Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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Forest tent caterpillars have been making the news this spring as the creepy-crawly leaf munchers chew their way across parts of Minnesota, but the northwest part of the state appears to have escaped the worst of the outbreak. For this year, at least. "I think it's kind of a 'brace yourself' situation -- maybe," said Jana Albers, forest health specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids, Minn. "There's not much going on right now that we know of (in the northwest).
Fisheries crews from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently wrapped up their annual assessment of spawning sturgeon on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River. For a fisheries biologist, this is the glamorous part of the job, getting up close and personal with big fish that can tip the scales at 100 pounds or more. "We just don't see fish like this in any of our other surveys," said Tom Heinrich, large lake specialist for the DNR in Baudette, Minn. "It's cool to see a big walleye, but big is 30 inches.
The muskellunge long has been known as the "fish of 10,000 casts" for its difficulty to catch, but anglers and fisheries managers say it shouldn't take that long in this era of thriving muskie populations. "They used to be, they can be on some lakes in some years, but by and large, I don't believe it's the fish of 10,000 casts anymore," said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji.
Ask Dick Pearson about the thrill of fishing esox masquinongy -- the scientific name for the muskellunge -- and the admitted muskie fanatic doesn't have to fish for words. "I love to hunt, and muskie fishing to me is like the best of both worlds," said Pearson, a muskie authority who authored the 2001 book, "Muskies on the Shield," and produced a video of the same name four years later. "You can hunt, but you can also release them." Oh yeah, and one more thing, Pearson says: "It's just the damn fish," he said.
NORTHWEST ANGLE, Minn.
A few random notes on this chilly Memorial Day weekend: - The good, old days for wildlife habitat appear to be in trouble as more wetlands are drained and native prairie converted to cropland. There was good news Friday, though, when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be accepting 3.9 million acres of land into the Conservation Reserve Program. According to a news release from Pheasants Forever, USDA received nearly 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land during the recent signup.
Conservationists and leaders from Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever are calling on Congress to ensure proceeds from an offshore oil revenue account go to the conservation initiatives it is supposed to fund. That could happen if a House-Senate conference committee approves a provision in the transportation bill now being debated in Washington. In a conference call Thursday, leaders from the two conservation groups, along with a retired South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks director and others, talked about the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Known as LWCF, for short, the
N.D. to crack down on ANS violations BISMARCK -- Like their counterparts in Minnesota, enforcement officials for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department are cracking down on violations of the state's aquatic nuisance species laws this summer. North Dakota calls them aquatic nuisance species, while Minnesota's term is aquatic invasive species.
DNR: Be safe, ride smart on ATVs ST. PAUL -- As Memorial Day approaches and ATV activity increases, officials for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say operators should ride safe and ride smart. According to 2nd Lt. Leland Owens, the DNR's recreational vehicle coordinator, most ATV accidents happen after the weather warms up and school is out for the summer. Last year, 82 Minnesotans died in ATV accidents.
During the next couple of weeks, law enforcement officers across North Dakota will be on the lookout for seat belt violations as part of the annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign. When the final numbers are in, I'm guessing they won't find many violations. Wearing seat belts was little more than a suggestion when I started driving. Now, besides being the law, reaching for the seatbelt is so natural I don't even think about it.