National Forests in Minnesota temporarily close campgrounds and recreation sites

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health safety of its employees, visitors and volunteers, the Chippewa and Superior National Forests are shutting down developed recreation facilities, including campgrounds and restrooms, as well as suspending trash pick-up until further notice. In addition, on both Forests, all overnight camping is shut down and campfires are not allowed, in order to minimize the risk to first responders in the event of wildfire.
At this time, the General Forest remains open to the public, including Forest roads identified on the motor vehicle use map are open for scenic drives, trails and trailheads for hiking, and boat ramps (unless within campgrounds) are open to provide fishing access. With the potential for crowded conditions in the coming days and weeks, both Forests are implementing a group-size limitation of 10 people or less per group across the entire forest.


DNR won’t harvest fish eggs due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will cancel its 2020 egg take operations for walleye, northern pike, muskellunge and steelhead because the work cannot be done safely under COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
This includes walleye eggs harvested at Pike River near Tower and Lake Vermilion.
Collecting eggs and sperm from spawning fish in the wild is a labor intensive effort that requires teams of 6-8 people working in close proximity. After a careful examination of whether the egg take process could be re-engineered, the DNR determined that is was not possible to safely handle fish during the egg take and practice appropriate social distancing to protect staff from COVID-19.


Bear hunt applications available; deadline is Friday, May 1

Prospective bear hunters have until Friday, May 1, to apply for a bear hunting license. Applications for the 2020 season should be submitted online or via telephone at 888-665-4236.
A total of 3,575 licenses are available in 13 permit areas. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, and there is a $5 application fee. The season is open from Sunday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 18.
Lottery winners will be notified by June 1. The deadline to purchase licenses awarded by lottery will be Thursday, Aug. 1. Any remaining unpurchased licenses will be available over the counter starting at noon on Aug. 5.


DNR: Keep drones grounded during the upcoming spring wildfire season

Flying a drone can be a lot of fun—but it can be downright dangerous during a wildfire, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
A drone has invaded the airspace above a Minnesota wildfire in each of the last four years. Such interference with fire operations is dangerous for firefighting aircraft, firefighters on the ground and the public. It is also illegal: Federal law prohibits interfering with firefighting operations, and that includes flying a drone over a wildfire.
With this spring’s wildfire season occurring in the midst of Minnesota’s COVID-19 response, a drone flight near fire is simply additional stress for the statewide emergency management system. Darren Neuman, the DNR’s wildfire aviation manager, likens a drone above a wildfire to a car blocking a fire engine on the highway. “When a drone is spotted, our pilots have to land. When aircraft land, our ability to fight the fire slows. Drones create a reckless ripple effect,” he said.


Entries floating in for Ice Out Contest

Entries are floating in for the Ely Echo and Grand Ely Lodge Shagawa Lake Ice Out Contest.
May 1, 2020
It was a May Day pick at 5:07 p.m. from Mike Murray, living in Sartell, MN.
April 10, 2020
A pick of 2 p.m. came in from Alexandra Murray Bender, living in Rochester, NY and desiring to be in Ely.
Joe Shikonya of Lacrosse, WI sent in 11:48 a.m.
April 13, 2020
This is the right day and 1:16 p.m. is the right time according to Katie Heitzig.
April 14, 2020
Susan Kasbeer said her guess is 9:32 p.m. of Ormond Beach, FL: “Go away, Covid19, so we can come back to Moose Lake.”
April 19, 2020
Elyite Tony Bartovich submitted 10:00 a.m.
April 20, 2020
Terry Cooper of Ely guessed 10:20 a.m.
Chuck Kasbeer of Ormond Beach, FL chose 1:11 p.m.
Bill Durst of Quincy IL sent in a guess of 1:25 pm.


DNR seeks comment on Tower area lake management plans

Anglers and others interested in learning about Minnesota Department of Natural Resources strategies for managing lakes and streams in the Tower area are invited to comment on several lake management plans through Monday, March 30.
Lake management plans describe the past, present and desired future conditions of the fishery. The plans identify specific management activities planned for designated lakes over the next 5 to 20 years. They include background information such as water chemistry characteristics, water temperature information, and species presence.
Comments and suggestions from the public are crucial for planning and determining management success. For anglers, this is the best opportunity to influence how these lakes are managed.
Every year, DNR fisheries staff prepares or revises individual lake management plans for several waters in each management area. In the Tower area, plans for the following lakes will be reviewed.


DNR’s annual aerial survey shows Minnesota’s moose population stable

For the ninth year in a row, Minnesota’s moose population remains relatively stable, but reproductive success – one of the factors that has the greatest impact on moose survival over time – remains low.
This winter, the DNR estimated the moose population to be 3,150 animals (between a range of 2,400 and 4,320). Due to the variance in this type of annual population estimate, this year’s estimate does not suggest a decline from last year’s estimate of 4,180 moose.
This year 308 moose were observed on 39 (75%) of the 52 plots surveyed (a total 723 square miles), less than the 429 moose observed on 43 of 52 plots during the 2019 survey. This year’s 308 observed moose included 131 bulls, 138 cows, 37 calves, and 2 unclassified adults


DNR Conservation Officer weekly report ending March 3

District 6 - Two Harbors area
CO Sean Williams (Ely #1) focused on snowmobile speed enforcement over the past week. The violation rate was found to be high over the weekend with several citations issued. There has also been a recent rash of people attempting to drive cars and trucks on snowmobile trails and becoming very stuck. Visitors are asked to be observant of snow-covered roads they are unfamiliar with and to keep an eye out for snowmobile trail markers.
CO John Velsvaag (Ely #2) checked anglers and snowmobilers this past week. He also assisted the U.S. Border Patrol on a snowmobile work detail. Fishing has been slow on area lakes and Velsvaag continues to get questions on pike regulations and border lakes fishing laws.
CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) spent time in the BWCAW checking anglers. A detail with area officers was worked along the U.S./Canada border. Enforcement action was taken for angling, snowmobile and BWCAW violations.


Time to buy new fishing and hunting licenses

It’s the time of year when hunters and anglers need to buy new fishing and hunting licenses. Minnesota fishing, hunting and trapping licenses for 2019 expire Saturday, Feb. 29.
Licenses for 2020 are now available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold, online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236.
All 2020 fishing licenses become effective Sunday, March 1.
New licenses are required for 2020 hunting and fishing seasons that continue past Feb. 29.
Ice shelter licenses, though, are valid through Thursday, April 30. Anyone who wants to start fishing or hunting can visit the DNR’s learn to fish and learn to hunt pages.


Snowmobile safety training class held in Ely for 20 youth

Twenty youth from the Ely area and beyond participated in a full day of Snowmobile Safety Training on Feb. 8 at Vermilion Community College.
These avid young snowmobilers arrived in the morning and were led through classroom instruction by Conservation Officer Sean Williams and Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club members Dave Marshall and Mike Banovetz. Also assisting with the class was Ely Police Officer Adam Borchert.
After a Sir G’s pizza lunch provided by the Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club, the group headed outside to take part in the field portion of the course involving a pre-trip check of a snowmobile and operation of a snowmobile through a driving course.
Volunteers assisting in this portion of the training included Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club members Alan White, Dave Johnson, and groomer operator Corey Keene.
Ely firefighters Scott Polyner and Jay Poshak also helped set the course and guide students through it.


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