Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

December 11, 2006

Ice thickness on area lakes vary

Local reports from Joe’s Sport Shop in Howard Lake and B&P Amaco in Dassel, have the ice thickness on area lakes anywhere from open water yet to eight inches.

Joe’s reports that the ice on area Lakes is anywhere from six to eight inches as of Saturday morning, with a few reports of there still being open water on some parts of certain lakes.

As for B&P, they report that the ice thickness on several area lakes is seven to eight inches.

The ice on Lake Jenny is around eight inches, while Washington and Big Swan both have around seven inches of ice covering them.

Remember to take extra precautions when heading out on the ice, especially early in the season. No ice is every completely safe.

DNR produces new ice fishing podcast
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released the latest in its series of audio programs for outdoor sports enthusiasts titled “Winter Panfishing.”

The 30-minute show was recorded in a MP3 format or podcast that can be downloaded from the DNR’s Web site and listened to on a computer or portable audio device.

The winter panfishing show features ice fishing expert Terry Tuma and DNR ice safety specialist Tim Smalley. DNR Information Officer Steve Carroll serves as the host.

“Terry provides insight on a variety of topics including what panfishing really is, how to dress properly, what equipment is required, and how to find and land panfish,” Smalley said. “I give tips for checking ice thickness and conditions, developing a plan if something goes wrong, why ice anglers should carry a cell phone, and other helpful ice safety do’s and don’ts.”

The DNR has produced a dozen audio programs.

Topics have included ice fishing, early season and fall walleye fishing, crappie fishing, deer hunting, duck hunting, and spring turkey hunting.

Listeners have downloaded the various programs more than 10,000 times.

“Podcasts are a cost-effective way of using technology to deliver information to folks who enjoy outdoor activities like ice fishing,” Smalley said. “And the programs are portable; anglers can listen to the information while driving to their favorite fishing spot or while sitting on a bucket out in the middle of the lake.”

To listen to the program, click on the DNR podcasts link at

Make a set of ice rescue claws
From the DNR

The winter’s first ice is already skimming Minnesota lakes and ponds.

Unfortunately, every year we hear of people drowning because they broke through ice they thought was safe.

“I know most of us think to ourselves, ‘If I fell through, I’ll just climb back onto the solid ice and be just fine,’” said Tim Smalley, water safety specialist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Unfortunately, this can be much easier said than done. First, when you fall through the ice, you’re taken by surprise. If you knew you were going to break through, you wouldn’t have walked there in the first place.”

The sudden shock of plunging into freezing water adds to the confusion and panic, Smalley said. “Cold water saps body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. Just try holding your hand in a cooler full of ice water for more than a few seconds and you’ll see what I mean,” he said.

Then comes the difficult task of climbing out of the cold water onto the surface of the wet and slippery ice.

Unless people have a plan of action for just such emergencies, their chances of getting out safely can be pretty slim.

“There’s no reason that you can’t have a safe and enjoyable time on the ice as long as you follow some basic safety guidelines. For example, don’t walk on new clear ice less than four inches thick and exercise a little common sense,” Smalley said. “Call ahead to a local bait shop or resort. Ask them what the ice conditions are on the particular lake you’re going to, and carry along a set of ice claws to rescue yourself or a buddy.”

People can purchase a set of commercially made ice rescue picks or “claws” from a bait shop or fishing tackle dealer.

Or, if they have a few simple tools and a little skill in the workshop, they can make a set for a couple of dollars for materials.

“This can be a fun project for young budding woodworkers with a little adult supervision,” Smalley noted.

Here is how to make ice rescue picks:

• get two four-inch pieces of wooden doweling the size of a broom handle or a little larger; they should be made out of material that floats in case a person drops the claws

• drive a stout nail into one end of each dowel

• use a file to sharpen the nail heads to a point

• drill a hole into the dowels (in the end opposite the nail) and tie a length of strong cord through the hole so a pick is on each end “jump- rope” fashion; people may also drill a hole in the ends alongside the nails so the nail on the other pick can nest in the hole, keeping both points covered.

The DNR offers this advice to people who fall through the ice.

• keep ice picks in pocket for quick emergency access

• try to remain calm

• turn in the water towards the direction they came from, because that is probably the strongest ice

• dig the points of the picks into the ice and while vigorously kicking feet; pull onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice

• roll away from the area of weak ice; that will distribute weight to help avoid breaking through again

• seek shelter, heat, warm dry clothing and warm, nonalcoholic and noncaffeinated drinks

• have someone should call 911 and seek medical attention if the victim becomes disoriented, has uncontrollable shivering, or exhibits any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia (the life threatening drop in the body’s core temperature).

For more information, contact the Minnesota DNR for free ice safety and hypothermia prevention brochures. In the Twin Cities, call (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or e-mail

Give the gift of hunting and fishing
From the DNR

Consider the gift of a lifetime of hunting or fishing this holiday season.
Lifetime licenses provide a perfect opportunity for adults to pass family hunting and fishing traditions to youngsters.

Buying a youngster a lifetime license also creates an incentive for them to stay involved in the outdoors.

With a lifetime license, hunters and anglers simply need to authorize their participation by obtaining an annual license at no charge.

Residents and nonresidents may purchase lifetime licenses as gifts for children or adults of any age.

“It’s a great way to get kids involved in hunting and fishing at an early age and it keeps them involved as they become adults,” said Pete Skwira, administrative services manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Think of it as an investment in the future of conservation.”

Lifetime fees are based on age at the time of purchase. Fee schedules are available on the DNR Web site and in the hunting and fishing regulations books.

Lifetime hunting licenses may be purchased as a gift without providing proof of completion of a hunter education course at the time of purchase, but the licensee must provide proof of hunter education before the annual license can be issued.

For more information about how to purchase a lifetime license, see the DNR Web site or call (651) 259-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

DNR PRIM maps are a perfect stocking stuffer
From the DNR

Looking for that perfect stocking stuff for a hunter or angler?

Help them find more recreation opportunities with Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The set of 51 PRIM maps, sold separately, identify a wide variety of federal, state and county lands available for public recreation activities such as hunting, camping, hiking and boating.

“PRIM maps are an ideal gift for hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Jason Abraham, DNR information officer. “Minnesotans are fortunate to have so much opportunity for public recreation. These maps make it easy to find access to public nearby areas.”

In Minnesota, there are 1,300 state wildlife management areas, 56 state forests, two national forests, federal waterfowl production areas and county lands.

Not all public lands allow all forms of recreation.

The DNR recommends people check ahead and become familiar with boundaries of public-owned land to avoid inadvertent trespass onto private property.

PRIM maps are available at Minnesota’s Bookstore, the DNR gift shop, and many sporting good stores and Holiday station stores. PRIM maps may also be purchased online at Minnesota’s Bookstore.

Commissioner Gene Merriam to leave DNR
From the DNR

Commissioner Gene Merriam announced today that he would be leaving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when his term ends next month.

“When Governor Pawlenty asked me to take this position four years ago, we agreed on the need to reconnect the DNR with our hunting and fishing stakeholders,” Merriam said. “It was a top priority. I think that has been accomplished.

“I would not have been willing to leave private sector employment to accept the DNR position had I not had a high regard for Governor Pawlenty and shared a common vision with him,” Merriam said, adding, “It has been my pleasure to work with a Governor who cares so much about natural resources and our outdoor heritage.”

During his tenure, Merriam emphasized habitat, access and opportunity.

The state made conservation history as the DNR secured as much bonding money for wildlife management areas in the last four years as in the previous 30 years combined.

The DNR initiated a program for large-scale conservation easements that will keep private timberlands productive, protect forest habitat, and preserve public hunting and other recreational opportunities.

Within the past year, an effort begun in 2003 culminated in the DNR achieving certification of its forestry practices by two independent auditors.

The forest certifications represent objective outside judgment that the DNR forestry management and timber harvest practices are sustainable and environmentally appropriate.

With these awards, Minnesota DNR forestlands became the largest forestry certified land base in the country.

“We have accomplished quite a bit for conservation and natural resources in Minnesota during these four years as we faced daunting challenges in so many areas,” said Merriam. “There is a vision and a plan being implemented. Now the DNR has a strategic Conservation Agenda that provides nearly 100 specific measures of progress, including monitoring of successes and any shortcomings.”

Merriam’s other successful efforts included increased enforcement capacity and an emphasis on fiscal integrity.

After adding more than 50 new conservation officers in the past few years, the number of COs is approaching 200 and is larger than it has been in years. DNR managers have heard Merriam say persistently that the DNR’s myriad sources of funds must be spent in a manner that is consistent with the expectations of those paying into the funds.

Merriam, 62, said, “I have not yet decided on future plans, but I know it will include more opportunity for hunting, fishing, birding, and other outdoor recreation.”

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