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Outdoor briefs

State parks to be free on day after Thanksgiving

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has announced there will be another Free Park Friday over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Smith said entry fees at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived on Friday, Nov. 25.

"In my travels around Minnesota, I visit Minnesota state parks and recreation areas as often as I can," she said. "We have one of the finest park and trail systems in the country, and spending time in nature is the best way I know to get some exercise, relax and refresh with family and friends. I want as many Minnesotans as possible to enjoy a free day in the parks after Thanksgiving."

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Minnesota state parks and trails system and record crowds have been showing up. Through September, one-day parks and trails permit sales were up 6 percent, year-round permit sales were up 8 percent and overnight stays were up 6 percent over last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

DNR question of the week

Q: What does the DNR do with animals that are taken illegally (poached)?

A: For those animals that are taken illegally, the DNR tries to ensure they are not wasted. Meat from illegally harvested wild game such as deer is often donated to food shelves and other groups that serve those less fortunate. However, sometimes meat must be thrown away or destroyed. This has been especially true for fish. The DNR has an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health to dispose of meat, such as pre-packaged fish fillets, because it is often hard to tell whether or not the packaging was done properly.

In some cases the animal, or parts of the animal such as deer antlers, are turned over to schools and other educational institutions for study. Some also appear in the DNR's "Wall of Shame" trailers, which are displayed at fairs and events around the state.

We encourage citizens to report game and fish violations to the TIP hotline at (800) 652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP. Informants can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

- Lt. Col. Greg Salo, assistant director, DNR Enforcement Division

Mille Lacs Lake to be open for winter walleye fishing

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources today announced that the winter walleye regulation will allow anglers to keep one walleye between 19 and 21 inches or one longer than 28 inches.

The 2016-17 winter regulation continues last winter's one fish limit but moves the harvest slot up slightly from last year's 18 to 20 inches.

The winter walleye season begins Thursday, Dec. 1, and extends through Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Tribal and DNR biologists met Nov. 1 to evaluate the status of the walleye population following the completion of the 2015-2016 fishing season. The key conservation goal of conserving the abundant 2013 year class was achieved, with minimal fishing mortality occurring during the past year and key population benchmarks successfully met. Those factors combined to support a modest winter harvest for Mille Lacs Lake walleye.

"The winter season regulation enables Mille Lacs anglers to catch and keep walleye while providing necessary fish conservation and support to the Mille Lacs area economy," said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief.

"This regulation allows continued protection of walleye in Mille Lacs' abundant 2013 year class, which are the lake's future spawners," Pereira said.

Northern pike will provide anglers and darkhouse spearers with additional opportunity to harvest fish on Mille Lacs this winter. Like last winter, ice anglers and spearers can keep up to five fish with one longer than 30 inches. However, in order to keep the one northern pike longer than 30 inches, anglers and spearers must have caught or speared two northern pike shorter than 30 inches and have both smaller fish in immediate possession.

The pike regulation goes into effect on Dec. 1. It continues through Sunday, March 26, 2017, for angling and Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 for spearing.

For now, bass regulations will remain the same. But on the heels of a very successful Toyota Angler of the Year tournament and the increased attention it has focused on Mille Lacs' world-class smallmouth, discussions with the Mille Lacs advisory committee will be ongoing to determine if changes may be warranted for the open water bass season.

More information about Mille Lacs Lake management is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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