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DNR conservation officer report for northwest Minnesota: Ice fishing activity gains momentum

Upper Red Lake was very busy over the weekend, and some people were having success.

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Contributed / Minnesota DNR

Here is the weekly report from Department of Natural Resources conservation officers in northwest Minnesota and adjacent areas of northern Minnesota for Monday, Dec. 7.

District 1 - Baudette area

CO Ben Huener (Roseau) and COC Tou Vang conducted commercial taxidermy inspections and followed up on deer that were not registered. They also report working muzzleloader hunters, as well as ice anglers on Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake. Upper Red Lake was very busy over the weekend, and some people were having success. Enforcement action was taken for failure to register big game as required, no license in possession, illegal possession of slot fish, possession of drug paraphernalia and fishing with extra lines.

CO Marc Johnson (Warroad South) checked anglers on Lake of the Woods, patrolled state parks/forests and responded to calls for service. Calls included a complaint of dogs chasing deer and multiple deer that had been poached and dumped on state land. Several complaints remain under investigation.

CO Aaron Larson (Baudette West) worked primarily angling and deer hunting enforcement. He spent time on the bays checking people spearing pike and anglers on the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods. Violations included littering, no ATV registration, failure to have identification information on fish house, failure to display shelter tag, no angling license in possession, reckless/careless driving in a state park and an overlimit of sauger/walleyes.



  • Lake of the Woods by the numbers: Annual survey shows drop in walleye abundance, high sauger population
  • Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District ditch project targets sediment-filled Bostic Bay The $350,000 channel stabilization project on 2.75 miles of Judicial Ditch 28, which finished late this summer, was designed to curb bank erosion, improve water quality and protect fish passage to shallow, grassy spawning sites.
  • Outdoors Notebook: Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic canceled, Minnesota elk hunters have 89% success etc. Despite the cancellation, plans are underway to host a virtual gathering in late February to kick off a brand new, mission-centric campaign aimed at increasing public lands, upland bird populations, and upland hunters as a whole.

CO Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls West) monitored area muzzleloader-hunting activity and patrolled during the elk hunt. Enforcement action for the past week included taking big game without a valid license, shooting from the road at big game, possessing a muzzleloader outdoors without a muzzleloader license, driving after revocation, recreational trespass, open bottle, and no blaze orange when required.

CO Demosthenes Regas (Blackduck South) reports monitoring trapping activity, checking muzzleloader deer hunters and monitoring anglers on special regulation lakes throughout the past week. Regas reports area lakes saw a lot of angling pressure as the overflow of anglers who were not able to get out on Upper Red Lake shot from the hip with plan B in pursuit of crappies and bluegills. Anglers reported a slow bite but a few anglers did catch a few nice walleyes. Time was spent issuing possession permits for car-killed deer and monitoring ice conditions on area lakes. Violations encountered and addressed this past week included ATV registration and anglers not having licenses in possession.

CO Nicholas Prachar (Blackduck North) reports ice conditions on Upper Red Lake are conducive to fishing, but no ice is 100% safe. Cracks have opened up around the lake and refrozen, causing thin ice that can be dangerous. Time was spent working on Upper Red, where enforcement action was taken for multiple overlimits of walleyes, illegal-length fish, no angling license and extra lines. Other enforcement action was taken for possession of fillets on a special regulation lake and possession of controlled substances/paraphernalia.

Baudette East – vacant.

Karlstad – vacant.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports checking anglers on area lakes. Time was also spent following up on deer-related cases and checking muzzleloader and archery deer hunters. Various deer-hunting-related violations were encountered.

CO Tim Gray (Bagley) checked ice anglers and muzzleloader hunters.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) monitored ice activity on nearby lakes and found that more people are going out onto the ice. A lot of time was spent checking ice anglers on Upper Red Lake. ATV and big-game activity was also monitored. Enforcement action was taken for multiple angling violations and big-game violations.


CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the past week working on ongoing cases and checking ice anglers. Many people were seen out fishing over the weekend and ice conditions continue to improve. A lot of the area lakes have walkable ice and fishing has been good. Swedberg wants to remind anglers to check regulations before going out and double-check that they have purchased their license for the year.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) worked ice anglers and trespass complaints. Some muzzleloader deer hunters were also checked. Most reported slow activity.

CO Steve Chihak (Moorhead) spent the past week working deer-hunting, pheasant-hunting, trapping and goose-hunting activity. Some folks are venturing out onto the ice on smaller lakes. Caution is advised, as no ice is 100% safe.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) worked angling activity, with anglers reporting fair-to-good success. Ice conditions continue to vary and caution should be used. Muzzleloader hunting was worked. Warren spent time on small-game hunting on wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas. A call of burning garbage was received. Follow up was conducted on open cases.

CO Bill Landmark (Pelican Rapids) and COC Brown spent the past week monitoring angling, muzzleloader and pheasant hunting activity in the Pelican Rapids station. Surprisingly few hunters were observed despite the nice weather, as most people are focusing their attention on ice fishing. Anglers are urged to use extreme caution on area lakes. Average ice depth observed was 4 inches or a little less, with no more than 5 inches on small, shallow lakes. Anglers are finding a few panfish but are limited in the areas they can safely fish. Calls from the public included reports of dumped deer carcasses and trespassing. Enforcement action was taken for hunting without a license, angling without a license, no shelter identification, no shelter license, and no license in possession.

District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Troy Richards (Fergus Falls) checked muzzleloader deer and goose hunters over the past weekend. Time was also spent checking early ice anglers. Caution is advised for most water bodies in the area for ice fishing.

CO Daniel Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the past week were focused on checking deer hunters and pheasant hunters and monitoring trapping activity. Additional time was spent following up on complaints from the firearms deer season. Anglers are starting to venture out onto area ice, but with current weather and ice conditions, anglers should use caution when going onto the ice as thickness varies greatly.

CO Emily Leeb (Morris) reports working big- and small-game enforcement throughout the past week. Some early ice fishing activity is starting to take place on area lakes. Deer-possession permits were also issued.


CO Tricia Plautz (Henning) continued field training with COC Cassie Block. The pair focused efforts on wrapping up cases from the 2020 firearms deer season and monitoring ice on area lakes. Time was spent working hunters out for the muzzleloader season and checking anglers out on early ice. Violations encountered included no license in possession and dogs chasing deer.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) monitored pheasant-hunting activity throughout the station, as conditions are excellent and birds are around. Muzzleloader hunters are also continuing to pursue deer, as are a few archers. Ice conditions around the area are still very dangerous, with thickness ranging from open water to about 4 inches in spots. A few anglers reported moderate success but many people remain wary to venture out. Deer season investigations continue to wrap up.

CO Brian Holt (Osakis) checked muzzleloader deer hunters, small-game hunters and ATV riders during the previous week. Time was also spent investigating TIP complaints and following up on open cases. Enforcement action involved numerous deer-hunting-related violations as a result of the follow-up investigations and TIP complaints.

CO Hanna Wood (Wheaton) spent the past week working on hunting enforcement including small game, archery and muzzleloader deer. She took a report of a bullet hole in a deer stand that led violations for lend/borrow, unlawful party hunting and taking an overlimit of deer. Wood took phone calls regarding public waters violations, a bear sighting, shooting from a vehicle and several complaints of out-of-state people taking an overlimit of fish. Minnow permits were issued, and she continues to follow up on complaints.

CO Shane Osborne (Evansville) met with the area hydrologist and wetland staff in regards to wetland and public waters violations in Grant County. A cease and desist order was issued to a contractor in Grant County for draining a public water body. Hunter-harassment and injured-animal complaints were received and investigated. Muzzleloader deer hunters were checked.

District 4 - Walker area

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) continued to check hunting and fishing activity. She reminds people to check the ice conditions while venturing out onto the lakes.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) worked fishing and big-game enforcement during the past week. Several lakes have 4 to 6 inches of ice, and numerous anglers were checked. Northern pike were the most common fish seen in the bucket. Reminder that designated trout lakes are closed to angling for all species until the trout season opens. Enforcement action during the week included no license in possession, unattended lines, illegal-length/overlimit of northern pike within the slot, angling without a license, no shelter license and transporting a loaded firearm.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily checked ice anglers and deer hunters. The ice is slowly getting thicker, with up to 6 inches seen on shallow lakes and bays. Reports of hunting deer over bait, filling a wetland and a dog caught in a trap were received and investigated. Boats were maintained and stored. Enforcement action was taken for underage possession of alcohol and angling violations.


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CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time checking small-game and muzzleloader hunters. Kunst has been following up on a baiting case. A few ice anglers were out on a small lake in the area, but Kunst reminds people not to take chances on the thin ice in the area.

Lake George – vacant.

Walker – vacant.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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