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As of Tuesday, the ice was finally receding on area lakes, as seen here on Little Pelican Lake. Joe Bowen/FOCUS

Fish and game populations ‘look good’ after long winter

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news Perham, 56573
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

The recent spate of warm, sunny days in the Perham area is a distinct change from the prolonged months of winter snow and ice.

The question for sporting enthusiasts is how the extended winter might affect fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

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Jim Wolters, the Area Fishery Supervisor based in Fergus Falls, has been with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for 24 years and even he can’t remember a longer period of winter weather.

For example, the long winter has affected how anglers prepare for the fishing opener.

Wolters explained: “Usually people are able to get out and fish crappies and sunfish before the opener. Under a normal spring there are a couple weekends before the normal walleye and pike opener where people can get prepared and try out their boats and stuff like that, but boats aren’t out there because of the ice. We probably lost a couple weeks of open fishing for people.”

Tom Adamczyk, owner of Gene’s Sport Shop in Perham, concurred. 

“Normally, people are out and about getting their boats out and fishing a little bit.  We didn’t get any of that,” he said.

Once temperatures rise, Wolters predicts that the fishing season will continue normally, with a handful of small changes.

“When the lakes open up, the fish will definitely be shallow. For instance, last year with the very long spring we had, a lot of fish were down spawning before the opener and had already moved to deeper water. This year, because of the delayed spawning time, anglers ought to find fish in very shallow water for the opener. The fish will spawn, it’ll just be later.  Once the lakes open up the water temperatures will increase quickly.”

Some of the best years for walleye production have been related to later springs, Wolters explained, so the impact on the fish populations should be minimal.

The wildlife populations appear to be doing just fine, too.

“We’re not seeing a lot of evidence locally here that the deer population or wild turkey population was adversely affected,” said Blaine Klemek, DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor for the Detroit Lakes area. When it comes to long winters and cold weather, “wildlife just deals with it.”

The Minnesota DNR uses a Winter Severity Index to determine potential deer mortality. This year’s winter did not score remarkably high in the Perham area, Klemek explained.

“Deer here have the ability to take advantage of agricultural crops,” which aids in their survival rate, he added.

As a result, Klemek does not think that hunters will have to make any adjustments given the prolonged cold weather.

“I don’t think you’re going to see, locally, a big difference in how the deer season plays out.” he said.

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