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CO Reports: Anglers report panfish biting, lakes can be slushy

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - March 22, 2022

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) reports anglers in the area continue to target crappies, sunfish and eelpout. Area lakes have very little snow left but are wet and slushy. Sullivan also addressed shoreline alterations and shelters that were left on lakes past the shelter removal deadline date.

CO Andrew Dirks (CCSRA) spent time checking ice anglers for late-ice panfish activity. Snow has melted rapidly throughout the area and ice conditions are deteriorating as well, so be sure to check the ice conditions before venturing out. Bike trails are currently closed throughout the SRA.

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) saw the end of the snowmobile season, barring any large snowstorms. The warm weather brought out many anglers on the lakes chasing panfish.


CO Jim Guida (Brainerd East) patrolled lakes for angling activity. Numerous anglers were checked and the panfish bite was improving. Guida observed some all-terrain vehicle activity on closed trails. He met with Camp Ripley training staff in planning for upcoming in-service training.

CO Amber Ladd (Aitkin) spent the week patrolling area lakes for angling activity. She picked up extensive amounts of litter from area lakes while patrolling. One group of anglers made a lap around a small area lake picking up trash just prior to Ladd’s arrival. They had collected a large amount of trash, which is something they do every year to help keep the lakes clean. They hope many others do the same.

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports checking anglers on local lakes. Enforcement action was taken for fishing after revocation, no angling licenses, and burning prohibited materials. State parks and campgrounds were also patrolled.

CO Chelsey Best (Pequot Lakes) worked fishing, snowmobile, ATV and trapping activities this week. Assistance was also provided for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Crosslake. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license, registration issues, too many occupants on an ATV, no helmets on juveniles, and shelters left out after the deadline.


District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) monitored angling activity on area lakes. He patrolled area snowmobile trails; conditions have deteriorated throughout the week, making most trails un-rideable. Vollbrecht worked Leech Lake with CO McGowan and marked fish houses that were still on the lakes.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reports spring panfish anglers were taking advantage of the nice weather to chase a few crappies and sunfish. Compliance was good. Slush on area lakes remains a problem, as Vinton responded to a call of a minivan stuck in the slush a half mile from the access. The angler was provided local tow companies to contact, with one offering to get him off the lake for around $700. The angler was going to “shop around” and told Vinton he had supplies for two days. When Vinton checked the next day, the angler and his van were gone. An injured deer was dispatched and a complaint of deer meat being dumped on a township road was investigated. Vinton assisted Wildlife and Nongame Wildlife staff with a local farmer upset there were too many swans in their standing corn from last year.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week checking area lakes for remaining fish houses and patrolling the quickly melting snowmobile trails. Warm weather has pretty much melted any snowmobile trails not protected from sunlight and many area lakes have multiple inches of standing water, mixed with the snow, on top of the ice. Swedberg also assisted the local sheriff’s office with calls for service and assisted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers with some motor vehicle trespass issues.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) conducted snowmobile patrol on deteriorating trails, worked ongoing cases and monitored ice shelter removal.


CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) worked angling activity, with a few anglers out and about. Fish house removal and public accesses were monitored. An interview about fish house removal was performed. Snowmobile activity was worked, with most trails deteriorating quickly. A call of a deceased deer in a yard was received. The death appeared to be related to the hard winter.

District 4 - Walker area

CO Adam Seifermann (Staples) reports checking anglers and conducting equipment maintenance. Enforcement action was taken for a shelter left out past the deadline, expired snowmobile registration, failure to obey a stop sign on a grant-in-aid trail and no angling license in possession. He also reports receiving several wildlife-related calls, coordinating ice shelter removal with family members of a deceased angler, and removing trash and debris from area lakes.

CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) patrolled the area for anglers and snowmobilers. Baum took enforcement action for various angling and snowmobile violations.


CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checked angling activity. She also investigated complaints of people feeding deer and assisted the county.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) patrolled Cass County for snowmobile and angling activity. Time was also spent maintaining Division equipment and training. Enforcement action was taken for numerous violations.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time checking anglers throughout the week. ATV activity has been picking up with the warmer weather as well. Kunst wants to remind riders that ATVs may not be operated on grant-in-aid snowmobile trails until April 1. Enforcement action was taken for taking fish without a license, operating an unregistered ATV, no helmets on juvenile passengers on an ATV, and failure to display valid registration on an ATV.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) spent time on snowmobile working snowmobile and fishing activity. Several illegal structures (box blinds) and abandoned deer stands were documented in Huntersville State Forest. Anglers are reminded to check the new regulations as there were some changes related to the Quality Sunfish Initiative in the area.


CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily checked anglers and monitored fish house removal. Spring-like weather has eroded the snowmobile trails and travel is not advised. Lakes in the area have a ton of water and slush on the surface and shallow-water ice areas are starting to erode quickly. Fishing success remains quite slow. Enforcement action was taken for angling and snowmobile violations.

District 7 - Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) checked anglers and monitored snowmobile and birch pole activity. Brown checked two anglers on Round Lake and it appeared to be a normal check with no issues. As Brown began to ride off on his snowmobile, he noticed two fish that appeared to have been hidden under the slush, away from the rest of their fishing gear and bucket of perch. Brown quickly realized the two fish were northern pike and questioned the anglers, who admitted to catching them. Both anglers were cited for taking northern pike in the closed season and the fish were seized.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) monitored angling and recreational vehicle activity during the previous week. Time was also spent handling complaints involving trespassing and injured animals. Holt monitored fish house removal from area lakes. Snowmobile trail conditions have deteriorated significantly over the past week.


CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked ice angling activity with many anglers out catching panfish and tullibees. Ice conditions are still good with almost all the snow cover gone from area lakes, leaving good access to good angling spots. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license and having expired ATV registration.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) focused enforcement efforts on angling, snowmobile, and fish house removal activity. Snowmobile trails are all but melted throughout the surrounding areas. Enforcement action was taken for several angling and recreational vehicle violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) spent a majority of his week monitoring late-season ice angling. The snowmobile season came to a screeching halt after significantly warmer weather quickly deteriorated local trails. Hochstein also noticed an increase in ATV activity with the warm weather.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) checked lake activity where slush was abundant and shorelines are starting to get soft. He also attended training and investigated a dead raptor.

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) worked late-season northern pike anglers and monitored litter as the snow melts. Assistance was given to the local sheriff’s office by finding a litter violator who had numerous car parts falling off a trailer as he was traveling. A work detail in Cook County found numerous snowmobilers still enjoying good trails. Loud exhaust continues to be an unnecessary violation.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) worked on station equipment and prepared snowmobile and other equipment for the summer months. He took several phone calls about ice conditions as the weather is changing quickly. The ice on most lakes is still safe for foot and ATV traffic. The Mississippi River is flowing quickly and the ice is unsafe for foot traffic. Multiple people were out fishing for panfish. Several ATVs have been seen in the area, please look over the ATV requirements to refresh your memory.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) checked anglers on area lakes. As a reminder, please exercise caution when out on the ice this time of year as ice conditions can change rapidly. There have been many reports of fish kills and more are expected with the spring thaw because oxygen levels have been very low in many area lakes. Snowmobile activity has slowed significantly with the warmup.

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) handled fishing shelters on the ice past deadline as well as shelters left at the public access. He attended a firearms safety class to present the laws and ethics portion. He also took several calls concerning overlimits of fish being taken.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) patrolled the area for ATV use. Hanna also received some complaints about black bears as they emerge from their dens. It is a good idea to clean up bird seed, grills and trash cans so unwanted bears do not visit your home.

Aviation Section

CO Pilot Tim Gray (Bemidji) took care of aircraft maintenance issues and completed additional flight training.

Standby Pilot Jessica Holmes (Grand Rapids) attended the quarterly pilots meeting in Grand Rapids. At the meeting, she received a recognition award for 10 years of service to the State of Minnesota.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports flying wolf telemetry flights and shelter removal flights. A potential feedlot/pollution case was sent to local officers and the MN Pollution Control Agency for review. A quarterly pilots meeting was attended and Jensen was a guest speaker at the Central Lakes College natural resource law enforcement class. At the pilots meeting, he was presented a recognition award for his 30 years of service as a conservation officer with the state of Minnesota.

NR (Natural Resources) Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) continued flight training with a pilot. He also attended the quarterly pilots meeting where projects, pilot training, future needs, and safety items were discussed.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids) performed recurrent flight training for unit pilot. He assisted with aircraft maintenance and aircraft repositioning. He also attended the spring pilot’s meeting.

Standby CO Pilot Jake Willis (Grand Rapids) attended a pilots meeting in Grand Rapids. Training tasks were completed and training flights were also conducted.

NR Pilot Gracie Zeller (Brainerd) continued flight and ground trading. She began studying for her applicators license for the cattail project in the summer. Zeller also attended the pilots meeting.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Joseph Stattelman (NW) spent the week working on updating and closing out case files related to the Wetland Conservation Act, public water and aquatic plant management.

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) worked on cases in his assigned area. Time was spent checking ice anglers. Class II ATVs were out with the warmer weather.

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