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2014 fish and game licenses now expired

March 2, 2015

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Anglers are reminded that 2014 fish, game and trapping licenses expired on Saturday, Feb. 28. Some hunting and fishing seasons continue past Feb. 28, and new licenses are required.

Licenses for 2015 now are available from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources license agents, online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236. All 2015 fishing licenses become effective Sunday, March 1.

Customers who purchase online via smartphone won’t receive a conventional paper license. Instead, they’ll receive a text message or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers. A printed copy of the text or email also can serve as proof of a valid license.

Ice shelter permits for 2014 remain effective through Thursday, April 30.

Wright Co. Pheasants Forever meeting Sat.

ANNANDALE – The Wright County Pheasants Forever Chapter #95 will hold its 30th annual membership banquet Saturday, March 7.

The event will be held from 5:30-10 p.m. at the Classic Rides and Event Center (Classic Hall, 220 Poplar Lane S.) in Annandale.

Prizes from the 2014 banquet include:

• Matthews bows

• 8 Bird Pheasant Hunts from Gold Meadows

• Unique Home Decor

• Scheels Gift Cards & More

• Several guns

• Chest Freezer

• Prints

• Jewelry

• Tools

To register, or for more information, contact David Lloyd at dlloyd_2000@yahoo.com. To become a sponsor, make a donation, or to inquire about banquet information, contact Melissa Sandquist at 763-354-4090.

DNR Bow Hunter Field Day Test scheduled

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bow Hunter Education Field Day Test will take place Saturday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Grace Bible Church, 300 SW Cleavland Street, Silver Lake.

For more information, contact Jim Richardson, Instructor, at 612-636-7214.

Ice fishing shelter removal dates approaching fast

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

Dates of removal are determined by a west-to-east line formed by U.S. Highway 10 starting at the Minnesota-North Dakota border, then east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Shelters south of this line must be removed no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 2.

Shelters north of this line must be removed no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 16.

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).

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.

Ater 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. Learn more at www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/shelter.html.

The DNR’s Enforcement Division Director Col. Ken Soring recommends checking ice thickness by using an auger or spud bar before venturing onto a frozen pond, lake or river.

Soring 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 needed for a medium truck.

New MN Fishing regulations

From the DNR

Anglers will have more opportunities to fish for bass, sturgeon and trout this year thanks to changes in Minnesota’s fishing regulations.

“This will be a great year to expand your fishing horizons in Minnesota,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “There will be a new catch-and-release bass season and additional opportunities to fish for sturgeon and stream trout. Muskellunge will get greater protection, giving anglers more chances to catch one of our state’s most prized trophies.”

Fishing regulation changes are summarized on page six of the 2015 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, which will be available by Sunday, March 1, at any license agent or online at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn and www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

Bass fishing expands

Beginning Saturday, May 9, anglers in most of the state can catch and release bass until the regular harvest season opens Saturday, May 23. Meanwhile, anglers in northeast Minnesota can continue to catch and keep bass during these two weeks. Northeast Minnesota is defined as essentially north and east of U.S. Highway 53.

“This new catch-and-release bass season means that anglers statewide can fish for bass starting on the May 9 walleye and northern pike opener,” Stevens said. “Anglers have long asked for more chances to fish for bass in the early part of the fishing season.”

In past years, anglers could not fish for bass until Memorial Day weekend outside northeastern Minnesota. But in the new two-week catch-and-release season, anglers can fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass. All bass caught during this two-week period must immediately be released.

In another bass season change, the fall closure on harvest of smallmouth bass has been lifted in the northeast.

“We’ve heard from anglers in the northeast who have long wanted more opportunities to harvest fish for meals, especially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” Stevens said. “Smallmouth bass populations in the northeast have grown in recent years, and increased harvest of these fish should have minimal impact on bass populations.”

Sturgeon fishing

opportunities expand

Anglers will have more opportunities to fish for lake sturgeon starting March 1. However, season dates differ depending on location.

On inland waters and Minnesota waters bordering North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, a new catch-and-release season will allow anglers to fish for lake sturgeon from June 16 until April 14, a season lasting nearly 10 months. Anglers here cannot fish for lake sturgeon from April 15 to June 15, a closure intended to protect the fish during their spawning season.

On Minnesota waters bordering Canada there are harvest, catch-and-release and closed seasons for lake sturgeon. On waters bordering Wisconsin, there is a lake sturgeon harvest season in the St. Croix River south of Taylors Falls including Lake St. Croix, but otherwise all waters have catch-and-release lake sturgeon seasons that differ depending on date and location. Season details can be found in the border waters section of the fishing regulations at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn or on page 43 of the 2015 Fishing Regulations booklet, which will be available online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing on March 1.

Comebacks staged by lake sturgeon in recent years are making new fishing opportunities possible. Sturgeon numbers grew because of improved water quality, dam removals and restorative stocking efforts, according to Stevens. Yet, despite success stories, lake sturgeon populations remain in recovery mode.

“While it is a positive step to have populations healthy enough for catch-and-release sturgeon angling, the DNR will continue to carefully monitor sturgeon population numbers to make sure they stay healthy,” Stevens said.

Anglers also will find new regulations for shovelnose sturgeon, a species found mostly in the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River below St. Anthony Falls.

Muskie minimum length

increased

This year, the minimum length limit to keep a muskie is 54 inches. The previous limit was 48 inches. Various muskie angling organizations supported the change.

“This change will help maintain Minnesota’s place as a nationally recognized destination for trophy muskie angling,” Stevens said.

Exceptions to the new 54-inch minimum length limit apply for muskie-northern pike hybrids, also called tiger muskie, in the seven-county metro area, where the minimum length limit remains 40 inches on certain lakes.

Spring light geese hunt now open

A spring conservation hunt on light geese opened Sunday, March 1, and runs through Thursday, April 30. Light geese are snow geese, blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross’s goose.

A federal conservation order, which permits the take of light geese during the spring, is in place to reduce the population of snow geese and Ross’s geese that breed in Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay. High populations of the 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 in Minnesota has varied from a few hundred to several thousand birds each spring.

To participate, a spring light goose permit is required and may be obtained through any Minnesota DNR license agent, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. There is a $3.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit. No other license, stamp or permit is required.

A sumary of regulations is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl/lightgoose, from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices or by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367.

Archery range rehab grants available

From the DNR

Minnesota park and recreation departments that would like to improve or rehabilitate a recreational archery range can apply for funds through a new Department of Natural Resources grant program.

Matching grants of $1,500 to $5,000 are available to city, county and regional parks for work including: purchase and replacement of target frames and targets; installation of bow racks and ground quivers; and installation of safety signage and other features deemed essential to maintaining a safe and functional archery range. The application deadline is Friday, March 27. Projects must be completed by Tuesday, June 30.

The new archery grant program is a response to growing interest in archery and bow hunting. Johnson said youth and adult archery hunting licenses have increased in recent years. DNR Archery in the Parks programming has been a hit. And hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students have launched arrows at targets through the state’s National Archery in the Schools Program during the past decade.

“Archery has really been taking off lately,” Johnson said. “Communities can improve or upgrade their existing archery ranges with this grant, and this is a good way to continue providing family-friendly activities in parks.”

DNR archery range rehabilitation grants require a dollar-for-dollar match. A total of $25,000 is available until June 30. Applications will be scored and ranked. Winners will be announced in April.

Grant application packets are available at www.mndnr.gov/grants/recreation/archery-range and can be obtained by contacting Johnson at jay.johnson@state.mn.us.

Comments welcome on fish disease fight

From the DNR

The public has until 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 27, to send written comments on simplifying rules designed to control a contagious fish disease. The rule change would also better protect fish spawning beds and fish preserves.

Part of the rule change proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is about control and prevention of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). Currently, only Lake Superior is designated as being positive for VHS. Much of the rule content deals with commercial bait use, harvest, possession and transportation. Proposed changes would simplify the regulations.

The other part of the rule change would add other water bodies to the list of designated spawning beds and fish preserves and make technical changes in the legal descriptions of water bodies already listed. Spawning fish can be vulnerable to harvest and human disturbance when in these areas.

Details about the rule change are online at www.mndnr.gov/input/rules/vhs/index.html. A free copy of the rules can be made available by calling the DNR at 651-259-5589.

CO Report

From the DNR

• CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) worked angling activity. The officer also limited information of spear fishermen spearing walleyes anyone with more detailed information can contact the TIP line. The officer also looked into a possible deer poaching incident.

CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) received notification from the County Soil and Water Office of an approved permit for a person to place several large poles in a wetland for the purpose of building a zip line to the individual’s deer stand. By far the most unusual permit request ever received. Shelter houses on lakes were inspected as the removal deadline draws near. CO Kuske joined local law enforcement departments to participate in a lock-down drill at Pierz High School. Law enforcement presentations were given to a FAS class and a senior high natural resources class with the topic of discussion being “Why people break the law”.

CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on area lakes. He continues investigations into a number of Big Game violations charges pending. He answered a number of questions regarding coyote hunting and spring turkey hunting.

CO Steve Walter (Waconia) documented fish houses on area lakes for proper identificationand litter. Anglers were checked all week having very good luck on nice sized crappies. A call was responded to on a possible moose sighting, but after tracking the animal for several hours it turned out to be a Black Angus bull.

CO Chelsie Leuthardt (Prior Lake) spent the week checking anglers and conducting fish house compliance checks. With the cold weather and slow fish bite the fishing pressure has been down, and many people have started to remove their fishing shelters from the ice. She spoke to a small group of Cub Scouts about the job of a Conservation Officer. She also received her first complaint on a potential wetland violation that will be followed up on in the spring. Enforcement action was taken on angling without license in possession, improperly marked fish house and no reflective material on fish house.

CO Thephong Le (ELCOP) checked anglers in West Metro area lakes but found very few people out braving the elements. He assisted another CO in a West Metro District on an investigation for a possible big game violation. He spoke about a Minnesota Conservation Officer’s career at a Boy Scout Troop outdoor activity in Eden Prairie.

CO Vang Lee (ELCOP) worked ice fishing and snowmobiling activity in Mound station. He took a call on a dead deer in Chanhassen and investigated a stolen deer camera in Brooklyn Park. He answered questions on ice fishing and small game regulations to the Hmong community and did some equipment maintenance.

CO Jeff Denz (Willmar) followed up on deer cases in addition to a shining and trespass complaint. He checked anglers and monitored fish house removal for litter issues. Denz also checked aeration systems.

CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) spent most of the week checking ice fishermen. Time was also spent helping another CO follow up on a shining investigation. Commercial checks were also being conducted with fellow officers during the week.

CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) took a complaint of stray dogs chasing deer. One of the dogs was caught, and she worked with the landowner and the Heart of Minnesota animal shelter to get the dog to the shelter. She continued her monthly aeration inspection on Lake Marion. Mueller also worked the first annual radar run on Lake Allie. All but one snowmobile was properly registered and displayed.

CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) checked anglers out trying their luck before the end of the season. Oberg checked a few small walleye and northern pike. He attended a natural resources training committee meeting. Oberg also spent time working a local fishing contest.

CO Thor Nelson (New Ulm) received calls reporting a possible ongoing fish over limit and an ATV through the ice on Clear Lake. He also spent time working angling, snowmobile and WMA activity as well. Lake ice thickness remains variable and has deteriorated in areas recently despite cold temperatures. Two vehicles have gone through the ice in the last week.