Snowmobile trails not yet ready for riding; ice not safe

December 8, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Even though the official start of the Minnesota snowmobile season was Dec. 1, several conditions must be met before trails are legally open for travel, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Northeast Regional Trails and Waterways manager Les Ollila.

Snowmobile clubs and trail crews are out working on the trails now, but it could be a few weeks before the trails will be ready.

Those conditions include:
• trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs need to be in place and the gates need to be opened
• landowner permits allowing trails on their land must be in place
• the ground must be frozen allowing for crossings in wet areas; and, even though there have been cold days and many northeastern Minnesota lakes have ice, the ice is not yet thick enough to support snowmobiles or even walking in most cases; the DNR recommends five inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles
• trails must have adequate snow cover for grooming, about 12 inches of snow is considered adequate, since it packs down to an inch or two.

Many snowmobile trails cross private land – landowners give permission for snowmobile use on those trails beginning Dec. 1.

That permission is for snowmobiles only and other uses are trespasses, said Lt. Dave Olsen, DNR Enforcement, Grand Rapids.

“We also caution snowmobile riders about riding on lakes,” Olsen said. “Please stay off of area lakes until there is at least five inches of new, clear ice. Without enough snow on the trails, many riders will be tempted to ride on area lakes. But they are not yet safe for snowmobiles or ATVs.”

Olsen reminds riders to follow the snowmobile safety requirements when riding along public road rights-of-way. “It is illegal to ride on the inside slope, shoulder, and roadway of state or county roads.”

When the trails do open, people should watch for hazards, especially if they are on unfamiliar ground, said Ollila.

Early season trails may have trees fallen across trails, unfrozen areas, rocks or ruts, or closed gates.

Also, road ditches are not always safe, watch for hidden protrusions under grass and snow, such as culverts, signposts, and rocks.

Minnesota has more than 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile registrations, trail pass sales, and the un-refunded gas tax attributed to snowmobile use.

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

Club volunteers do the vast majority of the maintenance. Trail clubs always need more help. They welcome new members to help keep trails open and join in other club activities. Trail users should call ahead, suggested Ollila.

Snowmobilers can also check state trails conditions on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov or by calling 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Trail information and local contacts are on the DNR Web site under maps and contacts and are also on the back of the Minnesota DNR Snowmobile Trails maps which show the snowmobile trails in each of four quadrants of the state (NW, NE, SW, SE). The maps are also on the DNR Web site.

Curly leaf pondweed issue will be on Winsted City Council agenda Dec. 16

The Winsted City Council will include the curly leaf pondweed issue as part of its agenda at the regular council meeting at city hall, Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. Anyone interested may attend.

The 2008 GPS mapping of Winsted Lake recently done by Lake Restoration for the Winsted Lake Watershed Association shows a reduction in curly leaf pondweed after chemically treating the lake last spring.

The 99.6 acres infected by curly leaf pondweed in 2007 was reduced to a total of 85 acres in 2008 after treatment.

Winsted Lake is 376 acres in size.

Those attending the lake association’s meeting last Monday agreed it is necessary to continue the chemical treatment for the next three to four years to keep the curly leaf from spreading.

The lake association’s next steps are to get permission to chemically treat the lake in the spring of 2009 from the DNR and to work out the funding of the project.

Special regulations for smallmouth bass limited to Mississippi River between St. Cloud and Crow River
From the DNR

An experimental regulation credited with turning the Mississippi River between St. Cloud and Anoka County into a world-class smallmouth bass fishery will become permanent but will not be expanded to a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi between the Crow River and Coon Rapids dam, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced.

Statewide, anglers may keep six smallmouths with no size restrictions.

The new special regulation, which limits anglers to three fish and requires the immediate release of all smallmouth bass from 12-to 20-inches in length, will apply to a 45-mile stretch of the Mississippi between the St. Cloud dam and the mouth of the Crow River, including tributaries up to the first road crossing or dam. Only one fish longer than 20 inches will be allowed.

Prior to 1990, when an experimental smallmouth regulation was implemented between Clearwater and Elk River, small fish dominated the river, with very few larger than 16 inches.

In 1999, the experimental portion of the river was extended up to the St. Cloud dam and down to the confluence with the Crow River.

The opportunity to catch quality-sized fish improved significantly since implementing the regulations, and the river has achieved a national reputation among smallmouth anglers.

A 2001-2002 radio telemetry study that showed smallmouth regularly migrating from the regulated to the unregulated stretch of the river led DNR fisheries staff earlier this year to propose applying the harvest restrictions to the entire pool between the St. Cloud and Coon Rapids dams.

A 2007 creel survey also indicated that many anglers were in favor of extending the regulation to the Coon Rapids dam.

But that proposal was met with strong local opposition, prompting the DNR to exclude that 15-mile section of river from the new regulations.

Migration Reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

• Name: Ben Cade
Date: December 3, 2008
Location: Buffalo, MN
Weather: Our temps have been in the teens at night with forecasted lows in the single digits for the next two days.
Snow Cover: None accumulating yet. We have had some snow flurries.

Water Conditions: Shallow lakes are frozen. People have started ice fishing already on some area lakes. Deeper lakes and the rivers remain open.

Feeding Conditions: Birds continue to hit the plowed corn fields. With clear and cold conditions, the geese have turned to once a day feeding. Some flocks are waiting until after shooting hours to fly out to feed.

Species and Numbers: We have a large number of Canada geese in the area as well as a few mallards.

Migrations: Our most recent major push of new birds came with the last cold snap. Watch for new birds with cold temps and north winds.

Season Stage: Our duck season ended on Tuesday.

Hunting Report: Hunting has been difficult due to the cold clear days we have been having. The birds are flying out past shooting time in the evenings in some areas. Hunt all day on cloudy days if possible.

Gossip: Many have turned to ice fishing for the remainder of the season. Late season goose opens up with a five bird limit on Saturday, December 13.

• Name: Richard Shamla
Date: December 3, 2008
Location: Clara City, MN
Weather: Temps in the twenties.
Snow Cover: None, snow moving in today.

Water Conditions: Very few open pockets of water on the river and LQP lake.

Feeding Conditions: Still good feeding in cornfields

Species and Numbers: There are 30,000 geese in the county; some pockets of mallards are still present.

Migrations: Past peak.

Season Stage: Season ended Tuesday, no late season in the LQP area.

Hunting Report: Limits of mallards and geese taken right up to the end of the season.

Snowmobile safety training required for youth, yound adults
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds riders that everyone born after Dec. 31, 1976 must have a snowmobile safety certificate or a snowmobile safety certificate indicator on their driver’s license or Minnesota ID card to operate a snowmobile in the state.

To become certified in snowmobile safety, students must pass a Minnesota snowmobile safety training course, said Lt. Dave Olsen, DNR Enforcement. There are courses for youth and adults.

The youth snowmobile safety course is available to youth ages 11 and older.

The course is at least eight hours long and is taught by DNR-certified volunteer instructors.

The course teaches the basics of safe and responsible snowmobiling, including operating procedures, machine maintenance, rules and regulations, accident prevention, outdoor survival, environmental awareness and a code of ethics. Students must pass a written test and a riding performance test. Fees for the class are usually $5 to $10.

Adult snowmobile safety training is an independent study course on CD. The course is available to people 16 and older. It includes a written test and send-in certification form. A fee covers costs of materials and certification.

For more information on snowmobile safety training and a list of classes, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: How do pheasants and other birds survive the long, cold Minnesota winters?

A: For birds that do not migrate to warm climates during winter, life can be brutal, and survival depends on finding adequate food and shelter.

Survival rates of ground feeders such as pheasants are high during mild winters when deep snow does not persist for more than a few weeks.

On the other hand, 60-90 percent of pheasants die during severe winters like the one we had in 2000-2001.

Persistent, deep snow buries most food and cover.

Pheasant survival during severe winters can be enhanced by providing good cover and a dependable source of food, such as a corn food plot, that is adjacent to shelter.

In contrast, ruffed grouse thrive during winters that are deadly to pheasants.

With deep snow, ruffed grouse use snow burrows to provide shelter from the weather.

Furthermore, ruffed grouse feed on tree buds, which remain available regardless of snow depth.