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Deadly winter on the ice

March 4, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

This winter season (November to April) is on track to be the deadliest on the ice in more than five years, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

So far this winter, five people have died after going through the ice in Minnesota.

A sixth person is missing and presumed drowned.

In the 2006-2007 winter season, eight people died in ice-related incidents.

“There could be several reasons why so many people have died this year,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “It could be there are more people out on the ice because we have had a cooler winter and more snow.”

All the fatalities this winter involved a snowmobile or vehicle either crashing into open water or breaking through the ice.

As the winter starts to wind down and Minnesotans went through the last weekend in February, Owens has an urgent message for winter enthusiasts: “The bottom line is it’s crucial that people do not let their guard down and recognize ice is never 100 percent safe.”

Fatalities by winter season (November through April)

Year Number of deaths
2012-2013 6*
2011-2012 4
2010-2011 4
2009-2010 1
2008-2009 2
2007-2008 3
2006-2007 8
*Including one person missing

The DNR recommends anyone heading out on the ice should measure the ice thickness and contact a local bait shop or resort about area ice conditions.

For information on the DNR clear ice thickness recommendations go to, http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.

LPSC snowmobile safety training sign-up Wednesday

The Lester Prairie Sportsman’s Club will be offering a youth certification CD based snowmobile safety training course.

Registration and CD handout will be Wednesday March 6 between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Lester Prairie Sportsman’s Club. A one-day class will be Saturday March 16 which includes classroom review of priority safety information and a performance driving course.

For more information, call Sheldon Ehrke (320) 395.2344.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner

Prairie Archers will be hosting a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, March 9 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Options for the dinner include steak and shrimp combo ($13), steak ($11), pork chop ($10), six shrimp ($9), and ribeye ($15).

Each dinner includes a baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, and coffee or milk.

Reservations need to be made by Friday, March 8 before 6 p.m., and be called in to the Dodge House at (320) 395-2877 or to Jim Richardson at (320) 395-2721 or (612) 636-7214.

Youth wood duck building day is March 16

The annual Youth Wood Duck Building Day is scheduled for Saturday, March 16.

It will begin at 9 a.m. and run to 1 p.m. at Burns Excavating Shop (kiddy corner to the southwest of the Hollywood Sports Complex, located in Hollywood Twp. Mayer MN).

There will be a kid’s laser shoot, and archery range again, along with food and drinks.

They are always looking for help with the event. If you’d like to help, or want additional information, contact Chip Hentges at (952) 200-3176.

Enough money has been raised to build over 200 houses this year.

Sponsors for the event: Waconia Lions, Carver County Pheasants Forever, Watertown Lions, New Germany Fire Department, Ducks Unlimited, Carver Co. Committee members, Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota River Valley Chapter, Mayer Baseball Club, Cologne Lions, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Watertown Rod and Gun Club, Hamburg Hunt and Fish Club, Lester Prairie’s Sportsman Club, and Bob Roepke Memorial Fund.

New regulation options aim to rebuild Mille Lacs walleye population
From the DNR

Faced with a declining walleye population, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will change fishing regulations on Mille Lacs Lake in 2013 to protect the lake’s younger and smaller walleye.

The agency shared potential regulation options with citizens Wednesday, Feb. 27, during a public input gathering at a town hall near Garrison.

“We are fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the walleye population as fast, fairly and efficiently as possible,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries chief. “Mille Lacs is one of the premier walleye lakes in Minnesota and continues to be a great place to fish. However, we need to reduce walleye mortality on certain sized fish and that will translate into different regulations for the upcoming season.”

DNR fisheries experts are considering three length-based regulation options to ensure the state’s walleye harvest is below the safe harvest level of 178,500 pounds and combined state-tribal safe harvest level of 250,000 pounds.

The options would allow anglers to keep walleye from 17- to 19-inches, 18- to 20-inches or 19- to 21-inches and, potentially, one trophy walleye longer than 28 inches.

The DNR has not yet decided which 2-inch length option it will select.

The agency also is considering additional regulations to reduce walleye mortality.

Options include an extended night fishing ban, reduced bag limits, the use of circle hooks for live bait and live bait restrictions.

New regulations to potentially increase the harvest on smallmouth bass and northern pike also are being discussed as both are predators of walleye and the prey that walleye eat.

All of these options would reduce walleye fishing mortality to varying degrees.

A decision on the slot limit length, daily bag limits, and other options is expected in early March.

Currently, anglers must immediately release all walleye from 17- to 28-inches; the possession limit is four with only one longer than 28 inches.

“The DNR is taking a broader look at regulation options because the safe harvest is at the lowest level since treaty management began in 1997, and a new length-based regulation by itself may not be sufficient,” Peterson said. “We are listening to anglers, business owners and others to identify a set of options that protects small fish and is as acceptable as possible to those who enjoy and economically benefit from the lake.”

Peterson said it is especially important for regulations to help conserve the lake’s large 2008 walleye year class because currently no strong year class is coming up behind these 16- to 17-inch fish.

Walleye in the 14- to 18-inch range, especially males, have been harvested heavily.

That’s because state slot limits allowed anglers to keep this size fish and tribal nets also selectively catch fish in this size range.

Protective smallmouth bass and northern pike regulations may also have played a role in decreasing walleye numbers because they prey on young walleye and are competitors for the forage species walleye prey upon.

For Mille Lacs anglers, a 2-inch harvest slot limit would not be unprecedented.

Two-inch harvest slots were implemented in 2001, 2002, and 2007. Similarly, angler kill has been below the 2013 allocation four of the past 10 years.

Peterson said one of the emerging challenges of managing Mille Lacs is the complexity added by the evolving biological implications of Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny waterfleas and zebra mussels.

The impacts and interactions of these unwanted aquatic invasive species are not well understood but are making the lake increasingly unpredictable.

For example, Eurasian watermilfoil has created more habitat for pike and bass.

Zebra mussels are changing the nature of bottom substrates.

Spiny water fleas may be competing with larval fish for small zooplankton.

Climate and weather conditions – namely warmer weather patterns – also have resulted in low tullibee numbers and higher hooking mortality due to warmer water temperatures.

“There’s a lot we know about Mille Lacs Lake, but it is a complex system and there’s much we don’t know, too,” Peterson said. “What anglers should know is that we are committed to fixing this problem and providing quality walleye fishing for generations to come.”

The DNR has raised a number of conservation concerns this past year with Chippewa bands based on walleye population structure changes that may be linked to past state and tribal harvest strategies.

Based on population estimates, the bands voluntarily reduced their walleye harvest allocation from 142,500 pounds to 71,250 pounds for the 2013 fishing season, which allowed a higher safe harvest level for state anglers.

The DNR will take additional public comments on the proposals by email at millelacs.dnr@state.mn.us.

More information on Mille Lacs Lake and its fisheries can be found at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

2013 spring light goose action has started
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds interested participants that the spring conservation action on “light” geese (snow geese, blue-phased snow geese, and the smaller Ross’s goose) opened Friday, March 1, and runs through Tuesday, April 30, again this spring.

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

The conservation order season is in place to try 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.

A spring light goose permit is required and may be obtained through any DNR license agent, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

The $3.50 application fee covers the cost to issue the permit. No other license, stamp, or permit is required.

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

People who use the Internet to apply can print their own permit when completing the transaction and will not receive a permit by mail.

Most regulations in place during fall waterfowl season also will 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. Electronic calls and unplugged shotguns are allowed.

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

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.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: A couple of years ago it was reported that the population of crows in Minnesota was declining. What is their status now?

A: American crows are still quite common in most of Minnesota, having adapted well to human activities.

North American Breeding Bird Survey trend data for Minnesota show a gradual increase in crow populations since these surveys began in 1966.

However, the number of breeding crows stabilized or decreased slightly between 2000 and 2010.

Minnesota’s winter crow population, based on Audubon Christmas Bird Count data, also increased significantly since the 1960’s, although the population has fluctuated over the years.

After several years on the down side of one of these fluctuations, the winter crow population seems to be on the upswing again.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) station checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies checked sleds. CO Mies worked on tip calls.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) continued training with COC Silgjord.
The week proved to be busy with multiple citations being issued for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a small amount of marijuana and angle with extra lines.
Assistance was provided to CO Martin with a snowmobile pursuit.
CO Reller and COC Silgjord provided assistance with the apprehension of the operator.
A snowmobile work detail was attended in the Albany area.
Other enforcement action for the week included operate an unregistered snowmobile, operate a snowmobile without a safety certificate, and fail to transfer ownership of a snowmobile.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a firearms safety presentation in Waconia to a group of 50 kids.
A possible waters violation was investigated near Watertown.
Fish houses were documented on area lakes for possible litter left behind after removal.
Coyote hunters and trappers were checked all week.
Aeration inspections were completed checking for proper signs for safety.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Metro Water Resource Enforcement Officer) closed several waters and wetlands cases with landowners restoring their property.
She followed up on an ATV complaint.
Fish houses were marked for litter for the upcoming removal deadline.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) spent the week working on separate trespassing complaints involving coyote hunters.
CO Mueller participated in a detail focusing on predator hunters and snowmobiles.
Anglers were also checked throughout the week.
A taxidermy inspection was completed.
CO Mueller also attended an ATV instructor course in Litchfield.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports snowmobiling conditions keep getting better in the area.
Enforcement action was taken for speeding violations.
Assisted Silver Lake PD, the McLeod County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol with an ORV violation.
Also spoke at a firearms safety class at Shady Lane Sportsman’s Club.