Clough Island, Conserved

Clough Island will get a boatload of visitors Tuesday as conservation leaders from Wisconsin and Minnesota join state and federal natural resource officials to celebrate protection of the largest island in the largest estuary of the largest freshwater lake in the world.

The 350-acre island, which once was targeted for development as a golf resort and condominium complex, is now firmly in the hands of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and is considered critical habitat for fish and birds that use the St. Louis River estuary.

“It’s just a great spot to paddle or go fishing and to be able to see 50-inch musky and big sturgeon right in an urban area like this. It’s pretty special what we have here,” said Bob Cragin, a rural Superior resident who worked to protect the island. “Its one of the places where little walleye and sturgeon come down to after they spawn. … It’s really their nursery. The island is the heart of the whole estuary.”

Cragin, 64, who grew up fishing, hunting and playing on the river in nearby Oliver, said keeping the island undeveloped and shoreline protected “just makes sense” as part of the larger, ongoing restoration of the river.

“Just above a harbor area that’s been so thoroughly altered by people over the past 150 years, here we have an area of shallow water habitat and wetlands that is pretty much undisturbed,” said Fred Strand, DNR wildlife manager in Superior.

The DNR received the island earlier this year as a gift from the Nature Conservancy, which purchased the island form private developers last November using $1.75 million grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wisconsin’s land stewardship fund.

Clough Island, also called Whiteside Island, recently was added into the DNR’s existing St. Louis/Red River Stream Bank Protection Area and is now forever off limits to development. It’s also part of the federal government’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System, as is all public land on the Wisconsin side of the St. Louis River.

Link (Via: Duluth News Tribune)


Oil spill’s impact on loons, pelicans to be studied in Minnesota

Minnesota wildlife biologists now have the money they need to study the impacts of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the state’s loons and pelicans.

Over the next two years researchers will check loon and pelican eggs, blood and tissue, and even the unusual mating growth knobs on pelican bills that fall off each summer. They’ll be looking for the presence of toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a byproduct of oil, and for potentially toxic Corexit, the dispersant used to treat the oil spill.

The U.S. Geological Survey will implant satellite transmitters and geolocators on several Minnesota loons to document their wintering grounds and foraging depths in the Gulf, where up to 80 percent of the state’s loons spend their winters.

Samples will be taken from loons captured for the study and from any dead loons recovered on Minnesota lakes this summer and next.

“We just got the contract back today, and we hope to be in the field (fitting birds with transmitters) next week,’’ Carol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor, told the News Tribune on Friday.

The project, proposed last winter, received $250,000 when the state Legislature approved budgets during the July special session. The money was approved by the Legislative and Citizens’ Commission on Minnesota Resources from the state’s profits on lottery sales.

Another $47,000 will be used from proceeds of state conservation license plates.

Minnesota wildlife biologists are particularly concerned about the potential long-term effects of the oil spill on common loons because most loons hatched in Minnesota in 2008 and 2009 would have been in the Gulf of Mexico during the catastrophic spill from the BP oil rig. That’s because young loons don’t migrate north until their third year.

And because loons don’t mate until their fifth year, any major impact on one or two consecutive breeding years could have an impact on the total population.

Link (Via: Duluth News Tribune)


Studying Walleye Diets on Devils Lake

Jason Breeggemann didn’t put many walleyes in the boat Wednesday morning, but few people have handled more fish on the big lake this summer.

Hundreds wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

A doctoral student at South Dakota State University, Breeggemann is fishing for information, you might say. He’s overseeing a study that aims to learn more about what Devils Lake’s fish are eating and how it affects their growth rates.

The big word for this relationship is “bioenergetics” — there’s more to it than diet, but you get the gist — and the fieldwork Breeggemann is conducting will allow him to build computer simulations to determine whether certain prey species result in bigger fish than other types of forage.

Does a walleye that eats mainly yellow perch, for example, have the potential to grow larger than a walleye that lives on freshwater shrimp, an abundant invertebrate species in Devils Lake?

Do fish grow faster during certain times of the summer?

That’s what Breeggemann aims to find out once he’s collected the data and crunched the numbers.

“What we’re doing is developing a baseline model for Devils Lake — this is how they grow based on what they’re eating,” Breeggemann said. “Once we have that baseline, we’ll be able to adjust prey species and see how that is going to affect growth.”

That baseline also involves knowing how much energy various prey species provide. In the same way a fatty hamburger has more calories than a lean turkey sandwich, no two fish foods are alike.

“Say the diet is 90 percent amphipods (freshwater shrimp), what would happen if we were to switch to 90 percent yellow perch — how would that affect growth rates and growth potential?” Breeggemann said. “We’ll look at that based on changes in diet.”

Link (Via: Grand Forks Herald)


Trout Candy


After recently reading through an issue of Flymage and coming across an intriguing fly pattern referred to as pellets, I was compelled to go to the vice and experiment.

Different pellet models, from bright bodies with holographic tinsels, through natural shades and even using fluor beads…

Their resistance is unsurpassable, the Cyanoacrylate or varnish finish make them real armored in the river. This finish not only gives them hardness but it improves water penetration.

Regarding colors and shades to use, depending on the zone and time of the year, we can choose the most realistic or give free rein to our imagination.

The pellet pattern inspired me to tie some small jigs, with the intention of using them shore fishing trout in the Great Lakes. I have not tested them out yet, but I have a feeling that if I can get one within site of any big trout cruising the shoreline – they will take it without hesitation. More to come…