Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

March 17, 2003

Great time for late ice panfish

From now until the ice is no longer safe can be one of the best times of year to get outside and catch panfish. The weather can be warm, the sun bright, and the action fast.

Right now, lakes like Deer, near Buffalo, Howard, and Henry have been providing some pretty good action. Although the sunfish have been tough to find on Howard, the evening crappie bite on Howard has been excellent. Other lakes like Mary heat up fast as spring moves on and the weather warms up.

The trick is to be very mobile and use very light tackle. Wax worms and magnets on small colorful jigs work the best. If the panfish are finicky, various flies from your fly fishing arsenal can work well and sometimes a plain hook is the best bet.

Some anglers get started by drilling a series of holes, almost like a line or half circle that covers an area of varying depths or stretches out over a weedline or ridge. They move from hole to hole to find the fish.

When a hole doesn't produce, or slows down, they move to another hole. If the area doesn't produce they just pick up, move to a different area, and start the process all over again.

In this process, drilling holes, a lot of them, can sometimes be difficult. Especially if you're heading north, the ice can be thick and may require an extension on the auger. Locally, I doubt the ice is that thick, but on Red Lake. I'm almost sure an auger extension would be needed.

As spring moves on, the ice itself is another factor. When its gray and soft is often when the fish bite the best. That is also when the ice gets dangerous.

The ice usually starts melting from the outside edge of a lake. Many times I've seen anglers throw planks across from the shoreline to good ice to get out there fish. When there's water along the shoreline, it's time to quit ice fishing and wait for open water.

On an average year, late ice panfish action is great from mid-March to very early April, and ice out usually occurs sometime in mid-April.

Remember, this is your last shot of ice fishing at limits of 30 sunfish and 15 crappies per day.

Spring starts this week

The official start of spring is Friday, March 21. Like always, the best part of that message is the end of winter.

The start of spring is marked by equal amounts of darkness and daylight. However, this year March 21 is not the day with 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of daylight. That actually occurs today, March 17. This year the date was off a bit because of the tilt of the earth.

For me, I tend to mark the start of spring with ice out on our area lakes. Either way, spring will soon be here.

Father/Son-Daughter Banquet Friday

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will host it's 24th annual Father/Son-Daughter Banquet Friday, March 21 at Lester Prairie City Hall.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and this year entertainment will be a show on timber wolves provided by the Wildlife Science Center.

Tickets are available from club members and at various Lester Prairie Businesses. Many door prizes donated by local businesses will also be given away including the youth grand door prize of a little red barn.

Lake clean-up

With most of the snow gone off the lakes, and all the fish houses off now is the time to get all the junk from winter cleaned up off our area lakes.

The Winsted Sportsmen's Club hosts an annual lake clean up project, which will be done sometime in the next week or so, and any help they can get is greatly appreciated.

Hog roast and silent auction April 5

The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will hold a fund raising hog roast and silent auction April 5 at the Legion club in Winsted.

The silent auction is for a one-week stay at a cabin in northern Minnesota and bidding sheets will be posted a various locations in Winsted and bidding will begin before the April 5 hog roast. Look for more details on the event and auction in upcoming columns.

Wild turkey leftover licenses again

From the DNR

For applicants who were unsuccessful in the 2003 Minnesota spring wild turkey lottery, leftover licenses are available this year. Wild turkey hunting licenses that remain after the landowner and regular lottery drawings are being offered to unsuccessful applicants at Electronic Licensing System agents beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17. All hunters successful in the lottery should have received their notification by now.

A total of 3,088 permits remain from the 25,016 initially offered, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The leftover permits will be available on a first-come, first-sold basis at any ELS license agent beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17, until all are sold.

In addition to ELS point-of-sale agents, the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us will have a link to the ELS-Internet License Agent that will begin providing access to the surplus spring wild turkey licenses at 5 p.m. on March 17. Due to anticipated high volumes and the surplus turkey license being a complicated transaction, Internet access problems could occur during the first hour.

Because hunting access in many zones is limited, hunters should obtain landowner permission before getting a leftover permit. The spring turkey hunt consists of eight consecutive five-day seasons from mid-April through late May. Most of the remaining permits are for the later seasons. A total of 44 of the 53 open wild turkey permit areas have some permits available.

Only applicants who were unsuccessful in the spring 2003 turkey hunt lottery may obtain these licenses. A person who obtains a leftover permit does not lose any existing preference for future lottery drawings. There is no additional application fee, but hunters obtaining leftover permits must pay the regular turkey hunting license and stamp fees. All license sales are final; there will be no refunds.

People may check where leftover licenses are available or the status of their lottery applications on the Internet at www.dnr.state.mn.us. On the DNR's home page, click on "Outdoor Activities and Places," click on "Hunting" and then click on the wild turkey photograph.

New fish limits take effect May 10

From the DNR

New limits for crappie, sunfish, lake trout and catfish will take effect on May 10, which is the 2003 fishing opener.

Daily and possession crappie limits will go from 15 to 10, sunfish from 30 to 20, and lake trout from three to two. The catfish limits will remain at five, but only one may be more than 24 inches and only two may be flathead catfish.

There has been confusion among anglers because the start date for the new regulations is not listed in the 2003 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Book, said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, program manager for the DNR Division of Fisheries.

"We want to be clear that the new regulations for crappie, sunfish, lake trout and catfish take effect on May 10," Erickson-Eastwood said.

The limit changes are the result of extensive biological analysis and public input that began about two years ago. During the public input process, the DNR received more than 5,000 comments and held 19 public meetings statewide.

Outdoor notes

­ Don't forget to purchase your new 2003 Minnesota fishing license. Your 2002 license expired Feb. 28.

­ Remember that no ice is ever completely safe. Parents of young children should be especially aware of ice conditions and note that ice conditions at this time of year can change dramatically in a very short time.

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at Tom's Corner Bar in

Winsted. The agenda includes final details on the hog roast event. The club will also host its annual wood duck house building event on Tuesday, March 18.

­ Minnesota Archers Alliance 25M will host its first indoor state championships Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23 at the Lester Prairie High School gym.

Shooting begins at 10 a.m. To register call Bryan Helland at (952) 472-1144.

­ As the snow melts and the water starts running, the ground also gets very soft. With that note, ATV users should be very cautious not to damage property and not ride in areas where the ground will be damaged from ATV use.

Like many other outdoor activities, one bad apple can ruin it for many, and at this time atvs are under much scrutiny from the public. Good and proper use now will ensure good and proper use in the future.

­ Look for ducks and geese to start arriving in our area very soon. Several flocks of Canada geese are already back in the area. Also, as the ice begins to melt, look for migrating bald eagles in our area. Bald eagles tend to follow the ice outline on their way north.

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