Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Dec. 29, 2003

Silver Lake walleye - boom or bust

For more than a few weeks I had been hearing fish talk, lots of it, about Silver Lake.

That is right, the Silver Lake in McLeod County that sits next to the city of Silver Lake.

Most of the information I just brushed off, noting that Silver Lake had never been considered an excellent fishing resource.

Although the lake is eutrophic and very fertile, it is very shallow, about 8 feet at it's deepest point, and tends to freeze out on a regular basis.

I had assumed the rumors of anglers catching walleye on Silver Lake were just that - rumors.

Then, Sunday, Dec. 21, I took a drive along the east side of the lake, and into town. To my surprise, the north east corner of the lake was full of anglers.

Enough to create one of those little ice fishing villages that tend to form on lakes where the fish are really biting.

The fish, walleye, were small, but they definitely were biting.

Many of the earlier fish stories I heard indicated the walleye being caught were left overs from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources efforts of walleye rearing in Silver Lake.

Needless to say, all of this info and the fact that anglers were actually catching walleyes on Silver Lake, prompted a call to the DNR's Area Fisheries Office in Hutchinson.

Here's the scoop on the Silver Lake walleye with no fish bologna.

"It's boom or bust on Silver Lake regarding walleye fishing," said Lee Sundmark of the DNR's Area Fisheries Office in Hutchinson.

Sundmark went on to confirm that the DNR does use Silver Lake as a walleye rearing pond.

He also detailed how a good, and low cost, fishing opportunity for walleyes on Silver Lake actually happens.

On years after the lake freezes out the DNR stocks the lake with walleye fry.

After the fry have had the chance to grow to fingerling size, the DNR then traps the fingerlings for stocking into other lakes.

When the success rates of the fingerlings trapping efforts decline, the traps are pulled and the remaining fingerlings are left in the lake.

If the lake doesn't freeze out in the following winter, those fingerling grow, and a year-class of walleyes big enough to catch is created.

Those walleye are typically in the 10 to 15 inch range.

Sundmark also noted there may be some natural reproduction of walleye in Sliver Lake.

If the lake doesn't freeze out this winter, the walleye may grow for a second year, giving anglers a chance to catch 15 to 17 inch fish.

Sundmark sees the current fishing opportunity on Silver Lake as a great thing. "We only stock the lake for rearing after a freeze out. When the lake doesn't freeze out, a low cost, quality fishing opportunity is created."

In agreement with Sundmark, I can only say, go out and get 'em.

The best time to fish is when they're biting.

Snowmobile classes to be offered

A youth and young adult snowmobile safety course will be offered by the Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club and Carver County Sheriff's Office.

Registration for the LP Sportsmen's Club class will be Wednesday, Jan. 7 from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and the first class from 6:30 to8:30 p.m.

Class will also take place Wednesdays, Jan. 14 and 21 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a written and driving test Saturday, Jan. 24.

All residents of Minnesota born after Dec. 31, 1976 must have a snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota. The class is for youth or young adults ages 12 and older.

The fee of the class is $6 for the cost of materials and mailings. A parent/guardian signature is required at registration.

For more information, call Sheldon Ehrke at (320) 395-2344.

The Carver County Sheriff's office will conduct a youth class at Cologne public works headquarters Monday, Jan. 5, Wednesday, Jan. 7, Friday, Jan. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 10 for one hour.

To register, or for more information call (952) 361-1305. Cost of the class is $5. More information may be found at the DNR web site: www. dnr.state.mn.us.

Ice houses left overnight must use reflectors

Ice anglers and snowmobilers are spending more, and more time on the same waterways.

That is prompting Minnesota conservation officers to remind anglers that fish houses, or dark houses, must display two square inches of reflector-type material on each side when left on the ice overnight.

"Ice fishing and snowmobiling are among the most popular Minnesota winter activities, but safety precautions are important given the close proximity in which they both operate," said DNR chief conservation officer Mike Hamm.

"The reflector-type material is intended as a safety measure to reduce snowmobile near misses with shelters."

Hamm says two square inch reflectors and other such materials are very affordable and available at most hardware stores.

"They're a simple, but very effective safety measure that can save lives."

Hamm also urged snowmobilers to be aware of objects such as fish houses, trees, fences, stumps, rocks, logs, and culverts.

Often these objects are partially or completely hidden by snow.

"If you are not alert, you may hit one of these before you ever see it, so drive at a speed which will allow you to stop quickly," Hamm said.

The following regulations apply to fish houses, dark houses, and portable shelters used on all Minnesota waters, unless noted in the 2003 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook.

· All shelters, which include dark houses, fish houses, and portable shelters, placed on the ice of Minnesota waters must have the complete name and complete address or driver's license number of the owner or MDNR number that is issued to the individual through the ELS system plainly and legibly displayed in readily visible locations on the outside in letters and figures at least two inches in height.

· Dark houses, fish houses, and portable shelters placed on the ice for shelter while fishing must be licensed, except that a license is not required on border waters with Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

· Dark houses, fish houses, and portable shelters must have a door that can be opened from the outside at any time when in use.

· No person may erect a dark house, fish house, or shelter within 10 feet of an existing dark house, fish house, or shelter.

· Portable dark houses, fish houses, and shelters may be used for fishing within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), but must be removed from the ice each night. The structure must be removed from the BWCAW each time the occupant leaves the BWCAW.

Winter can be lots of fun, but unfortunately, there are some associated potential dangers, Hamm noted.

"Precautions, such as using reflective materials on fishing shelters or snowmobilers paying extra attention to objects in their path, improves safety for everyone. By following a few tips you can be safe and enjoy the many winter activities in our great outdoors."

Outdoor notes

­ Although the weather warmed up enough last week to create a sloppy mess on most of our area lakes, fishing activity has been high and the bite has been good.

On Lake Mary, anglers are finding good crappie action and a few northern pike.

Waconia has been giving up good numbers of sunfish.

The northern pike action on Howard has been good, and evening crappie bite is just starting to pick up.

­ Sorry, no final wrap up on the pheasant hunting season just yet.

The seasons in Iowa and South Dakota are still underway, and I'm hoping to give it one more crack.

­ Don't forget about new limits for sunfish and crappie.

Although the new limits were instituted this summer, some anglers may need a reminder.

The new limit for sunfish is 20 and for crappie 10.

­ Please note area lakes like Winsted, that are typically aerated every year.

Aerations systems are not in operation yet, but will be very soon.

­ Hunting, fishing and other outdoor related sports are a big part of Minnesota's economy.

Just take a look back a see how much you spent on those outdoor pursuits in 2003.

­ With most of the hunting seasons over for another year, make sure your firearms are put away in secure locked storage.

Ammunition should not be stored or locked in the same location as the firearms.

­ Put new line on your ice fishing rods and jiggle sticks.

Make sure your auger blades are sharp, and don't forget about your shelter or fish house license.

­ With fish houses starting to be put out in good numbers, all fish house owners should make sure heating systems are clean and in good working order.

Houses should be properly ventilated, and propane tanks should always be kept outside the house.

­ Please remember that no ice is ever completely safe.

­ Take some time to get out and enjoy winter. Participating in it makes it go by a lot faster.

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