Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

December 3, 2007

The DNR warns of thin ice danger

From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning winter outdoor enthusiasts to stay off any ice less than four inches thick – which is pretty rare in much of Minnesota as of Nov. 27.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, an angler fell through about two inches of ice on Coon Lake, north of the Twin Cities, but was rescued shortly after he went in.

“We checked with our state DNR officers on Monday and none were reporting ice that was consistently walkable, even as far north as International Falls,” said Tim Smalley, DNR water safety specialist.

“The recent cold snap may help improve ice conditions, but people are urged to contact a local baitshop or resort on the lake to check conditions before they go on any ice.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of new clear ice for any foot travel on frozen water bodies.

“While it’s true that slightly less will support an average adult, four inches gives you a little insurance factor since ice thickness can vary greatly on any frozen lake,” Smalley said.

The DNR is also warning parents to caution their children to stay off ponds and streams around their homes that now have a thin coating of ice.

“Many years around the holidays, we receive reports of children falling through ice and drowning, which is just so incredibly tragic,” said Smalley. “Kids are attracted to ice like a magnet. They just don’t have the knowledge of how much ice it takes to support a person nor the understanding of what is or isn’t safe.”

DNR records show that in the last 10 years, 52 people have died falling through the ice in Minnesota and 21 percent of those accidents involved children under 9 years old.

Safety officials recommend that children not go out on the ice without adult supervision, even when conditions improve.

Winter sports enthusiasts can obtain a free packet of ice safety information, including a pamphlet and a minimum ice thickness wallet card, by calling (651) 296-6157 in the Twin Cities area and toll-free in greater Minnesota at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Computer users may send an e-mail to and ask for the free ice safety packet.

Ice safety information is also available by visiting the DNR Web site at

Winter trap league set to begin at Waverly Gun Club

The Waverly Gub Club winter trap league will begin Thursday, Dec. 6.

Teams and individuals are welcome to attend.

If interested, and have any quetions, contact Annette Duske at (763) 658-4586.

Youth snowmobile training hosted by Winsted Sportsman club

The Winsted Sportsman Club will be sponsoring a youth snowmobile training class starting Monday, Dec. 3.

The three classes will be Monday, Dec. 3; Wednesday, Dec. 5; and Monday, Dec. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each night.

The course will be at the Holy Trinity High School cafeteria in Winsted – enter on the south side of the building.

A driving test will follow later, when it snows.

For additional information, or to sign up, contact Harvey at (952) 393-5933 and leave a message.

DNR urges people to complete snowmobile safety training now
From the DNR

With snowmobile season fast approaching, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging people to complete snowmobile safety training now.

“If you wait until the snow arrives before taking snowmobile safety training, you may be too late to enjoy the season,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “Classes fill quickly, and no Snowmobile Safety Certificate, no snowmobiling.”
Hammer said plenty of snowmobile safety training classes are available right now.

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

By taking a snowmobile safety course, Hammer said students learn about the machine, the laws, safe operation, the ethics of the sport, how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a local DNR-certified instructor (11 years old and older) or by CD-ROM (available for those 16 or older).

The Adult CD-ROM is free. The course fee is paid upon completion and is available from the DNR by calling (651) 296-6157, toll-free 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367), or by e-mail

More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state. For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR Web site at or call 1-800-366-8917.

Mille Lacs winter walleye regulation starts Dec. 1
From the DNR

Beginning Dec. 1, Mille Lacs Lake anglers will be allowed to harvest four walleye up to 20 inches in length, with one trophy more than 28 inches allowed in the four-fish limit, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“This has been the standard regulation for the Mille Lacs winter walleye fishery since 2004,” said Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries Section chief. “By leaving the winter regulations unchanged, more restrictive regulations enacted back in July will be removed for the winter season.”

The winter regulation requires anglers to immediately release all walleye between 20 and 28 inches in length.

No individual angler may possess more than four walleye at any time, and each of those fish must meet length restrictions.

DNR officials enacted more restrictive regulations in July to stay within the harvest cap that is set between the state of Minnesota and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Anglers licensed by the state of Minnesota harvested 463,000 pounds of walleye in 2007, which was slightly above the allocation of 449,000 pounds, but still below the 2007 maximum harvest cap of 547,780 pounds.

After unexpectedly low catches of walleye were observed in the assessment netting in September, fisheries managers considered tightening the winter regulations, Payer said.

But the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population contains a wide range of age classes, the fishery appears to have an adequate number of walleye able to spawn and ice fishing typically accounts for only about 10-15 percent of Mille Lacs Lake’s annual walleye harvest.

The Lake Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group, which is comprised of Mille Lacs Lake area resort owners, conservation groups, outdoors clubs, local businesses and public officials, favored the standard winter regulation.

Regulations for the 2008 open water season will be established in February and go into effect with the walleye opener on May 12.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Given the extremely dry summer we had, followed by a wet fall, should we still prune our trees if they need it? If so, when?

A: Good question. If they are already showing signs of decline as a result of the drought, it’s best to wait on any pruning activities – because although pruning is good for trees, it is a temporary stressor, and on top of severe drought, stress may be enough to invite in secondary pests like the two-lined chestnut borer that loves stressed oak trees.

Signs of decline would be late spring leaf-out, early fall color, branch die-back in the tree tops, smaller than usual leaves and/or pale colored leaves.

If these symptoms are present, I’d wait to see if the trees can increase their vigor before being pruned.

If the trees are vigorous with no signs of stress, and have normal color, normal growth, etc, then pruning is fine.

The best time to prune is during the winter when trees are dormant. But it’s hard to tell what’s live wood and what’s dead wood during the winter.

Pruning in fall is the next best time to prune.

Spring is the worst time to prune because the bark is loose and injures easily and because disease agents are in full swing during those cool wet months.

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