Pictures for Radio: A fishy week

It’s been a busy few weeks here.  The wedding season is ramping up and I’ve been chasing fish all over the state for Minnesota Public Radio.  I’m really enjoying doing work for MPR as it keeps me doing a lot of work similar to what I did when I was at the Duluth News Tribune.  Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting weddings, but photojournalism is what got me into photography and I love being in on the action so it’s fun to be back in that role again.

Two Fridays ago, I was in Bemidji as Native Americans waged a protest agains the state of Minnesota restricting their off-reservation fishing rights.  It’s a long-standing feud and culminated that Friday with the Natives dropping fishing nets into Lake Bemidji a day before the fishing opener in violation of state law and DNR policy.  The DNR showed up, cut and confiscated the nets, which led to a lot of rallying, angry rhetoric and the promise of court battles and more protests.

A week later I was back to some familiar territory.  When I was working for the Duluth News Tribune, I went down to the base of the Fond du Lac dam on the St. Louis River in far west Duluth as DNR biologists and officers worked to rehabilitate the sturgeon population in the western end of the Lake Superior watershed.  After a winter where hundreds of huge boulders were strategically placed in the stream around the base of the dam to promote sturgeon spawning, the plan appears to be attracting new sturgeon and I really hoped this was the year I actually got to see one of these prehistoric fish.  I was not to be disappointed.  Before lunch, they had captured, scanned and tagged more than 10 fish varying in weights up to 50+ pounds and lengths near five feet.  Fully grown, these fish can grow to be 100+ pounds, over six feet long and can live 150+ years.  Despite all this, they didn’t seem to get smarter with age as DNR officers were able to scoop them out of the water with relative ease.  The project is ongoing and the DNR has yet to find any sign of spawning, but the sturgeon are just reaching reproductive age so that moment may come at any time.

A link to the story can be found here while MPR’s audio piece can be heard below…

The first nine images deal with the sturgeon assignment while the last six deal with the protest in Bemidji.

Nick Frohnauer surveys the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam for sturgeon in Duluth, Minn. Frohnauer is the Minnesota DNR's assistant area supervisor.

Nick Frohnauer (left) points toward the position of a sturgeon while Josh Blankenheim (right) looks for a way to net the fish while surveying the St. Louis River in front of the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn. Blankenheim is a Minnesota DNR fishery specialist.

Josh Blankenheim scoops a fish out of the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn

A sturgeon awaits testing inside the net of Minnesota DNR fishery specialist Josh Blankenheim along the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn.

Josh Blankenheim (left) and Nick Frohnauer (right) survey the St. Louis River in front of the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn.

Josh Blankenheim (left) scans a sturgeon for a marker while the fish is held by Nick Frohnauer (right) along the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn. The two would measure, weigh and scan the fish to see if they had already been tagged. If they had already been tagged, the scanner would find the tag and record information, but if no tag was found, they would tag the fish before releasing it back into the river.

A sturgeon is held down while being scanned for a tag along the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn. The Minnesota DNR was checking up on the sturgeon population near the dam while efforts continue to restock this area and western Lake Superior with sturgeon.

Nick Frohnauer (left) and Josh Blankenheim (right) prepare to weigh a sturgeon that was capture in the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn.

Josh Blankenheim (left) surveys the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam for sturgeon in Duluth, Minn.

Josh Blankenheim (left) and John Lindgren (right) work to restrain a sturgeon while scanning it for a tag along the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam in Duluth, Minn. This particular sturgeon was nearly five feet long and weighed almost 50 pounds. Lindgren is a Minnesota DNR biologist.

Luther Aadland (right), river ecologist with the Minnesota DNR, scuba dives in the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac dam looking for signs of sturgeon spawning in Duluth, Minn.

And now for the Bemidji Fishing Protest Images…

Aaron White Sr. (2nd from left, hat on) gets into his boat with a little help from Sandy Nichols (left) at the Lake Bemidji waterfront park in Bemidji, Minn. The two were going out to drop fishing nets to demonstrate their off-reservation fishing rights in protest against the state of Minnesota.

Sandy Nichols (left), Aaron White Jr. (front) and Aaron White Sr. (back, red shirt) survey Lake Bemidji waterfront park after White Sr. and Nichols came ashore after dropping fishing nets to demonstrate their off-reservation fishing rights in protest against the state of Minnesota in Bemidji, Minn.

American Indian Movement member Keith Loussier of the Red Lake Nation has Dennis Banks, founder of the American Indian Movement, reflected in his sunglasses while Banks speaks before getting in a canoe to drop fishing nets in a demonstration of their his off-reservation fishing rights in protest against the state of Minnesota in Bemidji, Minn.

Aaron White Sr. (left) and Tuffy Isham (left) are confronted by a Minnesota conservation officer over fishing nets White Sr. dropped into Lake Bemidji during a protest over off-reservation fishing rights.

Aaron White Sr. (2nd from left) points to a Minnesota conservation officer after the officer cut his fishing lines in Lake Bemidji. White Sr. was joined by Tuffy Isham (far right) in a protest over off-reservation fishing rights.

Aaron White Sr. holds up a net that he says was cut by a Minnesota conservation officer in Lake Bemidji during a protest over off-reservation fishing rights in Bemidji, Minn.

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