ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Jumping fish in sky-blue waters wins plate contest

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday picked a painting of a jumping fish as the state's next critical habitat conservation license plate that will go on sale early next year.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday picked a painting of a jumping fish as the state's next critical habitat conservation license plate that will go on sale early next year.

The fish, with a background of deep-blue sky and water and an orange sunrise (or sunset) topped five other entries that included a lady slipper orchid, a moose, a heron, a wolf and two walleyes under water.

The winning entry -- it's not clear exactly what kind of fish it is -- is an air-brushed image designed by Sam Melquist, 27, of East Grand Forks, Minn. Melquist won $500 for the honor.

The sale of critical habitat license plates has raised more than $17.5 million since the now-familiar beige deer plates went on sale in 1996. Loon-emblazoned plates followed in 2002. About 30,100 deer plates and 88,800 loon plates have been sold so far. Both of those designs will remain available.

The special license plates cost $10 more than regular plates at the time of purchase, in addition to a $30 minimum annual "contribution" to the habitat program. Money raised from critical habitat plates is used to match private donations to acquire and conserve lands critical for fish and wildlife habitat and to protect rare natural ecosystems. License plate proceeds have been used by the DNR to purchase 4,300 acres of land for wildlife management areas, aquatic management areas, scientific and natural areas and to expand state parks.

ADVERTISEMENT

The program also helps pay for habitat improvement projects that help nongame wildlife and fish.

The leaping fish was the top choice among more than 14,000 public comments made on the DNR's Web site, said Gene Merriam, DNR commissioner, in a statement.

"It's a very appealing image," Merriam said. "It speaks to what so many Minnesotans enjoy -- our lakes, our fishing and that feel of the North -- and we believe it is a fitting complement to the loon and deer plates."

Melquist, who had never entered a DNR art contest before, said his brother-in-law, Jerod Hjelle, was the source of his inspiration. The fish has some walleye traits, but also some trout and bass characteristics.

"Jerod caught a 10-pound walleye this past summer," Melquist told the DNR. "It was a beautiful fish. That catch, plus his hounding that I enter the contest, motivated me. So I sketched and air-brushed a painting that isn't intended to depict reality so much as it is to appeal to the public."

Critical Habitat License Plates are available at deputy registrar offices statewide or online at www.dps.state.mn.us/dvs/ . Critical habitat and other custom plates may soon be available at auto dealerships in Minnesota under a pilot program being developed by the Department of Public Safety and Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. Currently, car buyers must wait for their licenses to arrive by mail.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
What To Read Next
Get Local

ADVERTISEMENT