Feds to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species List

Photo: National Park Service

A development that can’t happen fast enough for many in northwest Minnesota occurred this morning, when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced plans to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List in the Great Lakes Region.

The Great Lakes Region covers Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and portions of adjoining states, including North Dakota.

Salazar said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a rule in the Federal Register to delist wolves in the Great Lakes Region. The rule becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

That means management of wolves will return to the states next month. The population in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin now exceeds 4,000 animals and Minnesota’s population alone is estimated at 2,921 wolves. That’s more than twice the 1,400 benchmark called for under federal recovery goals.

Each state has developed a plan to manage wolves after federal protection is removed.

“Gray wolves are thriving in the Great Lakes region, and their successful recovery is a testament to the hard work of the Service and our state and local partners,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are confident state and tribal wildlife managers in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will effectively manage healthy wolf populations now that federal protection is no longer needed.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a conference call for 11 a.m. today to discuss specifics of the wolf delisting and how the state will manage wolves. I’ll provide updates here as they become available.

Not too early to think about North Dakota Hunter Education courses

Upland game seasons still are underway in North Dakota, but it’s not too early for prospective hunters to start thinking about enrolling in a North Dakota Hunter Education course.

Many of the courses are offered early in the the new  year, but courses in Grand Forks are scheduled for July and September, according to information posted on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website.

State law requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1961 to pass a certified hunter education course to hunt in the state. Hunter education is mandatory for youth who are turning 12 years old, and children can take the class at age 11.

Here’s a listing of courses currently scheduled in northeastern North Dakota. For a full list of courses across the state or more information, contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at huntered@nd.gov or call (701) 328-6300.

Jan. 30; Feb. 2, 6, 9, 13 and 16 – Devils Lake, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Lake Region State College; Rick Jorgenson, instructor. Enroll here.

Feb. 6-7, 14, 21, 28; March 6, 13, 20, 27 – Rugby, N.D., 6:30 to 9 p.m., Ottertail Meeting Room. Enroll here.

March 5-10 – Leeds, N.D., 6 to 9 p.m. March 5-9, 9 a.m. to noon March 10, Leeds School; Amanda Johnson, instructor. Enroll here.

March 20, 22, 26-27; April 2-3, 10, 12 and 17 – Langdon, N.D., 7 to 9 p.m., Langdon Research Center; Leon Hiltner, instructor. Enroll here.

March 23-25 – Lakota, N.D.; 6 to 9 p.m. March 23, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 24 and noon to 4 p.m. March 25, Lakota High School ag room; Levi Reese, instructor. Enroll here.

July 30-31; Aug. 2, 6-7, 9 – North Dakota Hunter Education course, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Blue Line Club Arena, Grand Forks; Joe Solseng, instructor. Enroll here.

Sept. 4, 6, 10-11, 13 – Grand Forks, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Blue Line Club Arena; Joe Solseng, instructor. Enroll here.

Ice fishing off to a good start on Lake of the Woods

As I do every year about this time, I made my first Lake of the Woods trip of the winter this week to sample the hard-water fishing out of Ballard’s Resort.

The trip to Ballard’s, which is located near the mouth of the Rainy River north of Baudette, Minn., has become a pre-Christmas tradition, and the early ice action can offer up some of the best fishing of the year.

If what I saw Monday was any indication, it’s going to be a fun winter on Lake of the Woods.

The season is just getting started, and resorts are erring on the side of caution until ice conditions improve. Fishing north of Pine Island, we had about 9 inches of ice separating us from the bottom of the lake some 17 feet below but the conditions apparently aren’t consistent. Just to be safe, the Ballard’s staff and those from other resorts were using lightweight vehicles such as Polaris Rangers and Suzuki Samurais (or similar brands) to tow heated trailers and transport anglers to the fish houses.

The action likely would have been faster in deeper water, but the size of the fish we were catching made up for it. We had good runs in the morning and again later in the afternoon, and two of us kept seven walleyes and three saugers. The walleyes measured 15 to 18 inches, and the saugers were in the 14- to 15-inch range.

Anyone for hockey? Or curling, perhaps? The ice on Lake of the Woods north of Pine Island was smooth and slippery Monday afternoon. (Brad Dokken photo)

Lipless crankbaits, specifically Salmo Chubby Darters and Northland Tackle’s new Rippin’ Shad, were the hot lures and caused the walleyes to come unglued during the morning and afternoon flurries.

There’s almost no snow in Lake of the Woods country to this point, and the ice was smooth once we got about 50 yards north of Pine Island. If I had brought my skates, I would have strapped them on during the midday lull. The Rainy River, too, was smooth as glass, and I probably could have skated to Baudette if time and motivation had allowed.

For more information on Lake of the Woods, go here. For more information on Ballard’s Resort, click here.