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Ice fishing shelter removal dates fast approaching; ice conditions are deteriorating

February 27, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Deadlines for removing fish houses, dark houses and portable shelters from state waterways are rapidly approaching, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Anglers are advised to remove shelters earlier if ice conditions warrant.

Mild winter weather is causing ice conditions to deteriorate rapidly across much of Minnesota.

Shelters located south of Minnesota Highway 200 and US Highway 2 must be removed no later than midnight, Monday, March 5.

Shelters located north of Minnesota Highway 200 and U.S. Highway 2 must be removed no later than midnight, Monday, March 19.

Exceptions are Minnesota-Canada border waters (March 31), Minnesota-Iowa border waters (Feb. 20), Minnesota-South Dakota and North Dakota border waters (March 5), and Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters (March 1).

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials say if shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted and structures may be confiscated and removed, or destroyed by a conservation officer.

After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied or attended.

Storing or leaving shelters on a public access is prohibited.

The DNR’s Enforcement Division director, Col. Jim Konrad, recommends outdoor enthusiasts check ice thickness by using an auger or spud bar before venturing onto a frozen pond, lake or river.

Konrad says ice conditions can vary greatly, and anglers should know about the different types and characteristics of ice.

Slush shows weakening of ice and should be considered a danger sign.

If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, people should stay off.

People should not go on the ice during thaws.

Honeycombed ice, dark snow and dark ice should be avoided.

Ice is generally thinner where there is moving water, such as near inlets and outlets, bridge abutments, islands and other objects that protrude through the ice.

According to information from the DNR Boat and Water Safety Section, a minimum of 4 inches of new, clear ice is necessary for ice fishing; snowmobiling or ATV activity requires at least 5 inches; 8 to 12 inches are needed to support a car or small pickup; 12-15 inches are need for a medium truck.

McLeod County PF spring banquet

The 26th annual McLeod County Pheasants Forever Spring Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, March 24 at the commercial building at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

The program begins at 4 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m., and special events following at 7 p.m.

The deadline for reservations is Friday, March 16.

There will be $25,000 in prizes given away at the banquet.

All profits raised will be spent in McLeod County.

Cost to attend the banquet ranges from $55 to $100.

To register, or for additional information, either call (320) 587-0052 or visit www.McLeodPF.org.

Watertown firearms safety training

Watertown firearms safety training is coming up.

Class registration is Saturday, March 10, from 10 am. to noon, at the Watertown Rod and Gun Club.

Class dates are March 13, 15, 22, 23, 27, and 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m..

Field day will be Saturday, March 31, at 8 a.m.

For additional information, contact Cory at (612) 218-3228, or at WatertownFST@yahoo.com.

Fish and wildlife banquet March 3 in Glencoe

The McLeod Fish and Wildlife Alliance’s 11th annual banquet will be Saturday, March 3 at Pla-Mor Ballroom in Glencoe.

Cash bar and games begin at 3:30 p.m. – dinner will be served at 6 p.m.

Moose population continues to decline
From the DNR

Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, dropping from an estimate of 4,900 in 2011 to 4,230 in 2012, according to the annual aerial survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Estimates from the survey and results from research using radio-collared moose both indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.

Minnesota’s moose population was estimated at 8,840 in 2006 and has trended downward since then.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood.

Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 119 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites.

Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains.

Only 11 deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.

This year’s aerial survey, however, showed some positive trends.

The number of cows accompanied by calves and twin calves increased in 2012, which means more calves can potentially mature into adults.

But the cow and calf ratio, estimated at 36 calves per 100 cows in 2012, remains well below 1990s estimates that likely contribute to a peak population in the early 2000s.

The 2012 survey results also showed the bull-to-cow ratio increased from 2011 to an estimated 108 bulls per 100 cows, indicating that more bulls were available to breed with cows.

• Decision on hunting season to come

While this year’s aerial survey showed improved calf survival and bull-to-cow ratio, the DNR will be evaluating the data and consulting with tribal biologists before making a decision on a 2012 hunting season.

The decision on the season will be announced in the coming weeks.

Last fall, the DNR continued a bulls-only hunting season and cut the number of moose-hunting permits by more than half, from 213 in 2010 to 105.

Although hunting mortality of bulls is not driving the moose population decline, the state’s moose management plan does have science-based triggers for closing the hunting season.

One of those triggers is if the bull-to-cow ratio drops below 0.67 bulls-per-cow for three consecutive years.

While the bull-per-cow ratio dropped to .64 bulls/cow in 2011, it went up this year to 1.08.

• About the aerial survey

DNR wildlife researchers estimate the moose population by conducting an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range.

The surveys, which have been conducted each year since 1960, are based on flying transects in 49 randomly selected plots spread across the Minnesota’s Arrowhead region.

Since 2005, the downward trend in moose numbers, as reflected in the survey data, has been statistically significant.

Moreover, a study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that non-hunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota.

Although the formal study ended in 2008, researchers have continued to monitor non-hunting mortality, which has continued to be high.

A new, two-year study begins in 2013 that will concentrate on identifying disease and parasites that might be responsible for high moose mortality.

Funding for the $600,000 study comes from the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which gets proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery.

The funding, recommended by Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources, has been appropriated by the Minnesota Legislature.

Funding and personnel for the annual DNR aerial survey are also provided by the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority.

A copy of the 2012 aerial survey report is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/moose.

The DNR’s Moose Management and Research Plan, approved in 2011 as a way to possibly identify causes of moose mortality and potentially slow Minnesota’s declining population, is available at www.mndnr.gov/moose.

2011 spring light goose action begins March 1
From the DNR

Interested participants are reminded that the spring conservation action on “light” geese (snow geese, blue-phased snow geese, and the smaller Ross’s goose) will open Thursday, March 1, and run through Monday, April 30.

The action is allowed under a federal conservation order that permits the take of “light” geese during the spring.

A required spring light goose permit may be obtained through any Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) license agent, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

The permits are free, but there is a $3.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit.

No other license, stamp or permit is required to participate.

Customers using the phone will receive a temporary authorization number in lieu of the permit until it is mailed to the applicant.

Internet customers will be able to print their own permit when completing the transaction, and will not receive a permit by mail.

Most regulations that are in place during fall waterfowl season also apply during the spring season, including nontoxic shot requirements and federal baiting regulations.

In addition, all refuges closed to either duck or goose hunting during fall seasons will remain closed during the spring season.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.

No daily or possession limits apply.

Use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns are allowed.

The conservation order season is in place in an effort to reduce the population of snow geese and Ross’s geese that breed in the Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay.

High populations of these birds have caused considerable habitat damage to these fragile ecosystems.

Minnesota has participated in this spring conservation action each year since 2000.

Harvest of light geese has varied from a few hundred to several thousand birds each spring.

“Minnesota is on the extreme eastern edge of the spring migration corridor for snow geese through the Upper Midwest,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “In addition, March weather, particularly snow and ice conditions, have a major impact on spring migration, migration routes and migration timing of snow geese in Minnesota.

With such a mild winter and lack of snow cover, migration this year could be much earlier than normal.”

A summary of regulations will be available from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices or by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

Conservation officers report litter on MN roadways, waterways
From the DNR

Weekly activity reports from conservation officers (COs) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are littered with evidence of various types of refuse being discarded along Minnesota roads and waterways.

“We’re seeing everything from wooden fish house blocking materials on lakes to old appliances in roadway ditches,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement Division director.

Littering is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000.

Konrad said the DNR wants everyone to keep roadways and waterways clean by properly disposing of used materials with their local refuse haulers or at their local landfill.

Konrad added that litter tarnishes nature’s beauty, destroys wildlife habitats and ruins many opportunities for recreation.

Minnesota’s fish house removal deadlines are March 5 in the southern part of the state and March 19 in the north, and spring cleaning is soon to get underway around many households.

That’s why conservation officers make a concerted effort this time of the year to monitor and identify possible problem areas.

CO Jeff Humphrey of Cromwell just completed a litter investigation where numerous bags of household trash were dumped along a rural road. The contents were revealing.

“In this case they made significant effort to remove labels with names and addresses from their garbage, but I found a child’s name on a piece of homework and a wrist band from a local hospital,” Humphrey said. “A few phone calls and I identified my suspect.”

The reasons for their actions were likely economics.

“They said they did not have garbage service and usually take their garbage to their employers to get rid of it,” Humphrey said.

Sometimes a citizen helps a CO solve a litter case.

CO Jeff Johanson of Osakis recently issued a citation to a man caught on a trail camera dumping waste on private property.

The individual was always very careful about removing items with any sort of identification on them.

Finally, the property owner had had enough, put up a trail camera, and was lucky enough to get a guy and his vehicle on the camera littering.

“With the electronic evidence, the interview went pretty smoothly and the guy admitted to it right away,” Johanson said. “I made him clean up the waste and issued him a citation. Of course, he knew nothing about the countless other times things were dumped there; must have been somebody else.”

Sometimes the litterbug is just a phone call away.

Last year, Johanson found a bunch of garbage and fish house blocking material left on the ice after an angler removed his permanent fish house.

“One of the fish house blocks was a piece of wood that said: ‘For Sale – call . . .’ Well, I called and got a confession from the litterbug.”

Officers also use technology to catch litterbugs.

“While on patrol any fish house that had litter outside or had cardboard skirting the edges of it was photographed and GPS (Global Positioning Statement) coordinates taken,” said CO Matt Frericks of Virginia.

“Excuses like, ‘I was going to go get that later’ will not work. Anyone who leaves garbage on the ice will receive a citation for littering,” Frericks said.

Conservation officers also have solid waste civil citation authority.

These civil citations are “by the pound” or “by the cubic foot” penalties.

Since they are not criminal charges, they don’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The person suspected of littering must pay the penalty and clean up the mess.

The DNR offers the following tips to keep Minnesota roads and waterways clean:

• Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.

• Properly dispose of any materials that could trap or injure wildlife.

• Check with a local refuse provider or landfill for disposal of household items.

• Keep a litter bag or trash container with when traveling or outdoors.

• Secure trash container covers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter.

• Cover and secure any vehicle, truck or trailer carrying refuse.

• When visiting any recreation area, make sure to leave the area clean for the next person to enjoy.

CO Weekly Reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale station) checked anglers.
CO Mies also finished an investigation.
CO Mies also checked ATVs and gave a talk at the Cokato firearms safety class.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers on area lakes and found a lower number of anglers out.
Fish bite has slowed and more fish houses have moved off the lakes.
With that an increase of litter complaints found anglers leaving garbage behind.
Reller also assisted Wright County SO on a suspicious fish house.
Enforcement action was taken for litter and fish house violations.
Several youth Firearms Safety classes were planned with instructors for the spring.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) met with a land owner and hunters over a trespass dispute and a stolen deer stand in Dahlgren Township.
He assisted the Carver County Sheriff’s deputies on fish houses that were broken into on Lake Waconia.
He assisted property owners on Oak Lake who had anglers trespassing on their property to access the lake.
Several car kill deer permits were issued and injured animal calls responded to.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) checked fishing activity on area lakes.
Fish houses are being checked and marked.
She also scheduled firearms safety classes and continued to work on an ongoing wetlands violation.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and spearing activity.
Additional time was spent checking ATV and snowmobile activity on area lakes.
Hatlestad also checked trapping activity.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) focused on trapping, angling, and ATV enforcement.
Time was also spent on division related equipment and updating radio equipment.
CO Oberg also reports completing division required computer training.