Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Feb. 28, 2005

Last day to remove fishhouses

Today, Monday, Feb. 28, is the last day to remove fishhouses from lakes in our area.

Portable houses may still be used, but houses must not be left overnight, or unattended on the ice.

With the ice fishing season winding down, and houses having to be removed from the ice, all anglers, especially those with houses, should remember to clean up all their garbage and leave nothing behind.

Several local anglers noted problems of fishhouses froze three to four inches into the ice, and that some fish house owners may have problems getting their houses off the lakes.

Writing from experience, if your fish house is froze in, it’s just a matter of some chiseling, chopping, and hard work to get it out in one piece.

Here are a few tips:

• Warm your house up by turning the heater on a good five to six hours before you try lifting it, or moving it.

• Make sure your chisel is sharp.

• Have a few good, heavy duty, and long pry bars with and plenty of blocking. A heavy chain or tow rope helps too.

• Use small pieces of carpet or mats to stand or work on. They’ll keep you from slipping and sliding and are great to kneel on.

• Bring plenty of help and start early in the day just in case. You don’t want to pull your fish house home in the dark if you don’t have to.

• Finally, do your part in helping to keep our area lakes clean. If you find some garbage on the lake or at the landing, pick it up and take it with you.

Waterfowl and wetlands rally

If you’re concerned about the current state of ducks and wetland habitat in Minnesota, I’m urging you to attend the Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean Water Rally at the capitol mall in St. Paul Sat., April 2. The rally begins at 1 p.m.

The purpose of the rally is to get the ball rolling in developing a new commitment, and new way of taking care of our wetlands, water, and wildlife populations. Without question, a new policy and legislative agenda is needed to improve the situation in the short and long term.

Locally, a simple look at our shallow lakes tells the tale of wetland drainage, poor management, and decline in local duck numbers.

Most of these lakes, which we have many in our area, are now deeper, have a large amount of silt covering the bottom, little or no aquatic vegetation, aside from maybe a ring of cattails on the shore line, and are filled with carp.

They are no longer waterfowl producing wetlands or waterfowl feeding or staging areas because they no longer provide what waterfowl need, ample cover for nesting, food via vegetation and invertebrates, and clean water.

Today, I call these lakes inbetweeners, because they are too deep and open for ducks, and not deep enough for game fish.

Basically, they have turned into a good place to get rid of water and run off from farm fields, country homes, and city streets.

On a positive note, it’s not too late to make a change. Locally, major efforts have been made by groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club to improve and enhance Smith Lake, located west of Howard Lake.

Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited

The Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will celebrate its 25th anniversary at their annual banquet Tuesday, April 12.

The chapter, based out of Howard Lake, has been going strong for 25 years and is one of the top 100 fund raising chapters in the nation.

For more information – or to attend the banquet – give Ken Durdahl a call at 320-543-3372.

Membership drive and wild game feed

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will host a potluck wild game feed at the club house, located one mile south west of Lester Prairie on McLeod County Road 1, Monday evening April 4.

Club officers are asking those attending to bring a dish to share, a friend, and to consider becoming part of the club. Beverages and desert will be provided.

Not too early to make camping reservations at Minnesota state parks

From the DNR

Although snow still covers the ground in most places throughout the state, a large contingent of outdoor enthusiasts will be poised to make their camping reservations in Minnesota state parks in the coming days since, for the first time, they will be able to choose which site they want to reserve.

For those making plans for Memorial Weekend, the first day reservations will be taken was Feb. 26.

“This year campers are able to make site-specific reservations for campsites in Minnesota state park campgrounds,” said Steve Anderson, park operations coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Parks and Recreation.

Campers can make reservations for campsites 90 days in advance of their arrival date.

I’m sure that the opportunity to reserve their favorite site will likely prompt a lot of campers to make a reservation by phone or online as soon as the 90-day window allows.

By going online or making a call to the reservation service, customers will be able to find out if their favorite campsite is among those that can be reserved in advance, check when the site is available and reserve it for their getaway.

For customers who may not be able to plan ahead or prefer not to make reservations, up to 30 percent of campsites in state parks will continue to be kept available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Other improvements made to the system include shortening the lead time for making last-minute camping and lodging reservations.

Customers now will be able to make reservations a minimum of two (instead of three) days ahead of the arrival date if payment is made by credit card.

If payment is made by check or money order, the shortest lead time for making reservations is 10 days in advance.

“In order to streamline the registration process at the park,” Anderson explained, “the non-refundable reservation fee of $8.50 and camping fees for the full length of the stay are due at the time the camping reservation is made.”

This policy also applies to camper cabin rental that will require the reservation fee of $8.50 and the fees for the full length of stay be paid when the reservation is made.

With a prepaid reservation, customers who arrive at the park when the park office isn’t open can proceed directly to the specific campsite or camper cabin they have reserved.

As in the past, customers will be able to make reservations for tours at Soudan Underground Mine, Mystery Cave at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, and Hill Annex Mine State Park up to 90 days in advance.

Customers still will be able to reserve up to 10 tickets for one non-refundable reservation fee of $8.50 per tour.

Lodging and group camp reservations are accepted up to a year in advance.

For lodging, one night’s lodging fee is due when the reservation is made. The $8.50 non-refundable reservation fee is included in the deposit. Any remaining balance due will be paid upon arrival at the park.

For group camps, a deposit of one night’s camping and the $8.50 reservation fee must be paid when the reservation is made. Both these group camp fees are non-refundable.

Reservations can be made online at www.stayatmnparks.com or by calling 1-866-85PARKS (1-866-857-2757) toll free in the United States and Canada.

The TDD toll free number is 1-866-290-2267. The international number is 1-605-718-3030.

Operators are on duty seven days a week from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., CST.

For more information or a free brochure that includes reservation information and fees, contact the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR, or visit the state park pages on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Conservation officers’ tales

From the DNR

• An odd way to learn

Lt. Norm Floden stopped an ATV operating on the city bike trail near Perham when the male operator ignored the “no motor vehicles on trail” sign.

The man said his ATV wasn’t running properly and he thought it would run better on the bike trail.

Floden asked how the man was going to get back into town where he lived. He said he would drive in the road ditch along CH8.

Floden pointed out that the snow was fairly deep in the ditch but the man said he could do it. Floden drove away, but minutes later he saw the ATV operator driving on the shoulder of CH8 at about 40 mph.

When stopped again the man was ticketed for ATV operation on a county highway.

When they talked about the registration on his ATV the man said he had gotten a ticket once for operating an unregistered snowmobile and wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Fortunately, his ATV registration was current. Maybe that’s how he learns. Try it, if you get a ticket, change!

• Repeat performance

Working snowmobile trail enforcement CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) cited an individual for operating a snowmobile without current registration.

Eighteen minutes later CO Kuske stopped the same individual going 72mph on the trail. Another citation was issued.

The individual told the officer that he had had enough and was going to go home for the rest of the day.

• Too late for an apology

CO Dale Ebel (Duluth) reports two ladies had tried to hide the fact that they had been skiing on a trail.

Another skier told the officer they had seen the women take their skis off and walk down the trail and into the deep snow.

Ebel watched the two young ladies walk into the parking lot, had a brief conversation with them and then let them drive off.

Minutes later CO Ebel observed both ladies carrying their skis, which they had hidden in the snow alongside the road.

One apologized and felt embarrassed. Both were educated.

• Sofa surfing

CO Gary Forsberg (Fergus Falls) reports while on the Red River he came across a group that was towing a sofa.

When asked, they said they were sofa surfing. Two people rode on the sofa while the other was driving.

They were told that when done with the sofa surfing activities, the sofa should surf home along with them when they were done and not be left behind on the river.

• The results of driving on bad ice

CO Tyler Quandt (Red Wing) reports a vehicle went through the ice on Lake Pepin near Frontenac.

The driver said he knew the ice was bad so he was driving with his seat belt off and his windows open.

The vehicle went down in about 20 feet of water after dark. Both the driver and the passenger found there way out of the water.

• Let’s see if you’re that comfortable in court

CO Karl Hadrits (Crosby) reports three youths will be making an appearance in juvenile court for driving snowmobiles over rough terrain in excess of 80 mph.

The youngest of the three had just turned 13-years-old, and another of the three told the officer he felt “very comfortable” driving that fast.

It was no surprise that they had not taken safety training, another violation.

• “Friends” leave man drunk, passed out in fishhouse

CO Dan Perron (Onamia) was called out at 2 am on a Sunday morning to look for a reported missing fisherman on Mille Lacs Lake.

Friends reported him missing after they left him drunk and passed out in a fish house. When they returned he was gone.

After a three-hour search with CO’s, Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputies and the State Patrol helicopter it turned out the man had returned the Twin Cities.

• Snowmobiler forced off trail rescued three hours later

CO Marty Stage (Babbitt) assisted deputies and Finland Rescue with a snowmobile accident victim search and recovery.

The person was forced off the trail by a trail speeder.

The guy who caused the accident reportedly turned around and saw the victim go off the trail into the trees. He then sped off without assisting.

The victim lay in the snow for almost three hours before the rescuers found him.

• Domestic call leads to stolen snowmobile

CO Brent Speldrich (McGregor) assisted the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department with a domestic in Jacobson.

During the investigation, he discovered that a snowmobile that the suspect had been operating was stolen. The sled had been reported stolen back in February of 2004.

• Bad luck

While CO Greg Oldakowski (Wadena) was checking a group of legal coyote hunters when two coyotes ran out.

The hunters shot, but missed. They joked that the officer was bad luck because they missed, but they were reminded that the CO brought the coyotes to them, and they failed to do their part.

• Fish house tattoos

CO Luke Croatt (Wealthwood) reports an unusual incident encountered with a person getting a tattoo put on in a fish house by a friend.

They asked the officer if he wanted a tattoo, but he explained it would not be in his best interest to return home with one.

Outdoor notes

• Last week I again got several calls about trespass complaints regarding coyote hunters.

The answer is simple, private land is private land, and you cannot enter it with out permission from the owner.

Remember, please ask before you enter private land. In our area, more people, higher property values, and a changing rural lifestyle, have made access to private land more difficult and more sensitive.

• Look for great, late ice pan fish action on many lakes in our area. Give Lake Mary a try when the days heat up, so do the sunfish.

• The days are getting longer in a big hurry and the first day of spring is Sunday, March 20.

• The spring hunting season for lesser snow geese in Minnesota opens Tuesday, March 1.

• Last week I received another report on cougar tracks found in the snow in the Winsted area.

• Get ready for ice out. Last year just after ice out, and in early spring, the fishing on many of our area lakes was excellent. Be ready for it, ice out could only be a few weeks away.

• Take a kid fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you.

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