Big day on the farm, May 18, 2013

57 species: robin, mourning dove, chickadee, starling, killdeer, oriole, pheasant, house wren, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, brown thrasher, red-bellied woodpecker, black-and-white warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, white-throated sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, eastern kingbird, goldfinch, rose-breasted grosbeak, gray catbird, yellow warbler, tree swallow, ovenbird, blue jay, bald eagle, american redstart, sandhill crane, chestnut-sided warbler, brown-headed cowbird, blackpoll warbler, american crow, northern waterthrush, tennessee warbler, tellow-throated vireo, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, golden-winged warbler, canada goose, common yellowthroat, red-winged blackbird, least flycatcher, barn swallow, great blue heron, great crested flycatcher, double-crested cormorant, spotted snadpiper, northern cardinal, hairy woodpecker, swainson’s thrush, wilson’s warbler, blackburnian warbler, magnolia warbler, common nighthawk, bobolink, philadelphia vireo, brewer’s blackbird, yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Should’ve had another 5-10 easy ones. Maybe next week I’ll break 60.

Brett’s blog — No ice out yet

Although some Mille Lac’ers are saying the ice is off the lake, we’re not ready to call it official ice out yet.

Here’s our rationale:

The Messenger, for 35 years, has called ice out when a boat can be driven from Isle to Garrison without encountering ice or slush along the way.

As of this morning, there was still ice and slush not far out of Isle Bay.

The east side around Hunters Point is still frozen in.

Rob has been circling the lake and can see ice in the distance, even from Garrison, through binoculars. Garrison resorts are putting docks and boats in.

It appears at this point that our official ice out will be between noon and midnight today, May 16, but that could change if it turns out there’s still a large amount of ice/slush floating around between Isle and Garrison.

The next satellite photo should be out mid-afternoon.

Speaking of which, I think yesterday’s satellite photo was misleading. It looked like the ice was gone from about 5/6 of the lake, but if you look closer there’s very dark gray surrounding that patch of obvious ice, and it covers more like half the lake.

That’s what I thought I was seeing yesterday afternoon and this morning with binoculars from the south shore. Sure looked like ice to me, out a mile or two — definitely south of Hennepin Island, which would make a direct crossing unlikely.

It’s breaking up fast, but we have no reason to believe at this point that a crossing could be made without ice. If you have information to the contrary, give me a call at (320) 676-3123 and we’ll factor it in before making our final call.

Most years there are few or no boats out as the ice is going out. That’s not the case this year, so it may be that someone can make the drive from Isle to Garrison and give us a definitive answer.

Brett’s blog — Ice and tribal harvest update

From the look of yesterday’s satellite photo, the ice is still pretty thick, especially in the south. As you travel north, it looks darker and darker gray.

We could have a big chunk of ice floating around out there for a few more days.

Facebook tells us Wigwam Bay is ice free this morning.

I could see ice just outside of Wahkon Bay when I drove out to Barea$$ Beach this morning. Evaporation made it look like it was steaming.

Fisher’s is putting their launches in today, so we may start to see some anglers hitting the Malmo sand.

I talked to Tom Jones of the DNR, who said the bands’ walleye harvest through May 13 is 12,993 pounds of walleye and 2,170 pounds of northern pike. Lac du Flambeau has taken 6,884 pounds of walleye, and Mille Lacs has taken 4,491 pounds. Most has been by spearing.

Little known fact that doesn’t usually come into play: According to the Band conservation code, as of May 15, Wisconsin and Fond Du Lac bands have to give half their quota to Mille Lacs, and the rest can’t be taken until mid September. The Mille Lacs Band can continue to net or spear all summer.

However, Bands have a 135,000 pound quota of perch they can net, and there’s some allowance for walleye by-catch.

Bottom line: You probably won’t see much if any netting or spearing after today. If you do, they’ll be targeting perch.

Jones said the walleye spawn is pretty much over.

He also said the DNR didn’t come close to the 20,000 walleyes they were hoping to tag for another population estimate. They’ll be lucky to tag 5,000.

Whatever data they get will be combined with next year’s for a better estimate than they can get strictly from gillnetting.

As you may recall, last fall’s gillnet survey used in population estimates turned up a record low number of walleyes.

Jones’ theory on the late ice out here is that the snowstorms in April made the difference. Upper Red is already ice free, and Leech and LOW both have less ice (percentage wise) than Mille Lacs. Jones said Mille Lacs got both the cold that the northern part of the state had and the snow that the southern part of the state got.

The ice itself was not THAT thick this year. Jones said 40-plus inches used to be common. The highest he’s seen is 54.

The crazy swing from earliest ice-out last year to latest this year has some folks saying “What global warming?” and others saying “Extremes are what climate change proponents have been predicting.”

I haven’t looked at the official records yet, but I don’t think the winter was that cold. It was the lack of 50+ days in March and April that were really unusual. Those months will probably come out well below average, but the winter as a whole will probably be typical or even a little warmer than average.

Let us know what you’re seeing from your perch. If the ice moves to shore again, call the Messenger at (320) 676-3123. Either comment here or email news@millelacsmessenger.com. And send us some fish pics, too!

Consider Plan B for an icy opening weekend

When I was in my 20s and early 30s, my friends and I scheduled monthly camping trips every summer from April through October.

We would rent the group site at state parks, stay up late playing guitars and drinking (mostly) non-intoxicating beverages, and get up early for hiking, birding, paddling or fishing.

We spent weekends at dozens of Minnesota’s wonderful parks, from Forestville to Zippel Bay, Big Stone Lake to Wild River.

Having been to most of the parks, I know whereof I speak when I say two of the best are right in our backyard here at Mille Lacs: Kathio on the west side and Father Hennepin a short walk from downtown Isle.

The two parks couldn’t be more different. Kathio is big and sprawling, with rolling hills, hidden lakes, the Rum River, the fire tower, and miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding.

There’s also an incredible interpretive center as well as archaeological sites dating back thousands of years.

Father Hennepin, on the other hand, is small and cozy. You can walk every trail in an afternoon and have time left over to relax at Mille Lacs’ best public swimming beach. The campground includes sites close to the lake, and there’s a boat launch and fishing pier.

After living, working and recreating all over the state, I’ve come to realize that Mille Lacs is really the heart of Minnesota. The state’s history begins here with Father Hennepin’s journals, and it’s the meeting place of three cultures that shaped the state: Dakota, Ojibwe and European. Our environment includes native foods like wild rice, walleye, venison and maple syrup, and our history includes the fur trade, logging, farming and the railroad.

The lake, of course, is the state’s most iconic, with the possible exception of Superior, which is in a different category.

I reflected on that idea in the introduction to our annual Fun Guide, which is included with this issue of the Messenger.

It’s one of our most popular products, and I hope you spend time perusing it this week and hang on to it as a resource to tell you about some of the great ways to spend your summer.

Including how to spend an icy fishing opener — which brings us back to the parks.

If you can’t get out on the lake, there’s always paddling the Rum, or fishing off the pier at Hennepin or the Buck Moore Dam at Kathio.

If the weather’s bad, consider a trip to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum — another gem in another great Minnesota treasure: the state’s historic sites.

The Fun Guide has me realizing once again how much goes on here at the Messenger without my input. As I’ve been busy putting the paper together each week, our boss, Kevin Anderson, has been hard at work on the Fun Guide and the Isle centennial editions — another of which came out last week.

I’ll repeat what I said a few weeks ago: That project has only come about through the volunteer efforts of folks like Gerald Wollum, Dolores Haggberg and Randy Christensen, and it’s been heavily subsidized by Kevin and the Messenger.

Give those folks a pat on the back next time you see them, and if you’re interested in advertising in the final three Isle centennial editions, give our sales staff a call at (320) 676-3123.

Enjoy the opener, and send us your fish pics. And for the record, I’m predicting the ice goes out Friday — just in time for fishing on Mille Lacs!

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

Brett’s blog — Ice-out record is May 15, for now

Pete Boulay of the state climatology office called this morning to get my thoughts on the ice-out record at Mille Lacs.

As a result, you’ll see the record change in coming days to May 15, 1950.

They apparently knew the records on the DNR site (May 7 and May 8) were earlier than the 1950 ice-out, when records across northern Minnesota were set, but they didn’t have any good evidence for the date at Mille Lacs

I referred him to my May 1 column where I laid out the evidence for May 15, and he said he was going to change the record on the DNR’s website.

So when you hear weathermen announce today that Mille Lacs set the ice-out record, don’t believe them. We’ve got a ways to go yet.

Brett’s blog — Fear not! The ice will go out on May 10!

I’m going out on a limb and predicting that the ice on Mille Lacs will be out just in time for opener. Here’s my thinking:

1. I drove past Ann Lake today, and the ice is half gone. The rest should go today. Ice out on Ann is usually 8 days before Mille Lacs, which should put it at Friday May 10.

2. The ice-out process should be quicker this year since it’s happening later in the spring, when the sun is higher.

3. The mercury will hit 60 on Sunday and stay warm throughout the week — plenty warm for serious melting to occur.

4. Good chance of rain Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday to eat away the soft ice.

5. If you read my writing, you know I’m always right, so just because I’m saying it, it will happen!

See you on the water May 11!

Record ice out? Depends on which record

Yes, it’s been a miserable spring, but only the second-miserablest, according to the public TV show Almanac. Last Friday was the first time it hit 60 in the Twin Cities in 2013, which is tied for second latest.

We skipped right over 60 to 70, which didn’t hurt my feelings at all.

The crazy weather is great fodder for the climate change deniers, but more importantly, it’s fodder for speculation about a range of scenarios that could play out on opening day of the fishing season May 11.

Most are expecting to break the record for late ice-out this year, since there were still 30-plus inches on the lake before any serious melting began on April 26 — a full month after last year’s record early ice out.

But the ice out “record” can be defined in different ways. DNR records are contradictory on the latest ever. One page on the DNR website says it was May 7, 1965. Another says May 8, 1975.

The May 13, 1965, Messenger says ice went out “a little over a week ago,” but that ice could still be seen “in the distance.” So the DNR’s ice-out date of May 7 for that year is not necessarily confirmed, but not disproved either.

The 1975 Messenger does not include any information that would confirm or call into question the May 8 ice out date on the DNR website.

The Messenger’s official records go back to 1979. The latest since then was May 6 in 1996.

However, many old timers in the area remember opener in 1950, when there was still ice on the main lake. The Messenger published Thursday, May 18, 1950, says that on Saturday of opener (May 13), the only open water was around Isle, Wahkon and Malmo — where boats were shoehorned in. I’ve heard folks say you could practically walk from one boat to the next.

The next day, Sunday, May 14, the ice shifted and piled up on the west side, damaging buildings at the Kings X Resort.

Another story written Wednesday, May 17, said the lake was “finally open” and that most launches went out on Tuesday, May 16.

Given that information, it appears that the ice went out on May 15, 1950 — the latest known date.

The ice on Lake Pepin went out April 16 this year — 16 days after the median. (The records go back a little farther for Lake Pepin. The latest ice-out ever was May 19, 1843.) On Albert Lea Lake, ice out was 18 days later than normal this year — a record.

Sixteen days late on Mille Lacs would mean May 11, opening day.

By way of comparison, here are the DNR’s average ice outs for area lakes.

Mille Lacs: April 25 (revised from April 24 after last year’s early ice out).

Ann Lake: April 16

Knife Lake: April 13

Sullivan: April 19

Farm Island: April 21

Big Sandy: April 21

I drove past Ann Lake this morning (Monday, April 29) and it’s not close. If the weather cools off on Wednesday, like it’s supposed to, I don’t see the ice going off before the weekend — or even early next week. If Mille Lacs is eight days later, that means you should bring your auger on May 11.

The Messenger is sponsoring an ice-out contest on our Facebook page. Deadline for entries is Thursday, May 2. If you’re not on Facebook, send your guess to news@millelacsmessenger.com or send it (postmarked by Thursday, May 2) to Mille Lacs Messenger, PO Box 26, Isle, MN 56342.

Three winners, chosen at random from all correct guesses, will receive free subscriptions or coupons to local establishments.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.