Deer open house Wednesday in Tower

A deer open house has been set at the DNR Building at 650 Highway 169 in Tower from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Tom Rusch, the Wildlife Manager at the Tower Area Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is set to host a Deer Open House from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the DNR building at 650 Highway 169 in Tower.

The annual meeting is advertised as a way to give hunters, landowners and other interested folks a chance to give their input on the local deer population for northern St. Louis and Lake Counties.

Rusch will give a short update on 2019 deer harvest, winter severity and the prospects for 2020 season.

This is free and open to the public – there will be a chance for public input – and a great opportunity to get a feel for the whitetail population in our area.

Rusch has not only been the Wildlife Manager in the Tower Area for many years, he’s also an avid hunter so this is a good opportunity for those with questions or concerns about the population to get some quality information.

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The state

of the moose

The results of this year’s aerial moose survey were released this week.

According to DNR officials, for the ninth year in a row, Minnesota’s moose population remains relatively stable, but reproductive success – one of the factors that has the greatest impact on moose survival over time – remains low.

This winter, the DNR estimated the moose population to be 3,150 animals (between a range of 2,400 and 4,320). Due to the variance in this type of annual population estimate, this year’s estimate does not suggest a decline from last year’s estimate of 4,180 moose.

The survey provides an estimate rather than documenting the precise number of moose because biologists cannot see or count every moose across the 6,000-square mile survey area, the DNR said in a news release. They survey a portion of the moose range every year to generate the estimate.

While the recent population stability is good news, DNR researchers point out that Minnesota moose remain at risk over the long term. The moose population has declined from an estimated 8,840 animals in 2006.

Low reproductive success and continued deaths from brainworm and other diseases make it difficult for Minnesota’s moose population to recover.

Both the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and personnel for the annual survey.

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Ice conditions deteriorating quickly

Minnesota DNR conservation officers are urging people to exercise extreme caution on and around lake ice, as conditions in some parts of the state have deteriorated rapidly. Several people and vehicles have fallen through the ice in recent days, continuing a trend that has played out for much of this winter.

While thick ice remains in some areas, especially to the north, conservation officers in areas south of the Twin Cities already are warning people to stay off the ice. In some instances, the ice is deteriorating around the edges of lakes, while in others conservation officers report large holes in ice away from the shore.

All across Minnesota, ice conditions become highly variable when the weather is warm and the sun gains strength.

“Just because you were on the ice at this time last year – or the year before that – doesn’t mean the ice is safe this year,” said Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “The calendar isn’t a useful tool in determining the quality of the ice. The only thing that matters is the current ice conditions.”

Minnesota has had only one ice-related fatality during the 2019-2020 ice season. But nearly every year, fatal incidents happen when people engage in late season ice-top recreation.

The most effective way to stay safe on the ice or open water is to wear a life jacket. Anyone who ventures onto late-season ice should use a chisel and check the ice thickness frequently. Ice thickness varies even on the same body of water. Particularly hazardous areas tend to be around bridges, channels, culverts and streams. To learn how to check ice thickness, visit the DNR’s ice thickness guidelines page.

For more information about ice safety, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety .

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Fishing regulation changes

Anglers will find a variety of changes in the 2020 Minnesota fishing regulations booklet, including new possession and length limits on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters of the Mississippi River. This is the first comprehensive update of regulations on the Mississippi River border waters in nearly 70 years.

The new border waters possession and length limits for most gamefish species went into effect March 1, and were developed based on decades of biological data, as well as substantial public input during 2018 and 2019.

“We’ve heard positive feedback about the changes from anglers who care a great deal about sustaining the high quality fish populations and the fishing opportunities on these Mississippi River border waters,” said Kevin Stauffer, the DNR area fisheries supervisor in Lake City.

The new regulations for the Mississippi River border waters and Lake Pepin include lower possession limits, and changes to some length limits, for walleye and sauger, northern pike, channel and flathead catfish, shovelnose sturgeon, crappie, sunfish, yellow perch, and white and yellow bass.

The changes are proactive measures that will help both states manage the effects that changing river conditions, invasive species and increased angling effectiveness have on fish. Wisconsin has approved identical regulations that will go into effect April 1. Some examples include:

• Walleye and sauger limit has decreased from 6 to 4.

• Crappie, sunfish, and yellow perch limit has decreased from 25 to 15 each.

• White and yellow bass limit has decreased from 25 to 10.

With the exception of minimum size limits for bass (14 inches) and walleye (15 inches) implemented in 1990, possession and size restrictions for gamefish on the Minnesota and Wisconsin border waters of the Mississippi River had been largely unchanged for the last seven decades.

Page seven of Minnesota’s new regulation book highlights changes for 2020 throughout the state, including special regulations modified for several Minnesota lakes:

• The 17 to 26-inch protected slot limit for walleye has changed to a 20 to 24-inch protected slot with only one over 24 inches allowed, on the following Itasca County lakes: Moose, Split Hand, Swan and Trout.

• The 40-inch minimum length limit for northern pike in Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Crow Wing lakes (Hubbard County) and Mitchell Lake (Crow Wing County) has changed to a 24 to 36-inch protected slot, with only one over 36 inches allowed and a possession limit of three.

• The 26 to 44-inch protected slot limit for northern pike on Upper Red Lake has changed to a 30 40-inch protected slot, with only one over 40 inches allowed and a possession limit of three.

• The catch and release regulations for largemouth bass on Turtle Lake (Ramsey County) have changed to a 14 to 20-inch protected slot, with only one over 20 inches allowed.

• The 12 to 20-inch protected slot limit for smallmouth bass on Turtle Lake (Itasca County) has changed to a 14 to 20-inch protected slot, with only one over 20 inches allowed.

The new 2020 Minnesota fishing regulations are available online at the DNR website and anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold.

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