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Join Jay Andersen and Sterling Anderson for a program packed with news, music and some humor.  Listener favorites like For the Birds, The Environment Report, Morning Business Report, and The Predator Moment provide a regular foundation for this program that also covers politics, local news and issues, and, the funnier side to the news. DayBreak airs 7-8 a.m. on weekdays.

What's On:
Sunscreen and a broad-brim hat

Hot enough for you? Watch out in the sun

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She's a registered nurse at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. Amy Marie Schmidt stopped by "Daybreak" to talk about protection from the very hot sun this summer. She spoke with WTIP's Jay Andersen.


Annie Enneking

Multi-talented Annie Enneking on Daybreak

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Annie Enneking visited "Daybreak" to talk with Jay Andersen about her career as an actress, stage combat choreographer and singer-songwriter. She brought along her guitar and a new song. She performs at the Cascade Pub Thursday, July 5.


Johnny Smith

West Coast performer at Tofte Fouth celebration

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Johnny Smith is a west coast blues guitarist, songwriter and harmonica player. He’s in Tofte to perform during the Fourth of July festivities. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talked with him on “Daybreak” Tuesday morning. The interview starts off with Smith’s version of “Blackbird.”


BWCAW campsite

Family continues wilderness camping tradition

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When their children turn 10 years old, Sue and Marc Lundeen see that they have a wilderness experience. This year it's young Nick's turn to paddle and fish with his dad for a couple days. WTIP's Jay Andersen spoke with Marc and Nick on "Daybreak" July 2nd.


Rosebush Creek flooding (Stephan Hoglund)

Points North: On the North Shore, Floods Happen

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An Easter Sunday drive last spring included a stop at Jay Cooke State Park south of Duluth. Three of us, Mom, 15-year-old Joe and I, strolled across the famous Swinging Bridge, which spans a boisterous rapids on the St. Louis River. Due to prolonged drought, the river level was well below normal. Mom remarked about the many times she and my late father visited Jay Cooke to see the river’s wild spring flows—when the water was much higher than what we saw last April.

At the base of the bridge was a plaque commemorating the spring of 1950, when the melt water from unusually deep snows raised the river to flood stage and swept away the bridge, which was originally built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in 1933. Comparing the photos on the plaque to the river that day, it was hard to imagine 1950’s raging spring flood. Little did we know that within three months the river would be even higher.

Last week, Joe called to tell me the Swinging Bridge was washed away in the flooding that occurred near Duluth following unusually heavy rains. He also filled me in on what was happening in his neighborhood, which is near the flood-damaged Duluth Zoo. Tiny creeks and drainages were suddenly raging rivers.

“It’s crazy,” Joe said, “just crazy.”

Certainly, it was the craziest natural event to strike Duluth in Joe’s lifetime, but I couldn’t help thinking back to the city’s last big flood. In 1972, an extraordinary rainfall created a similar disaster, completely tearing out streets along the city’s steep hillside and creating damage at a scale similar to the recent flood. As I recall, that storm or another heavy rain that occurred in the ‘70s washed out bridges along the North Shore’s Highway 61. Some folks still talk about the backcountry detour that was the area’s only link to the outside world until the bridges were repaired.

While the media has made much of Duluth’s disaster, to say such floods are unusual or unprecedented is to ignore not only history, but also current news. In late May, torrential rains struck Thunder Bay, Ontario—on Lake Superior about 200 miles northeast of Duluth--and caused flooding that washed out roads and affected at least 1,100 homes. While the disaster was big news across Canada, it was ignored by Minnesota media. Last year, heavy June rains struck Cook County, where I live, causing road closures and washouts. Again, it was a big event locally, but due to our low population, the rains didn’t leave behind news-making destruction.

As a lifelong trout fisherman, I’m familiar with the North Shore’s endless cycle of drought and flood. Generally speaking, Lake Superior’s boreal ecosystem depends on lots of moisture from deep winter snow and summer fog and rain. The rugged, rocky landscape has little capacity to retain precipitation, which quickly runs off during the spring melt or after a rain. The water levels in North Shore streams respond quickly to freshets and may rise a foot or more almost immediately after a rain.

Typically, high water has minimal effect on the streams, which essentially flow over bedrock. Exceptions are streams flowing through glacial deposits of sand or gravel, where floodwaters and the debris they contain can scour the channel or cut a new course. I’ve seen this happen on some Ontario streams, such as the Cypress River.

When I first began fishing the Cypress 20-some years ago, it was among the most beautiful trout streams I’ve seen. Flowing over a bed of cobble and gravel, the river meandered through a forest of balsam, spruce and cedar, tumbling over shallow riffles into deep pools. A favorite river of trout anglers seeking steelhead, which make a spring spawning run from Lake Superior, the Cypress was also the last stronghold of Superior’s native “coaster” brook trout.

We used to pack a lunch when fishing the Cypress, because it took the better part of a day to fish through a couple of miles of river. Back then, you could see the river was shaped by occasional floods, because there were places where high flows had cut new channels and piled up log jams of debris. The new channels were essentially long, straight riffles with little cover for trout. We walked around riffles to fish the many meandering pools. Some of the pools were so famous among anglers they’d been given names like Red Rocks, McDougal’s and Scotty’s Run.

The Cypress changed first during the 1990s, when summer rain flooded the river and led to the closure of the Trans Canada Highway. Raging waters roared through the woods on a straight course for Lake Superior. When the flood receded, the meandering stream so loved by anglers was a straight, rocky channel littered with tree trunks and woody debris. The pools at Red Rocks were filled with rocks and scarcely recognizable from before. Fortunately, the upper pools a Scotty’s Run and McDougal’s were intact. However, they were eliminated by another flood a few years later. Steelhead and coasters still spawn in the Cypress, but there are far fewer pools to fish for them. It takes years for a river to dig new pools and clear away debris. For a fisherman’s point of view, the Cypress is slowly recovering, but it will be longer than a human lifetime until it becomes the river it used to be.

We rarely associate flooding with the North Shore, even though it is a regular occurrence. The same can be said of other natural events--wind storms, ice storms, blizzards and wildfire. Acts of Nature have shaped the North Shore landscape for thousands of years. A natural event only becomes a natural disaster when human development is in harm’s way.

Airdate: June 29, 2012


"Sharing and conserving Minnesota’s wonderful natural resources must be the common thread that binds us all"

Points North: Despite Differences, Fishing Is Our Common Thread

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In May, outdoor writer Sam Cook spent a night on the banks of the St. Louis River near Duluth with a group of Southeast Asian anglers who were fishing for walleyes. In a story published in the Duluth News-Tribune, Cook explained how dozens of Southeast Asians from the Twin Cities travel to the St. Louis every spring to fish with their families and friends.

The anglers keep what they catch, because they like to eat fish. Cook interviewed a state conservation officer who said the Southeast Asians have as good or better compliance with fishing regulations and limits as other Minnesota anglers. Cook pointed out that in the past, Southeast Asian immigrants didn't always comply with bag limits, leading the DNR to initiate an outreach effort to explain fishing rules. Apparently, the outreach only went one way. Cook quoted the conservation officer saying, “Where they come from, they find it, they catch it, they eat it.” While this is true in a historic sense—some of the older anglers likely immigrated to Minnesota from Southeast Asia--the anglers Cook met along the riverbank live in the Twin Cities. That makes them Minnesotans.

About a week later, the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune reported a Minnesota angler of Southeast Asian descent was arrested with more than 400 panfish over the legal limit. A day later, Star-Tribune outdoor writer Dennis Anderson suggested this one arrest lent credence to complaints by some non-Asian anglers that Southeast Asians don’t obey fishing limits. He called upon the DNR to do more educational outreach to Southeast Asian communities. Funny, but we never hear calls for outreach when a couple of retirees from Indiana are nabbed with too many panfish on a Minnesota fishing vacation.

The above news stories illustrate the vexing issue of diversity in the outdoors. Public lands and waters, where anyone with an appropriate license can go hunting and fishing, are the cornerstone of Minnesota’s outdoor heritage and a measure of our quality of life. However, we seem to have trouble fitting everyone under our big outdoor tent, especially if they differ from mainstream outdoor users and their traditions. Then, unfortunately, we focus on our differences rather than on what we have in common.

Southeast Asians often fish from shore in large groups, which makes it easy for the rest of us to develop an “us and them” perspective. Human nature being what it is, we immediately look upon “them” with suspicion. We see a big group of “them” keeping everything they catch and tossing the fish into a bucket. Surely, we surmise, they’re doing something wrong. If we looked more closely, we’d see the large groups include families with kids and grandparents, all of whom are enjoying a day on the water, likely followed by a fresh fish dinner. In other words, they’re out there for the same reasons as everyone else. In fact, Southeast Asians may do a better job of making fishing a family affair than the weekend warriors who pound the waters in single-minded pursuit of muskies, walleyes or other popular activities. From experience, I can say such activities are anything but kid-friendly.

Another group mainstream Minnesota anglers find difficult to accept are Native Americans. This is primarily due to treaty rights decisions which recognize tribal sovereignty and allow tribes to establish their own fishing and hunting rules and bag limits. The greatest angst regarding treaty rights is at Mille Lacs, where tribal members from Minnesota and Wisconsin converge in the spring to gill-net walleyes, an unacceptable harvest method for mainstream anglers. As a result, Mille Lacs state and tribal differences over treaty issues dominate the news. What we don’t hear is that most of us in northern Minnesota—regardless of race or ethnic background--share a common outdoor culture. Sure, some families make lefse while others make fry bread, but we’ve lived side by side and used the same natural resources for generations. Aside from gill-netting walleyes, I suspect most northern Minnesotans would say the recognition of native treaty rights hasn’t been a big deal.

While I’m not naive enough to think we can throw a potluck supper at the local legion hall and make all of our differences go away, I suspect we have much to gain by recognizing what we have in common—such an uncertain future for fishing and hunting. Regardless of culture and race, fewer people are participating in these outdoor activities. Statistically, those who are participating are growing older. Few kids have an opportunity to try fishing and hunting, much less make these activities part of their lifestyle. Without them, we’ll lose not only our outdoor traditions, but also the base of support for fish and wildlife conservation.

Youth represent not only the future of conservation, but also our best chance of moving beyond cultural differences. Today’s kids don’t see Southeast Asians as immigrants, but instead simply as other kids in the classroom. The treaty rights court cases and controversies of the 1980s and ‘90s are little more than history to a new generation of Minnesotans. Hopefully, they’ll view the issues from fresh perspectives and step past the differences of diversity.

Until then, perhaps the best way to get beyond the differences that divide us is to take a closer look at ourselves. While mainstream anglers have difficulties accepting other cultures which view fishing largely as a means to acquire food, members of those cultures undoubtedly have trouble understanding the motivations of a culture for whom fishing is primarily a form of recreation. During the past 30 years, we’ve managed to make fishing an awfully complicated and expensive pastime. Perhaps we now have something to learn from cultures with a less sophisticated approach to one of mankind’s oldest endeavors. And, as anyone who has learned the special satisfaction that comes from catching and releasing a fish knows, we have something to teach those cultures as well. Sharing and conserving Minnesota’s wonderful natural resources must be the common thread that binds us all.

Airdate: June 22, 2012

Photo courtesy of Jacob Tomaw via Flickr.


Pigeon River

Points North: Beyond the Border, Adventure Awaits

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“Why are we going to the trout ponds?” asked Jim Boyd of Grand Marais as we crossed the Pigeon River and entered Ontario.

It was a fair question. The North Shore has a wealth of lakes and streams brimming with fish, so why would anyone pay to fish in a stocked pond? In moments, Jim had his answer, because the Eagle Ridge Trout Ponds are just across the border. The owners, Rick and Judy Ostipenko, showed us around their property, which consists of a large pond stocked with rainbow trout and another stocked with smallmouth bass, as well as a couple of comfortable cabins, an outdoor swimming pool and a camping area.

We learned Rick had fulfilled a lifelong dream by creating this business. An avid angler, he wanted to provide safe, accessible opportunities for folks who otherwise might not have a chance to go fishing—small children, people with physical challenges and the elderly. He was waiting for a busload of seniors to arrive the morning of our visit. He graciously allowed the “kids” on our crew, Kate Watson and Amber Pratt, both of Grand Marais, catch their first rainbows. By the time we left, Jim was making plans to return later in the summer with his grandchildren.

The trout ponds were the first of four days worth of unexpected surprises and adventures Jim, Kate, Amber and myself had north of the border on a writer familiarization trip sponsored by Thunder Bay Tourism. Later in the afternoon, we saw a stunning exhibit of Anishinaabe art by the late painter, Roy Thomas, at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. That evening, we enjoyed a Lake Superior excursion with Sail Superior charters, leaving from the marina at Prince Arthur’s Landing, an ongoing renovation of the city’s waterfront that will include a 267-slip marina, public gardens and open space, a cultural center, condominiums and more.

Joining us was our host, tourism director Paul Pepys, who explained Thunder Bay is presently experiencing an economic boom and rapid growth. Once supported by pulp and paper mills, Thunder Bay took a tumble when market changes devastated the Canadian forest products industry. Now, a combination of new mining ventures and expansions in health, education and technology have allowed the city to reinvent itself. A wave of well-paid and highly skilled executives and engineers are moving in. There are 13 commercial flights per day between Thunder Bay and Toronto.

“Right now, you can hardly find a house to buy in Thunder Bay,” Pepys said.

Much of the growth is being driven by the development of the Ring of Fire project, a mining venture about 250 miles northeast of the city. Chromites, used to make stainless steel, will be mined there. Processing will occur near the northeastern Ontario community of Sudbury, but the mine headquarters will be in Thunder Bay. As a result, the city’s population is expected to grow by 20 percent in the next five years. Pepys said the newly arriving professionals are attracted by the North Shore’s quality of life and outdoor recreation opportunities. Operations such as the sailing charter are already seeing an uptick in business. The boat on which we were sailing was reserved the following day by a group of Australian executives.

The next morning, we set off to experience the North Shore’s outdoors. We drove to Marathon, stopping in Nipigon to visit a children’s park themed to the famous book Paddle to the Sea. By chance, we met two older gentlemen who built miles of local hiking trails along the rims of cliffs towering high above Lake Superior. Outside of town we stopped at a highway wayside atop one of those cliffs for a view of Nipigon Bay and distant islands. Arriving in Marathon, we learned there, too, mining for gold, platinum, palladium and copper more than made up for the closure of a pulp mill, which may be retooled to produce wood fuel pellets for the European market.

Just outside Marathon is the entrance to Pukaskwa National Park, where hiking trails and canoe routes cross a large wilderness area on Superior’s northeastern shore. Although it was the first week in June, we were surprised to find the visitor center hadn’t opened for the season, because most tourists don’t arrive until July. We stopped to photograph a surprisingly rotund black bear near the park entrance. Turning around and heading west, we stopped at Neys Provincial Park, the site of an internment camp for Canadians of Japanese descent during World War II. The park is so wild and remote that woodland caribou are occasionally seen there. That evening, over dinner in Terrace Bay, the community development director told us how his dog was nearly killed by a bear just a few feet from his back door. The bear was being chased through town and the unfortunate dog just happened to be in its way.

The next day, after a visit to a pottery shop and lunch in a local cafe, we went sea kayaking among the islands off Rossport with Dave Tamblyn of Superior Outfitters. Rossport is the gem of the North Shore, a quiet former fishing village sheltered by lovely islands that once inspired the Group of Seven, renowned early 20th century Canadian landscape painters. We also learned Rossport is a heck of a destination for fishing, because the sheltered waters around the islands swarm with native lake trout and steelhead.

We finally sampled the fishing on our final morning, when Quebec Lodge in Red Rock arranged two guides to take us out on the famed Nipigon River. Jim and Amber went in one boat, while Kate and I were paired in another. Kate, who once worked for me and remains a friend, is no stranger to the outdoors, but has little fishing experience. My task was to teach her how to fish. She quickly learned how to use spinning gear as we trolled for lake trout, steelhead and salmon in the river’s strong currents. Then, in a quiet area at the mouth of a tributary creek, she learned how to cast.

However, fishing’s just luck and Kate had none. While I managed to land two pike and a small lake trout, as well as losing two strong fish that were likely steelhead, she had nary a bite. After a couple of hours we met up with Jim and Amber, both grinning from ear to ear. Jim had caught a sizeable coaster brook trout and a laker, while Amber landed a plump walleye. We trolled for another hour, but poor Kate returned to the landing fishless.

We finished our tour at Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, about 30 minutes east of Thunder Bay. A short walk leads to a cantilevered overlooked nearly 500 feet above the canyon floor. To say the view is breathtaking is an understatement. Here our host, Ed Chambers of Dorion, told us something that had become a recurring theme of the trip. Far fewer Minnesotans are visiting Ontario’s North Shore these days. No one can point a finger at the reason for this drop in close-to-home tourism, though it is likely related to the need for a passport at the border, higher Canadian gasoline prices and a strong Canadian dollar, which reduces the buying power of the American greenback. Whatever the reason, the four of us agreed our fellow Minnesotans don’t know what they’re missing.

Airdate: June 15, 2012

Photo courtesy of Paul Weimer via Flickr.


Graham Rowe enjoyed a couple of days of fishing for brook trout and walleyes near Grand Marais (Shawn Perich)

Points North: Online Hookup Nets a Fishing Friend

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Last weekend, I went fishing with a guy I met on the Internet. Let me explain, because it’s not what you may think. We didn’t hook up (pardon the pun) after meeting in one of those shabby fishing chat rooms where fishermen post pictures of their big ones. Instead, we were introduced by Bill Hansen at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.

Graham Rowe, who lives near Liverpool in northern England, was planning a Boundary Waters canoe trip. An avid angler, he was hoping to fly-fish for trout in the wilderness. At Bill’s suggestion, he emailed me for advice. I told him the Boundary Waters has plenty of good fishing, but offers few opportunities to fish for trout other than deep-dwelling native lake trout. The best fly-fishing for trout is in the many streams and stocked trout lakes along the North Shore. If he had time after his canoe trip, I offered to take him out for a day or two of trout fishing. He emailed back that he’d adjusted his flight home so we could do just that.

Last Friday, we met face-to-face at the Coho Cafe in Tofte, a few hours after Graham emerged from a 12-day solo excursion in the canoe country. For him, extensive paddling trips are par for the course. In Great Britain, he canoes the lochs and rivers of Scotland, climbs crags in Wales and sea kayaks in the North Atlantic. He also skis in the Swiss Alps, took part in a skiing expedition to Baffin Island and has bicycled around the world.

A frequent fisherman, Graham fly-fishes for trout and uses standard tackle to pursue various ocean species. Since his canoe trip occurred during a period of miserably wet weather, he’d only managed to hook a few lake trout. We decided to spend the weekend chasing a couple of North Shore favorites—brook trout and walleyes.

We set off Saturday morning to sample the many brook trout lakes along the Shoe Lake Road northeast of Grand Marais. To sum up a long day, we fished here and there, had some great conversations and didn’t catch anything. Getting skunked is always humbling, but it’s especially bruising to your ego when you are hosting someone who has traveled halfway around the world to be there.

I did learn a thing or two about British trout fishing. Graham primarily fishes reservoirs, lakes and ponds where you pay a fee for access. Fishing some of the famous British chalk streams or Scottish salmon rivers is so expensive it is essentially out of reach for the average angler. However, I was interested to learn you can canoe on those same rivers for free. Most of the trout he catches are farm-raised and stocked for fishing, often not long before you catch them. Many waters also contain monstrous northern pike, which may weigh 30 or 40 pounds. The stocked trout provide the pike with a high protein diet.

Sunday morning we tried a trout lake I hadn’t fished previously, even though it has a reputation for producing nice brookies. We worked our way around the lake’s shoreline without any luck, but learned the lake was essentially a shallow basin with a deep trough running the length of the northern shoreline. Graham suggested we try the deep water. I tied on a small Countdown Rapala to plumb the depths while he trolled with a Wooly Bugger. We trolled the length of the trough and were discussing moving on to another lake when my rod bowed from a hard strike. Perhaps a minute later, I slipped the net beneath a nearly two-pound brook trout. Finally, we had success.

“It’s fin perfect,” said Graham. “I suppose it was stocked this spring.”

I explained to Graham the fish was stocked as a fingerling two years previous and grew to adult size in the natural environment of the lake. His “fin-perfect” remark referred to British stocked trout, which often have damaged fins after being raised in the raceways of a fish farm.

Now that we’d caught a trout, we decided to not to move to another lake. Graham put down the fly rod and rigged a spinning outfit with a sinking Rapala. The next two brookies, slightly smaller than the first, came to him. We reeled up and headed back to my place, where Vikki served fresh brook trout filets for dinner. Afterward, we headed to my favorite walleye lake for the evening bite.

We rigged up with small jigs tipped with leeches, a common fishing method that was new to Graham. He easily picked up on the technique and soon landed his first smallmouth bass, which was about six inches long. Next came his first walleye, a keeper. The fishing action improved as the sun set, though my partner unfortunately missed more walleyes than he brought to the boat. After missing a vicious strike, I hooked into a stubborn fish on the next cast. After a short battle, Graham netted my prize—a walleye weighing nearly five pounds. Although we were far short of a walleye limit, we were satisfied with our catch when we returned to the landing at dark.

Today, as I write this, Graham is wandering around Grand Marais. He stopped by the office to say he’d enjoyed a long conversation about canoes and kayaks with the boys at Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. As a builder of wooden canoes, he was pleased to discover the North House Folk School, which offers extensive boat-building courses.

“There’s a bloke over there who I need to meet,” he said as he headed out the door. “Wonderful place. I could spend the whole day there.”

Tonight we’ll have walleyes for supper. Tomorrow Graham, who isn’t driving a vehicle, plans to begin wandering down the North Shore to explore the state parks. On Thursday morning, he’ll board a plane in Duluth and head for home. We may not meet again, though I suspect we’ll stay in touch via email. It may have started with an Internet hookup, but I was lucky to land a new friend.

Airdate: June 8, 2012


A feathery fly tie

Points North: Fashionable Feathers and Unfashionable Lead Tackle

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We were about to record my weekly broadcast on WTIP Radio in Grand Marais when I noticed producer Kelly had chicken feathers dangling from her ears. Actually, they were feathers of the finest sort--long, slim hackle feathers perfectly suited for fly tying. To a fly-fisherman like me, Kelly was wearing the raw material for a couple of dozen Royal Coachmen.

She told me the feather earrings were a gift from a coworker and took one off to show me. The earring had about five high quality saddle hackles. Such feathers grow on roosters bred and raised for fly tying. Natural hackles come in solid or barred patterns and are dyed various colors. It's not surprising women discovered their fashion potential. Kelly was unaware her feathered accoutrements had another use. She also didn't know feather fashions caused a minor crisis for fly tyers.

During the past couple of years, a fashion rage called feather extensions swept across the country, causing an unprecedented run on fly-tyer's feather supplies. Fly-fishing shops suddenly found they had a new customer--hackle-seeking hairdressers.

In fly-fishing history, 2011 will be remembered as the year of the Great Hackle Shortage. The small handful of hackle producers supplying the fly-tying market was overwhelmed by the fashion demand. It wasn't long before fly tyers were feeling the pinch. They groused about the hackle shortage on fly-fishing websites like a bunch of grumpy old men.

This year, hackles remain hard to come by, but this is mostly because
hackle suppliers are recovering from their fling with high fashion. Mike Rolek at The Fly Angler in Blaine told me it had been months since someone stopped in the shop looking for fashion feathers. He thinks the feather fashion wave has crested and receded. Soon grumpy old fly tyers will again have the pretty feathers to themselves. Call it heresy, but this old fly fisherman thinks the feathers looked better on Kelly than they do on a fly.

On a somewhat related note, I received an email from a grumpy old
angler who wishes another kind for fishing tackle would become more
fashionable—non-lead sinkers and jigs. Duluth conservationist Dave Zentner is upset with the so-called Sportsman's Heritage Act recently passed by the U.S. House. The bill has a provision to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Zentner doesn't think this lead-friendly legislation serves the best interests of sportsmen.

The issue of lead in ammo and tackle is easily explained. On land, researchers find that birds of prey ingest lead bullet fragments when they feed on gutpiles left behind by hunters, and slowly die from lead poisoning. In the water, loons and other birds ingest lead jigs and sinkers with the same lethal consequences. The federal government banned lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 after researchers discovered ducks were ingesting spent shot while feeding.

Resolving the lead issues hasn't been easy. Even though most hunters and anglers say they don't want to unintentionally poison birds with lead, they've been slow to change to non-lead substitutes.

The ammunition and tackle industries have resisted regulation and change as well. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, has twice petitioned the EPA to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Both times, the agency denied the petition by saying such a ban was outside its purview. The Sportsmen's Heritage Act provision is the industry's legislative pushback to the Center's petition.

Last summer, I attended a two-hour seminar on the lead poisoning issue during the Outdoor Writers of America conference in Utah. There I learned that research with California condors in Arizona and golden eagles near Jackson Hole, Wyoming found a strong correlation between feeding on gutpiles left by hunters and elevated lead levels in the birds' blood. In Arizona, when hunters learn their lead fragments are killing condors, the majority of them to voluntarily switch to nonlethal copper bullets.

If knowledgeable hunters will switch to nonlethal products, why is Zentner so grumpy about the lead issue? Perhaps because hunters' voluntary effort to protect Arizona's condors is an exception. He notes that he switched to non-lead fishing tackle about 20 years ago. Nevertheless, he still has trouble finding non-lead tackle at sporting goods stores. Often, he says, clerks aren't very knowledgeable about the alternative products and may suggest he use lead instead. He thinks better marketing could lead anglers and hunters to use non-lead products.

He has a point. In my experience, at the forefront of the effort to eliminate lead in tackle and ammo are finger-wagging environmentalists who self-righteously scold the hunting and fishing community. We really need to hear from more straight-talking sportsmen like Zentner, who says in his email, "I want to be dammed sure I am not the reason a bird like a trumpeter swan’s life ends way too soon." Think about it, anglers. Do you?

Airdate: June 1, 2012

Photo courtesy of Yai&JR via Flickr.



Points North: Sometimes, One Walleye is Enough

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Distracted by gardens and other tasks, we saved our fishing opener for Sunday evening, when we headed to a small lake just inside the Boundary Waters wilderness. Shallow and connected by a river to a couple of good walleye lakes, it’s a good bet early in the season for a mixed bag of northerns, jumbo perch and an occasional walleye.

It was after five when we arrived at the landing. The day was so warm I instinctively expected to be pestered by black flies as we offloaded the canoe and gear, but bugs were nonexistent. Perhaps they haven’t caught up with the early spring. Crossing the first lake, the surrounding hillsides were blushing green as new aspen and birch leaves emerged. Vikki remarked that in some years, the lakes still have ice on opening weekend. Normally, green-up arrives closer to Memorial Day.

Slipping down the quick currents of a connecting channel, we reached our destination—a long, narrow lake tucked between pine-clad ridges. We didn’t see any canoes on the water, but someone was poking around at the lake’s lone campsite. Typical of this place, we weren’t alone, but had plenty of elbow room.

Because this lake is so shallow, it soon becomes too weedy to fish. But before the weeds come up it provides good fishing. The best way I’ve found to avoid the weeds and catch fish is to troll a spinner rig baited with a nightcrawler—something all fish in the lake like to eat. Even so, by early June you’ll hook a weed salad on every cast. Then I switch to deeper, less weedy lakes.

A brisk breeze was blowing down the length of the lake, raising a chop that slapped against the canoe. We trolled into the wind, parallel to shoreline. We didn’t go far before Vikki hooked the first fish, a pike that was more axe handle than hammer handle. It was big enough to keep without feeling sheepish for doing so, but she told me to throw it back.

“I don’t like northerns,” she said.

She says this every year, but I know better. In the spring, a fresh, boneless pike filet is just as sweet as a walleye. I threw her northern back, but decided to keep the next one. Instead, I boated a chunky perch, which was unquestionably a keeper. The perch was followed by a decent-sized pike that went into the fish basket. Now we had enough fish for dinner.

The wind made fishing somewhat difficult, but not uncomfortable. Even though the sun was sinking in the sky, the air temperature was surprisingly warm. Once again we remarked on the unusual weather, although we weren’t complaining about it.

We heard distant voices and looked up to see to canoes across the lake, as more anglers showed up for the evening bite. Most likely these late arrivals were somewhere nearby. The only other vehicles in the parking lot at the entry point had ATV trailers. Apparently, no opening weekend canoe trippers had entered the wilderness from there.

I thought about how several Cook County business owners had told me the fishing opener no longer was a big deal for them, because the North Shore no longer attracts hordes of anglers. The reasons for this are many, though most notable were the 1978 Boundary Waters wilderness legislation which limited the number of lakes where you can use a fishing boat and motor, the closure of walleye spawning areas once open to fishing, and the changing demographics that led to fewer anglers everywhere.

Another factor is that fishing, especially for walleyes, is usually tough up here in mid May. Here, in the coldest, snowiest corner of Minnesota, frigid water temperatures usually chill the spring walleye bite. The trade-off, acceptable to some of us, is great fishing for lake trout, brookies and splake, all of which are active when the water is cold. Trout are available in dozens of North Shore and Boundary Waters lakes. However, since trout in lakes are only found in this far corner of the state, they attract little attention from most Minnesota anglers.

The wind died down as the evening progressed. The fishing action was steady, if not fast. Vikki lost a jumbo perch beside the canoe, but the only other perch we caught were too small to keep. Perhaps this explains why we had frequent strikes, but had trouble hooking the fish. Almost certainly, the big one got away. Vikki had a violent strike and a few seconds of fight before a rambunctious northern sheared off her spinner rig with its sharp teeth.

Our nearest neighbors on the water were a pair of loons. One of them came over and checked us out, surfacing just a few feet from the canoe. As we fished they called to one another, perhaps discussing their fishing success. We just enjoyed the loon music, a welcome sound in May.

The sun was just above the western tree line when we started a final troll back to the channel. Vikki had a strike and her rod bowed from what appeared to be a sizable fish. When she brought it near the boat, I slid the net beneath a chunky walleye. It was a perfect finale to a fine evening. We reeled in and called it quits.

The fish basket was satisfyingly heavy when I hauled it into the boat. Our mixed bag of pike, perch and a lone walleye wouldn’t be worthy of boasting at a Mille Lacs or Winnie dock, but it was good enough for us. We’d have fresh fish for dinner and extra filets to share with my Mom. Best of all, the 2012 fishing season was off to a great start.

Airdate: May 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of jpellgen via Flickr.