Experience Outdoors - 2022

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EXPERIENCE

Outdoors Shutterstock photo

A deeper look at

Lake Miltona’s muskies

Addition of PIT tags provides endless potential data for fisheries staff By Eric Morken Alexandria Echo Press MILTONA, MINN. — Anglers and game and fish departments are always eager to learn more about one of the more talked about predator fish species in freshwater lakes, and a recent two-year study on Lake Miltona continues to shed light on how muskies are living in this popular fishery. Staff members of the Glenwood DNR fisheries department sampled a total of 257 muskies on Lake Miltona. Through the twoyear study, the staff was able to more accurately estimate that there are roughly 757 adult muskies (30-inches or longer) within the lake. That number and the data collected helps the department better explain the health of muskies in Miltona to anglers, and also has the potential to guide management decisions in the future.

More accurate sampling methods

Prior sampling methods on muskies made it difficult to get an accurate population estimate. The DNR typically used large-frame trap nets to catch the fish. A total of 15 of the nets were placed in muskie waters that extended 100 feet from

LAKE MILTONA MUSKIES PODCAST Listen to the full interview with Glenwood DNR fisheries specialist Nick Rydell by going to the Echo Press Minute Podcast and clicking on the episode title “DNR Fisheries Specialist Talks Muskie Population Study in Lake Miltona.”

shore over the course of 10 days. Those nets were checked every day. Based on how many fish were caught, the DNR used a metric called catch-per-effort (CPE) that often fluctuated dramatically. The problem with using the nets along the shoreline stems from how muskies react to unpredictable spring weather shifts in Minnesota. The timing of the sampling was done when muskies typically spawn with water temperatures in the low-tomid 50 degrees. “What ends up happening is they might come up in the shallows and a cold front or storm front comes in and pushes those fish back out,” Glenwood DNR fisheries specialist Nick Rydell said. “They’re not vulnerable to a net that’s only 100 feet from the shoreline. That CPE method for muskies was really variable, and a lot of the variability was probably not because the muskie population was changing. It was weather patterns in the spring. Our CPE metric

Contributed photo

Glenwood DNR fisheries specialist Nick Rydell with a 52.4-inch muskie sampled from Lake Miltona in 2021. All 257 muskies sampled by the Glenwood DNR staff in 2019 and 2021 had PIT tags placed in them to help the DNR collect data from those fish in the future. would be anywhere from .08 muskies per trap net up to .68. Some years it would be half or double what it was four years before. That’s not a very good metric. It wasn’t working very well.” The use of electrofishing in this recent sampling effort proved to be more labor intensive, but it also led to a more accurate picture of the fish in the lake. Electrofishing is a common practice used by departments to sample multiple species of

fish where an electric current in the water temporarily immobilizes the fish. “It doesn’t hurt them,” Rydell said. “As soon as we pull them out of the current, they’re swimming again. However, because muskies have a really long lateral line, they can actually feel that electric current a long ways off before it would actually affect them. They’ll end up taking off before you even get close to them if you have the electricity on. We came up

with a method at our office that has been really effective where it’s closer to like a spot and stalk method.” With the electrofishing done at night, a netter at the front of the boat spots the muskie with the use of a spot light. They then direct the driver of the boat close to the fish before the electric current is turned on to immobilize the muskie and get it in the boat.

MUSKIES: Page 4

Evansville’s Mike New finds success, satisfaction as ultramarathoner By Sam Stuve Alexandria Echo Press Evansville’s Mike New would prefer to be outdoors in many of his pursuits, and that passion for the outdoors and fitness have collided in recent years where he is finding success as an ultramarathoner. On April 8, 2022, New raced 50 miles in the night race at Zumbro Falls and finished first out of 650 entrants. He finished the race in nine hours and 28 minutes. New’s goal this past summer was to race in the Leadville Trail 100 Run presented by La Sportiva on Aug. 19, 2022, in the Colorado Rockies beginning at 12:01 a.m. He took on the 50-mile race at Zumbro Falls as a training run. “I figured I should probably do 50 miles before I do 100 miles,” New said. “Two weeks before, my buddy said we should run a 50

and see what it’s like to get an idea. So we went down and just by chance I won it. I ended up winning that, but then from there, we already signed up for Leadville. So I was like, ‘Well, here we go. Let’s see what happens.’” The course for the Leadville Trail 100 fluctuates from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. Out of 700 participants on Aug. 19, New was one of 368 to finish the race and did so in 24 hours, 42 minutes, 9 seconds. “Leadville was about 16,000 feet of climbing for the whole race,” New said. “Being from around here, obviously I’m not getting a lot of that elevation. So I spent a few days out at Andes Tower Hills doing the hills out there. I did go out to Colorado and did some climbing out there. I had never done it before. I wanted to see if I could do it and I’ll probably do it again. I

Photos by Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Left: Mike New of Evansville poses for a photo at Brophy County Park with his belt buckle that he won by finishing an ultramarathon, the Leadville 100 in Colorado on Aug. 19, 2022, in less than 25 hours. Above: Mike New of Evansville received this belt buckle for finishing the Leadville 100 on Aug. 18, 2022, in less than 25 hours.

just like things that are really hard. I like the work you have to put in for it. It’s gratifying.” For finishing the 100 miles in under 25 hours, New received a custom Leadville belt buckle. His time put him 76th overall among

the 368 finishers, 43rd among the 242 athletes running the race for the first time, and 21st out of 115 men in his 40-49 age bracket. New enjoyed winning a race like the 50-miler at Zumbro Falls, but even after strong

finishes like he has had this summer, his drive to get better keeps him wanting more. “It’s an accomplishment, but I always feel like, ‘Well, could I have gone faster?’” New said. “I just always feel like I’m chasing something. I

never get too content.” New’s focus on ultramarathons is a new one. “It kind of started in the last few years right before COVID hit,” New said. “I had done a marathon before,

NEW: Page 5


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Photos by Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

A rustic cabin available for weekend renting sits along the shores of Issac Lake on the Andes Tower Hills property.

Outdoor fun at Andes continues year round with new camping options By Thalen Zimmerman Alexandria Echo Press KENSINGTON — Nearly 20 miles west of Alexandria, tucked away among the wooded rolling hills of Minnesota’s midwest, is Andes Tower Hills. A place that has served as a popular site for winter fun since 1980. Now, the fun will continue all year round. After nearly two years of planning and a summer’s worth of construction, Andes debuted its newest addition over Labor Day weekend. 45 RV sites fitted with 50 amp electric shore power outlets, sewer connection, and water hookups next to a five stall bath house and a trailhead leading to 10 miles of backcountry hiking and biking. “Our owners have been looking for something for quite a while to keep us kind of a yearround destination for people,” said Jessah Hale, operation manager for Andes. “I think this was just one that they decided was really a good adventure to go into.” If you follow the winding scenic trail system — only available to campers — through nearly 800 acres of wooded terrain, you will find another new addition available in the summer. An openspace rustic cabin with no running water and no electricity. Only two full beds and a propane camping stove. It’s nestled right on the private shores of Issac Lake. General Manager of Andes, Tom Anderson, says the lake is perfect for kayaking — which can be rented on site — and fishing for crappies, sunnies, and bass.

A map highlights the various crosscountry ski trails that become hiking and biking trails at Andes Tower Hills.

While each RV site is operational for water, sewer and electricity, not all of them are yet fitted with a picnic table and fire ring.

Outside of the cabin is a porta potty, fire ring, and picnic table. The cabin was built by Timber Arched out of Osakis, which produces hand-crafted cabins from locally sourced oak timbers. A two-night minimum reservation is required for the cabin and rates begin at $75 a night Sunday through Thursday and $100 a night Friday and Saturday. RV sites also require a two-night minimum stay at $45 a night during the week and $55 on the weekend. Monthly stays start at $850 a month. Hale is confident in their being a need for additional camping options in the county. She said when she was calling around to other campgrounds in the area, a lot of them were having trouble meeting campers’ needs due to a lack of sites. Hale figured this

The trailhead leading to Issac Lake puts hikers and bikers on a path through 10 miles of wooded surroundings. was due to the COVID19 pandemic pushing more people to do more outside activities, but apparently, the other campgrounds were having the same issue prior to the pandemic. According to Explore Alexandria Tourism, there are 14 campgrounds in Douglas County. Some campgrounds also feature a limited amount of weekend sites available with seasonal campers that are there year round taking up many lots. The RV sites and cabin are just the start of summer activities at Andes. Eventually, tent camping sites will be added along with a spot for disc golfing. Email Thalen Zimmerman at tzimmerman@echopress.com.

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Don’t let weather keep you out of the woods Busting some common beliefs surrounding whitetails and their movement in cold, warm and windy conditions

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ne look at the headline of this story, and many would assume I am referring to the cold and snow that will hit Minnesota late this fall and early winter. As hunters, we know better. Snow and dropping temperatures are what drive a lot of us into the woods. It’s those pesky comfortable weather conditions – sun and 70 degrees – that get a bad rap in the world of hunting whitetails. If you ERIC listen to MORKEN any deerOutdoors hunting Editor focused podcast or consume any media on hunting whitetails, you have heard it. “A cold front is coming, and it’s going to get bucks on their feet.” If deer are not spotted, it’s those darn warm temperatures. Or maybe the wind is blowing too hard. It is such a commonly held belief that bucks move more in cold conditions and sit tight until dark during warm weather that some hunters will simply stay out of the woods until a cold front hits. Science does not back that up much. Studies of GPS-collared deer have found minimal evidence that weather has an influence on deer movement. Regardless of temperature, deer are going to move most at dusk and dawn because that’s when they see the best. Mark Kenyon works for the outdoor lifestyle company, MeatEater, and hosts the Wired to Hunt Podcast focused on hunting whitetails. Kenyon wrote a story in 2020 titled “Does Temperature Affect Deer Movement?” That piece centered around the conflicting nature of this subject in terms of what science says and what hunters feel they see in the woods. Those who study this will consistently say that if there is a connection between increased

Photos by Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Eric Morken with a North Dakota buck he shot with his bow on Sept. 4, 2022 during the opening weekend of the archery season. This buck was shot on a day when winds were gusting to more than 25 miles an hour out of the southeast. High winds will frequently calm down around last light, and those high day-time winds can be a great way to get tight to areas hunters expect whitetails to be bedding. buck movement and temperature, it’s minimal. “We did see some changes when we had temperature changes,” Bronson Strickland of Mississippi State University was quoted as saying in Kenyon’s story about one of their studies. “When a front was coming through, we might see some changes. But again, it wasn’t that dramatic. It was always subtle.” Maybe that little bit more movement during daylight is all we’re looking for as hunters. Maybe it’s the difference between shooting a buck at last light and never seeing him. I have heard that argument, and it makes some sense to me.

Examples of badweather bucks

For many years, I lived by the “have to hunt cold fronts” mantra. It often drove decisions I made on when and where to hunt, even during the rut. I was missing out on the potential for

a lot of good hunts because of this. My experience hunting cold fronts is like any other weather conditions I have hunted. There are good sits and bad sits. My mindset on the importance of them has completely shifted, basically to just not caring about what the weather is doing. I love climbing into a tree with temperatures in the mid-30’s. It just feels right, but I have had many good encounters and some of my biggest buck kills that came in weather conditions when the popular thought is that it is a waste of time to be in the woods. I think back to my first mature buck ever shot with a bow in my early 20’s. That was on a near 80-degree day in mid-October. Hot during the “October lull.” What could be worse? I watched deer move close to the river on an evening sit, adjusted the next afternoon to that area and had a

huge-bodied Minnesota 9-pointer at 20 yards with an hour of daylight left. Opening weekend of 2020 in Minnesota featured terrible conditions.

Temperatures in the 80’s and winds gusting out of the south to over 30-miles an hour. Those winds allowed me to move quietly up a creek to set up over a crossing down low and

shoot a 9-pointer that came off a high point on the surrounding ridges. Like warm temperatures, wind is

MORKEN: Page 5

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MUSKIES From Page 1

The Glenwood DNR started these recent sampling efforts in 2019. Data was collected on all of the muskies caught — length of the fish, maturity, weight. The staff also implanted each muskie with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag that has a 16-digit identification number. The tag, about the size of a grain of rice, will last indefinitely. “They’re basically a piece of glass and inside of that it has copper wire,” Rydell said. “There’s no internal battery. We implant them under the skin using a syringe. Similar technology to microchips placed in pets. The PIT tag reader activates the tag.” In 2021, DNR staff returned to recapture as many fish as possible. “We captured 169 unique fish and examined all of those fish to see, do they have a tag from 2019 or not?” Rydell said. “Then based on how many we tagged the first year to a proportion of fish tagged the next year, it’s more complicated than that, but we can determine roughly how many muskies are in the lake. That’s where we came up with that 757 number, but there’s some error to that. It’s give or take a couple hundred fish on each side of that.”

High percentage of trophy fish

Of the 257 muskies tagged over the two years, 19 of those fish measured over 50 inches. That may not seem like a lot at first glance, but a 50-inch fish — generally what is considered a trophy muskie these days — is rare on any body of water. “It actually is higher than we had thought,” Rydell said. “In the past, that trophy number of 50 inches or greater has varied on Miltona anywhere from 1% to about 5%. A 50-inch muskie is still a rare muskie no matter where you go. So right now, we’re sitting at about 8% of the adult population is 50 inches or greater. That’s a pretty high percentage.” Muskies are notoriously difficult to age. Growth rates vary from lake to lake, but Rydell said some of the limited aging data the department has from Miltona indicates that some female muskies are able to reach that 50-inch mark as young as 11 or 12 years old. “That’s fast. More likely, most of them are reaching that 50-inch

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near carrying capacity for these large fish. You can only have so much biomass of muskies within a lake.” The fisheries staff in Glenwood has talked of potentially stocking a later-life stage fingerling after a study showed that muskie fingerlings measuring under 11.5 inches when stocked were having low survival rates. Then there is the matter of how much natural production is occurring. Rydell said they know some natural reproduction occurs in Lobster and Miltona. Both lakes have been a part of a genetic study where muskies came back showing mixed ancestry after specific strains of muskie fingerlings had been stocked. “All of these strains were pure when they Contributed photo came into the lake,” Glenwood DNR fisheries specialist Chris Uphoff with a big muskie caught during electrofishing sampling Rydell said. “So if a efforts by the Glenwood DNR on Lake Miltona in 2021. Fish caught during electrofishing are briefly fish was stocked, it immobilized with an electric current in the water that allows DNR staff to net them and collect data before was 100% that strain. So when we have releasing them back into the lake. genetics that come back mark when they’re in that measure 50 inches what they have available largemouth bass are two with mixed ancestry, their mid-teens,” Rydell or more, and the lake to an extent.” species that often thrive that tells us they’re said. “On top of that, also produces many fish During the 2019 in clear waters with a lot reproducing between the a lot of fish may never in what is classified as sampling efforts by the of vegetation. Those are strains, but it doesn’t really tell us how much reach 50 inches. Even DNR, Lake Miltona was “memorable” between the habitat conditions natural reproduction in a lake like Miltona, also part of a broader 42-49 inches. Of the in many lakes of westwas occurring. I think they’ll stop growing at 257 muskies sampled in statewide study done on central Minnesota. in the case of Lobster, some point. Some it’s muskie diets and how this study, 131 of those Northern pike it was somewhere before 50 inches, some muskies compete with fit that memorable numbers have been on it’s after.” other popular predatory category. an increasing trend for a around 20% was mixed Rydell pointed to a fish in northern pike, “So if you go out while now in many parts ancestry. Well if a specific example of a walleye and largemouth fishing on Miltona, of Minnesota, but Rydell Leech Lake strain fish is reproducing with a muskie with distinct bass. chances are more likely said a recent statewide Leech Lake strain fish, it markings that made it Those diet samples than not if you catch a study indicates that just shows up as a Leech easy to identify being on Miltona showed fish it will be 42 inches muskies in a system Lake strain fish. So we caught by three different or greater,” Rydell said. that muskies feed on may actually help curb don’t really know how anglers over three years. “Oscar is pretty low yellow perch in high those high numbers of much. I’d really like to Each time, it measured numbers — about 65% density. It was surveyed pike. evaluate that because 51 inches, only growing of the total diet items last in 2018 and 21 fish “We kind of see the in girth and not length. were sampled. That was in the samples studied. same thing in Miltona,” that will dictate our Females are almost But the percentage that a record high. If you Rydell said. “Clear water stocking.” The Glenwood DNR always going to be perch made up their do encounter a fish on and vegetation benefits will place PIT tags the fish that reach the diet by mass was 8%, Oscar, chances are it’s pike, not walleyes. into all the muskie 50-inch length. meaning they often going to be 42 inches Walleyes like more “Although, in Miltona fingerlings they stock in target larger prey species turbid water. We’ve or greater. On Lobster, we do have male Lobster and Oscar this that fill them in smaller it’s a little bit lower for seen an increasing muskies that we’ve fall. They hope to do quantities. that memorable size trend throughout the sampled just in this By comparison, yellow entire state for northern the same in Miltona in class. I think it’s ranged study that were up to perch made up 70% of the future to try to get anywhere from 40% to pike other than in our 48 inches, which is a better idea of the level 50% of the population is the northern pike diets muskie waters. So our ridiculous,” Rydell said. sampled from Miltona 42 inches or greater.” muskie waters, northern of natural reproduction “That is not typical. A and 40% by mass. Bass in these local waters. pike numbers actually 48-inch muskie that’s a A healthy prey base ate perch at 40% by “If we recapture fish have remained stable, Healthy baitfish male is probably more of mass and walleyes relied and it’s likely because and it doesn’t have a populations are an a trophy than a 50-inch on perch as a primary they are consuming pike PIT tag, and we PIT female. That like doesn’t important factor in how prey base at 40% by tagged every single and keeping them in quickly muskies reach happen.” number and 60% by fingerling we put in check.” that memorable-class mass. that year, we know Many memorableWhat’s left to learn that’s from natural category. “There’s another Having the adult Perch, suckers and metric that we can use length fish reproduction,” Rydell muskie population ciscos are standard prey to compare between Lake Miltona is said. “Then on top of estimate has not items for muskies. Rydell species,” Rydell said. managed by the DNR that, we’ll get some changed the Glenwood said there was an initial “It combines all three as a trophy fishery, really good data in the DNR’s management meaning it is stocked at decline in the number of of those other metrics, future. We know how strategy on Lake Miltona big they were and how lower densities with the suckers in Miltona about so by mass, by number, just yet, but Rydell a decade after muskies by frequency into one. goal of producing those old when we stocked said the department is were first stocked in We call that index of trophy-sized fish. them. If we recapture evaluating its stocking the lake. Those sucker The Glenwood DNR relative importance. that fish in the future, strategy. numbers have remained stocks two other lakes How important is we’re going to get how The department relatively stable over the that prey item to with muskies in its old it is, how much it’s currently stocks the last 20 years. work area. Lake Oscar that species? Then grown in that time and lake with 1,400 muskie “There are ciscos is stocked at low we can compare it also be able to evaluate fingerlings every other everywhere out there,” densities, and Lobster across species. When how much mortality year in the fall. Lake is stocked at higher Rydell said of Miltona. we compare muskies is going on with these “That adult “There’s a lot of them. densities to produce a to northern pike, to stocked fish. How many population is pretty well are actually surviving Perch populations have more active fishery that largemouth bass and established,” Rydell may not have the overall statewide been declining. to walleyes in Lake and contributing to the said. “Those big fish are fishery? There’s kind We haven’t really seen number of trophy fish, Miltona, there is very going to take the best though Lobster certainly that in Miltona. They’ve little overlap. (Muskies) of an endless amount habitat. There might actually remained produces 50-inch are not consuming the of data we can get from be some limitations relatively stable. On top muskies. same prey at the same that.” Lake Miltona tends on these stocked fish of that, muskies can be sizes that other species Email sports and outdoor editor to have more overall coming into the system pretty opportunistic. are.” Eric Morken at emorken@ trophy-category fish echopress.com. because we’re kind of They’ll take advantage of Northern pike and

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NEW From Page 1

and right before COVID hit, some friends I skied with in college said, “Let’s sign up for Leadville.’ But then it was canceled. So then it reopened, and my buddy said, ‘Well, we should sign up.’ It kind of started from there.” Between the end of the race at Zumbro Falls and the race in Leadville, New trained during almost any free time he had. “When people ask me what I did all summer, I say, ‘I just ran,’” New said. “You’re basically

putting in 70-80 miles a week. My biggest week was a 100-mile week. I put in about 60-80 miles a week consistently. Saturday and Sunday are usually long runs. You’re usually going to run 20 miles on Saturday and back up to 20 miles on Sunday. So it’s an investment of time for sure.” New said the biggest pleasure he gets from running these long and intense runs is accomplishing something that is difficult. “It’s mental. It’s just taxing,” he said. “It’s rough and tough. When I tell people that

I’m going to run 100 miles, they say, ‘Why in the heck would you do that?’ I can lend you my car is basically what you’ll get from them.” For New, being outdoors and accomplishing something that not many people would put themselves through is fun. “I think it just pushes you to do things that are above your comfort zone,” New said. “And that’s maybe the biggest thing is I like doing things that are outside my comfort zone.” New has a strong passion for being outdoors, whether that

MORKEN From Page 3

NIGHTLY SPECIALS

another popular weather condition that some people say there’s no point to hunt in. That mindset would have kept me on the couch the evening I shot my biggest buck to date on Sept. 4 of this year in North Dakota. I saw this buck with another 3.5-year-old buck on my first sit of the season on the evening of Sept. 3. Temperatures were in the 70s with light winds out of the northeast. The wind shifted completely the next day to the southeast gusting to 25-30 miles an hour. Again, the wind allowed me to set up quietly even closer to where I suspected those bucks were bedded. With half an hour of light left, the 12-pointer was 2 yards from me. Winds will almost always calm down during the last hour of light. Deer will get on their feet at that time, and you will have had an opportunity

Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

This North Dakota buck was shot on the morning of Nov. 3, 2020 on a day when high temperatures got unseasonably warm at above 70 degrees. Regardless of weather conditions or moon phase, things that fluctuate greatly, whitetails have evolved to time the rut in northern climates at very consistent times each year to give fawns the greatest chance of survival. to use the higher winds of the day time to get tight into where you suspect them to be.

The rut is consistent I especially pay no attention to weather conditions during the rut.

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be running, fishing or hunting. “I’m a huge outdoors person,” he said. “I’m a fishing guy too and a big bow hunter. Usually, I do anything outside. I love being outdoors.” Growing up in Alexandria, New said that he was an athlete in high school but that his primary athletic focus wasn’t solely on running. “I’ve always been an athlete, but running hasn’t been my primary sport,” he said. “I did some track when I was in high school, but I was more of an endurance athlete and not as much a pure

runner.” New has also spent a lot of time cycling and skiing throughout his life. “I started with cycling,” he said. “I did that professionally for a while, and then I went from that, and I went and skied in college at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.” New said that Alexandria has a great running community and that some of his buddies are better runners than he is. “There are some incredible runners here, and we’re gifted with a really good community here,” New

said. “I’m not a great runner compared to a lot of people in town here. There’s a really phenomenal running community and they’re really good runners. And they push me when I run with them.” New encourages people to give running long races a try. “I think if people are thinking about doing something like that, they should do it,” he said. “Just try it. It sounds crazy, but when you’re looking to do something big like that, you just have got to put your head down and try it.”

My 2020 North Dakota buck came on the morning of Nov. 3 when high temperatures were in the 70’s that day. Set up between two bedding areas a few hundred yards from each other, a 10-pointer came in right on the tail of a doe at about 8:30 a.m. Think of the rut this way – the timing of it is literally life and death sometimes for does and fawns in northern climates. Whitetails have a gestation period of about 200 days, and they have evolved to perfectly time peak breeding that give fawns the best chance of survival. It takes a lot of energy to raise fawns, and does need that extra boost of nutrition that comes with spring green-up. If fawns are born too early in northern climates, there’s a high risk of mortality due to the weather. Born too late and fawns run the risk of not being healthy enough to survive their first winter. It’s important that most fawns drop during a similar timeframe in the spring as well to overwhelm predators. Coyotes, wolves, bobcats

and bears can only eat so many fawns in an area before the fawns are on their feet and able to better escape.

rut is.’ Biologists know exactly when it happens. In the northern U.S., it’s very much driven by photoperiod.” Adams comes at this as both a wildlife biologist and an avid deer hunter. He loves to hunt the cold fronts as much as anyone, but he is not letting weather dictate when he’s in the tree. A popular peak breeding date in northern regions is Nov. 15, with breeding taking place on a bell curve around that date. Adams said come Oct. 31 and through the first week of November, he is in the woods to take advantage of that seeking stage where bucks are actively looking for the first receptive doe ahead of that peak breeding. I get the intrigue of hunting on a frosty morning with winds 5-10 miles an hour out of the northwest on Nov. 5. That will have me as excited as anyone. But if you’re waiting for those conditions to hit the woods, you’re missing out on a lot of potential great hunts this fall.

Let Halloween be the switch

I recently had a conversation with Kip Adams of the National Deer Association. Adams is the Chief Conservation Officer for the NDA with a master’s degree in wildlife biology from the University of New Hampshire. The timing of the rut, meaning the actual breeding that goes on, is very consistent each year in the northern twothirds of the U.S., Adams said. It is not triggered by weather or moon phases, two things that fluctuate greatly. It’s driven by photoperiod – the amount of time each day that an organism receives light. “It’s extremely cut and dry,” Adams told me. “We can measure fetuses from does killed late winter or in the spring, back date those and we know exactly when those does were bred. It’s not hearsay on, ‘Hey, this is when we think the

Email Sam Stuve at sstuve@echopress.com.

Email Eric Morken at emorken@echopress.com.

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Friday, October 7, 2022 | echo press

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An unexpected trophy walleye

Teen experiences the fun unknown of river fishing

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Grand Forks ne of the many great things about fishing a river is the unknown, the anticipation of what’s going to be at the end of the line when a fish bites. You just never know. BRAD Nowhere, DOKKEN perhaps, is Northland that truer Outdoors than on the Red River. So it was that Caden Erickson of Grand Forks was fishing the Red River on Sept. 9, with a buddy, just like he’s done many other times throughout this summer. Set up along a muddy riverbank in south Grand Forks, Caden was hoping to catch a catfish, when he got a bite about 8:30 p.m., shortly before dark. “I was using a frog, and I just threw it out there in the middle of the river,” Caden said. The fish at the end of the line, he recalls, didn’t feel that big at first. “He didn’t fight too hard,” said Caden, 12, a seventh-grader at Schroeder Middle School in Grand Forks. “It only took me a couple of minutes to get him in.” Landing the fish, however, revealed a different picture: The fish was a walleye.

Make that a big walleye – a really big walleye – as in 32 inches of really big. “I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Caden said. Anywhere you go, a walleye that size qualifies as a trophy. “Yeah, I’m getting him mounted,” Caden said. Out of curiosity, I checked the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s online “Whopper Club” and “Catch and Release Club” databases to see what I could find about big walleyes in the Red River. The Whopper Club recognizes anglers who catch and keep a fish of a minimum weight, which varies depending on the species. For walleyes, the fish must weigh at least 8 pounds. The Catch and Release Club, as the name suggests, is for fish that are released, with a minimum length requirement of 25 inches for walleyes. As I suspected, 32-inch walleyes, whether kept or released, don’t come along very often. Of 72 Whopper Club entries on the Red River, only three other walleyes measured 32 inches, the most recent entry being caught in October 2001. A walleye reported to measure 34 inches was caught and kept in September 1987, but the recorded weight

Contributed/Jared Erickson

Caden Erickson, 12, of Grand Forks, caught this 32-inch walleye Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, while fishing from shore along the Red River in south Grand Forks. The big walleye hit a frog, Caden says, and he kept the fish to have it mounted. Caden is a 7th-grader at Schroeder Middle School in Grand Forks. on the fish was only 8 pounds, 6 ounces. Unless the fish was part eel, a walleye measuring 34 inches should weigh a lot more than 8 pounds, 6 ounces, so I’m inclined to question the validity of that measurement. The Game and Fish Department’s Catch and Release Club currently has 41 walleye entries for the Red River, the largest being a 34-inch fish that was released in November 1999. A 33-inch walleye was released in April 2016 at the Fargo North

Dam, and two 32-inch walleyes were entered into the database, one released in October 1997 and a second in October 1999. If you’re beginning to see a pattern here between fall time and big walleyes, go to the front of the class. The 32-inch walleye Caden landed was his biggest to date, he says – by far. He wasn’t sure about his previous personal best walleye – or “PB,” as they’re called in the fishing lingo. “Not too big,” he said.

“Probably, like 7, maybe 8 inches – something around there. I don’t catch walleyes too much.” Caden says he’s been fishing the Red River “every day for quite awhile” – at least up until school started. It’s been a good year for catfish, he says. “I’ve caught some pretty big ones,” Caden said. “This summer, I caught about a 25- to 30-pounder, probably.” That might be a bit of a stretch – at least without seeing a photo for proof – but that’s

an angler’s prerogative, after all. We’ll give Caden the benefit of the doubt on that one. There’s no doubt the Red River holds some monster-sized channel catfish. As for the walleye he caught while fishing along the muddy banks of the Red River on a September evening in south Grand Forks, the fish is a trophy in every sense of the word. It just goes to show. … You never know. Especially when you’re fishing on a river.

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