Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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I took a walk to an off-the-beaten-path fishing hole the other day and lost track of the number of fish I landed when the count climbed into the 75 to 80 range. This was fishing at its simplest—a jig and a twister tail—and the fish were voracious. I either caught a fish or had a strike every cast. They even hit bare jigs, though my hooking percentage went down; no surprise there. It didn't seem to matter where I cast, either. Close to shore or farther out, the outcome was the same: Fish on.
GRAND FORKS—It was a falcon frenzy Monday afternoon as an estimated 150 people showed up to watch peregrine chicks being banded below the University of North Dakota water tower. Between the three chicks, who loudly voiced their displeasure at being removed from their nest box high atop the tower, and more than 60 kids from various Grand Forks YMCA programs who came to watch, this year's banding effort was even more boisterous than usual.
The carp were there, sucking up seeds or bugs or whatever else might have been floating down the surface of the Red River. Fly casting below Riverside Dam in Grand Forks, Steve Ficocello could see the fish as their orange lips broke the surface of the river. With the precision of an experienced fly caster, Ficocello routinely placed his fly within lipping distance of the carp. More than once, his 7-weight fly rod loaded up, heightening the anticipation of a potential strike.
OAK HAMMOCK MARSH, Man. — The morning was absolutely miserable — cold, cloudy and windy — and banding birds or getting into the heart of the marsh by canoe wasn't going to be an option. "The wind is quite strong this morning," Jacques Bourgeois wrote in an email. "Can you postpone your visit to tomorrow?"
GRAHAMS ISLAND STATE PARK, N.D.—The Visitor Center at Grahams Island State Park used to be hidden in the maintenance shop, an inconspicuous building that wasn't exactly easy to find. Not so anymore. The newly opened Grahams Island State Park Visitor Center is a can't-miss building situated smack-dab in the middle of the 1,122-acre park on Devils Lake. "We're highly visible—we're easy to see, easy to get to, and we can staff it much easier," park Manager Henry Duray said.
There are many things to like about May, and as the month enters the homestretch, I'd have to say it's been a good one. From spending a morning in a blind watching a ruffed grouse drum to a Minnesota walleye opener that was as enjoyable as any I've ever had, May delivered an abundance of good times outdoors.
NARCISSE SNAKE DENS, Man.—The snakes—dozens, perhaps even hundreds—resembled a giant undulating blob of spaghetti as they twisted and rolled in their apparent attempt to scale the side of the rocky pit. Like Medusa—the snake-haired goddess of Greek mythology—brushing her reptilian locks, the mass of red-sided garter snakes would slither a foot or two up the side of the pit before sliding back to the bottom. Over and over they did this, producing a sound similar to white noise as they twisted and slithered at the bottom of the pit.
GRAND FORKS — Now that he's had a few days to look back on the 2017 North Dakota legislative session, the director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says he'd probably give the session a B+ in terms of its impact on hunters and anglers. If not for a few contentious issues, Terry Steinwand says he'd be tempted to give the legislative session an A. Game and Fish tracked 28 outdoors-related bills during the session, 11 of which passed both chambers and were signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum.
RED LAKE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, Minn.—Traffic noise isn't a problem, but a forest full of sounds competes for Gretchen Mehmel's ears on this crisp Monday morning. Pileated woodpeckers hammer away with a percussive cadence as they bore into trees for a morning snack. Hermit thrushes, white-throated sparrows and swamp sparrows offer melodic contrasts with their trills and calls. Not to be outdone, spring peepers and chorus frogs are in full voice, as well.
ROOSEVELT, Minn. — I'd come to Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area, to spend a few hours in a ruffed grouse blind and tag along on an early morning drumming count survey. Little did I know I'd experience another spectacle of nature in the process.