Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Dec. 17, 2001

Ice still not ready for fishing

As of Friday, Dec. 14, smaller lakes in the area were covered with a very thin sheet of ice, and larger lakes, like Howard, Big Waverly and Waconia had basically no ice at all on them.

Throughout the past week, some of the smaller lakes, like Winsted, had completely frozen over and reopened a couple of times. One avid ice angler joked it was the earliest ice out date we have ever had.

Putting the jokes aside, when the ice finally does arrive, many anglers will be more than eager to get out there and start fishing.

Not to dampen their spirit, but we all have to remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe. It takes four inches of good, clear, solid ice to support someone walking and ten or more inches for car or truck travel.

Along with that, we also have to factor in ice variability. In a shallow bay of a lake the ice may be four to six inches thick, and out in deeper water the ice may be only two to three inches thick.

Actually, ice conditions and thickness can vary dramatically on any spot on any given lake. Specific areas to take special note of are lakes with aeration systems working and areas on lakes where there may be a stream inlet or outlet.

For now, what we need is a long stretch of below zero weather, or at least consistent temperatures in the low teens to create ice. In addition to the cold temps a continued period with no snow and very little wind would also help to make good, clear, solid ice.

While we're waiting for that to happen, the best idea is to be safe and wait patiently. We all know the ice will come eventually.

Bag limits for sunfish and crappies will change

In this week's column is a press release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on proposed statewide bag limits for some species of fish.

For some anglers, the biggest news in the release is that the bag limit of six for walleye will not be changing. For most of us and a majority of Minnesota anglers the big news is the reduction in the sunfish bag limit from 30 to 20 and the 15 to 10 reduction in the crappie bag limit.

If the proposals are adopted the new bag limits would take affect beginning with the 2003 fishing season.

All of the proposals will most likely be adopted, and after that is completed, I believe most anglers can expect the DNR to shift its gears to specific lake management. That meaning, don't be surprised if you see more and more lakes with special regulations on bag and slot limits especially for walleye and northern pike.

On a final note before you get into the press release; only time will tell if the changes in limits improve the quality of our fishing in Minnesota.

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, 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 pheasant hunting season in Minnesota closed on Sunday, Dec. 16.

­ With a majority of the hunting seasons over for another year take some extra time to properly store your gear. Storing items like clothing, sleeping bags, tents, etc., properly can add a lot of life to the item. Big plastic storage bins, that can be sealed, are great idea. They are inexpensive and keep you dry and mildew free.

­ If anticipation for the ice fishing season is driving you crazy, take some time to put new line on all of you rods and jiggle sticks. When the season finally does start you will have less tangles and more fun.

­ Remember to update your outdoor journal. Jot down a few notes on the hunting season, where you went, what you did, who you went with. Take special notes of names and phone numbers, conditions, and the time of the season you were there. When next year's season comes around the information you jotted down this year will be invaluable.

­ If you plan on feeding pheasants or other wildlife this winter, please understand that once you start you must continue. As winter moves on wildlife using your feeders will become dependent on it and expect it to be there.

­ Take some time to enjoy the outdoors this holiday season.

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