From the DNR
Ice conditions on Minnesota waterways may vary, but all fish shelters must have proper identification, according to conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR reminds ice anglers and others that shelters placed on the ice of Minnesota waters must have either the owner’s complete name and address, a driver’s license number, or the nine-digit DNR number on the license of the owner plainly and legibly displayed on the outside of the shelter, in letters and figures at least two inches high.
Other shelter regulations include:
• Shelter may not be left unattended any time between midnight and one hour prior to sunrise unless the shelter is licensed. (The Department of Public Safety requires registration of trailers used to haul fish houses or dark houses and enclosed trailers or recreational trailers used for fishing. Trailer registration is available from a deputy registrar.)
• A tag, furnished with a license, must be attached to the exterior in a visible location.
• Shelters left on the ice overnight need to have at least two square inches of reflective material on each side of the house.
• People may not erect a shelter within 10 feet of an existing shelter.
• A shelter license is not required on border waters with Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
• Shelters must comply with the identification requirements of the state in which angler is licensed.
• Shelters may be used for fishing within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), but must be removed from the ice each night. The structure must be removed from the BWCAW each time the occupant leaves the BWCAW.
Shelter owners are also reminded to take appropriate steps to keep their houses from freezing onto ice surfaces.
With seasonal thawing and cooling, it is not uncommon for shelter contact points to become frozen to the ice, providing challenges when it comes to moving or removing the shelters.
A common method used to prevent freezing is to place blocks under the shelter contact points.
Ice anglers are reminded that blocks placed under shelters must be removed and cannot be left on frozen waters.
An easy way to remove a frozen ice block is with a long handled maul or a splitting maul.
A couple of clean strikes will easily free frozen blocks.
Think twice before going out on the ice
From the DNR
As Minnesotans know, weather can vary throughout the state; the same is true for ice conditions.
In the north, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers report more than 800 ice houses on Lake of the Woods, while boat anglers are fishing on parts of the Mississippi River near Le Crescent in the southern part of the state.
Given the uneven conditions, the DNR urges people to think twice before going out on the ice.
“Ice is never 100 percent safe,” said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR regional enforcement supervisor in St. Paul. “Don’t put yourself in needless danger by going out on thin ice. No fish is worth your life.”
Many lakes and rivers across the state have between five and six inches of ice.
Ice conditions can change at any moment.
The DNR reminds anglers and snowmobilers to be cautious.
Last winter, four people died after falling through thin ice.
Salo recommends anyone heading out on the ice should carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort ask about ice conditions and measure the ice.
DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:
• Four inches for walking.
• Five inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
• Eight to 12 inches for a car.
• 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.
DNR Information Center is first stop for outdoors information
From the DNR
People seem to know where to get information about Minnesota’s great out-of-doors. More than 170,000 of them contacted the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Information Center in 2012.
The Information Center, located in the DNR headquarters at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, was recently renovated to better serve visitors.
Information Center and License Center staff are now together just inside the main entrance.
Free visitor parking is available in front of the building.
“The new lobby location is much more convenient for license buyers and information seekers,” said Suellen Rau, the DNR Information Center supervisor.
During the past fiscal year, the Information Center answered more than 108,000 calls and 52,000 emails, and worked with almost 9,500 walk-in guests.
More than 837,000 brochures were mailed or handed to those visitors during the year.
The Information Center is busiest just before the fishing opener and the firearms deer season.
Fishing and hunting regulation booklets and state park brochures are most in demand.
At this time of year, snowmobile regulations and trail maps are popular.
“We’re the first stop for many callers and emailers who want DNR information,” Rau said. “Some want brochures, some have questions, and some just want to provide input about DNR’s management of the state’s resources.”
The Information Center is open for calls and walk-in traffic Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Customer service specialists are at (651) 296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southeast trout streams offer alternative to ice fishing
From the DNR
If the thought of sitting around and staring through a hole in the ice doesn’t exactly jibe with the idea of fishing, take heart there’s an alternative even in the coldest part of the year.
Winter trout fishing opens on Jan. 1 and continues through March 31 on about 135 miles of trout water on 38 stream reaches in southeastern Minnesota.
Fed by warmer groundwater, many streams there remain relatively ice free all winter, and the trout living in these streams more often than not cooperate with anglers to provide excellent winter fishing opportunities, said DNR Lanesboro Area Fisheries Manager Steve Klotz.
While the trout are willing to bite, the weather can bite as well this time of the year, Klotz noted.
Best days are often when the air temperature climbs into the 20s. “It’s more a function of keeping your equipment from freezing up, and not so much that the trout are just being tight lipped,” he said. “Explore some water that you haven’t fished and you might find a new favorite stream.”
The winter southeastern stream season is catch-and-release only.
While DNR fisheries staff is proposing a season change that would open all southeastern trout streams to winter angling, only those streams specifically identified in the 2012 fishing regulations booklet will be open this year.
Specific stream information also is available at www.mndnr.gov.
This winter’s trout season may find DNR fisheries staff conducting an angler survey.
Anglers may find a postcard questionnaire on their vehicle at the end of a day’s fishing, or they may encounter a clerk asking a few questions.
“The information we gather from anglers is important,” Klotz said. “It helps resource managers evaluate current management activities and consider future possibilities such as opening trout angling year round.”
DNR made strides in protecting natural resources, improving outdoor recreation in 2012
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tackled important issues in 2012 and achieved major successes successes that touched Minnesotans across the entire state.
“Gov. Mark Dayton has directed all his agency commissioners, including me, to make Minnesota work for Minnesotans,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “DNR’s accomplishments in 2012 show what we can achieve when we collaborate with others and address hard issues.”
Here are some highlights of the work DNR did in 2012:
Preserving forest access for the future
The Minnesota Forests for the Future program worked with The Nature Conservancy of Minnesota to complete several land protection projects totaling nearly 12,000 acres.
These projects included the Koochiching 4 and LaMinora conservation easement projects and the LaMinora, Checkerboard, and Snake River fee title acquisitions.
Funding for future projects will be possible through a $4.5 million Outdoor Heritage Fund grant from the Minnesota Legislature following recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Minnesota Forests for the Future also developed and refined a mapping tool to help identify and prioritize future forest conservation protection efforts.
Response to natural disasters
In 2012 the DNR dealt with historic flooding in east-central Minnesota, destructive winds affecting the state’s northern forests, and a drought that culminated in severe wildfire conditions.
DNR staff worked with local governments in the Duluth area following the June storm in northeastern Minnesota to address emergency infrastructure repairs for roads and culverts.
Staff continues to assist local governments with stream restorations in the area to minimize winter recreational impacts in municipal parks and regional spring flooding.
DNR staff also responded to two major wildfires this fall: the North Minnie Fire in Lake of the Woods County that burned 27,000 acres, and the County 27 Fire near Karlstad in Marshall and Roseau counties that burned 4,480 acres and destroyed 11 homes.
DNR crews also were deployed to help with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
Recreation construction projects
The DNR broke ground on the new Lake Vermilion State Park near Tower.
Also, the agency constructed 3.8 miles of the Gitchi-Gami Trail and completed construction on the Agate Bay public access, both along the North Shore.
Other projects underway include the McQuade Safe Harbor access shelter, a new Bear Head Lake State Park trail center, and a new Paul Bunyan trail bridge over Highway 197 in Bemidji.
Prairie and grassland management
DNR led efforts to implement a major plan and new strategies for prairie and grassland conservation.
Multiple agencies and non-profit organizations signed a Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan memorandum of understanding.
DNR is leading efforts to develop a plan to coordinate and track efforts to protect, restore and enhance Minnesota’s prairie.
Conservation livestock grazing on wildlife management areas is an emerging area of collaboration with Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Board of Soil and Water Resources, federal agencies, cattle ranchers and non-profit organizations.
The DNR hopes to increase the number of public lands being grazed from 10,000 to 50,000 by 2015.
Aquatic invasive species
The DNR implemented new watercraft inspection authority and increased enforcement in 2012.
The agency entered into joint powers agreements with 18 local governments to further expand inspection and education programs.
Working collaboratively with local governments, DNR staff responded rapidly to reported discoveries of new infestations and dramatically increased public outreach efforts, including a new documentary on aquatic invasive species.
The agency beefed up its training efforts with volunteers, lake service providers and others to help the DNR curb the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The DNR aggressively expanded its efforts to prevent and curb the spread of Asian carp.
DNR worked with partners to plan, design, modify and/or install more effective barriers for Asian carp in southwestern Minnesota and helped fund a barrier in Iowa to keep carp from entering Minnesota.
DNR is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a preliminary design for a barrier at Lock and Dam # 1.
Firsts in wildlife management
The federal government removed the wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species on Jan. 27, 2012.
Subsequently, the DNR initiated its first-ever regulated wolf harvest seasons after wolf legislation was included in the Game and Fish bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
In response to longstanding hunter concerns about the negative impact of waterfowl regulations on hunting success, the DNR made a second round of significant changes to waterfowl season regulations, including zoned seasons and an earlier opener.
Early reports indicate waterfowl hunters enjoyed a good season.
Engaging people in the outdoors
DNR introduced several thousand new people to Minnesota state parks, trails and outdoor recreation through the “I Can!” series of skill-building programs.
A total of 877 people participated in the overnight “I Can Camp!” programs in 2012, up 51 percent since the program began in 2010.
Another 650 people participated in “I Can Climb!” and 260 participated in “I Can Paddle!”
The DNR also exceeded its target of 1,000 trained Master Naturalists.
The Master Naturalist program, a partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension, creates a network of skilled volunteers to help with natural resource projects and increase Minnesotans’ understanding and appreciation of the natural world.
Enhancing hunter access to private lands
The federally funded Walk-In Access program completed its second year of the pilot program in 2012.
At least 12,500 private acres of pheasant, small game and deer habitat will be open for public hunting in 21 southwestern counties through 2015.
The program started with 9,117 acres in 2011.
The agency is considering expanding the program to an additional 15 counties and is exploring options for funding through hunter fees.
The DNR held two conservation officer academies and hired 16 new officers, which were the first new hires for the Enforcement Division since 2008.
The new officers include seven military veterans, two women and one person of color.
The first group of new officers is now at new field stations across the state, while the second group will be on duty in March 2013.
DNR urges anglers who use frozen bait to review new regulations
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges anglers who fish with frozen or imported dead bait to review regulations that govern the use of emerald shiners, spottail shiners, bluntnose minnows and other popular baitfish that are susceptible to the fish-killing disease Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia (VHS).
“In an effort to prevent the spread of VHS in Minnesota waters, additional regulations went into effect in the spring of 2012 that address the harvest and use of VHS susceptible species as frozen bait,” said Paula Phelps, DNR aquaculture and fish health consultant. “VHS is a highly contagious and pathogenic fish virus emerging in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.”
Anglers purchasing dead or frozen VHS susceptible or imported bait from a vendor should only purchase packages affixed with a label stating that the bait will not pose a threat of VHS to Minnesota waters.
Anglers are required to keep the label with the bait until it is used up or discarded.
It is illegal for anyone to bring live bait into the state at any time.
Nonresident anglers need to be aware of these rules and either buy their bait when they get to their fishing destination or ensure that their imported dead bait is affixed with the required label.
“Minnesota offers some of the best fishing in the nation,” said Phelps. “Anglers can help keep it that way by complying with the rules that prevent the spread of fish disease. With VHS present in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior, preventing inland spread is a high priority.”
DNR also reminds anglers that when ice fishing, portable bait containers (except on waters designated infested with VHS) are no longer required to be drained before leaving the waterbody as is required during the open water seasons.
The most current list of designated infested waters can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/ais.
Information about VHS is available at www.focusonfishhealth.org.
More information on bait rules and regulations can be found in the 2012 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet or by visiting www.mndnr.gov/regulations.
CO weekley reports
From the DNR
• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) reports ice conditions on lakes have improved in the last week but still vary from area to area and lake to lake.
Ice levels reported have been from 3-7 inches.
Ice anglers were checked on local lakes throughout the week.
Bow hunters and trappers were also checked, with no violations.
While the trails have deteriorated a little, time was spent on snowmobile enforcement with enforcement action taken for fail to display registration.
CO Mueller attended academy snowmobile training as well as a snowmobile safety class in Buffalo Lake.
• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports ice is building in the area and anglers are out after fish again.
CO Oberg also spent time following up on possible WCA violations and miscellaneous animal complaints.
Officer Oberg also worked trapping and snowmobile enforcement.