The Mystery of the Black Hole on North Long Lake was solved in 2004.
The hole, which first appeared on Highway 371 bay in 2003, did not return this year and many observers wondered why. In an effort to solve the case, A W Research Laboratories in Brainerd sent samples of the lake bottom to a laboratory in Seattle. Tests found that the bottom of Highway 371 bay has unusually high concentrations of diatoms, tiny plant-like critters with a skeletal structure. Diatoms live in sediment and when they emerge usually remain near the bottom. The diatoms in North Long, however, secrete an oily substance that floats, bringing them to the surface. In sunlight diatoms undergo the photosynthesis common to all plant life.
"We found extraordinarily high concentrations of diatoms near the surface," said Al Cibuzar, head of A W Research Laboratories. "They suppressed the freezing point of the water. On cloudy days they didn't rise to the surface, causing the hole to freeze over. Then on sunny days they would rise and the hole would re-open. That explains how it stayed open in some of coldest weather and froze over on milder days."
Last year North Long had early snow cover. With little light penetration under water, diatoms didn't rise from the muck, leaving the black hole closed.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
The cause of the mysterious black hole on North Long Lake was discovered in 2004. The hole was caused by unusually high concentrations of diatoms, tiny plant-like critters that emerge from the lake bottom when the sun shines.
Zebra mussels contained in Ossawinnamakee
Zebra mussels were found in Lake Ossawinnamakee in the fall of 2003. This past year, from June 15 until Sept. 20, the DNR applied copper sulfate to Muskie Bay, located at the far east end of the lake. The copper sulfate prevented mussels from going down Pelican Brook and into the Mississippi River. Tests have proven the strategy was effective.
"There are no live zebra mussel villagers in the bay or downstream," said Tim Brastrup, DNR area fisheries manager. "That means there was no reproduction."
The DNR also placed large boulders in the upper end of Kimball Creek to prevent boats from leaving Ossawinnamakee and going downstream into Kimball Lake. The mussels remain in Ossawinnamakee, however, for there isn't a pesticide that will kill mussels only. Chemicals such as rotenone would kill too much.
"It would eliminate the entire fish community," Brastrup said, "and it still wouldn't guarantee we would get all the mussels. In fact, we probably wouldn't."
Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
Minnesota's Fishing Hall of Fame moved to the Brainerd lakes area in 2004 and now is housed at Reed's Sporting Goods on Highway 371 north of Baxter. A banquet and induction ceremony in August helped raise more than $70,000, which will allow the hall to complete its mission of educating and entertaining the fishing public.
The ultimate question is what will happen to fish and other aquatic life in Ossawinnamakee. According to the DNR, the fishery won't necessarily decline. Gary Montz, the DNR's zebra mussel expert, said Michigan has more than 400 lakes with mussels and Wisconsin more than 100 with mussels and in none of the lakes have fish suffered
The DNR hosted 17 public meetings in 2004 to explain zebra mussels to the public. "Most people," Brastrup said "were interested in knowing what they are, what they do, and what they can do to prevent them from spreading."
In the coming year the DNR will seek a private contractor who can install a mechanical device that will prevent mussels from leaving Ossawinnamakee. That would end the copper sulfate treatments.
"A mechanical means of preventing the mussels from spreading would be better than chemicals," Brastrup said.
Dove hunting comes to Minnesota
In September mourning doves became legal gamebirds in Minnesota for the first time since 1946. The hunting season was established by the state legislature and announced in May.
"The season will provide opportunities for an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Minnesota hunters with no adverse effect on the bird's population," DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam said.
A strategy to contain zebra mussels in Lake Ossawinnamakee was launched in 2004. Copper sulfate was applied to the lake near its outlet to prevent the exotic species from spreading into the Mississippi River. Boulders were placed at the inlet to prevent boaters from transporting the mussels into Kimball Lake.
How many hunters actually pursued the birds isn't known, however, and the estimated harvest won't be known until the DNR completes its annual survey of small game hunters in June.
DNR announces trail plans for state forests
In response to off-highway vehicle legislation enacted in 2003, the DNR this year began to inventory all state forest access routes and to develop plans on which roads and trails will be open to motorized vehicles.
"We are moving to a 'managed use on managed trails' approach," said Jack Olson, DNR trails planner. "Motor vehicles will have to stay on signed routes."
The inventory was completed in October. The legislation requires that all road and trail designation plans be completed by December 2008.
The DNR has proposed plans for seven planning units covering 13 state forests, including Pillsbury, Foot Hills, Chengwatana, General CC Andrews, Nemadji, St. Croix, Fond du Lac, Whiteface River, Solana, Wealthwood, Beltrami Island, Paul Bunyan, and Badoura. The Beltrami Island, Paul Bunyan, and Badoura plans are open for comment now. The comment period for the other forests has closed. The DNR website has information on all the plans and their status.
Changes to the draft plans for Pillsbury and Foothills state forests were approved by DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam in October. Final plans, maps, and commissioner's orders designating roads and trails in those forests are being developed now. The anticipated effective dates for the change in classifications are June 30, 2005 for Pillsbury and Dec. 31, 2005 for Foothills.
The plan for the Crow Wing and Emily State Forest and other forest lands in Crow Wing County is being developed now and will be available for public comment in 2005.
Camp Ripley buffer zone begins to take shape
In 2004 Camp Ripley launched an ambitious effort to establish a three-mile buffer zone around its perimeter. Called the "Prairie to Pines Initiative," the buffer zone is needed to shield private citizens from the noise created by troops in training.
The land around Camp Ripley has become increasingly developed in recent years, especially by people building houses, so officials from Camp Ripley have set about securing permanent easements from willing landowners, who maintain ownership but relinquish development rights to their land.
Over the next 10 years Camp Ripley would like to have 25,000 acres in the buffer zone. To date 9,320 acres are in. Crow Wing County and Cass County together have donated 17,000 acres of tax-forfeited land. Morrison County, in which all but 62 acres of Camp Ripley is located, recently established a new comprehensive plan that appears favorable to the project.
"On a scale of one to 10, I'd say we're at seven," said Marty Skoglund of the Camp Ripley environmental office. "We're finding that people want to secure land that's been in their family for generations. Developers are knocking on their doors, but they feel they have a commitment to the land."
The project began before solid funding sources were established. Now the National Guard Bureau has agreed to contribute $1 million over the next two fiscal years and the U.S. Department of Defense is ready to contribute an undisclosed sum over the next six years.
"Excellent news," Skoglund said. "How much we end up getting will depend on what the military needs for the global war on terrorism. But they know they need to protect their home training sites."
Top priority, Skoglund said, is to secure land along the Mississippi River between Camp Ripley's eastern border and Highway 371.
Almost 100 public meetings attended by thousands of interested persons have taken place over the past year. In January another meeting will take place at which landowners will be presented with three options on how Camp Ripley can secure land for the buffer zone: buy it straightforward as a conservation easement, buy private land and transfer it to county ownership with an easement attached, or buy land, attach an easement, and re-sell it to a private party.
Opposition to the project has come from the Drummond Hills Coalition, based in Todd County, and six townships in Morrison County, including Motley, Cushing, Scandia Valley, Rosing, Belle Prairie and Green Prairie.
"But not all the residents within those townships are opposed," Skoglund said. "Their township board may have passed a resolution, but they don't necessarily agree with it. The key is that all three counties, Morrison, Crow Wing and Cass, have all been supportive, and county government is where land use issues occur."
Changes coming to Minnesota's deer season structure
The DNR announced this fall it will explore alternative deer herd management strategies in the coming year. Possible changes could include antler-point restrictions, a buck lottery, earn-a-buck regulations, and October and/or December antlerless seasons. Spearheading the project is Marrett Grund, a DNR research scientist based in Madelia. Grund played a role in the recent overhaul of Pennsylvania's deer management system.
Grund will study the deer herds in the Agassiz deer management unit in northwestern Minnesota, the Big Woods North unit near Fergus Falls, the Big Woods Southeast unit in southeastern Minnesota and the Prairie River unit in southwestern Minnesota.
The state's deer population is estimated at 1.2 million, the largest it's ever been. But an increasing bias towards antlerless deer, including does and immature bucks, has some biologists troubled.
But before any changes are made the DNR will survey hunters, host informational sessions and a schedule a roundtable to which various stakeholders, including insurance agents and farmers, will be invited.
New woodcock group thrives in first year
Woodcock Minnesota, a group dedicated to the preservation of our smallest gamebird, was founded in April 2004.
"We're in good shape," said founder and president Randy Havel. "At our first meeting we got about 25 members. Now we're up to 200 in eight different states."
A merger with the nationwide Woodcock Unlimited is still possible, but the organization had a change in leadership and Woodcock Minnesota is waiting to see what direction the new leadership takes, Havel said.
At the SHOT Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 27 all woodcock research efforts in the nation will be consolidated. Plans call for a "Woodcock Symposium" to take place in 2006 at a site to be determined.
Members of Woodcock Minnesota met at Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area in September to observe the banding of woodcock. The banding began three years ago as part of a study that aims to discover why the population is declining. Results of the study should be available soon, Havel said.
On May 20-22 Woodcock Minnesota will sponsor the Great Northern Side-by-Side Sporting Clays Championship at Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation near Little Falls. The event will feature a sporting clays shoot for side-by-side shotguns only. Other shoots open to all guns will be offered, as well as shooting games, a pheasant dinner Saturday night and a live auction.
Earlier this year when the organization learned that Grand Portage Camp did not have woodcock in its natural history museum, it donated several mounted birds, Havel said.
PWT goes where walleye fishing has never gone before
Who says walleye fishing is limited to northern states? Fact is, walleyes swim at many latitudes, as anglers on the Professional Walleye Trail learned in 2004.
Formerly limited to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and New York, the PWT went south in 2004 to Bull Shoals, Ark. And what a stop it was, as Mike Gofron's winning weight was a very respectable 49.73 pounds for 14 fish. Small wonder Gofron now lists Bull Shoals as his favorite walleye water.
Gofron and the other PWT pros will get another shot at the famed Arkansas lake in 2005 as the PWT returns May 11-13. Other southern stops include Kentucky's Lake Cumberland on June 1-3, and Kansas' Milford Lake, which will host the Championship Sept. 16-18.
Does the PWT know something Southern anglers don't? Well, not exactly, for Southerners have been catching and releasing walleyes for many years. In many cases they're pulled from shallow creek channels in spring, where anglers pursue bass. Most times they're tossed back immediately. In fact, you might say southerners pioneered catch-and-release walleye fishing without even knowing it. They view walleyes as we view catfish -- nice fish, decent fight, but who wants to clean the danged thing?
Will the PWT's excursion into southern waters change that mode of thinking? Time will tell, but as tournament fishing continues to grow -- specifically tournament purses in walleye events -- it's probable that more anglers withSouthern accents will buy multi-species boats and get in on the action.
Fishing hall of fame moves to Brainerd
After a four-year stay in Walker, the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame moved to Brainerd in 2004. The move was inaugurated with a fund-raising banquet on Aug. 21 at Cragun's.
"Response was phenomenal," said Adam Arnold, store manager at Reed's Sporting Goods, where the new hall is housed. "All of Minnesota's fishing industry, media and personalities showed up. We had all the living legends in one room."
The banquet raised $70,000, which will allow the hall "to move forward and fulfill its mission," Arnold said.
Part of that mission is educating young anglers. To that end the hall of fame has established a kids fishing education center in partnership with Lindy Little Joe. It will feature classes, instruction, actual gear and fishing time. It's open to any youth group. On Sundays this winter from 1-3 p.m. the hall will sponsor "Kids Ice Team Adventure" in which fishing pros and experts will teach kids one-on-one.
Phone 824-7500 for information on both programs.
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