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Best start to winter recreation season since 2010

December 9, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Anyone eager to get out cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling will find an abundance of opportunities at many Minnesota state parks and trails, thanks to this past week’s heavy snowfall.

“The recent heavy snowfall and the forecast for sustained cold temperatures offers prospects of substantial, enduring snow cover deep into the month,” said Greg Spoden, state climatologist at the Department of Natural Resources. “It will be the best start to the winter recreation season since 2010.”

Staff from the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division and local clubs will be busy grooming trails in preparation for the upcoming weekend, but the DNR advises prospective park and trail visitors to check the website for trip planning tips before heading out to a winter recreation destination.

Snow depth and trail conditions are updated every Thursday after 2 p.m. throughout the winter months at www.mndnr.gov/snow.

Many Minnesota state parks rent snowshoes, and several rent cross-country skis.

For rental locations and prices, check out the “winter activities guide” at www.mndnr.gov/winterguide.

For a schedule of upcoming programs and special events at Minnesota state parks and trails, including the popular candlelight ski and snowshoe events, visit the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov/ptcalendar or pick up one of the new “Programs and Special Events” brochures at park offices.

As always, the DNR urges outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution around lakes and wetlands, because the early snow might act as a blanket over thin ice.

Snowmobilers, in particular, should exercise caution and be alert to conditions.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us, (651) 296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Prairie Archers open house Dec. 14

Prairie Archers will have an open house Saturday, Dec. 14 above Angvall Hardware Store in Lester Prairie running between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

They will be offering archery instruction for all ages, club membership, open shooting, and archery leagues.

Refreshments will also be served during the open house.

Complete snowmobile safety training now
From the DNR

Now that winter has arrived, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging snowmobilers to complete safety training.

“If you waited until the snow arrived before taking snowmobile safety training you may be too late to enjoy the season,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “Classes fill quickly, and no snowmobile safety certificate, no snowmobiling.”

Plenty of safety training classes are available right now, he said.

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

By taking a snowmobile safety course, Hammer said students learn about the machine, they learn about the laws, they learn safe operation, they learn the ethics of the sport and they learn how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor in a local community or by CD.

To obtain the snowmobile safety training CD, or for general information, call (651) 296-6157, 888-646-6367, 800-366-8917, or send email to info.dnr@state.mn.us.

More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.

For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR website: www.dnr.state.mn.us (www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/index.html) or call 800-366-8917.

DNR: Don’t let guard down on the ice
From the DNR

With the recent weather mix creating varying ice conditions around the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges people to not let their guard down.

“Snow is bad for ice, but when rain is added -- plus above and below freezing temperatures -- this mix all in one week is not helping solid ice form,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating and water safety specialist.

Snow insulates the ice, preventing the cold air from getting through, which slows down the ice formation process.

The heavy snow pushes down on the ice and could cause cracks.

Right now, the ice under the snow could already be brittle because temperatures have been above freezing within the past week.

Ice is unpredictable and never 100 percent safe, Owens said.

“We are urging everyone to think twice before going out on the ice right now,” she said. “We know Minnesotans are eager to get out and enjoy the snow, but everyone needs to keep in mind the ice on your lake may not be safe.”

The DNR 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.

The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:

• 4 inches for walking.
• 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
• 8-12 inches for a car.
• 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.

When the temperature rises above freezing for six of the last 24 hours, double the recommended minimum thickness.

And remember, if it stays above freezing for 24 hours or more, stay off the ice – it is not safe.

For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.

12 lakes opened to spearing
From the DNR

Twelve lakes scattered throughout Minnesota, including two in the metropolitan area, now are open for darkhouse spearing, the Department of Natural Resources said.

Spearing restrictions were repealed effective Dec. 2 on the following lakes: Beers and West Battle in Otter Tail County; Big Mantrap in Hubbard County; Deer, Moose, North Star and connected Little North Star and Spider in Itasca County; Lobster in Douglas County; Cross Lake Flowage in Pine County; Eagle in Hennepin County; Owasso in Ramsey County and Sugar in Wright County.

Darkhouse spearing is limited to northern pike, catfish, whitefish and other rough-fish species.

Other game fish species such as muskellunge are illegal to spear at any time.

Anglers ages 18-89 need both an angling license and a spearing license to spear, unless otherwise exempt.

All other regulations related to spearing, angling and shelters apply to these waters.

Additional information is available on page 77 of the 2013 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook and online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

For more information, contact the DNR area fisheries office nearest the lake of interest using the online directory at www.mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries.

DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 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.”
Aeration systems are generally operated 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.

Two types of signs are used to post aerated lakes: “Thin Ice” and “Warning” signs. The person who applies for the permit (permittee) is 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.

The permittee must also put up “Thin Ice” signs to mark the area’s perimeter.

Some municipalities may have ordinances that prohibit entering into the thin ice 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 888-646-6367, info.dnr@state.mn.us.

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

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.

Those names followed by an asterisk are newly aerated lakes.

• CARVER: Eagle, Lucy, Oak, Rice Marsh, Susan.
• HENNEPIN: Arrowhead, Bass, Cedar Island,* Crystal, Gleason, Hadley, Hyland, Indianhead, Mitchell, Penn (Lower Penn), Powderhorn, Rebecca [Maple Plain], Red Rock, Round, Shady Oak,* Snelling, Sweeney-Twin, Thomas, Wirth, Wolfe.
• WRIGHT: Augusta, Crawford, Dean, Foster, Little Waverly, Louisa, Mink, Somers, Sylvia.
• MCLEOD: Marion, Swan [Silver Lake], Winsted.
• MEEKER: Star, Thompson.
• SIBLEY: Silver [Henderson].

CO weekly reportrs
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked ice anglers.
CO Mies followed up on deer info.
CO Mies worked on calls.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked waterfowl hunters and assisted with a number of nuisance animal calls.
He also worked on another deer baiting case.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the 3B, 601 and muzzleloader deer season finding very few hunters out.
The end of the duck season was worked but almost every water body was frozen.
Several dead swan calls were investigated finding eagles feeding on them.
A few ice anglers were checked but the ice is not safe yet.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) spent the week following up on various TIP calls.
Calls included baited deer hunting areas, shinning complaints and illegal party hunting with youth deer licenses. Issues also arose with failing to register deer within 48 hours.
Time was also spent on dumped deer carcasses and trespassing complaints.