Field reports: Preliminary grouse counts rise significantly

Based on preliminary results of ruffed grouse drumming surveys, it looks as if the grouse population might have made a nice jump this year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducts drumming counts each spring to get an idea of how t...

Based on preliminary results of ruffed grouse drumming surveys, it looks as if the grouse population might have made a nice jump this year.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducts drumming counts each spring to get an idea of how the grouse population is doing compared to previous years.

"So far, our drumming counts have been up substantially," said Rich Staffon, DNR area wildlife manager at Cloquet. "And I've heard from guys in other parts of the state the same thing. ... I think maybe we're finally turning the corner."

Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower, agrees.

"Ruffed grouse drumming counts are through the roof!" Rusch wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "No final data yet, but managers across the north are hearing significant increases. Some routes are in the 80s! That's eight-plus drums per stop [along survey routes]."


Those big numbers came from Lake of the Woods County, Rusch said.

The Northeastern Minnesota grouse population has been rising for three years since the birds reached the low point of their 10-year population cycle. But the gains have been small.

Staffon cited one route that went from 14 drums last year to 23 this year (in 10 stops along the route) and another that went from 29 to 48.

The surveys run from mid-April to mid-May, so final results won't be available until late May or early June.

McQuade, Knife River fishing closures explained

Some North Shore anglers are concerned that state fisheries officials are proposing to close fishing at the McQuade Small Craft Harbor and the Knife River Marina.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed adding both of those places to a statewide list of waters that may be closed temporarily to protect concentrations of fish.

Don Schreiner, DNR Lake Superior Area fisheries supervisor, said such closures, if implemented, would be for short periods of time, perhaps a couple of weeks. Members of the Lake Superior Steelhead Association have suggested such a temporary closure at the Knife River Marina, where juvenile steelhead sometimes congregate before moving out into Lake Superior.


At the McQuade safe harbor, the DNR often stocks Kamloops rainbow trout in early summer, Schreiner said. The fish might remain inside the harbor, an area of about 3 acres, for a week or more before moving into Lake Superior. Although the minimum size to keep a Kamloops rainbow trout is 16 inches, some illegal fishing takes place on the stocked rainbows by anglers who don't know or who disregard the minimum-size limit, Schreiner said.

"In the worst case, [a closure] would be where we had stocked some fish in the harbor or we stocked them outside and they moved back in," Schreiner said. "If they didn't leave for a week or two and people were fishing them to beat the band and they're not legal size ... that's the kind of situation where we'd consider closing it for a week or two."

He said he couldn't see a situation in which the DNR would want to close fishing outside the safe harbor.

Dave Koneczny of the Western Lake Superior Trolling Association supports the DNR having the authority to close those areas when necessary.

"We've got to protect these fish when they first get put in from the hatchery," Koneczny said.

"I would personally support those closures," said Ross Pearson, a representative of Kamloops Advocates.

Walleye tournaments coming up

The eighth annual Grand Slam Walleye Tournaments will be held May 16-17 and June 6-7 on the St. Louis River. Entry fee is $230 per team by May 15 or $250 after that. Call (218) 348-0700. Go to www.grandslam


Crews clean up Superior Hiking Trail

Volunteers and paid crews have been working to clean downed limbs from 80 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail along Minnesota's North Shore.

The trail runs 205 miles from Duluth to the Canadian border, and the middle portion of the trail was affected by the ice storm that occurred in Lake and Cook counties on March 23.

Fourteen volunteer crews with more than 50 people total worked on the trail last weekend, said Gayle Coyer, executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. Their work, along with that of the trail's paid maintenance crew, has cleared about 50 miles of the trail, Coyer said. Another volunteer work weekend is scheduled for June 6-7.

The main damage to the trail was from a point between the Split Rock River and Beaver Bay to Lutsen, Coyer said.

Let's Go Fishing forms chapter

Nancy Saari wants to make sure Duluth's senior citizens get to go fishing whether they have boats or not.


Saari and others have launched a nonprofit group called Let's Go Fishing Duluth and hope to have their first pontoon boat on the water by July.

Duluth's Let's Go Fishing chapter is the 20th statewide, said Roger Benson, who directs the Willmar, Minn., chapter where the statewide group began.

"It's a no-cost boating and fishing activity for seniors 55 and older," said Saari, who is administrator of the Primrose Retirement Community in Duluth.

A local chapter buys a pontoon boat, rods, reels, life jackets and all other necessary equipment. Saari said the Duluth chapter hopes to raise $45,000 to purchase its first boat, which will be docked on the St. Louis River. To learn more about the chapter or to contribute, call Saari at (218) 348-6059.

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