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Unless you are totally unaware of your surroundings you will have noticed the abundance of fish houses on Fountain Lake. If you have driven past Pickerel Lake lately you will have also noticed a number of fish houses on it. For some unknown reason the fishing on Albert Lea Lake for those that have ventured out has been less than spectacular and while Fountain Lake has been producing some fish the big winners this winter seem to be the ones who have been fishing Pickerel and Geneva Lakes. Jumbo perch have been abundant on both of these bodies of water. It is no coincidence that both of these lakes were stocked with the same species at about the same time because of the winter kill a few years ago.

Not only are there some dandy “jumbos” being caught but also some descent northern pike. Still there is the “being in the right place at the right time” thing that factors in; in other words, you can’t just venture out and drill a hole and expect the fish to aggressively seek out your bait. My grandson Trevor and his two uncles, Travis and Jeremy fished Geneva Lake a couple of weeks ago and came home with 55 nice perch. I can attest to the fact that these fish were mighty tasty because Trevor had his dad bring their grandma and I some fish, still warm and definitely delicious. There is still nothing better than a meal of fish fresh out of the lake. I am still holding out hope of venturing out on one of the area lakes for a little hard water fishing before the ice starts to go away.

I have been feeding the birds sporadically this winter because it seems that no matter where I put my feeder the squirrel(s) seem to find a way to get to it. I have bought some corn as I mentioned in an earlier column to distract them from the bird feeders. I cannot really say if it helped as the squirrels waste little time in disposing of the corn.

If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would enjoy feeding the birds and squirrels I would probably have laughed and said, “Yeah, right.” Somewhere along the way I have decided to stop and take closer notice of the little feathered friends. I have always been infatuated with wildlife and whenever I see them in the wild it brings me a great deal of pleasure. I don’t believe I can drive a highway or a country road without keeping an eye out for wildlife. Although I am no longer much for hunting, the thrill that I get out of spotting wildlife in their natural habitat is fulfilling.

Removal of diseased oaks at Myre-Big Island State Park will create rare savanna habitat.

The removal of more than 100 diseased oak trees at Myre-Big Island State Park will allow restoration of rare prairie oak savanna, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

“Oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest,” said Molly Tranel-Nelson, DNR regional resource management specialist.  “It was the transitional area between prairies and forests, once covering about 10 percent of the state. Savanna was dominated by scattered oak trees, standing in a diverse mix of native grasses and flowering plants.”

“Today oak savanna is considered one of the rarest plant communities on earth,” Tranel-Nelson said.  Birds such as the eastern whip-poor-will, red-headed woodpecker and northern flicker, flourish in oak savanna.

Park Manager Jerry Katzenmeyer said many of the oaks at Myre-Big Island State Park are being hit by bur oak blight, two-lined chestnut bore or oak wilt.

“While it may be surprising to see large, mature oaks being cut, the reality is that by harvesting the dying oaks, we have a better chance of saving the remaining trees,” he said.

Oaks in the park will be harvested through the winter.  Visitors will see stumps and brush disturbance until the grasses begin to fill in, next summer.

“Restoring oak savanna has long been a goal at the park,” Katzenmeyer said.  “Removing the dying trees enables us to restore a landscape that existed when the area was first settled.”

He added that the harvest will not occur on Big Island since it is dominated by maple and basswood rather than oaks.

Until next time; it’s a great time to take advantage of the good fishing on area lakes and above all get out and enjoy the outdoors experience whether it’s fishing, small game hunting for rabbit and squirrel or just taking a walk.

 Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.

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