Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

December 4, 2006

It finally could be the year local ice anglers have been waiting for

For a majority of the last seven or so years local ice fishing has gotten off to a rocky, and late, start, mostly due to poor ice conditions as a result of warm November and early December temperatures, rain, and untimely snow falls.

In 2001, Howard Lake didn’t freeze over until Dec. 20. That tied a record set in 1998 for the latest ice-over ever recorded on Howard Lake.

In reality, it’s been awhile since local ice fishing got off to a fast, solid start with good ice conditions, and a majority of big houses out on the ice by Christmas.

When the ice is solid and a good eight to 12 inches thick by Dec. 22 or 23 the ice fishing activity on our local lakes really booms over the holidays, and really seems to give the sport, and a good chunk of the lakes, a life of their own.

For example, when the early ice walleye bite hits on Buffalo, it’s a lot more fun when the ice is a solid four to six inches rather than two to four inches of slushy snow covered ice.

This year, although many of our area lakes have frozen over and reopened again because of warm temps a few weeks ago, is shaping up to be the year many ice anglers have been waiting for.

Howard Lake officially froze over for the year Thursday evening, Nov. 30, and if current conditions continue, no snow or rain with near zero temps at night and day time highs in the 20’s, we could have good, solid ice on most lakes in the area within a week, and a good eight or more inches of ice by Christmas.

If that happened, it might even motivate me to purchase a larger non-collapsible fish house again.

Before I move on to a few early ice hot spots, please pay attention to lakes where aeration systems may be in place, and remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe.

First of all give the bait shops like All Seasons, or Joe’s a call before you head out for some early ice action.

They’ll give you the best information available on local ice conditions.

With that done, head to Jenny, Collinwood, and Buffalo for early ice walleye.

Give Howard, Winsted, and Big Waverly a try for crappies, or head to Ramsey, Granite, or Waconia for sunfish.

Keep your tackle light, your auger blades sharp, be mobile, and be safe rather than sorry.

Good luck and, hopefully, this season will bring good ice conditions, good fishing, and a lot of winter fun.

Pheasants Forever corn giveaway Dec. 9

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway to feed pheasants and other wildlife Saturday, Dec. 9 from 8 to 11 a.m. at Lampi’s Auction located at Hwy. 55 and Wright Co. Rd. 6.

Please bring your own containers. Quantities may be limited due to demand.

For additional information, call (320) 274-CORN (2676).

If you would like to volunteer to assist with this event or any other events, contact Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

Turn in Poachers turns 25
From the DNR

For 25 years, their tips have helped state conservation officers apprehend thousands of violators while protecting and preserving Minnesota’s natural resources.

Turn In Poachers (TIP) was formed in September 1981 by a group of concerned citizens and conservationist to curb the illegal harvest of game and fish in Minnesota. Calls today also include wetlands, all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile violations.

Retired Conservation Officer Pat McGuire said from his Florida home that he wasn’t sure the program would initially succeed here.

“DNR Commissioner Joe Alexander had a flyer about an anti-poaching program in Colorado which he provided to Enforcement Chief Dick Tart,” McGuire said. “Chief Tart asked what I thought of the program and I told him that it would never fly in Minnesota. But Joe and Dick felt differently and I was asked to get one started.”

Not one to pass up a challenge, McGuire spent months researching anti-poaching programs that were operating in other states.

He also went into the field and met with a number of sportsmen’s organizations. There was a lot of interest.

“I went back to Joe and Dick to discuss how we thought it should be operated in Minnesota,” McGuire said. “We thought it should be a stand alone program that worked very closely with the DNR, but not for it, so we hand picked the first board, ran a naming contest and TIP was born. We then went to the then six regional enforcement supervisors and began holding fund-raising banquets in each region...that’s how it all got started.”

TIP Inc. is a nonprofit, privately funded 501©3 organization. People can report violations anonymously by calling the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-652-9093 or #TIP on their cell phone.

Calls leading to an arrest are furnished cash awards ranging from $25 to $1,000.

However, most people offered the reward turn it down because they view it as their way of protecting the resource.

From 1981-2005, 24,000 TIP calls have been referred to state conservation officers leading to nearly 7,200 arrests.

TIP rewards paid out since inception total about $320,000.

Some amazing numbers for an organization staffed by a 20-person volunteer board of directors, 10 TIP chapters around the state and thousands of callers who cherish Minnesota’s outdoors, noted Al Thomas, executive director of TIP.

“Everyone assumes we are part of the DNR or we receive state funding, but that’s not the case,” said Thomas. “As a nonprofit, we ask volunteers to help raise funds through banquets and ask the outdoor community to join TIP with a membership. This is how we raise the funds to carry out our programs and supply conservation officers with more eyes and ears in the field.”

Here are some recent examples of how TIP calls have helped DNR Enforcement.

Conservation Officer Jason Peterson of Eagan received a call concerning some anglers being over the limit.

An angler in the case was charged with being 257 sunfish and 79 bass over the limit. Restitution for the fish totals $3,655.

The Burnsville man also faces a possible fine of $3,000 and one year in jail.

Additional charges may be filed against other anglers as the investigation continues.

In another case, six juveniles and a teenage adult were charged with 43 gross misdemeanors and 26 misdemeanors in connection with using artificial lights to illegally shoot deer from roadways in rural Winona County.

Also Conservation Officer Karl Hadrits of Crosby reported that prompt action and a phone call led to the arrest of an individual who killed a buck with a pistol while bow hunting.

The caller’s vehicle was parked along the narrow trail and the violator attempted to escape by first trying to drag the vehicle out of the way, and then rammed it out of the way with his own vehicle before fleeing the area.

The violator was arrested and jailed on an outstanding warrant, and faces numerous charges and restitution in the incident.

A vehicle, the deer, a pistol and a bow were seized and subject to confiscation.

“Cases such as these go to show the importance of TIP in protecting and preserving our natural resources,” said Mike Hamm, DNR Enforcement Division chief. “They also show how invaluable TIP, its programs and its volunteers are to our field officers, and the importance of law-abiding outdoorsmen and women willing to make the calls.”
Col. Hamm also praised the State Patrol Dispatchers and DNR Enforcement employees who answer the TIP line.

McGuire says the cooperation of many has been the case since TIP was formed.

“I would bet that you couldn’t find a more dedicated group anywhere in the state,” McGuire said. “The TIP program was the highlight of my 28 years as a conservation officer. It was a lot of fun to start a program and watch it grow, not because we knew what we were doing, but because it is such a great program.”

Winter is here . . . Well, almost
From the DNR

• Ice Conditions Change Quickly

There is nothing more fascinating to kids than checking ice at the edges of lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks. But, this activity can be dangerous.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges parents to be especially careful of kids playing near water and ice, even the water and ice in ditches. What was safe yesterday may not be safe today.

“Ice freezes and thaws quickly when the temperature hovers around the freezing point”, said Ken Soring, DNR Enforcement. Ice may seem thick enough to support a person, but it is not strong ice at this time of the year.

The DNR recommends the following ice depths: eight inches of new clear ice for small to medium sized cars, SUVs and pickup trucks, five inches for ATVs, and four inches for people.

Be on the safe side; keep kids away from water and ice.

For more information on ice safety, contact the Minnesota DNR at 651-296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367). Those with Internet access can go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice.

• Muzzleloader Hunters Will Be In The Forests Until December 10

* Hunters, skiers, snowmobilers, others share the forest

* Unsuccessful firearms hunters can upgrade to all-season license

The deer muzzleloader season is open from Saturday, November 25, 2006, through Sunday, December 10, 2006.

The number of muzzleloader hunters has increased over the years, so other winter forest users like snowmobilers and cross-country skiers are seeing them in the forest.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges forest users to wear orange when using forestlands where muzzleloader hunters may be hunting.

Many hunters are asking the DNR whether an unsuccessful hunter in the deer firearms season may purchase a muzzleloader license and hunt during that season.

A deer firearms hunter cannot purchase a muzzleloader license in addition to the firearms license; however, a deer firearms hunter can upgrade to an all-season license if their original license tags were not filled.

The all-season license may be purchased by turning in the original, unused firearms tags.

An all season license costs $78 and a firearms license $26.

The hunter would need to pay the difference when upgrading to an all-season license, plus a $6 filing fee.

• Snowmobile Trails Not Ready For Riding

“Snowmobile trails open in early December depending on weather and maintenance conditions. Each year, some snowmobile enthusiasts take to the trails after the first snowfall, but many trails are not yet ready for riding”, said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Regional Trails Supervisor, Les Ollila.

Before opening for travel several conditions must be met:

– Trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs need to be in place and the gates need to be opened. DNR staff and snowmobile club volunteers are working on these tasks now.

– The landowner permits that allow the trails on their land must be in place.

– The ground needs to be frozen allowing for crossings in wet areas.

Even though we have had a few cold days and many Northeastern Minnesota lakes have ice, the ice is not yet thick enough to support snowmobiles. The DNR recommends 5 inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.

– There is not enough snow for grooming trails. Adequate snow cover, about 12 inches, is necessary to allow for packing and grooming the trails.

DNR urges trail users to call local snowmobile trail clubs or chambers of commerce before heading to the trail. Or, they can check state trails conditions on the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/snowmobile or by calling 1-888-MINN-DNR.

Minnesota has over 17,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile license fees and a representative portion of the un-refunded gas tax.

Donations, fundraisers, and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate trails.

Trail clubs welcome new members to help keep trails open and to participate in other club activities.

Most snowmobile trails are not open to ATV or any other uses.

Unauthorized uses of trails are trespasses.

• Snowmobile Safety Training Requirements

Everyone born after December 31, 1976, must have a snowmobile safety certificate, or snowmobile safety certificate indicator, on his/her driver’s license or on his/her Minnesota ID card to operate a snowmobile in Minnesota.

To become certified in snowmobile safety, students must pass a Minnesota snowmobile safety-training course.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges youth to sign up early for the courses. Some classes have already filled.

The Youth Snowmobile Safety Course is available to youth ages 11 years and older. This course is at least 8 hours in length and is taught by DNR certified volunteer instructors.

The course teaches the basics of safe and responsible snowmobiling.
It covers operating procedures, machine maintenance, rules and regulations, accident prevention, outdoor survival, environmental awareness, and a code of ethics.

The student must pass both a written test and a riding performance test.

A fee will be charged to cover the cost of materials and certification.

Adult Snowmobile Safety Training is an independent study course on CD. The course is available to people 16 and older.

The course is designed for multiple users and includes a written test and send-in certification form.

A fee will be charged to cover costs of material and certification.

Youth classes are taught by certified volunteer instructors, usually between November and March. Courses are announced in communities through schools and the media.

To receive the Adult Snowmobile Safety Training CD, check the DNR web site www.dnr.state.mn.us/vehicle/snowmobile or call the DNR Information Center 1-888-646-6367.

Outdoor notes

• I haven’t compiled local deer registration numbers yet, but it seems local deer hunting was typical, to, maybe, better than the pretty good hunting we have become accustomed to.

Joe’s Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported similar registration numbers to the 2004 season of about 120 to 130 deer registered during the first weekend of hunting and about 75 registered for the second season of local hunting.

Joe’s noted many small deer were taken this year, and several hunters indicated they didn’t see the number of deer they expected even though their hunting parties had good harvest success rates.

Several other hunters noted to me, that access to good deer habitat and deer hunting locations is having an impact on the harvest in our area.

• There is still almost a month of pheasant hunting left in Minnesota and most reports indicate that hunting pressure has dropped off, and there’s still some good hunting left.

Look for the combination of harvested corn fields, and cattails, and you will find birds.

Also, early morning scouting for birds before the 9 a.m. start is a big help in finding late season roosters.

• In 2006, the ice left Howard Lake on April 7.

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

• With the hunting season just about over for another year please remember to properly store and lock your firearms and ammunition.

• Remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe.

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

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