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Minnesota DNR report: Fishing success limited; snowmobiling activity picks up

Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Dec. 28, 2020.

District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports the pine marten- and fisher-trapping season came to a quiet close with fewer trappers observed out in the woods compared with previous years. Injured-animal complaints were also handled throughout the week. People are reminded with the new snowfall to use caution when snowmobiling as accidents have already been reported.

CO Curtis Simonson (International Falls 2) reports anglers are having some success in the area. Simonson would like to remind people to think twice before driving vehicles onto the ice. It is still early in the ice-making season.

Simonson reports trappers having some success with the fisher and martin season coming to a close this weekend.

Enforcement action taken this past week consisted of angling without a license in possession and untagged traps.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) reports additional snowmobile traffic was noted in the area although the trails could use a good dose of snow to make them ridable. There are several ice heaves that have formed on the local lakes, creating hazards for unsuspecting riders as well.


The final days of the marten and fisher season were monitored and it appeared most trappers were done earlier.

Questions were received in regard to the northern pike regulations and the differences from zones to border waters and angling to spearing.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports monitoring area lakes and angling activity. Fishing success remains poor overall.

Snowmobile trails lack sufficient snow. Area forest roads were checked and public access sites monitored.

CO Shane Zavodnik (Cook) reports that with the recent snowfall, an increase in snowmobile activity was observed on the lakes, but the trails are still lacking adequate snow cover.

Zavodnik checked a number of permanent fish houses with anglers in violation, including unattended lines, extra lines and taking walleyes within the protected slot limit. One individual who admitted he had three lines out said: “Good thing you checked me now, because I was just about to put three more tip-ups outside.” During the incident, the angler also stated that he thinks everyone should be able to have an unlimited number of lines out in order to catch the first fish. He was informed of the rules and regulations and enforcement action was taken.

Zavodnik wants to remind snowmobilers to follow the staked trails due to pressure ridges forming on the lakes.

CO Matt Frericks (Virginia) spent a majority of his time patrolling for fisher- and marten-trapping activity during the short nine-day season. Very little activity was noted.


Recent snowfall instantly brought out snowmobile activity. Enforcement action was taken for operating unregistered snowmobiles and allowing illegal operation of a snowmobile by a juvenile. The recent snowfall also brought slush to area lakes.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the past week monitoring fishing, trapping and snowmobile activity. Fishing success still remained limited. Recent snowfall created some slush on local lakes, but still isn’t quite enough for the snowmobile trails.

Broughten also fielded calls regarding dogs chasing deer and vehicles operating on snowmobile trails.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) spent the past week focusing on angling and snowmobile enforcement. The snowmobile trails in the Ely area are still poor to fair, but most are useable. Violations included angling without a license in possession and operating a snowmobile with no trail sticker.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) reports a relatively quiet end to the fisher and pine marten season.

The area finally got enough snow to allow for snowmobile operation, although riders should use caution on rougher sections of trail as the base layer is sufficient to conceal but not fully cushion some rocks.

Manning worked with DNR Parks and Trails staff to improve signage on snowmobile trails; followed up on ATV issues; and answered questions about snowmobile operation, registration issues and angling.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) worked angling, snowmobile and trapping enforcement. Several snowfalls brought the snowmobiles out, although more snow is needed to get trails in good condition.


Enforcement action was taken for possession of drug paraphernalia and operating a highway vehicle on a snowmobile trail.

Reminder: Altered snowmobile exhaust that increases the volume and produces sharp noises is illegal in Minnesota.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked area trapping and angling activity.

Time was also spent checking snowmobile riders ready to hit the trail, only to find out that the trails were ready to hit back due to lack of snow.

CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) reports the fisher and pine marten season came and went with extremely low activity despite Hill seeing decent critter signs leading up to the season.

Cross-country ski enthusiasts were out in force taking advantage of the nice weather and trail conditions throughout the holiday weekend. Ski pass compliance was overall pretty good, but a fair number of people took to the trails without buying their pass. Hill expects the skiing activity to ramp up after the new year and suggests people get out early in the day to avoid large crowds and cramped parking.

Snowmobile activity is beginning to rise and enforcement action was taken for registration and safety certification violations.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked trapping and angling activity during the past week.


Snowmobiles were starting to show up on lakes and ditches, but trails in the area are still ungroomed.

Enforcement action was taken for licensing violations and a case of burning prohibited materials is being investigated.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Vincent Brown (Northome) focused enforcement efforts on trapping and ice fishing activity. With improving ice conditions, there have been an increasing number of anglers showing up on area lakes.

Enforcement action was taken for angling license and ATV registration violations.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers, monitored trapping activity and assisted the State Patrol with vehicles in the ditch.

Angler success in the area was good this week. Enforcement action was taken for license issues.

CO Sarah Grell (Grand Rapids) checked angling activity this past week. As colder weather has moved in, area lakes are getting more good ice, but people still need to be cautious as many lakes have natural current due to springs and being connected to river systems.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked ice fishing activity over the past week with numerous people out and about over the beginning of the Christmas break.


Enforcement action was taken for no angling license in possession and burning prohibited materials.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) reports working angling, darkhouse spearing, trapping and snowmobile activities throughout the surrounding areas. An open big-game investigation was also completed.

Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra lines and several angling license violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) spent time monitoring a mix of outdoor recreation. Snowmobile activity in the area has begun to pick up with recent snowfalls. Anglers continue to increase in numbers as the ice conditions improve.

Seasonal equipment maintenance was also completed.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) worked on administrative items and reports and readied equipment for service during the past week.

One more good snowstorm should get the snowmobile trails set up well, as they are mostly passable, but not groomed yet.

Ice fishing is also going strong with good ice around the station.


CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) worked snowmobile and ice angling activities this past week. Ice conditions continue to improve in the area and lots of people are out fishing.

Snowmobilers are out braving the mediocre conditions but it has been very busy. Most trails have not had a groom as snow is limited and swamps are sketchy.

Schmidt assisted the Duluth Police Department and St. Louis County with a lost hiker and responded to a Jeep on a trail in Duluth.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) checked ice anglers on area lakes. Time was also spent checking snowmobile activity. Area trails still need more snow, but many snowmobile riders are out on area lakes.

Duncan continues to work on possible deer-hunting violations.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked anglers along the shores of Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor off Park Point, as well as inland lakes north of Duluth. With the recent snowfall, snowmobiles have been showing up in great numbers on area trails and lakes.

Olson investigated a complaint in Gary-New Duluth of damage caused by a Jeep off-road on school district property. The Duluth Police Department will be following up on the issue.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked ice anglers and snowmobilers on a busy holiday weekend. Trail conditions are still rough, with a little bit of snow to pack for a base but not enough for sustainable grooming.

Cross-country ski passes were checked at area trails with good compliance.

Multiple snowmobile violations were found on all groups checked. Modifying a muffler to be louder than stock, no trail sticker, registration and roadway violations were common. If you purchased your registration 10 months ago, but keep it in your pocket because you “haven’t had time to put it on,” you are in violation of the requirements to display registration on the machine.

Enforcement action was taken for angling, skiing and snowmobile violations.

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Katie Rohman has served as the managing editor of the Duluth News Tribune since 2019. She started with Duluth Media Group in 2017 as regional editor of the Superior Telegram, Pine Journal, Lake County News-Chronicle, Eastern Observer and Western Weekly. She has worked in newspapers around the Midwest since 2004.
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