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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday, June 14, confirmed that it will try, once again, to develop a proposal to remove wolves from Endangered Species Act protections across the Great Lakes region and in other parts of the Lower 48 states. The agency has tried multiple times — through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations — to delist wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, saying the big predators have fully recovered here after brushing with extinction in the 1960s and '70s.
DULUTH — The 1970s was a heady time for environmentalists in Minnesota and across the country. After decades of industrial exploitation of natural resources — air, water, land, wildlife and forests — environmentalists won a string of victories that seemed to stem the tide of destruction as Americans woke up to the consequences of unrestricted pollution.
LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH — Forgive Gerry Albert if he gets a little excited when he catches walleyes here. "Here's another one!'' Albert shouted as he set the hook on a walleye, working to keep a tight line and run his outboard in whitecaps. "Ohhh, and I think it's a keeper!" Big Winnie is Albert's lake, so to speak. He's the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' large lakes fisheries specialist for the huge reservoir — 67,000 acres, 88 square miles — northwest of Deer River.
JAY COOKE STATE PARK — As his stubby, plastic kayak dipped under the wave of a rapids, between two boulders and then out of sight, Jon Schmidt let out a primal scream audible even over the roar of the river. There was nothing wrong, mind you, just a sign from Schmidt that he was shredding it. Schmidt, of Proctor, Minn., is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. In winter, he gets his kicks snowboarding. But when the snow melts and fills Northland rivers with water, Schmidt grabs his kayak and hits the rapids.
DULUTH — For his day job, Lorin LeMire drives a massive iron ore haul truck at Hibbing Taconite, a two-story behemoth that can carry 240 tons of rock. But that's his easy job, Lemier says. It's this side gig on Lake Superior that causes him concern. "This is my stressful job, the one i do on my days off,'' LeMire said as he piloted his 28-foot Grady White boat out of Duluth's harbor and onto Lake Superior. "It can be a little nerve-wracking when people pay you to catch fish."
DULUTH — When Troy Skorich of Hermantown, Minn., and Tim MacDougall of Duluth won last weekend's 2018 Berg Construction Walleye Cup on the St. Louis River, they pulled up to the dock with no fish to weigh. In fact, none of the 60 tournament boats kept any fish to weigh. Instead, the winners of the tournament were determined not by weight of the fish measured at the dock, but on length, as measured by each two-person team in their own boat. The team with most total inches of fish — up to eight fish could be entered — were the winners.
DULUTH — If you're hoping for a campsite at Gooseberry Falls State Park over Memorial Day weekend, you're probably out of luck. Same for Jay Cooke, Split Rock, Tettegouche and most of the region's other most popular state park campgrounds — they're 100 percent booked for the three-day, unofficial opening of the summer camping season. But if you're willing to drive a little and maybe try some new locations, there are still available campsites in the state park system for the upcoming long weekend.
MINNEAPOLIS—We've known for years that tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics, have become ubiquitous in the oceans and across the Great Lakes. We've also known that so many of these tiny plastic particles are floating around that they are ending up inside fish. Another recent study found plastic particles in many popular brands of supposedly filtered and purified bottled water drawn from multiple sources, including wells and springs.
GRAND RAPIDS, MInn. — Rick Horton of Grand Rapids was just back from a spring turkey when he noticed the ticks, about a dozen of them, dug into his skin. "They were several on my back, between my shoulder blades. And several in places I can't mention," said Horton, who spent three days crawling around in Kansas prairie grass to shoot a tom turkey. "I was camping out. No shower. I was literally crawling on top of ticks for three days. And I didn't do anything to prevent it."
DULUTH — It's been on every Minnesota walleye angler's mind for weeks now, ever since April came in more like February: Will the ice be out for the opener? The answer is a definite ... probably, depending on what lake you're watching. But things were looking much better last week after a string of warm, sunny days interspersed with south winds and some rain — the perfect recipe to melt lake ice. While lakes in southern Minnesota set all-time late ice-out dates this year, it appears most northern lakes won't hold ice as late as 2013, 2014, 1996 or 1950.