lake on Feb. 10 as his German shepherd, Ike, looks on. (Sam Cook photo)

While fishing on Saganaga Lake a couple of weeks ago, I got a kick out of seeing the way Larry Marxen, who operates Chippewa Inn on Saganaga, hauls his dogs around behind his snowmobile. Marxen built a large box with windows so he can tow his dogs, including German shepherd Ike, shown here, when he goes out to fish. “It’s a dogsled,” Marxen quipped about the unique dog hauler. “But I’ve got it backwards. I pull the dogs.”


Larry Marxen rides his snowmobile across Saganaga Lake while pulling his German shepherd, Ike, in a custom-made “dogsled” behind him. If you look closely, you’ll see Ike peering through one of the sled’s windows. (Sam Cook photo)


Anglers try for trout, salmon near Lester River


Two anglers look for a spot to fish Thursday afternoon on the smooth ice of Lake Superior off the mouth of the Lester River in Duluth. (Sam Cook photo)

A loosely scattered collection of 31 fishing shelters dotted the ice of Lake Superior on Thursday afternoon near the mouth of the Lester River. Anglers ventured out to fish for lake trout, coho salmon and perhaps a Kamloops rainbow trout. The previous week, most anglers clustered on the ice near 21st Avenue East.

Fishing on the big lake has been generally good, anglers and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers said.


Fishing shelters sit on the ice of Lake Superior on Thursday afternoon near the Lester River. (Sam Cook photo)


Nearer shore, two people ventured out on the clear ice of Lake Superior to see what they could see and take a few photos. (Sam Cook photo)



Loll Designs to give COGGS another $30,000

Duluth-based outdoor furniture designer/manufacturer Loll Designs has announced it will make a second $30,000 donation to Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) to support the cycling group’s efforts to build biking trails in Duluth. The donation will be made at COGGS’ fourth annual Duluth Traverse Gala, a fundraiser for the group that will be held March 7. COGGS is raising money to build the largest urban, single-track trail system in the nation.

Loll Designs gave the group $30,000 for its gala last year as well.


2014 fishing, hunting licenses expire Saturday

Minnesota anglers are reminded that 2014 fish, game and trapping licenses expire on Saturday. Some hunting and fishing seasons continue past Feb. 28, and new licenses are required.

Licenses for 2015 now are available from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources license agents, online and by telephone at (888) 665-4236. All 2015 fishing licenses become effective Sunday, March 1.

Customers who purchase online via smartphone won’t receive a conventional paper license. Instead, they’ll receive a text message or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers. A printed copy of the text or email also can serve as proof of a valid license.

Ice shelter permits for 2014 remain effective through April 30.

Grand Marais still holding edge in ‘coolest town’ contest


The Grand Marais harbor and Sawtooth Mountains are shown on a summer day in this photo by Paul Sundberg of Grand Marais.


Grand Marais is still leading Budget Travel magazine’s contest to name the “Coolest Small Town in America,” according to Lynn Nelson, who handles public relations for Visit Cook County. The deadline for voting has been extended until March 4. Grand Marais is leading Chincoteague, Va., by just 4 percentage points in the voting. If you’d like to vote, go to visitcookcounty.com and follow the link to the magazine.




COGGS receives donation from Minnesota Power Foundation

The Minnesota Power Foundation has announced that it will donate $35,000 to COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) to continue building the Duluth Traverse trail across the city. The Traverse, when completed, will be a 100-plus-mile network of sustainably-built single-track open to human-powered sports.
COGGS officials called the donation “an absolute game-changer for our 2015 trail building forecast.”
With the donation, the group will be able to employ four trail builders on its crew this summer, according to a COGGS news release.
In addition, the foundation has told COGGS it would like to sponsor a trail work day during the summer so employees of ALLETE; Minnesota Power; and Superior Water, Light and Power can help work on the trail.