Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Dec. 31, 2001

Ice fishing season underway on local lakes

It didn't take long, Howard Lake and other lakes in the area completely froze over on or around Thursday, Dec. 20. By Wednesday, Dec. 26, the first small portable fishhouses were already on the lakes.

Although the ice is just barely thick enough for foot traffic and ice angling, the ice fishing season in our area is finally off and rolling.

One angler noted it would have been an awfully long winter if the ice fishing season would have gotten started any later.

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake received reports from a few anglers that there is five to six inches of ice on Howard Lake. However, one spear angler also reported that he ran into an area where his chisel went through the ice in one chop.

Joe's noted that ice conditions are still spotty across lakes in our area, and with continued cold weather, ice conditions and thickness should improve rapidly.

Flipping the pail all the way over, we should note that Howard Lake is one of the bigger lakes in the area and that ice on smaller lakes in the area should be a bit thicker than on Howard.

Smaller, more shallow lakes will typically freeze over and develop ice faster than large, deeper lakes.

A few other points to consider include local lakes that are being aerated, ice conditions near inlets and outlets of creeks, and a strong reminder that it takes at least eight inches of good solid ice to support a small car or light truck. The full-size trucks that many ice anglers drive require 12 to 14 inches of good solid ice.

Basically, don't drive on the ice yet and remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe.

Minnesota firearms deer harvest third highest ever

From the DNR

Despite the unusually warm weather that dominated this year's deer season, the 2001 MInnesota firearms deer harvest was the third highest on record, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Hunters harvested 200,100 deer statewide, an increase of 8,500 deer (4 percent) compared with the very successful 2000 season.

The higher harvest was expected, although preseason expectations were even higher, said Steve Merchant, DNR Forest Wildlife Program leader. He attributed the harvest increase to more antlerless permits offered by the DNR, but said the unusually warm weather throughout the season may have hampered achieving an even larger deer harvest.

"For the second year in a row, the northern forested region is where the increased harvest occurred," Merchant said. "The deer harvest was actually down somewhat in southern Minnesota, especially the southeast."

The harvest by region was:

· Northwest Region: 62,800, up nearly 15 percent

· Northeast Region: 31,437, up about 5 percent

· Central Region: 64,804, up about 3 percent

· Southwest Region: 17,671, nearly unchanged

· Southeast Region: 19,200, down nearly 15 percent

· Twin Cities Metro Region: 4,200, nearly unchanged

Warm weather likely contributed to the somewhat disappointing harvest in southern Minnesota. "Most hunters I talked with agreed that the deer were out there, but the weather was not favorable for deer movement or hunter activity. It was just too warm," Merchant said.

This year's firearms deer harvest total is exceeded only by harvests in 1991, when 206,275 deer were taken, and 1992, when 229,236 deer were taken during the firearms season.

Minnesota's archery deer season continues through Dec. 31. The DNR will issue a final deer harvest report on its Web site at later this winter.

Corn giveaway set

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway for pheasants and wildlife Saturday, Jan. 12, 8 to 11 a.m. at Lampi's Auction, located at Hwy. 55 and Wright County Highway 6.

Quantities may be limited due to demand. For additional information, call 320-274-CORN (2676).

Snowmobile course in January

This is an approximately 11 hour introductory course for youth and young adult, designed for the snowmobiler with little or no experience in snowmobile operations.

The course includes a hands on operating field day. It is available to students ages 12 to 17, and may be taken by individuals over 12 years of age.

Dates for the course are Wednesday, Jan. 9, with registration beginning at 6, class starting at 6:30 p.m. Additional classes will be Wednesday, Jan. 16, and 23, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. class, and Saturday, Jan. 26, TBD (includes testing and driving).

Bring $6 for material and mailing, and a parent or guardian signature. For more information, call Sheldon Ehrke 320-395-2344.

Outdoor notes

­ Sorry, in last week's column I promised a final recap on Minnesota's 2001 pheasant hunting season. Time and a few missing pieces of information kept me from completing that recap this week. I'll do my best to have it next week.

­ There haven't been many super reports of fast action ice fishing. By next week, with more anglers hitting the lakes and drilling holes that could all change. Look for Lake Jenni, Howard, Mary, and Collinwood to be good producers early in the season.

­ Before the ice gets really thick, change the gas in your ice auger and sharpen the blades too.

­ Howard Lake fishing derby, sponsored by the Howard Lake Sportsmen Club, is set for Saturday, Feb. 9, 2 to 4 p.m. on Howard Lake. Grand prize is a King Crow deluxe fish house.

­ Make sure your fish house is safe and ready to go for the season. The stove should be cleaned and in good working order, the house well ventilated, and the propane tank kept outside of the house.

­ For ice fishing success make sure your bait is fresh, you use a clean presentation, and the lightest tackle possible. Picky walleyes and crappies are easier to catch when your line and tackle are light and clean and your knots are small.

­ Dawn and dusk are more often then not the best times to ice fish. If you're a night owl, 2 a.m. can also be a good time to nab crappies.

­ Enjoy the outdoors this winter and have a happy and safe new year.

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