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News from the DNR

2 youths earn commissioner’s awards for conservation efforts

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources honored two youths for their outstanding conservation efforts during a ceremony Friday, Sept. 3, at the Minnesota State Fair.

Grant Abelson from Cottage Grove in Washington County received the 4-H award and Jed Fisher from Maplewood in Ramsey County received the Future Farmers of America (FFA) award during a ceremony held at the DNR event stage.

The DNR Commissioner’s Youth Awards are given annually to an FFA student and 4-H member who have demonstrated initiative, leadership, creativity and achievement in conservation and wise use of natural and agricultural resources. This is the 30th year of the award program.

While looking for volunteer opportunities that matched his environmental interests, 4-H member Grant Abelson noticed a citizen scientist display at the Science Museum of Minnesota. This led Grant to discover the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Stream Monitoring Program.

As a volunteer with the program, Grant was able to manage the water quality monitoring of a stream not far from his home in Washington County. The data collected citizen volunteers, including Grant, is used to advance understanding of the health of 12,200 lakes and 92,000 miles of streams in Minnesota.

This experience with stream monitoring quickly become Grant’s 4-H project. Grant also enjoys participating in cross-country running and cross-country skiing. In the future, Grant hopes to continue pursuing his interest in hydrology and environmental engineering.

Grant is the son of Jeff and Jolene Abelson.

Fisher’s FFA supervised agricultural experience began with his interest in a small forest used by his Boy Scout troop. Jed created a forest management plan for this site. The plan included inventory, survey and research components.

Jed’s completed plan focused on maintaining the forest ecosystem and increasing biodiversity. With a plan in hand, Jed enlisted the help of his Boy Scout troop to begin implementing the plan by removing invasive species, planting new trees, and continuing to monitor forest health. In addition, Jed led his FFA chapter’s Forestry Team in competition and teaching forestry curriculum.

Jed also logged an impressive 637 community service hours in his high school career, and earned the bronze Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Jed is currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota to continue pursuing his interests in forestry.

Jed is the son of Mark and Susan Fisher.

DNR certifies new catch-and-release state record northern pike and tie for muskie

Anglers over the summer caught and released a new Minnesota state record northern pike and tied the record for muskellunge.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified the state catch-and-release record northern pike, a 46 1/4 inch fish caught June 19 on Basswood Lake by Brecken Kobylecky, a 15-year-old from Geneva, Illinois. The previous record was a 45 1/4 inch northern pike caught on the Rainy River in 2018.

The record pike was the biggest fish Kobylecky had ever caught. He was fishing with an Ely-based fishing guide and with about 10 minutes left of their final day fishing, they were trolling for pike.

“We hooked onto a huge pike that was barely hooked, and could hardly land it due to the sheer size and weight of the fish,” Kobylecky said.

Once the fish was in the boat they carefully took a few photos and measured the pike before releasing the fish back to the open water.

“The whole experience went by in a flash but it was an experience of a lifetime I’ll never forget,” Kobylecky said.

The DNR also certified a 57 1/4 inch muskie caught July 23 on Lake Vermilion by Todd Kirby of Hudson, Wisconsin that tied a 2019 muskie also caught on Lake Vermilion.

With two Vermilion Lake muskies now tied for the state record, this well-known water body continues to prove itself as a top muskie fishing destination. Kirby had fished the lake a handful of times and was familiar with small pockets that muskie seem to inhabit.

“That Friday night we were up against the weather. There was a huge storm front moving through creating extremely unstable conditions. The humidity was high, and storm clouds were building. It was one of those nights that the fish seemed to be super active, our boat had multiple chases, one resulting in a 48 inch fish in the net — at that time my personal best,” Kirby said.

They continued fishing into the night and around 10:30 p.m. he had a large “thud” hit his line hard when his bait was no more than 15 yards from the boat.

“I compared it to reeling in a large moving ‘log’ and after a few dark splashes, she was in the net. Everything just happened so fast!” Kirby said.

Kirby and fishing partners John and Will Gavic thought the fish looked 50 inches and were amazed seeing they caught a fish even longer, and one that would earn state record status.

“My bait just so happened to be the one that she ate, but that whole night couldn’t have been possible without the help of John Gavic and Will Gavic. Muskie fishing is a team effort, and when you have a good team on your side, landing a fish of that caliber creates a memory of a lifetime,” Kirby said.

The DNR announces new state records in news releases, on social media and on the DNR website. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at mndnr.gov/recordfish.

Habitat project nearing completion at Chain-O-Sloughs Wildlife Management Area

Work will wrap up this fall on a habitat restoration project at Chain-O-Sloughs Wildlife Management Area (WMA), south of Ivanhoe in Lincoln County.

Contractors are removing undesirable trees and brush from a 40-acre area of the WMA. Those trees and brush will be cut, stump treated, piled and burned once there is three inches of snow cover. The undesirable trees include non-native Russian olive along with native plum and cedar that have encroached on grasslands.

The strategic tree removal is part of a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources management plan designed to maintain balance with the surrounding prairie ecosystem. The project will provide improved nesting and brood rearing habitat for pheasants and grassland nesting waterfowl, and other grassland-dependent species. It will also benefit pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Each WMA is managed according to an individual plan developed by DNR wildlife staff.

“It’s important to note that the dense cedar stands and shrub plantings that provide valuable winter cover for wildlife will remain on the unit,” said Amber Knutson, Marshall area assistant wildlife manager. “We’re targeting the scattered trees that degrade habitat for grassland species.”

The habitat improvements will provide a better experience for hunters, hikers and bird watchers.

The project is a partnership with Pheasants Forever and its Enhanced Public Lands Program and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, which increased sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. The fund receives one-third of the sales tax dollars and may only be spent to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife.

Archery deer hunt set for East Minnesota River Refuge

The refuge is located entirely on private land in Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties along the east bank of the Minnesota River. It is open to archery hunting until Dec. 31 for taking antlerless deer or legal bucks. Hunters must request landowner permission before hunting the area.

The East Minnesota River Refuge hunt has several significant changes. This year, it is no longer considered a special hunt, which means prior hunter registration will not be required and standard archery hunting regulations apply in this area. The East Minnesota River Refuge is not open to firearms deer hunting.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area wildlife managers removed the special hunt designation because deer harvest numbers no longer support the need for a special hunt.

“Deer harvest within the refuge has been tracked since 2016,” said Stein Innvaer, Nicollet area wildlife supervisor. “The annual harvest has ranged between 20 and 30 deer with around 50 to 80 hunters participating, so now is a logical time to simplify hunting rules and regulations on that refuge area.”

Unique to this hunt is the fact that the entire hunting area is on private land, which means hunters must request landowner permission before hunting the area. Trespassing is a misdemeanor and could cost hunters their license to hunt. The Kasota Prairie Scientific and Natural Area is not open to public hunting.

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