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Walleyes and sturgeon cooperating on the Rainy River, DNR conservation officers report

The Rainy River stayed consistently busy throughout the week, with all accesses down to Wheeler’s Point now open. Anglers targeting sturgeon seem to be having steady success, whereas walleye fishing was a little more hit and miss overall throughout the week.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources logo DNR
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources logo

Here is the weekly report from Department of Natural Resources conservation officers in northwest Minnesota and adjacent areas of northern Minnesota for Monday, March 29:

District 1 - Baudette area

CO Ben Huener (Roseau) investigated arson fires in western Roseau County and Kittson County. Evidence was transported to the BCA lab in Bemidji.

CO Marc Johnson (Warroad South) worked angling activity on the Rainy River and public accesses, patrolled local state parks and forests, responded to calls for service and answered questions regarding Lake of the Woods and Rainy River fishing regulations. In addition, a detail focusing on fire prevention was worked with DNR Forestry. Violations encountered included littering, negligent acts leading to a fire, expired watercraft registration and no angling licenses in possession.

CO Aaron Larson (Baudette West) primarily worked angling enforcement. Anglers have been fishing the Rainy River hard with the early thaw. Success has been fairly good, with smaller walleyes and sauger being caught.

CO Corey Sura (Baudette East) monitored public accesses on the Rainy River, worked boat and water enforcement, and assisted DNR Forestry with additional patrol looking for any fire or burning activity while restrictions are in place. The Rainy River stayed consistently busy throughout the week, with all accesses down to Wheeler’s Point now open. Anglers targeting sturgeon seem to be having steady success, whereas walleye fishing was a little more hit and miss overall throughout the week. Enforcement action was taken for violations including fishing without a license, fishing with extra lines, fishing with unattended lines, open burning during a burn ban, open burning of garbage and miscellaneous boating safety equipment and registration violations.


CO Ryan Brown (Karlstad) reports attending the firearms safety class in Lancaster. Area waters are almost clear of ice. Time was spent checking angling and ATV activities as well as investigating fires in the area.

CO Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls West) responded to calls about an injured eagle and uncontrolled permit fires. He conducted investigations of use of invalid deer licenses and addressed issues of trapping without a valid license. Enforcement action was taken for failure to control a permitted fire, trapping without a valid license and taking deer with an invalid license.

CO Tony Elwell (Thief River Falls East) conducted training and patrols for illegal burning and wildfires this week. Elwell has received reports of bears starting to emerge. With limited natural food available, make sure to secure your trash, bird feeders and pet food to avoid issues with hungry bears.

CO Demosthenes Regas (Blackduck South) reports monitoring ATV/ORV activity, seasonal spring trail closures and spring beaver-trapping activity. Time was spent working Forestry fire enforcement details due to the dry conditions. Overall compliance has been good.

CO Nicholas Prachar (Blackduck North) reports the spring season has brought with it dry conditions and a higher fire danger. Check local burning restrictions before burning. Prachar worked with CO Mishler on the Rainy River for angling and boating safety enforcement. Enforcement action was taken for safety equipment violations, license violations and angling with extra lines.


District 2 - Bemidji area
CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports following up on a wildfire case. Various wildlife management area-related complaints were received. Time was further spent checking anglers and ATV operators.

CO Tim Gray (Bagley) wrapped up a deer wanton waste case and looked for spring trappers.


CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) checked area lakes for angling activity. Ice conditions have deteriorated enough where anglers are unable to get out on to the lakes. He worked a boat and water safety detail with CO McGowan on the Rainy River. The river was very busy, with sturgeon and walleyes being caught in most areas. Several boating safety violations were detected.

CO Hannah Mishler (Bemidji #2) spent the week checking ATV riders and anglers. Time was spent on the Rainy River with a focus on angling and boat and water safety enforcement. Just a reminder: As you take your boat out for the first trip of the year, remember to ensure it has all required safety equipment, as well as up-to-date registration.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reminds people that burn permits are now required if they’d like to clean up leaf and brush debris. The dry spring and windy conditions make for a high risk of wildfires. Ice conditions have deteriorated to the point where the ice fishing season has come to an end in the area. Vinton, along with WREO (wetland resource enforcement officer) Joe Stattelman, worked a detail on the Rainy River. The river has opened all the way to Lake of the Woods and anglers were finding both sturgeon and walleyes. Enforcement action was taken for failure to display watercraft registration and litter.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week following up on ongoing cases. Swedberg continues to work on cases from the deer season and also followed up on a TIP complaint of someone who was angling without a license during the late ice fishing season.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) worked forest road closures and ATV and OHM enforcement. He also assisted on a search warrant.

CO Steve Chihak (Moorhead) spent the week working sport fishing, trapping and ATV enforcement. He investigated a report of a dog possibly killed by wolves. Time was also spent responding to miscellaneous wildlife-related calls.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) monitored activity in area WMAs and waterfowl production areas. Patrol was conducted for ATV and off-road vehicle activity. Leeching activity was monitored as ponds continue to open. Patrol for illegal fire activity was conducted.

CO Bill Landmark (Pelican Rapids) spent the week patrolling for ATV and angling violations. Now that the ice fishing season has wrapped up, some anglers are starting to try their luck at shore fishing, but most are waiting for the ice to clear the lakes. Time was spent teaching the law and ethics portion of a firearm safety class. Landmark and Lt. Seefeldt also attended a meeting with local bait dealers to discuss proposed legislation as well as current regulations.


District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Shane Osborne (Evansville) checked areas for spring beaver-trapping activity. Questions about firearms safety classes and a call about early bowfishing activity were received. Commercial natural resource inspections were completed in the station.

CO Daniel Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the week were concentrated on checking anglers and ATV operators, and monitoring spring fish run activity. Additional time was spent following up on a potential trapping violation.

CO Tricia Plautz (Henning) registered two more ATV safety classes for April. Continuous calls and emails with interested youth for the classes have kept Plautz busy. She monitored fish run activity with the warmer weather.

CO Emily Leeb (Morris) reports working fishing and ATV enforcement throughout the week. Enforcement action taken included fishing without a license and driving an ATV without required headlights. Nuisance-animal calls were also handled.

CO Hanna Wood (Wheaton) focused this week’s enforcement efforts on angling and recreational vehicles. She took several calls from the public with questions and concerns. Angling activity in the area has increased significantly now that the ice is off the lake. Wood would like to remind people that the “border waters” for Lake Traverse and the Mustinka River ends at the state Highway 117 bridge. (North of the bridge is inland Minnesota waters and the walleye season is not yet open.) She also gave the laws and ethics discussion to a firearms safety class.

CO Brian Holt (Osakis) spent the week working recreational vehicle activity and trapping. Time was also spent following up on miscellaneous wildlife-related complaints. Holt followed up on ongoing investigations and monitored spring fish run activity.

CO Troy Richards (Fergus Falls) reports checking open-water anglers and monitoring the early stages of the fish run. Time was spent patrolling public areas and answering questions related to upcoming seasons.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) watched this week as ice on station lakes started to pull away from shore. There haven’t been any boats sighted on the water yet, but they’re not far off. WMAs and WPAs were patrolled for illegal deer stands, as well as turkey hunters preparing for their hunts. Calls about injured- and car-killed animals were handled, as was a taxidermy inspection.


District 4 - Walker area

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) continued training COC Nicholas Baum this week. Mathy and Baum patrolled the Park Rapids area and the Rainy River. Mathy and Baum observed ATV activity in the Park Rapids area, with violations for failure to update a driver’s license, operating an ATV without headlights on and operating an ATV in the road right-of-way without a valid driver’s license. While patrolling the Rainy River, Mathy and Baum encountered violations for no license in possession and failure to have safety equipment for watercraft. Mathy and Baum conducted multiple commercial checks for taxidermy. Mathy and Baum want to remind recreational vehicle users to check the status of trails before operating on them.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time enforcing trapping regulations, with enforcement action taken for trapping without a small-game license and untagged traps. Kunst also took a call regarding an incidental otter trapped in a beaver set.

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CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) spent time during the week completing training. Equipment maintenance was completed in preparation for the open-water season. A wolf-depredation incident was also investigated.

CO Mike Cross (Lake George) worked spring trapping and angling on the Rainy River. He also assisted the sheriff’s office with setting up a landing zone for the medic helicopter, and responded to a bear-related complaint. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license, no license in possession, no watercraft registration, and watercraft safety violations.

Walker – vacant.

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