DNR reminder: ice is not safe right now

November 24, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Ice is forming on some lakes, rivers and ponds around Minnesota, but DNR conservation officers warn it is too early to venture out.

“The thin layers of ice forming on some Minnesota waters right now are not safe,” said Maj. Greg Salo, operations manager, DNR Enforcement Division. “A few days of cold temperatures don’t create ice strong enough to hold a person.”

According to Salo, three people died last winter after falling through the ice.

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.

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.

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

Hunters reregister 102,000 deer through second weekend
From the DNR

Minnesota hunters registered 102,000 deer through the second weekend of firearms deer season, down 31,000 from the same period in 2013, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

So far this year, hunters during special hunts, and the archery and firearms seasons, have harvested 115,000 deer, down from the 2013 to-date harvest total of 147,500.

“Comparing this year’s harvest to harvests in previous years doesn’t necessarily reflect hunter opportunity or the number of deer on the landscape in 2014,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader.

This year’s lower harvest is by design because regulations were implemented to place more deer – particularly does – off limits to increase Minnesota’s deer population.

The DNR’s ongoing deer management work also includes upcoming revisions to the deer population goals for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota.

This is part of a multi-year goal-setting process for the entire state.

People interested in helping set these deer population goals can get more information on the process and opportunities for involvement at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

In much of Minnesota, the deer season concluded on Sunday, Nov. 16.

Additional deer will be harvested during the northern rifle zone season, which continues through Sunday, Nov. 23; the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 30; and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 29, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 14. The archery season also runs through Wednesday, Dec. 31.

Upper Red Lake walleye regulations more restrictive this winter season
From the DNR

Walleye regulations will be more restrictive on Upper Red Lake following record walleye harvests the past winter and summer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Effective Dec. 1, anglers can only keep three walleye, and the possession limit is also three.

Anglers must immediately release all walleye from 17- to 26-inches. Only one walleye in possession may be longer than 26 inches.

“More restrictive walleye regulations are not an indication of any biological problems with the walleye population on Upper Red Lake,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor. “The current walleye fishery is in excellent shape, but the great fishing has attracted considerably more angling pressure, which resulted in walleye harvest exceeding the safe harvest range for the first time since walleye angling reopened in 2006.”

The DNR and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa jointly developed a harvest plan for Red Lake’s walleye stocks in 2006 prior to reopening the fishery that governs walleye harvest on an annual basis.

The plan allows for some excess harvest in an individual year, but requires a regulation adjustment to manage harvest back within a target range on a three-year average.

Harvest reduction scenarios were the topic at an Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee meeting in late September.

“Previous advisory meetings were easier when we were relaxing regulations, but everyone on the committee understands the importance of protecting this fishery and adhering to our joint harvest plan,” said advisory committee member Joe Corcoran.

The regulation package had full support from the committee as the best way to balance harvest reduction with business and angler interests, Corcoran added.

Mille Lacs open to pike spearing; walleye regulation unchanged
From the DNR

Dark-house spearing of northern pike will be allowed at Mille Lacs Lake for the first time since the winter of 1982-83, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Anglers and spearers can keep 10 northern pike, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches.

Anglers also will be able to fish for northern pike for a longer period of time this winter.

The close of the northern pike angling season will be extended from mid-February to the last Sunday in March.

“With the high number of northern pike under 30 inches, we’re providing more opportunity to harvest these surplus fish,” said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR Aitkin area fisheries supervisor.

The lake’s walleye fishing regulations will not change this winter.

Anglers can continue to keep two walleye from 18- to 20-inches, except one out of the two walleye anglers can keep can be longer than 28 inches.

“We’ll continue to protect small and large walleye by extending the existing walleye regulation,” Bruesewitz said.

Although the catch of bass in winter is extremely rare, anglers on Mille Lacs are exempted from the statewide catch-and-release regulation that begins in mid-September.

This means anglers may harvest smallmouth bass from the opener until the last Sunday in February.

Anglers may keep six fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches.

For more information on Mille Lacs Lake, visit www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

DNR closes northeast Minnesota’s early wolf season
From the DNR

Wolf hunting in the northeast zone closed for the remainder of the 2014 early firearms season at the end of shooting hours on Friday, Nov. 14, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The northwest zone remains open in the 200 series deer permit areas through Sunday, Nov. 16, and in 100 series deer permit areas through Sunday, Nov. 23, or until the target harvest is met for the zone.

The two-day hunt in the east-central zone closed at the end of shooting hours on Sunday, Nov. 9.

The harvest target for the northeast zone during the 2014 early firearms season was 37 wolves.

There were 34 registered when the DNR initiated season closure.

Hunters in all zones have registered a total of 83 wolves as of Thursday afternoon. The harvest target is 250 wolves for the entire 2014 season.

2014 season wolf hunters are required to:

• Register all wolves by 10 p.m. the day of harvest in order for the DNR to monitor zone-specific harvest levels. Registration is available via telephone, website or in person.
• Obey zone closures, which become effective the end of legal shooting hours for the day on which a zone is closed.
• Take responsibility for tracking season progress and season/zone closure each morning before hunting by calling 888-706-6367 or checking the DNR wolf hunting page at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/wolf. Season status and harvest targets will be updated in real-time for each zone.
• Return any radio collars when they bring wolves in for the mandatory wolf inspection and to bring an ear tag along so that information on the tag can be examined and recorded.
• Present the entire skinned wolf and pelt for inspection as outlined in the wolf hunting regulations so DNR can collect data on wolves for population monitoring.
• Wear blaze orange during open firearms (including muzzleloader) deer season.

Complete wolf hunting information, including a map of the wolf zones, is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/wolf.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) last week checked deer hunters.
CO Mies also checked ice anglers along with waterfowl hunters.
CO Mies assisted neighboring officers and worked on TIP calls.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked waterfowl and deer hunters.
He took enforcement action on a number of violations.
He assisted with an injured sand hill crane.
He answered a number of waterfowl hunting questions on the Mississippi and Crow River.
He continues investigating a number of lend and borrow violations charges pending.
He checked a number of snowmobilers.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) spent most of the week working deer hunters, but did check a few snowmobilers that were out with the first snow.
Waterfowl hunting has been limited now to the rivers in the area.
Enforcement action was taken for failure to validate and register deer, leave decoys out on public waters overnight, unplugged shotgun for waterfowl, hunt deer over baited area and expired snowmobile registration.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the deer season finding very few deer taken.
The duck season was pretty much shut down with lakes frozen over.
Telephone calls were returned daily on multiple issues.

• CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week checking duck and deer hunters.
CO Grewe investigated TIP complaints regarding wanton waste and trespassing.
Violations included license issues.

• CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) worked the busy deer hunting season with hunters seeing a few more deer moving around in the snow.
Deer hunters were also reminded to register their deer 48 hours after the kill.
Duck hunters were also checked during the week as they tried to hunt the little open water that was left.
One duck hunter was reminded that he still needed a plug in his gun for duck hunting even during the deer season.
There are also people heading out onto the ice for the early ice fishing.
They are reminded about ice safety and told to check the ice as they go out.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) reports that the cold weather and snow slowed down the activity for the last push of the deer season.
License and registration problems make up the majority of violations.
Most of the lakes froze over last week pushing waterfowl hunters to the fields.
Those that braved the weather had good results.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports working a very uneventful end to the firearms deer season.
This year hunters appeared as scarce as deer at times.
Cold weather and blustery winds no doubt played a large role in hunter participation and the low number of deer harvested.
Officer Oberg took several calls from hunters looking for public land to deer hunt.
Officer Oberg also checked several hunters out driving around and found very good compliance with firearms being unloaded.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What is the process for donating deer to a food shelf?

A: Minnesota’s venison donation program, established by the state Legislature in 2007, allows hunters to donate legally-harvested deer to a participating meat processor.

There is no cost to you (the hunter), and the processor is reimbursed for each deer they send to the food shelf.

The deer must be properly field-dressed with the hide intact and identified with a DNR harvest registration tag.

For a list of processing locations, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/deer/donation.