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Early ice and late season pheasants

December 7, 2009

by Chris Schultz

With cold nighttime temperatures that dipped into single digits, many of the small potholes and sloughs froze over late last week.

Smaller lakes and larger bodies of water were still open as of Friday.

If the weather stays cold, smaller lakes could be frozen over by the end of the week and although a slow start, the ice fishing season could be off and rolling, at least for the most aggressive anglers.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends at least 4 inches of good solid ice for ice anglers walking out on their favorite lake.

With safety first, early ice anglers, even those with many years of experience, need to remember that ice conditions do vary from lake to lake and can vary greatly across any one lake.

In a secluded bay, there may be 5 inches of ice, just a short distance away there may be only 2 inches of ice, and towards the middle of the lake, there may still be open water.

Ice conditions do vary, especially during the early stages of the season.

Lakes in our area that typically produce well early in the season for walk out anglers include Buffalo, Jenny, Dutch, Pelican, Sarah, and on certain years, Silver Lake, next to the city of Silver Lake.

If early ice action isn’t for you, the south fork of the Crow River did produce a few walleyes and one northern pike for me in about an hour of fishing a week ago.

The fish hit the typical river set-up I use, a yellow floating jig head, weighted about a foot away from the jig, tipped with a fathead minnow.

Late season pheasant hunting has also been good. With the freeze last week, farmers got into those low areas and now, almost all the corn is off the fields.

Hunters heading to public areas locally and in western and southwestern Minnesota where they know corn adjacent to the public hunting area came off the field late in the season, are experiencing excellent hunting.

The ability for hunters to walk on frozen sloughs is also a plus.

Also, Dec. 1 the bag limits for pheasants in Minnesota changed.

Hunters can now bag three birds per day with nine in possession.

The limit prior to Dec. 1 was two roosters per day with six in possession.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

Name: Ben Cade
Date: Dec. 1, 2009
Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: Highs in the mid-40s, lows in the mid-20s.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Some of the smaller wetlands in the area have been icing over during the overnight hours. All lakes and rivers are currently open.

Feeding Conditions: Most area fields are down with the exception of a few standing corn fields. Birds have been hitting the chisel plowed corn fields in the area.

Species and Numbers: Duck numbers are very low. We have a few groups of geese around, however much of the bigger groups seem to be coming through out in western Minnesota.

Migrations: We have had a lot of birds move out of the area with the north-west winds over the Thanksgiving holiday. I have not seen much for new birds moving in; however I have heard reports of several new flocks.

Season Stage: The duck season ended today (Dec. 1). Geese are open through Friday, Dec. 11, and late season hunting begins Saturday, Dec. 12.

Hunting Report: Hunting has been poor recently with birds becoming difficult to decoy mostly due to their lack of feeding interest. Many guys have stored their equipment until late season hunting opens up Saturday, Dec. 12.

Gossip: Many waterfowl hunter’s concerns have been validated now that the duck season is over. Our season ended before the large groups of birds arrived due to the warm weather.

DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warns ice anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts to use caution when going onto any lake covered or partially covered with ice, especially those that feature aeration systems.

”Open water areas created by aeration systems can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions,” said Marilyn Danks, DNR aquatic biologist. “Leaks may develop in air lines creating other areas of weak ice or open water.”

About 285 Minnesota lakes will have aeration systems operating this winter.

Private hatchery operators also use aeration systems, usually on small lakes without public accesses.

Aeration systems generally operate from the time lakes freeze until ice break-up in the spring.

They help prevent winterkill of fish, but they also create areas of open water and thin ice, which are significant hazards.

Both “Thin Ice” and Warning” signs are used to identify aerated lakes.

The person who applies for a permit is required to maintain “Warning” signs at all commonly used access points to the lake.

This sign warns people approaching the lake that an aeration system is in operation and to use extreme caution.

“Thin Ice” signs are used to mark the perimeter of the thin ice and open water area.

These signs are diamond shaped with an orange border and white background with the warning “Thin Ice” in bold print.

It is the permittee’s responsibility to post and maintain “Thin Ice” signs at 100-foot intervals.

Some municipalities may have ordinances which prohibit entering into the marked area and/or prohibit the night use of motorized vehicles on lakes with aeration systems in operation.

These local regulations are often posted at accesses where they apply.

Aeration systems are inspected for safety and compliance with regulations by permittees and DNR personnel.

For more information call a regional fisheries office or the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

The following is a list of area lakes that will likely have aeration systems in operation this winter.

When there are lakes in the county with the same name as the aerated lake, the nearest town is shown in brackets.

Names in parentheses are alternate lake names.

• Carver: Eagle, Oak, Susan.

• Stearns: Becker, Black Oak, Dullinger, Marie (Maria) [Kimball].

• Wright: Augusta, Crawford, Dean, Little Waverly, Louisa, Mink, Somers.

• McLeod: Marion, Swan [Silver Lake], Winsted.

• Meeker: Star, Thompson.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Now is the time of year when animals start looking for winter shelter. What is the best way to keep bats out of my house?

A: The first step in excluding bats is to locate the entry points to your house.

Bats can enter through holes as small as three-quarter inches, the diameter of a dime.

Typical entry points include chimneys, louver fans, air intakes, exhaust vents, openings around plumbing, power or cable lines, spaces around doors and windows, and where exterior siding has shrank, warped or loosened.

Close inspection during the day will help determine the exact location of these entry points.

Caulk, weatherstripping, insulation materials, screening, steel wool, or even duct tape can be used to close these and other entry points.

Efforts to bat-proof your home will also often improve its energy efficiency.

Another good way to keep bats out of the interior of your home is to make sure doors to attics and basements are well sealed, and that dampers are kept closed when the chimney is not in use.