Duck hunting is expected to be good when Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season opens a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 22, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“The number of breeding ducks in Minnesota and North America has remained fairly high in recent years, so hopefully that will result in a good duck season,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “We also heard favorable reports on the number of duck broods over the summer.”
Wetland habitat conditions are variable across the state, with some dry conditions in the northern portion of the state.
“Canada goose hunting should improve as the season goes on,” Cordts said. “We had a poor goose hatch this spring and hunting success so far in September has been fairly low.”
Duck seasons and limits
The duck season structure is similar to recent years. The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway. Waterfowl hunting regulations are available wherever DNR licenses are sold and regulations are available online at mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.
Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones:
- In the north zone, duck season is Sept. 22 through Tuesday, Nov. 20.
- In the central zone, duck season is Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 30, closes for five days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 6, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 25.
- In the south zone, duck season is Sept. 22 through Sept. 30, closes for 12 days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 13, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 2.
“There seems to be fairly good support for our current zones and split seasons, so we’ve maintained that season structure,” Cordts said. “But weather and other variables play a large role in how the season goes.”
The daily duck bag limit remains six per day. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, including no more than two hen mallards. The daily bag limits are three for wood duck and scaup; and two for redheads, canvasbacks, pintails and black ducks.
The DNR will post a weekly waterfowl migration report each week during the duck season. The reports are typically posted on Thursday afternoon at mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.
Goose and sandhill crane seasons
Minnesota’s goose season will reopen in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 22, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season. “Dark” geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese and brant. The daily bag limit for light geese is 20. “Light geese” include snow, blue and Ross’s geese. Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
The season for sandhill cranes remains open through Sunday, Oct. 21, in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.
More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting is available in the 2018 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations booklet from license vendors and online at mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.
Angling regulations that would change on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River in northern Minnesota are the topic of an open house for the public to give input on the proposals from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8, at Lake of the Woods School.
The changes under consideration by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would reduce the number of walleye and sauger allowed to be kept in the winter on the lake, and on the river allow only catch-and-release fishing for those fish in the spring. The changes would take effect on March 1, 2019.
Winter walleye and sauger proposal
The proposed winter regulations would match the current summer regulations on Lake of the Woods, reducing the aggregate walleye and sauger limit to six, with no more than four walleye. The protected slot limit would remain in effect.
The current winter regulation from Dec. 1 to April 14 on Lake of the Woods allows anglers to keep eight walleye and sauger, with no more than four walleye. There is a protected slot limit requiring anglers to immediately release any walleye between 19.5 and 28 inches, with only one fish over 28 inches allowed in possession.
DNR Baudette area fisheries supervisor Phil Talmage said expanding winter pressure has resulted in sauger harvest exceeding management objectives with 80 percent of the sauger harvest coming in the winter season.
Rainy River spring season proposal
The proposed regulation change is a catch-and-release season that would be in effect March 1 to April 14 on the Rainy River and Fourmile Bay. Increasing pressure and harvest focused on pre-spawn male walleye have impacted the spawning population in the Rainy River.
The current Rainy River spring season regulation allows anglers to keep two walleye or sauger, and requires the immediate release of walleye 19.5 inches in length or larger.
This regulation would maintain the spring sport fishery while protecting the long-term sustainability of the Rainy River spawning population and reducing the overall harvest of walleye from the Lake of the Woods-Rainy River system.
“Walleye and sauger populations on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River are doing well, but increasing fishing pressure has resulted in increased harvest and stress on the fishery,” Talmage said. “These regulations are intended to be a proactive approach to ensure the high quality fishery that anglers have come to expect from the border water region.”
There will be a short presentation at the open house. Following the meeting, comments will be accepted through Thursday, Oct. 18. Those not attending the meeting can provide comments by calling the Baudette area fisheries office at 218-634-2522 or by emailing email@example.com.
Anglers who can’t make the meeting in Baudette can attend an open house about that and other regulation proposals from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the DNR headquarters in St. Paul, 500 Lafayette Road.
More information on fishing regulations can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/fishing.
A proposed walleye regulation change on Leech Lake would allow anglers more opportunities to keep walleye beginning when the 2019 open water fishing season opens.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking input on the change at an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, Sept. 24, at the Walker Area Community Center.
The proposed regulation change would remove the 20- to 26-inch protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation, but with a four-fish walleye limit, only one of which can be over 20 inches.
The current walleye regulation on Leech Lake is four fish, requiring the immediate release of any walleye that are within a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. Only one fish over 26 inches allowed in possession. The four-fish walleye possession limit on Leech Lake has been in effect since 2005.
“The regulation was initially put in place to help protect spawning fish,” said Doug Schultz, DNR Walker area fisheries supervisor. “Regulation goals have been exceeded, prompting the DNR to propose increased harvest opportunity at this time.”
Carl Pedersen, the DNR large lake specialist on Leech Lake, said the walleye population is in excellent condition at this time and can afford some additional harvest.
“We have an abundant population of spawning-age fish with a wide distribution of sizes, and multiple year classes of smaller fish entering the fishery,” Pedersen said. “Protective fishing regulations combined with very consistent production of year classes over the past 10 years have put us in a very good position.”
If future fisheries assessments indicate harvest should be reduced, the DNR anticipates revisiting the protected slot limit at that time.
At the meeting, there will not be a formal presentation but DNR staff will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the proposed regulation with individuals who attend. Following the meeting, comments will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 5. Those unable to attend the meeting can provide comments by calling the Walker area fisheries office at 218-547-1683 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anglers who can’t make the meeting in Walker can attend an open house about that and other regulation proposals from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the DNR headquarters in St. Paul, 500 Lafayette Road. No formal presentations will be made at the open house.
More information on fishing regulations can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/fishing.
Hunters who harvest deer, bear or turkey starting this season will need to sign into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources electronic license system when registering a harvest online.
“Requiring hunters to log in adds another layer of security to protect their personal information,” said Steve Michaels, licensing program director. “We recognize that online game registration will be a little less convenient and we appreciate hunters’ patience as they adapt to the new process.”
In 2017, half of all deer harvest were registered using the online system, so this new security measure is important.
To register a harvest, go to mndnr.gov/buyalicense. The harvest registration system is available after hunters enter their information in the customer identification page, similar to when purchasing a DNR license or permit. Once signed in, click on the harvest tab. Harvest registration is the same as in past years, and requires hunters to enter a nine-digit harvest registration number that is printed on the license.
“While in the system registering your animal, we also recommend adding your email address to your electronic record,” Michaels said. “The DNR is increasingly using email to conduct surveys and communicate with license holders on a variety of wildlife issues.”
Hunters also can choose to register a harvest by calling 1-888-706-6367 and following the instructions, or in person at any big game registration station.
Hunting regulations and details about when harvest registration is required are available at mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.
Minnesota researchers have a new way to monitor populations of spruce grouse – a bird species that’s notoriously difficult to count – through an annual spruce grouse survey that happened for the first time in the spring with help from dozens of cooperators and citizen volunteers.
Spruce grouse are a game species in Minnesota, but in neighboring Wisconsin they are listed as threatened. As a species dependent on conifer forest habitat, they are expected to have a smaller range in the future because of climate change induced habitat loss.
“We needed better information about the population to make informed management decisions,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “This survey is expected to detect meaningful changes in the population over a 10 year period.”
DNR researchers spent four years developing a survey methodology for the difficult-to-survey spruce grouse. Cooperators, citizen volunteers and DNR staff count grouse signs (droppings) at spruce grouse sites. By conducting the survey annually, researchers can detect meaningful changes in the population.
Before this survey, the only data the Minnesota DNR collected on spruce grouse were the estimated total of birds harvested by hunters as part of the annual small game harvest mail survey. That survey estimates the total harvest of spruce grouse at 10,000 to 27,000 birds per year since 2006; however, spruce grouse harvest is not a reliable way to track population trends.
“Citizen-scientist volunteers and cooperators are important contributors to the survey. We couldn’t do this survey without their help,” Roy said.
Last spring, cooperators at Chippewa National Forest, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, 1854 Treaty Authority, DNR Wildlife, Superior National Forest and 40 citizen-scientist volunteers including Vermilion Community College students, surveyed 65 routes throughout the northern conifer forest region of Minnesota.
Spruce grouse sign was found at 88 sites representing 32 percent of those surveyed. More sign was found in the northwest portion of the survey region, followed by the northeast and then the southcentral portion. The survey will be conducted annually to track population trends and changes in distribution.
The DNR’s 2018 spruce survey report and grouse hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.