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Northland DNR officers report good ice conditions in some areas, but use caution

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Nov. 29, 2021.

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District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports the opening of the 2021 muzzleloader deer season was slow, with few people observed in the field despite the weather being mild. A few animal-related complaints were handled, as were questions in regards to muzzleloader hunting and licensing. No enforcement action was needed this weekend.

CO Curtis Simonson (International Falls 2) reports working the muzzleloader deer opener. Activity was pretty slow throughout the area. Simonson also checked a number of people out doing a little last-minute grouse hunting this past weekend.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) followed up on incidents from the firearms deer season. Cases were concluded and complaint areas were checked on. Questions on the muzzleloader season and northern pike spearing were fielded. A few individuals were out braving the wintery conditions, still after the whitetails. Ice conditions are still not safe for any kind of recreational activity.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports ice fishing is in full swing. With little snow cover on area lakes, ice conditions continue to improve. Illegal spruce cutting continues. Muzzleloader deer hunting was nonexistent. Snow continues to melt as above-freezing daytime temperatures continue. Public access sites were checked and equipment work and administrative tasks were completed.

CO Marc Johnson (Hibbing) primarily worked small-game hunting and angling activity. Anglers are reminded that ice is still dangerously thin in most parts of the state and to exercise extreme caution, even when fishing small bodies of water. Time was also spent preparing equipment for the winter season and responding to calls.


CO Shane Zavodnik (Virginia) spent time taking calls related to big game, trapping, and nuisance animals over the week. He also spent a majority of the week taking care of equipment and putting it away for the winter. Zavodnik continues to wrap up several decorative product cases from the fall.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO John Velsvaag (Ely 2) checked muzzleloaders and anglers this past week. A few ice anglers were checked, but they weren’t having much success. Velsvaag received several calls about deer-hunting regulations and trapping restrictions in the Canada lynx zone.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) traveled area forest roads and checked lake accesses. Rain earlier in the month is still impacting some road conditions, with washed out areas and large sheets of ice across entire sections of a few roads. She also followed up on reports of wildlife feeding and she spoke with local radio station about safety during outdoor winter activities.

Snow to date has been minimal, so now is a good time to take a required safety training rather than wrecking a snowmobile on barely covered trails.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked area hunting and angling activity. Time was spent checking on complaints of illegal angling on trout lakes, and one muzzleloader-hunting issue.

CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) worked a trapping case through the week. He also completed equipment maintenance. A few grouse hunters were checked in the area but Hill is getting the sense that most outdoor enthusiasts are waiting for snow and ice.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked trapping and ice angling activity this week. Most area lakes are now ice-covered and anglers are starting to venture out on foot to try their luck. Ice thickness varied from 4-7 inches on lakes checked in the Two Harbors area. Anglers should check ice often when traveling on newly formed ice and wear a personal flotation device, with ice picks available for use if needed.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) spent the week investigating Turn in Poachers complaints, patrolling for spruce top/balsam harvesting activities, and checking a few anglers taking advantage of some early, and dangerous, ice fishing.


A Turn in Poachers call of people shooting after dark was investigated. Although the original complaint, which was reported days after the fact wasn’t proven, the investigation ended with a citation for lend/borrow after a hunter tagged his deer with a tag belonging to someone who wasn’t with him in the field. A firearm and deer were seized as a result of the investigation.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked hunters, monitored trapping activity and followed up on cases from the firearms season. Ice conditions vary on area lakes. Enforcement action was taken for license issues and allowing illegal operation of a snowmobile.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) worked small-game and muzzleloader deer-hunting activity. Time was also spent following up on open cases. Complaints were received involving the illegal dumping of deer carcasses in random places. Anglers are starting to get out on the ice on a few lakes. Extreme caution is advised if going out on the ice, as ice conditions may vary greatly.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) reports working muzzleloader deer hunters and ice anglers. Most area lakes have frozen over partially, with larger bodies of water still showing open water. People are reminded to use caution before venturing out for the early ice season. Enforcement action was taken for various angling violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) reports checking the first ice anglers of the season. As usual for this time of the year, the ice thickness varies greatly from lake to lake or even from spot to spot on the same lake. If venturing out on the lakes please check ice thickness often and don’t forget important ice safety equipment such as ice picks and outerwear with a lot of floatation.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jake Willis (Brookston) continued following up on deer-season cases. Trespassing complaints were investigated and phone calls were fielded. Enforcement action was taken for failure to register deer in the required time and transporting harvested decorative materials without the required paperwork.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) continued work on open cases from the firearms deer season. Complaints of dumping deer carcasses in road ditches and on public property continue to roll in, along with questions regarding muzzleloader season. He has been fielding a large number of ice-related questions. A reminder to check ice conditions, go slowly and prepare for the worst when fishing early ice.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) followed up on a couple deer-hunting related cases. He worked with the county attorney’s office on case reports and charging for a couple upcoming complaints. He returned several phone calls and completed some training and office work.


CO Jeff Humphrey (Cromwell) followed up on deer-season cases. He checked area lakes for ice fishing activity, patrolled area state parks, and worked the muzzleloader deer opener. Humphrey received calls about injured or dead wildlife.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) fielded multiple post-firearms deer season calls, ranging from tips on violations to how COs should do their jobs. Local inland lakes are showing good clear ice conditions, ranging from 4-7 inches. Ice is never safe, and anyone heading out should always rely on their own observations, field testing and judgment.

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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