Holy cow… this past weekend. I can pretty much sum it up in one word: awesome! And believe it or not we actually got a fair amount of surveys done while we were at Devil’s Lake. Sweet deal all around.
Friday evening we got to Devil’s Lake at Graham’s Island State Park and set up camp. We got lucky and got a perfect location right on the water and pretty far from the neighboring tent sites. As soon as the tent was set up and food unloaded we got Ryan’s boat out on the water headed out to a secret spot of his and got to fishing. Wow! I have never fished like that before. I could hardly even take a sip of my beer before I got a fish on the line. We were just catching walleye left and right with the occasional northern pike and I caught one white bass. Talk about fun! It is completely different than Maryland fishing, that’s for sure. I was doing such a good job catching fish that I even caught myself. Actually that was pretty scary. As I was trying to get the bass off the hook one of the treble hooks decided to hook into the front of my shorts – not a location where I would like to have a hook AT ALL. Ryan to the rescue! He helped me get unhooked so I could pose for the camera with my white bass.
We didn’t end up coming off the water until about 9:30-10 that night and Ryan taught Megan and I how to filet our fish, we did a pretty decent job if I say so myself. Cooked up some delicious jalapeño and cheddar brats over the fire then met up with some other Game and Fish guys who were also camping at the park and make a good night out of it to say the least. Woke up pretty early the next morning (I don’t know how this was accomplished), and hit the water again. The fishing was quite as fast and furious as it was the evening before, but it was still great! I caught a good sized, 21 inch walleye and Megan caught a 33 inch northern. We were both pretty dang proud of those catches.
Not too shabby.
Around lunchtime we headed back to shore to eat some mountain pies and so Ryan could take a nap while Meg and I actually got some work done. Have I mentioned how much I love the anglers here? I think the angler surveys even though are probably the dullest of our work, are actually becoming one of my favorites to conduct. Those fishermen just crack me up! I think the best beaver joke of the day was – Me: “have you ever seen a beaver?” Wisconsin fisherman: “shhhhhh, there’s kids around!” We had a good time just BSing with them and even jumped in to help clean some fish. I got to use an electric fileting knife for the first time. It’s easier than a regular one, but I feel like I have more control of the regular knife. After some good conversations and promises to share in some brewskis later at different camp sites, we hit the water once again. This time nothing. Same spot, same time of day as before but nothing. Well I guess not quite nothing, it was more like Maryland style fishing. I just got spoiled the night and morning before. But after a while it started picking up again. Still such a blast! I think I know what I am going to do with all my free time from now on. I am sure I will have to really twist Ryan’s arm to take two pretty girls out fishing on his boat. Ha! We cooked up our walleye over the open camp fire along with peppers and taters and some asparagus for dinner – dang I never eat this good! Went over to the other campsite but they were all KOed from the night before followed by being in the sun all day. So we met up with the Wisconsin boys from the fish cleaning station and had another good night. I’d say it was quite a successful weekend.
Well yesterday was Megan’s 21st birthday and boy did we do it big! We went to Tutti Frutti for ice cream for lunch, then HuHot which is a (delicious) Mongolian restaurant where she was surprised with a cake I made..
We went to a country bar after dinner to listen to a live band and hit up the town. It was a fun time and she seemed to have a good birthday. Happy birthday, Megan!
So sorry that I haven’t posted in a while! Are you still there? Good.
Time is flying by even faster. Not good. I really did not expect it, but I have completely fallen in love with this place. A lot of it has to be credited to the people though, they are amazing!
Hmm… so what has been going on the past few days? Eh, I guess really not too much. Last week we spent nearly every day doing bridge surveys. Still finding tons of beaver sign, even in places I would never ever have suspected to find beavers – there were NO trees in one area, but sure enough there was a beaver dam on that creek. Their engineering continues to amaze me. We haven’t had any more possible otter signs and were never able to confirm that scat we found in my last post.
Oh oh! Something really exciting. I’ll have to back story some bit though so you can get the whole picture of how this happened. I convinced Megan to join the Y that I workout at and she has really taken a liking to their spinning classes, so one day when we went to one of the classes, some guy calls me out for my Pirates shirt; “hey, is that just a random shirt you have, or are you actually a Pirates fan in North Dakota?” Well I know I have mentioned this before, but I am a HUGE Pittsburgh Pirates fan. This got us into a decent little conversation. Turns out the guy, Nick, is from Pittsburgh and now works out here for Delta Waterfowl. Well, I need to find a way to contact Ducks Unlimited or Delta Waterfowl members for one aspect of my survey. So Nick invited me down to Delta’s international headquarters (which happens to be in Bismarck) to meet with some people there, learn about Delta Waterfowl, and to talk about the survey. Today I met with him. Honestly I really never really heard of Delta Waterfowl before I came out here, maybe once as a brief mention in one of my wildlife classes during my undergrad. Welp, I am completely impressed! They are a 101 year old organization that has some similar aspects to Ducks Unlimited (which I am a very active member of), but instead of focusing on habitat conservation, Delta targets more the hunting community. They want to “secure the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.” (Their vision off their website.) So they are more focused on the research and production of waterfowl. They build nest boxes or “hen houses,” participate in predator management in waterfowl breeding habitat, and conduct a lot of research in one of the largest waterfowl breeding areas in the world, Manitoba’s Delta Marsh. I was able to sit down with Nick, who turns out to be Delta’s chief operating officer, and John, their senior director of U.S. policy, and they gave me the history of Delta Waterfowl and aquatinted me with the organization. After some bribing (not really, they were just that generous) of free t-shirts, duck calls, stickers, and the book To Ride the Wind by H. Albert Hochbaum, I have most definitely decided to become a Delta Waterfowl member. You’re probably now wondering if I was able to work my survey into this meeting. I was. They agreed to help us mail out 300 of our surveys. Score!
Oh and I guess I should mention that the 309 surveys we sent out to the USDA list have been very successful, I do not remember the total count off the top of my head but within a week we have received somewhere around 75 surveys back so far. That’s a pretty impressive number in such a short period of time. I’m excited by that.
Well it looks like we are all packed up and ready to go. We’re heading up to Devil’s Lake to camp and fish for the weekend. Uh, I mean we are heading up there to conduct angler surveys. Yes, lots of angler surveys. 😉
Hmm, and on a side note it’s Friday the Thirteenth. I just realized that one.
Well this week came and went, it seems like all the weeks have been doing that. We are now halfway through our summer. Crazy. Tuesday we hit up a few bridges and found some rather interesting scat that had tons of crayfish in it and was scattered in an otter-like manor. We took a sample and vigorously searched the area. We found some odd tracks as well, but are thinking they are just raccoon tracks where he didn’t place his hind foot all the way down. What do you think?
Wednesday was the Fourth of July and I hope that everyone had a great time! We went to a cookout at Dan’s, enjoyed in absolutely delicious Tennessee bar-b-q, drank a fair share of drinks, had a wonderful view of the fireworks from Dan’s yard, and enjoyed some sparklers. Yes, I do realize that they sell real fireworks in North Dakota, but I just couldn’t resist the neon sparklers at the firework store! They are so awesome! Oh and also we made a little camp fire in Dan’s yard. Overall pretty successful and very fun night.
Thursday morning was spent recovering and then Megan and I got started with tracking down addresses that were provided for us to send out the beaver public attitude survey to. We printed out the surveys, cover letters, and mailing labels then started putting all the labels on the envelopes. Friday we had originally planned on going down to the Sioux reservation, Standing Rock, to do bridge surveys there, but thanks to the weather we were office bound. We spent the day watching a marathon of movies and stuffing, stamping, and addressing 309 (yes, that’s three HUNDRED and nine) letters with surveys and dropped them off in the mail. I have to admit I am quite impressed with the amount of envelope stuffing that was accomplished. The weather broke, and today was absolutely stunningly perfect out! We headed up to Lake Sakakawea (about an hour north) to interview anglers with our beaver surveys. We camped out right next the fish cleaning station, with a sign reading “Please participate in our survey” taped to the truck, hopeful to get some anglers stopping through. And guess what… it worked! Almost every angler that came through to clean their fish and a few random ones who came up on their own accord to help us out agreed to take our survey. They are all extremely nice and we had a great time joking around and talking with them. Megan and I have decided to start a running list of all the beaver jokes and puns we get while interviewing anglers. Here are the two top ones for the today:
Angler: “Bye gals, have fun playing with your beavers.”
And another older gentleman,
Angler “What is the survey about?”
Angler: “Oh, I didn’t realize we were talking dirty.”
They were cracking us up left and right. The lake is absolutely beautiful and there are also many different camp grounds with boat loading docks and cleaning stations. I think we found our new location to get the remainder of our angler surveys. We are currently planning out a weekend camping trip to enjoy the water but also spend time getting more surveys completed.
And I learned the same lesson that I never seem to actually learn. No matter how many times I’ve been in the sun during the summer and no matter how tan I may be… I still burn after spending the entire day in the sun. How about that? So I am going to go back to my trailer and enjoy the cool aloe gel that is currently chillin in my fridge.