Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

Dec. 10, 2001

Anglers are ready for the season, but the ice isn't

Last year the ice fishing season, like the winter, was a long one. Anglers were able to get out on the ice and start fishing just before Thanksgiving and continued to ice fish on area lakes until mid-April.

One angler noted he started ice fishing the Sunday before Thanksgiving and fished for the last time of the season April 16. That's about 149 days of possible ice fishing.

This season, let's say if a majority of the lakes were frozen over with six inches of good ice by Dec. 20, the lakes would have to be frozen over with good ice until May 20 to get 149 days of possible ice fishing.

That would be a tough pill to swallow. The open water fishing opener for 2002, I believe, is set of May 11.

On Howard Lake, since 1949, the latest freeze over date was Dec. 20 in 1998. The latest ice out date was May 2, in 1950. The earliest freeze over occurred in 1991 on Nov. 7. The earliest ice out date occurred in 2000, March 15.

Paul Diedrich, Area Fisheries Supervisor in Montrose, shared this information with me. According to freeze up and ice out data from 1966 to 2000 on Howard Lake he concluded Howard Lake was frozen over an average of 134 days each winter through that time span.

He noted, and I confer, a growing concern from people about global warming and that the graph provided by Paul does show a slight decreasing trend in the number of days of ice coverage. His research also shows there as been more variability in the number of ice coverage days since about 1985.

In any case, and no matter how you look it, the type of winter weather we have had since 1994 has sure varied. Remember the horrible storms and winters of 95 through 97. Then the warm and balmy winters of 98 through 2000. Then topped off by a miserable and long winter a year ago.

Our ice coverage dates have basically followed the same pattern.

Moving on, when the ice finally does arrive, be safe, not sorry, and don't complain too much if this season is one of the shortest ice fishing seasons on record.

On a final note, as of Friday, Dec. 7, Winsted Lake was completely frozen over with a very thin layer of ice; and other larger lakes in the area, like Howard, didn't have a bit of ice on them.

Minnesota pheasants

Although the season in general across Minnesota's pheasant range has been a bit lac luster and not as good as I expected. The late season hunting, especially after the snow fell has been super.

On a one-day hunt to western Minnesota last weekend, the hunting was as good as you could imagine. Birds were out in big numbers, they held tight in snow covered cattail sloughs, and it seemed there were a big pile of roosters left for this late in the season.

Myself and a partner had no problem bagging our limit in an hour or so and we saw hundreds of more birds in areas where there was a food source and good winter cover. Also, the birds weren't very skidish like typical late season roosters are.

In my opinion, hunting pressure was light through the early and middle parts of the season this year, and that has boosted the quality of late season hunting.

Two other factors that really aided in the success of our hunt were: snow, about 15 inches of it, and scouting for birds at sunrise. Aside from the snow and the limited cover the birds had, the real key was the early morning scouting.

At this time of the year scouting in the morning is a must in areas of big cover. You will typically see birds in bigger groups, and you will be able to pinpoint the exact areas they are using.

Minnesota's pheasant season closes Dec. 16.

Corn giveaway for pheasants

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway for pheasants and wildlife Saturday, Dec. 15, 8 to 11 a.m. at Lampi Auction, located on Hwy. 55 and Wright Co. Rd. 6.

Bring your own containers. Quantities may be limited due to demand. For additional information, call Bruce Bartl 763-682-0653.

Snowmobile training

An introductory snowmobiling course will be offered. The approximately 11-hour course is designed for snowmobile riders with little or no experience in snowmobile operation.

The course includes a hands-on operating, field day. It is available to students age 12-17 and may be taken by individuals over 12 years of age, who desire to take an introductory course. Dates are Jan. 9, 16, 23, and 26 at the Lester Prairie Sportmen's Club.

Registration is 6 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9. At that time, a $6 fee will be collected for material and mailing. A signature from a parent or guardian is also required.

Outdoor notes

­ The Winsted Sportmen's Club will meet Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted.

­ The Muzzleloader deer hunting season in Minnesota ended Dec. 9.

­ With a majority of the hunting seasons over for another year, remember to properly store all of your firearms and ammunition. They should be locked and stored in separate locations and completely unaccessible by children.

­ Remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe.

­ If you're looking for fish house, take a look at this newspapers classified ad section.

­ Ice fishing gear or any type of outdoor gear is a great gift idea for the outdoors person in your family.

­ Take some time to enjoy the outdoors this holiday season.

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