Fall fishing trip yields a bountiful harvest
A group of my friends get together twice a year to catch up on current events and do a little fishing on the side. We travel to a northern Minnesota lake to spend a few days rehashing just about every subject under the sun and after solving the world's problems still find time to catch a few fish and enjoy a few Leinie's originals. This is retirement at its finest.
The lake we fish is a large sandy lake with lots of weeds but has dramatic structure which makes working the drop-offs rather difficult. Within a short distance the depth can fluctuate 20 feet or more and fishing at the desired depth at the appropriate time of day can be problematic. The lake has an abundance of northern along with a few walleyes, perch, bass and bluegills. Fishing is always great but catching can be slow at times.
This year the northern cooperated as usual and we boated several in the 22- to 26-inch class. We kept enough to eat, hoping to boat the elusive walleye to add to the bag. This lake has a slot size on walleyes and anything between 17 and 26 inches has to be immediately returned to the water. We did manage to catch a 15 incher while I netted one 21 inches that was released. A couple of small bass and a half pound sunny rounded out the harvest.
The northern were fileted with the "Y" bones removed. We breaded the fish and fried them in butter, which may not be considered healthy eating by some but they sure taste good. Not surprisingly, the walleye were indistinguishable from the northern both taste and texture-wise.
As our trip was winding down, we came to the conclusion that we should add a third chapter to our annual outing and regroup again this winter for some ice fishing, taking advantage of the abundant northern fishery. The motion was made, seconded and approved by unanimous vote to make it an annual trifecta.
Post Script: Early the morning of our fishing adventure, I received a call from a friend who told us he just hit a deer with his vehicle and was wondering what to do. He had reported the accident to the police and the officer had arrived and dispatched the deer before filling out the salvage paperwork. The fatality was a doe fawn weighing in at around 50 pounds.
Sal and I drove into New Richmond and picked up the deer. Arriving back at our house, we field dressed the deer, then hung and skinned it. Deer are very easy to skin when still warm. I quartered the deer and cut out the loins before wrapping in plastic and placing in the freezer. All this took less than an hour.
Upon returning home from our fishing trip, I thawed out the meat then cut up the chops, roasts and steaks and ground the scraps and trimmings winding up with 20 pounds of excellent lean meat.
It is a shame that more deer are not utilized in this manner after a vehicle-deer accident. A car killed deer when handled in a timely fashion can be a valuable source of protein that should not be overlooked.
Haying on local Waterfowl Production Areas
By Tom Kerr
When you spend time on local Waterfowl Production Areas in the St. Croix Wetland Management District this fall, you will see the results of one of our management actions. We have been working with local producers to harvest hay as a grassland management tool on approximately 400 acres of WPAs in St. Croix, Polk and Dunn counties.
Just to clear up some confusion, these acres were not opened as part of the state's emergency drought rules. Although we work very closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on a shared management vision for grasslands in the Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area in St. Croix and Polk counties, WPAs are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the legal authority of the National Wildlife Refuge System. This authority provides guidance on managing the refuge system, which stretches across the entire country from Puerto Rico to Wisconsin to Alaska to Midway Atoll.
On our local Waterfowl Production Areas in Wisconsin, the goal of the haying is to create "disturbance" in the grassland. If left unmanaged, grasslands will eventually become forest.
Some people ask why we have to manage these areas; why not let them become forest? Historically, much of St. Croix and southern Polk County was prairie, wetlands and oak savanna, "disturbance" dependent communities that are adapted to wildfire and grazing. Numerous wildlife species such as meadowlarks, bobolinks, northern harriers, jackrabbits and many more are dependent on these disturbance based grassland habitats. Not many acres of grassland are left on the landscape and as a result many of these grassland species populations are declining. When was the last time you saw a jackrabbit or a meadowlark?
Our goal is to simulate the natural processes that have been removed from the landscape by humans. Haying is one way to remove built up litter and set back invading trees and brush. Haying is a substitute for some of the effects of grazing and wildfire and when done in late summer does not impact nesting birds. Although there may be a short term impact to wildlife habitat and huntable acres, the long term benefits are substantial for the species we are charged with managing.
In an effort to work with the local community on opportunities such as haying that provide local economic benefit as well as meeting habitat management goals, we maintain a list of local producers who are interested in working with us. If you would like to add your name to the list, please call the office and speak to Chris Trosen at 715-246-7784, ext. 116, or send an email to Chris_Trosen@fws.gov and include your name, phone number and address.
If you would like to stay informed about management activities on local WPAs, check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District. For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/refuge/st_croix_wmd/.
Warden Paul's Corner
Tree Stand Safety
It's one thing for a hunter to own a tree stand harness and another to actually use it to prevent what studies have shown to be the leading cause of hunter injuries during the deer hunting seasons.
Studies in the last 10 years document the willingness of hunters to understand the importance of using the harness to ensure a safe trip up and down from a tree stand. To the disappointment of safety specialists, those same studies show the majority of hunters have yet to make the mental leap to actually put the thing on. And as a result, falls from tree stands remain bad news in Wisconsin.
"Falls are the leading cause of injury during the gun-deer hunting seasons. That's the bad news. The good news is falls are preventable," Hunter Education Administrator Jon King says. "Any hunter who uses the tree stand can increase their safety substantially by following a few simple tips."
"Using a full body harness is your best bet to ensure your safety when using a tree stand," King said. The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association says their studies show 82 percent of the hunters who fall from their stands are not wearing the full-body harnesses.
In Wisconsin a 2003 survey of state hunters found roughly two-thirds who use tree stands own a harness. However, less than one-third actually used it. Another third of the gun-deer hunters did not own a full-body version.
Learn more by completing this free 15-minute online course: www.hunter course.com/treestandsafety (exit DNR). More information about tree stand safety is also available on the DNR website.
Here are more steps to stay safe when using your tree stand:
1. Select a tree that is substantial enough to support your weight;
2. Read, understand and follow all of the manufacturer's recommended procedures;
3. Do not alter your equipment;
4. Have three points of contact while climbing into and out of the tree stand; either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times;
5. Use a haul line to raise and lower your UNLOADED firearm;
6. Use a short tether between you and the tree when seated in the tree stand;
7. Let people know where you'll be hunting, where you'll be parking your vehicle, and when you intend to return;
8. Carry a cell phone with you if you have one, and keep it in a pocket you can reach and in a pocket the phone will not fall out of in the event of a fall.
For any questions or to report a violation, call Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.