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Weekly DNR Enforcement report: Ice fishing activity picking up on Lake of the Woods as conditions improve

Ice conditions on Lake of the Woods continue to improve on a daily basis, and more and more anglers are taking to the ice, primarily in portables, but there are some rentals out. Resorts are starting to let ATVs and snowmobiles out in some areas.

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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. 9:

District 1 - Baudette area

CO Ben Huener (Roseau) checked muzzleloader deer hunters in the area and checked anglers on Lake of the Woods. Follow up was conducted for cases related to the firearms deer season.

CO Eric Benjamin (Warroad North) worked sport fishing and big- and small-game enforcement. Ice conditions continue to improve on a daily basis, and more and more anglers are taking to the ice, primarily in portables but there are some rentals out. Resorts are starting to let ATVs and snowmobiles out in some areas. Be sure to call ahead or check resort Facebook pages for ice conditions and updates. Always use caution and common sense.

CO Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls West) monitored area angling and snowmobiling activity. Anglers are reminded to be vigilant about constant changes in ice conditions. An investigation from the firearms deer season resulted in charges pending for taking deer without a valid license, untagged big game, transporting illegally taken big game and failure to register big game.

CO Tony Elwell (Thief River Falls East) patrolled the station for hunting, angling and snowmobile activity. He is seeing snowmobiles on the trails without registration numbers or trail stickers affixed. Make sure your snowmobile is registered and all registration decals are affixed before hitting the trails. If you have a sled with 2019 stickers on it, your registration expired in June.


CO Demosthenes Regas (Blackduck South) reports checking muzzleloader deer hunters and anglers on special regulation lakes throughout the past week. Time was spent monitoring snowmobile trail and trapping activity and issuing car-killed deer possession permits. Violations encountered and addressed during the week included operating trucks on state grant-in-aid snowmobile trails, ATV registration and angling license violations.

CO Nicholas Prachar (Blackduck North) reports a busy week on Upper Red Lake. Most anglers have found success with walleyes. Enforcement action was taken on equipment violations on snowmobiles, angling with extra lines, no angling license and possession of a controlled substance. Prachar also took enforcement action for possession of fillets on a special regulation water. It is illegal to possess fillets on Upper Red Lake unless you’re in the process of cooking them to eat.

CO Hannah Mishler (Baudette East) worked big-game and sport-fishing enforcement. Open cases from the firearms deer season were followed up on this past week, with enforcement action pending. She also attended a meeting regarding the management of Red Lake fisheries.

Baudette West – vacant.

Warroad South – vacant.

Karlstad – vacant.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports spending time this past week checking muzzleloader deer hunters. Time was also spent checking ice anglers and several suspected wetland violation sites.

CO Tim Gray (Bagley) checked snowmobile riders, ice anglers and deer hunters.


CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) and Conservation Officer Candidate Calie Kunst have been working ice fishing enforcement on Upper Red Lake throughout the week. Many violations were found, including angling with extra lines and keeping illegal-sized walleyes. They want to remind anglers of special regulations on Upper Red Lake: The walleye limit is four, and only one over 17 inches may be kept.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) and COC Jordan Anderson mainly spent time working fishing activity as a few anglers ventured out. Ice conditions vary widely across area lakes with some only having 2 to 3 inches. Enforcement action for the week consisted of operation of a Class 1 ATV on a public highway, no shelter license and possession of drug paraphernalia.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the past week checking ice anglers and working on ongoing cases. Fishing was slow with the new snow on top of the lakes, but most anglers were able to find some panfish. Ice conditions continue to improve but are still very different from lake to lake. The first snowmobilers were seen through the week, and with more snow predicted this week, trails should be in good condition.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) worked deer hunters, assisted DNR Forestry and followed up on complaints of land trespass and a headless buck. Peterson also assisted local law enforcement on calls for service.

CO Steve Chihak (Moorhead) spent the past week working sport fishing, small-game, deer-hunting and snowmobile enforcement. Ice conditions on area lakes remain unsafe in many spots. Recent snowfall has created about 4 inches of slush on top of existing ice. Snowmobile riders were out over the weekend testing trail conditions. Time was also spent on trespass complaints and miscellaneous wildlife-related calls.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) worked small-game and muzzleloader hunting activity. Open cases were followed up on with the area hydrologist. Ice angling activity was worked with ice conditions improving and more anglers trying their luck. Wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas were patrolled for activity. Warren spoke at a snowmobile safety class in Detroit Lakes.

Bemidji #2 – vacant.

District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Daniel Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the past week were concentrated on checking deer hunters and anglers. Additional time was spent answering questions regarding deer licenses and snowmobile safety requirements, and issuing possession permits for wild game.


CO Shane Osborne (Evansville) investigated a deer-baiting complaint and answered questions regarding deer license/tagging and ice fishing. Follow-up investigation was completed on deer season cases. Ice conditions in the area vary from lake to lake and Osborne reminds people to be prepared with safety equipment before venturing out.

CO Tricia Plautz (Henning) checked ice anglers and muzzleloader deer hunters. Car-killed deer permits were issued and assistance was provided to local law enforcement. A trespass call was received and investigated.

CO Troy Richards (Fergus Falls) reports hunter numbers have been heavy for both geese and pheasants. Success has varied, but most are seeing plenty of birds. Hunters have been finding plenty of bad ice in the cattails. Ice anglers are starting to get out again, but dangerous conditions still exist.

CO Andrew Goodman (Elbow Lake) focused enforcement efforts on angling as well as small-game and deer hunting. Anglers checked report narrow bite windows and walleyes at varying depths. Goodman responded to complaints of goose overlimits and deer carcasses dumped on a WMA. Enforcement action included angling with unattended and extra lines in addition to various license violations. Additional time was spent coordinating upcoming snowmobile safety classes.

CO Brian Holt (Osakis) worked muzzleloader deer hunters, pheasant hunters and trapping during the past week. Time was also spent planning a snowmobile safety class for the Osakis area. Calls were fielded regarding CWD issues, including a suspected sick deer and unlawfully imported deer from another state.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) worked some early ice anglers this past week on smaller lakes and bays. Ice thickness is widely variable, but in a few spots 6 to 7 inches were observed. Several contacts resulted in enforcement action for extra lines and unattended lines. Work continued on a background investigation for the upcoming CO Academy, and a snowmobile safety class was completed in Alexandria.

Morris – vacant.

Wheaton – vacant.


District 4 - Walker area

CO Jacqueline Hughes (Longville) checked the area for snowmobile riders and ice anglers. She reminds people to be mindful of ice thickness before traveling out onto the lakes. She also wrote possession permits for car-killed deer.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily checked anglers and snowmobile riders. Area lakes average 7 to 9 inches of ice. There are, however, several areas on many lakes that froze late and likely still have very thin ice. Snowmobile trails are groomed in the area. Enforcement action was taken for angling and ATV violations.

Lake George – vacant.

Park Rapids – vacant.

Walker – vacant.

Remer – vacant.

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