Turning the page on yet another year

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, January 1, 2012

Here we go again.

We are now descending on another year and, just like trolling an unfamiliar lake, we never know what will be lurking around the next bend. With this in mind I hope everyone has a safe and healthy 2012.

When thinking about past fishing experiences, one of my most memorable doesn’t even involve fish. On one summer outing to the cabin with my grandson, Trevor, we had a pretty unique experience. We had decided to do what has become a routine occurrence each year — to visit Spider Lake for a little fishing. Spider has been and probably still is my favorite lake to spend time on. It has enough beauty that even a poor fishing day can be enjoyable just because of the scenery that surrounds you.

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On this particular visit we were heading down the lake to the part that is referred to as “third lake.” As we sped into the narrows between second and third, Trevor started pointing and yelling. At first I didn’t see what he was excited about, but then I noticed off to my left was a calf moose attempting to climb out of the water onto a small island that sits near the narrows. I slowed the boat so that we could watch as the calf made its way onto shore and into the woods. You could barely see its mother watching from the cover of the trees. This was indeed a special memory that Trevor and I will always share.

Making memories in the great outdoors with family is indeed something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. As I reflect on other events, I guess I could actually take any one of the grandsons and find a story to tell about their outdoor experiences that I’ve been fortunate enough to witness. This is what makes spending time in the outdoors with family special and watching nature do its thing so great because you never know what natural wonder you will be able to observe at any given time.

DNR cites 144 with baiting; seizes firearms, bows

In the aftermath of this year’s firearms deer hunting season, there was indeed a downside. The number of citations issued and also a number of firearms seized. The Deparment of Natural Resources issued the following report:

Conservation officer weekly activity reports confirm what officials with the DNR already suspected: deer baiting was pervasive during the 2011 big game season.

DNR conservation officers issued 144 citations, issued 24 warnings and seized 134 firearms/bows in baiting relation investigations during the 2011 bow, firearms and muzzleloader seasons. It’s the highest number of baiting citations issued during the deer hunting seasons since the DNR began tracking these violations in 1991.

“It seems that every year our officers are spending more and more time responding to complaints about baiting or discovering it while on patrol,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement assistant director. “It’s become a very common violation.”

Deer baiting is strategically placing a pile of food near deer stands or clearings with the intent of luring a deer into close hunting range. It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991.

Conservation Officer Marty Stage of Ely said he spent a lot of the big game season “chasing violators illegally baiting deer. The practice has certainly not gone away or apparently even slowed,” Stage said.

The fine for illegal baiting is $300, plus $80 or so in court costs. Another $500 can be tagged on for restitution if a deer is seized. Guns may be confiscated as well.

“It is pretty sad when the rifle that has been handed down for generations is lost forever due to unethical hunting,” said Conservation Officer Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais. “Grandpa might not be too happy about that, either.”

Smith said he is hopeful that by releasing the numbers on illegal baiting activities, it sends a message that Minnesota values it natural resources and there is a price for engaging in this activity.

Keeping fish of legal size is up to fisherman

In my last column I had written a little about Trevor catching walleyes in the channel and his releasing the 10- to 12-inch fish. In that same instance I also said that my own personal slot limit was between 14 and 20 inches.

Somehow the person that put my story in the paper must have misunderstood and used a subhead hinting that I recommended keeping walleyes between 10 and 20 inches. I will never tell another fisherman what size fish to keep. If a fish falls within the legal size limit then it should be up to the fisherman. Always keep in mind that you are only allowed one walleye per person over 20 inches.That is the law.

There were some walleyes being caught in the channel by Frank Hall Park this past week. I know that you could probably have guessed that by now because of the number of fishermen that you’ve been seeing on the ice this past week. It looks like the time is right for some action so you might want to give it a try.

Until next time, play safe, watch out for thin ice, good fishing and enjoy the Minnesota outdoors experience.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the holidays and the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.