It’s almost that time of year for ice fishing

Published 9:40 am Friday, December 3, 2010

Column: Dick Herfindahl, Woods and Water

As we slowly work our way into winter I have to look back and say that we really had just about a perfect fall. I don’t think one could script it any better.

Dick Herfindahl

In last week’s column I wrote about the dangers of venturing out on thin ice at this time of year. Now we’ve all heard the old saying “the early bird gets the worm” but sometimes the bird also may, in this case, get wet. As I returned home from out of town on Sunday afternoon I noticed a lone fisherman sitting on a bucket a few yards out on the ice near the Front Street bridge. The following day the ice that he was sitting on was gone. Are those fish really worth the risk? I know that the best ice fishing is shortly after ice-over but waiting until the ice is safe should be our first priority. Ice fishing can be fun and the best fishing times involve getting on the lake as soon as the ice is safe enough for traffic. This will usually be the most productive time for “hard water” fishing.

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Last year I was able to fish a couple of different spots on Albert Lea Lake and found that fishing definitely changes from first ice to later in the season. On one occasion my friend Mark had told me how good the fishing had been on Albert Lea Lake so eventually I decided to take him up on his offer and spend a day at the fish house. I was amazed at how clear the water was, and I could clearly see the fish as they approached the bait and in one instance watched as a large perch seemingly inhaled my minnow only to spit it out as soon as I went to set the hook. This was a unique situation because I was able to watch the fish as it actually took the bait. I never realized how adept fish were at spitting bait out until I seemingly had that one hooked only to have it spit the hook quicker than I could set it. I know my reflexes may have slowed a bit, or a lot, over the years, but that was unbelievable. Even though I didn’t catch that big perch, it was pretty fun just to be able to watch the whole thing unfold.

Mark said that in the short time from when their house was first out until the day we fished the fish had become more and more finicky. Although they were still there they didn’t seem all that interested in anything you had to offer. I am looking forward to doing more ice fishing this year, and hopefully Mark and I will be able to spend a day or two on the ice. I’m sure that my grandson, Trevor, will also be willing to share his fish house with grandpa at least a couple of times this winter. For years I never had much interest in ice fishing but in the last few years I’ve really started to enjoy it.

A few odds and ends from the deer hunting season.

Although the season isn’t totally over the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued the following report on the 2010 season.

The DNR reports that firearm hunters have registered 171,000 deer since the firearm season opened on Nov. 6. During opening weekend, 107,000 deer were registered.

“This year is on pace to exceed the 195,000 we harvested in 2009,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator.

Cornicelli said the new online and toll-free phone deer registration options have decreased the time lag between harvest and reporting, and opening weekend numbers should not change very much over time. Unlike previous years, when hunters took their deer to registration stations, 54 percent of this year’s successful hunters simply registered their deer by computer or phone

The northeast Minnesota firearm season (Zone 1) concluded Sunday, Nov. 21. The late southeast firearms season (Zone 3B) began Saturday, Nov. 20, and ended Sunday, Nov. 28. The muzzleloader deer season opened on Nov. 27 and closes on Sunday, Dec. 12.

Another hunting related news release from the DNR has to do with showing true sportsmanship as a hunter. With this in mind the DNR has issued the following news release:

Nominees sought for 18th annual Minnesota Deer Hunter Ethics Award

The DNR, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Turn In Poachers are asking hunters to share stories of exemplary hunting behavior by nominating hunters for the 18th Annual Minnesota Deer Hunter Ethics Award.

The award will honor a deer hunter who has exhibited conduct during the 2010 season that can serve as a positive example to all hunters. Awards for youth and adult divisions will be presented to the selected recipients at an upcoming MDHA event held in their vicinity.

“MDHA is pleased to again co-sponsor this award along with TIP and the DNR,” said MDHA Executive Director Mark Johnson. “This is an important award that highlights the ethical behavior of our deer hunters and singles out the types of ethical hunters we hope all hunters aspire to be: hunters who care about our hunting heritage, care about fairness and care about the image we as hunters portray.”

Patsy Bernhjelm, TIP Board president, added that it recognizes hunters who go the extra mile. “This award encourages ethics above and beyond legal hunting and TIP is proud to be a part of it again this year.”

Anyone may nominate a hunter by writing a letter or e-mail explaining the actions of the nominee and why that person is worthy of this recognition. Both youth and adults are eligible, but nominees must be Minnesota residents. The incidents for which hunters are nominated must have occurred during any of the 2010 Minnesota deer hunting seasons (archery, firearm or muzzleloader).

“We want to hear about deer hunters who have gone out of their way or beyond normal courtesy for others,” said Johnson. “This isn’t about not filling a doe tag or not taking a marginal shot. It is about hunters who show genuine concern for others, and the sport of deer hunting, through their thoughtfulness and actions.”

Nominations will be accepted for the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Ethics Award until Friday, Jan. 21. Nomination letters should be sent to Ethical Hunter Award, MDHA, 460 Peterson Road, Grand Rapids, MN 55744-8413, or faxed to 218-327-1349, or e-mailed to

Until next time, please stay off the thin ice and above all enjoy the great outdoors!

Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s outdoors column appears in Friday’s Tribune.