Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

December 24, 2007

A holiday tradition

For many, ice fishing and spending time with family and friends on a frozen lake is a part of life around here; for some it’s tradition.

When I was growing up, and along with my twin sister, ice fishing on Christmas Eve day with our dad was as much a part of the Christmas holiday as putting out hay for the reindeer and even opening presents.

Growing up on a dairy farm, it seemed more important to feed the reindeer then it did to feed Santa.

We felt every kid that lived in town would fill Santa up with milk and cookies. Plus, they wouldn’t have anything that reindeer might like to eat.

The dairy farm schedule also had a lot to do with our ice fishing tradition.

Basically, we weren’t evening walleye and crappie anglers. Our fishing was done during the middle of day and focused on sunfish with a few northern pike mixed in.

Thinking back about 30 years, this is how it went. As soon as morning chores were over, dad would load us up in the car, along with plenty of goodies (he had a big sweet tooth), ice fishing gear, and always a new jug of kerosene.

We’d hit the road heading to our old 6’x10’ fish house that was usually on John, Mary, Ida, Dog, or occasionally Lake Ann.

Then, with the typical work done, like lighting the old oil stove and cleaning out the holes for fishing, cooking of hot dogs on the old stove, and munching of all kinds of homemade Christmas goodies would start.

Aside from the smell of the hotdogs and the taste of cookies, I can remember always catching quite a few fish, too.

As the day moved along and headed to late afternoon, we would pack up and head home for chores, church, and a Christmas Eve party that included opening a few gifts Santa left while we were gone ice fishing.

As the years moved along, my sister and I learned the main reason for the ice fishing adventure was to simply get all of us, including my dad, out of mom’s hair so she and Santa could get all of the things done at our house that needed to be done for Christmas.

Actually, that ice fishing tradition lasted for about 30 years, until my dad’s age and health prevented him from heading to the lake.

The memories are countless, and today, with a 3-year-old son and daughters that are 8 and 9, I’m ready for that tradition to be relived again, because in my mind, there aren’t many things better than going ice fishing with your family and friends.

DNR encourages snowmobilers to drive safely
From the DNR

With some of the best and earliest snow conditions in several years, snowmobilers are hitting trails hard and fast as the 2007-2008 snowmobile season gets underway.

That’s prompting officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue some words of advice that just might save lives.

“Snowmobile operators need to contain their enthusiasm and get this season off to a smooth, safe start by being smart and driving safely,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “Drivers should also be aware of potential hazards, changing conditions and use good judgment.”

Hammer said DNR Snowmobile Safety Training is the best place for people to start their winter snowmobiling season.

To legally ride a snowmobile, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate. There are two ways to get a certificate.

First, anyone 11 and older can attend a traditional classroom course taught in local communities.

Second, for those 16 or older, a DNR Adult Snowmobile Safety CD-ROM is available.

“With the CD-ROM, people can learn from the comfort of their home, fill out the quizzes/exam and send their results in to be officially certified,” Hammer said.

The CD-ROM and the DNR’s 2006-2007 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, are available from the DNR by phone at (651) 296-6157, toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or by e-mail at info@dnr.state.mn.us.

In addition to snowmobile safety training requirements, snowmobilers should follow these safe riding tips recommended by the DNR, Hammer said.

• Don’t drink

Drinking and driving can be fatal. Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time.

Snowmobilers who have been drinking tend to make poor decisions that can lead to injury or death.

Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

• Slow down

Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents.

Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation.

Remember, when driving at night at speeds of 40 miles per hour and above, drivers will easily “over drive” their headlight and won’t be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

• Be prepared

When traveling, drivers should tell someone where they are going and when they plan to return.

Also, they should make sure to bring a map, a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches/lighter, compass and cell phone.

• Stay alert

Fatigue can reduce the driver’s coordination and judgment.

Changing trail conditions are potential hazards that people want to stay alert for to avoid injuries or death.

• Ice advice

Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Always remember that ice is never safe.

• Dress for success

Use a full-size helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, iceand flying debris.

Clothing should be worn in layers and should be just snug enough so that no loose ends can catch in the machine.

• Watch the weather

Rapid weather changes can produce dangerous conditions.

• Bring a buddy

Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury.

The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone.

If a person must travel alone they should tell someone about their destination, planned route and when they will return.

• Report accidents

The operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, hospitalization, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file a written report with the DNR.

Accident reports must be submitted within 10 business days of the accident.

If the operator is killed or is unable to file a report due to incapacitation, any peace officer investigating the accident can file the accident report.

Report forms are available from local law enforcement agencies or on the DNR Web site.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Many areas of Minnesota faced drought conditions earlier this year. Where do we stand now in terms of moisture?

A: Substantial September and October rains flushed away drought concerns in most Minnesota counties.

Soil moisture conditions are now considered adequate, stream flows are near historical averages, and most lakes have rebounded significantly from summer’s low levels.

Just four months ago, one half of Minnesota was burdened with severe to extreme drought.

Presently, moderate drought conditions linger only in a small area of west central and central Minnesota, centered roughly on Wadena.

Outdoor notes

• Reports from many of the lakes in our area indicate varied ice conditions from lake to lake and from one spot on a particular lake to another.

On Big Swan, ice thickness ranged from 8 to 10 inches in most spots to only 3 inches in others.

Anglers have also reported that slush conditions and travel on the lakes have started to improve.

Without question, the ice is not yet safe for heavy vehicle traffic like cars or even light trucks.

• There’s still time to get that last Minnesota pheasant hunting adventure in.

• Many lakes in our area have been producing great crappie fishing so far this winter.

Dog, Collinwood, Diamond, and Clearwater have been good choices.

• Snowmobilers are reminded to stay on the trails and follow speed limits.

In Lester Prairie, the Dakota Rail Line is now a state Grant-in-Aid snowmobile trail from Highway 9 west through Lester Prairie to Eagle Avenue.

• It was reported the front end of a vehicle did break through the ice on Lake Washington last week.

• Have a Merry Christmas and remember to take a kid ice fishing this winter; he or she will have fun and so will you.

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