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Outdoor Notes - April 16

Mature brown trout spar on the surface of a mine lake in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Crosby in this file photo from the fall of 2016. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch

Stream trout fishing opportunities abound for Saturday opener

Minnesota's stream trout season opens this Saturday, April 15, and with the early spring weather of 2017 anglers should find good fishing conditions around much of the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Trout fishing is getting more and more popular in Minnesota and there are quality trout fishing opportunities in every region of the state," said Brian Nerbonne, DNR stream habitat consultant. "The opportunities are improving through the hard work of improving trout habitat, sound land use and science-based management that anglers pay for when they buy fishing licenses and trout stamps."

In southeast Minnesota, which offers some of the best trout fishing in the upper Midwest, DNR fisheries biologists say the past three mild winters, along with the absence of spring flooding, have led to good reproduction and healthy populations of brown trout.

Crews also have been out stocking yearling rainbow trout in some streams and ponds to provide a greater variety of angling opportunities. Barring heavy rain close to opening day, flows are expected to be moderate with clear water. The southeast boasts more than 700 miles of designated trout streams and over 200 miles of angling easements to provide ample access.

Spring weather is still taking hold in northeast Minnesota streams, limiting fishing for resident trout, but steelhead have begun arriving in North Shore tributary streams and present an opportunity to tangle with one of these feisty fish. In the northwestern region, trout fishing opportunities are available to fish for large brown trout on places like the Straight River, or brook trout on Kabekona Creek.

For Twin Cities anglers looking to stay close, Dakota County's Vermillion River offers the opportunity to catch lunker brown trout at a number of publicly accessible spots along the stream. All brown trout must be immediately released. Rainbow trout, however, can now be harvested anywhere on the Vermillion, a new opportunity that began in 2016 and coincides with increased stocking at multiple locations.

"Minnesota trout anglers get an incredible bargain for what they pay in fishing license dollars and trout stamps," said John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. "Trout Unlimited is happy to work with the DNR to make fishing opportunities better all around the state, which benefits our state's $5.5 billion tourism industry."

Minnesota has roughly 3,800 miles of designated trout streams. Its five coldwater hatcheries produce more than 1.7 million fingerlings and yearlings for stocking each year. Anglers fishing on designated trout waters must have a trout validation in addition to an angling license. Last year, 108,000 licenses were validated for trout, a third consecutive year of record sales.

Time to stop pruning oaks

The safe period to prune oaks is over, according to the Department of Natural Resources. With recent warm temperatures, oaks in most of Minnesota are now at risk of becoming infected with oak wilt.

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that kills oaks. It is spread in part by a beetle that is attracted to sap seeping from a fresh wound on an oak. Oaks can become infected with oak wilt if they are trimmed or damaged when the fungus is present and the beetle is active. This high risk period usually runs from April through July.

"A majestic red oak that took more than a hundred years to grow can be killed within weeks after becoming infected with oak wilt," said Brian Schwingle, DNR forest health specialist. "So don't prune your oaks from April through July."

According to Schwingle, oak wilt spreads from infested trees to healthy trees in two ways—by beetles attracted to fresh wounds and the fungus moving between connected roots of nearby oaks.

To prevent the spread of oak wilt, follow these guidelines:

• Trim oaks during the winter.

• Avoid wounding or cutting oaks when sap beetles are active in spring and summer.

• Immediately treat wounds with pruning paint during spring and summer months.

• Prior to removing dead and diseased oaks, sever root connections to healthy trees by trenching around diseased trees with a vibratory plow.

• Remove diseased oaks in the winter and destroy or treat wood before spring by debarking, chipping or drying the wood onsite.

• To keep the wood for use, cover it with plastic and bury the edges from the following April through July to prevent insects from spreading the oak wilt fungus.

Oak wilt symptoms start in the tree's crown and move downward. Trees in the red oak group can die within weeks of becoming infected while trees in the white oak group can take a year to many years to die. In Minnesota, black oak, northern pin oak and northern red oak belong to the red oak group, while bur oak, swamp white oak and white oak belong to the white oak group.

Visit the DNR Oak Wilt website at www.mndnr.gov/treecare/forest_health/oakwilt for more information on oak wilt and how to prevent its spread.

Tornado clean-up begins at Ann Lake Campground

Crews this week will begin cleanup of trees downed by an early March tornado in the Ann Lake Campground and Day Use Area in the Sand Dunes State Forest. A commercial logger will salvage the usable trees, while DNR workers will remove trees and material not usable or accessible to the logger.

Using a commercial logger reduces cleanup costs. The salvaged trees will be used for lumber, firewood, and landscape wood chips. Severely damaged trees and those in sensitive or steep areas will be cleaned up by DNR crews.

DNR asks that people avoid this area during the cleanup to avoid any hazards to the public or to work crews. It's hoped that the campground and day use areas will be open by Memorial Day. Users should check the Sand Dunes State Forest web page on DNR's website at mndnr.gov for the latest updates.

On March 6, 2017, a tornado touched down in Sherburne County and damaged trees over about 25 acres of the Sand Dunes State Forest. The Ann Lake Campground and Ann Lake Day Use Area suffered most of the damage. No outbuildings, solar panels, or other structures in the state forest were damaged. An area just south of the Ann Lake Campground and adjacent to the Uncas Dunes Scientific and Natural Area also has downed trees; some undamaged trees in this area may be removed by the logger as part of a planned thinning program. Allowing the thinning to occur now made the project economically feasible for the logger; otherwise DNR would have borne the full cost of the cleanup.

Timber harvest workshop for private landowners is May 6

Private landowners interested in learning more about managing their woodlands for habitat and income can attend a low-cost workshop and field tour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Cohasset Community Center at 3rd St. NW, Cohasset.

The Itasca County Private Woodlands Committee is hosting the workshop with assistance from the Department of Natural Resources Cooperative Forest Management program, according to a Minnesota DNR news release.

The workshop aims to educate landowners about timber management and how to thoughtfully and purposely harvest trees to create better wildlife habitat and generate income from a timber sale. Woodland owners can also learn about options for enrolling in a tax incentive program to reduce property taxes.

The day will begin indoors with a series of educational sessions about managing forests to benefit a variety of wildlife, working with a consulting forester to write a stewardship plan, the mechanics of a timber sale, and how to contract with a qualified logger. After lunch, participants will board busses for an afternoon tour of different sites to see first-hand the differences in unmanaged and managed timber, and previously cut timber in various stages of regeneration.

"Our last workshop this winter in Palisade had over 100 attendees and we are anticipating strong interest in the Grand Rapids area, too," said Grand Rapids area CFM Forester, Josh Donatell. "Over the last 20 years, there has been a decline in timber harvest from private lands. This program helps restore lost habitat on private land as well as promote a more stable supply of wood and fiber for the timber industry."

Pre-registration is required. The $20 cost includes lunch and field tours. Participants should dress appropriately for outdoor weather and wear sturdy shoes or boots.

Anyone interested in attending or registering can contact Josh Donatell by email at josh.donatell@state.mn.us, or by phone at 218-328-8912. An agenda can be viewed online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/woodlands/workshop.html.

Celebrate Earth Day at 'Walk for Glendalough'

It's a special occasion when the Walk for Glendalough falls on Earth Day. On Earth Day in 1990, the Glendalough property was transferred to the Nature Conservancy, beginning a process that created Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake.

Today, 27 years later, the beauty and natural features of Glendalough have been preserved, and amenities have been added to make the park a welcome haven for tourists and locals alike.

Many of those amenities have been provided by funds raised at the annual walk. The Glendalough Park Partners, along with the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota and Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails staff, invite everyone to attend their 21st annual walk at the trail center at the park at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 22.

The walk provides an opportunity for people to see new park developments and learn about future park projects. This year, the Park Partners will unveil plans for a new trailhead building that would provide bike trail orientation, additional historical exhibits, a new equipment rental facility, and restrooms.

The Park Partners will also provide lodge tours, eagle nest viewing, food and door prizes. Register for prizes at the lodge, grab a donut and a drink at the trail center, and take a hike or bike on a park trail.

When visitors return, a bratwurst lunch will be waiting. There is no fee to enter the park on this day, but because the walk is intended as a fundraiser, donations will be encouraged.

Past walk events have raised funds to provide year-round restrooms at the trail center, restore and furnish the historic lodge, build a picnic shelter and a hiking bridge, add heat and electricity to the camper cabins, purchase rental canoes, construct and fund a bird-feeding station, plant trees and native prairie flowers, create the campfire program area, purchase automated external defibrillators, provide bike racks, and construct an outdoor seating area. Over the years, the walk has contributed close to $300,000 in park improvements.

A portion of the proceeds from this year's event will go towards finishing the outdoor seating area, funding archery equipment for the park, and installing group-size pedestal grills at the picnic shelter. The event wraps up by 1 p.m., but visitors can always extend their day with an overnight stay in the cart-in campground, a camper cabin, or a yurt. For more information, call the park at 218-864-0110 or visit mndnr.gov/glendalough.

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