Pair of Baudette, Minn., bait dealers charged with minnow-trapping violation

Two Baudette, Minn., bait dealers have been charged in Beltrami County for using nets from infested waters to trap shiner minnows this past May on Upper Red Lake.

Two Baudette, Minn., bait dealers have been charged in Beltrami County for using nets from infested waters to trap shiner minnows this past May on Upper Red Lake.

Kim Barsness, 55, was charged with conspiring to illegally sell wild animals and attempting to illegally sell wild animals -- in this case, shiner minnows. John Hult Sr., 68, was charged with the same offenses.

The charges are gross misdemeanors.

According to court records, Barsness and Hult are longtime licensed minnow dealers in the Lake of the Woods area.

In 2007, the Department of Natural Resources declared Lake of the Woods and Rainy River as infested waters for spiny water fleas, an invasive crustacean that competes with native zooplankton species and potentially can disrupt the food chain.


Spiny water fleas first entered the U.S. through the ballast water on Great Lakes ships and since have spread to numerous lakes and rivers, including border waters in the Rainy River watershed.

After declaring Lake of the Woods and Rainy River as infested waters, the DNR imposed several restrictions on area bait dealers, including the requirement they complete a written test to prove their knowledge about the threat spiny water fleas pose.

Dealers also must mark their equipment with specially issued tags, indicating the gear only can be used in infested waters. To minimize the risk of spreading the invasive species, the gear can't be used in waters that aren't infested.

Spiny water fleas haven't been found in Upper Red Lake, which is about 40 miles south of Baudette but in a different watershed, and so using gear from Lake of the Woods or Rainy River is illegal.

According to the complaint report, DNR conservation officer Robert Gorecki encountered Hult and Barsness trapping minnows May 6 on Upper Red Lake using gear marked as being from infested waters. They already had trapped several gallons of minnows with a wholesale or retail value considerably higher than $400, the report said.

Barsness and Hult both had taken and passed the written exam and indicated they understood the restrictions, court records show. They could have legally trapped minnows on Upper Red if they hadn't used equipment from infested waters.

The men initially told Gorecki they hadn't used the gear in infested waters, court records show, but the equipment was marked with an "infested waters only" tag the DNR had issued the previous year. They then said they'd spoken with a DNR official in St. Paul, who'd told them the gear could be used in uninfested waters if it was allowed to dry for a couple of days.

Gorecki later talked to the DNR official, who said he never had advised the men they could use the equipment in Upper Red Lake or other uninfested waters.


According to the Beltrami County court administrator's office, Hult is scheduled for a contested omnibus hearing Tuesday in Bemidji, with Barsness set for a similar hearing Nov. 20.

Capt. Jim Dunn, regional enforcement supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said the minnow trappers' commercial bait licenses were seized, and it will be up to the DNR commissioner to decide whether to grant them a temporary lease of the licenses while the case is in the courts. Barsness' wife applied for and received a retail bait license that allows for the sale, but not the trapping, of bait in the meantime, Dunn said.

Attempted hawk shooting

Two Minnesota men have been charged with firearm and hunting offenses for attempting to shoot a hawk from the window of a motor vehicle Oct. 2 in Benson County, N.D.

Kraig King, Pine River, Minn., was cited for attempting to shoot a hawk and carrying a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.

Jason Smith, Backus, Minn., was cited for carrying a loaded firearm in a motorized vehicle.

Bruce Burkett, a warden investigator for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, said he encountered the vehicle with "several individuals" while on a routine patrol. The vehicle came over a hill, Burkett said, and he happened to be on the other side.

King and Smith are scheduled to make their initial court appearance Nov. 9, court records show.


The charges are Class B misdemeanors. Attempting to shoot or possessing a harmless bird also is a federal offense, Burkett said, but the charge will be tried in state court.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to .

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, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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