Brute’s Bleat: July 23, 2014


The Maple Lake Lakers bounced back Sunday with a 7-6 win over Coon Rapids after losing to Hutchinson 4-2 Friday. Sunday’s game kept the fans on the edge of their seats with a slim one-run lead going into the late innings. Jake Johnson came in for pitcher Jeremy Schmidt and preserved the one-run lead. It was a good game to watch, but the Lakers vs. D-C  game last Wednesday was better when the Lakers were tied going into the ninth inning. Pitcher Mitch Wurm reached back for a little more and breezed through the top of the ninth and Derek Rachel slammed a walk-off home run to deep left-centerfield with two aboard for the 5-2 win.  In my humble opinion the Lakers are the best entertainment in town.  They finish out this year’s schedule with St. Micheal here Friday night and Moorhead here Sunday afternoon.  The only casualty Sunday was yours truly when a gust of wind sent one of the umbrellas airborne and roughed up my face just ahead of my right ear.  A Maple Lake fireman in the stands responded to see if I needed any attention, which I appreciated, but all that was necessary was a band-aid from my billfold (something I’ve been in a habit of carrying, but seldom needed).  Earlier I caught the same umbrella, but I didn’t see it coming the second time. 
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Panfish angling has been an early morning sport for me a couple of times last week with mixed success.  They were in about 13-14 feet on Maple Lake, but not as active or as large as earlier in the season. I had 12 keepers in the livewell after about three hours of fun. Friday morning I decided to see if Cedar Lake had anything to offer. It wasn’t spectacular, but again I managed to keep 12.  There was a lot of fishing action on Cedar besides the two fellows from Clearwater who were doing well bobber fishing, and a local angler.  I’m referring to a large flock of cormorants who were busy herding the fish in front of Camp Courage while enjoying a meal. A story by Mike Mosedale (07/16/08) said Little Pelican, which is owned by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, is the site of the state's largest colony of double-crested cormorants. And for the last four years, it has also been ground zero for a burgeoning conflict between the fish-eating birds and fish-loving Minnesotans. We’ve noticed the cormorant numbers seem to have declined at Lake of the Woods the last few years, but I don’t know that it has made a difference in walleye numbers. 
At the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, regional fisheries manager Henry Drewes said he is convinced that four years of cormorant control has helped to hasten the remarkable recovery of walleyes and yellow perch numbers at Leech Lake. Both species went into steep declines around the time the cormorant colony on Little Pelican Island was booming.
"We do know that under lower density of cormorants we've seen a dramatic rebound of walleyes," said Drewes, who also credited intensive walleye stocking and stricter fishing regulations for the comeback. Whatever the cause, gill net sampling last fall (2008) yielded the second highest walleye numbers at Leech Lake since such research began a quarter century ago. In two years, Drewes said, perch numbers went from historic lows to historic highs.
It seems like the cormorants and pelicans choose different lakes each year in Wright County. It wasn’t very many years ago that they were considered a problem on Buffalo Lake and only last year they seemed to invade Ramsey Lake in huge numbers and this year Rock has been one of their favorites as well as Cedar Lake.  
"I don't know if there's any other bird that people have such a visceral hate for," observed Dr. Linda Wires, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota, who calls the cormorant "the most hated bird in the world." She suspects this is partly a matter of appearance; cormorants are large, black, and resemble an ungainly cross between a crow and a goose. 
But, Wires noted, most of the enmity derives from a centuries-old conflict with sport and commercial fishermen, who, despite shaky evidence, remain convinced that the cormorant's robust appetite and skills as a predator are wreaking havoc on fisheries.
"You can document four hundred years of this perception in North America that cormorants are this big destructive force," said Wires. "In fishing communities, there is just such a low tolerance, almost zero tolerance, for cormorants. It doesn't seem to matter much what the data says." (From Mike Mosdale’s 2008 story on cormorants).