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CO Reports: Be safe, watch your speed on the trails

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - February 25, 2022

Photo illustration, Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO (Conservation Officer) Jim Guida (Brainerd East) checked sport fishing and snowmobile trail activity this week. An enforcement detail was done around a permitted radar run where numerous snowmobiles were observed traveling separate from the event over the legal speed limit. Some riders on trail straightaways admitted traveling over 75 miles an hour. Guida wants to remind riders that the statewide speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Lower speed equals safer trails for everyone.

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) patrolled area snowmobile trails and assisted local agencies with multiple snowmobile crashes with injuries. Operator inexperience, speed and unknown trail routes played a part in the crashes. Fishing activity on area lakes was also high this past week but anglers reported slow bites on area lakes. Common violations detected were expired snowmobile registration, extra lines, unattended lines and no shelter license. Enforcement action was also taken for CWD feeding and attractant ban violations.


CO Chelsey Best (Pequot Lakes) spent the week on snowmobile and fishing activity. Enforcement action was taken for various snowmobile-related violations. Assistance was also provided with a major traffic incident in Crow Wing County.

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports patrolling area snowmobile trails. Enforcement action was taken for running stop signs, speed, registration, and loud exhaust. Benkofske also assisted with vehicles off the road during the winter storm.

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) worked with CO Benkofske in the Orr area for extra snowmobile patrol in the high-use area. Many snowmobilers were encountered over the weekend. The trails around Crosby are very good, with more snow expected this week. Anglers were moving houses around trying to find different spots with more fish.

CO Andrew Dirks (CCSRA) reports warmer weather over the weekend had many people out recreating. Snowmobile activity was busy, with enforcement action being taken for no registration, operating off grant-in-aid trails, and a motor vehicle on a grant-in-aid trail.


District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) patrolled area snowmobile trails and checked anglers on area lakes. A detail was worked on Mille Lacs Lake, and work continued on a background investigation.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week working area lakes for fishing activity. With recent weather systems moving through, the bite has really slowed down and area lakes have become difficult to access. Swedberg assisted the State Patrol with road closures and crashes that were a result of blizzard conditions during the week. Swedberg also assisted Becker County with a snowmobile crash.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) worked on a background investigation and handled calls on trout fishing, trapping and coyote hunting.


District 4 - Walker area

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) continued to check anglers and snowmobile trails. Snowmobile riders continue to find good trail conditions. The excessive snow and recent winds on lakes are creating an issue for anglers and access to the lakes. Mathy looked into three separate public waters alteration violation complaints. Mathy also responded to a truck stuck on a snowmobile trail. A nuisance-bobcat complaint was received. Enforcement action was taken for angling, snowmobile, and snowmobile trail violations.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) worked Leech Lake and other Cass County lakes throughout the week. McGowan also spent time patrolling snowmobile trails in Cass and Crow Wing counties. Enforcement action was taken for numerous violations.

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checked angling and snowmobile activity. Fishing remains slow on local lakes. She also responded to a call of an injured animal.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) continued patrolling snowmobile and fishing activity. Enforcement action was taken for operating an unregistered snowmobile, failure to display valid registration and failure to transfer title.

District 7 - Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) conducted snowmobile enforcement and checked anglers on area lakes. Enforcement action was taken on different anglers for possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a slot walleye on Lake Winnibigoshish. A group of three anglers was checked on Lake Winnie. The three anglers were found with nine lines in the water. They were also found to be in possession of two illegal-length northern pike. Enforcement action was taken for possession of slot pike and fishing with extra lines. Both pike were seized.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked snowmobiling and angling activity. Many out-of-state folks have been coming to northern Minnesota for the great trail conditions. A youth snowmobile safety class was taught with CO Holt with over 40 youth present at the class. Sutherland also picked up two wolves that were hit by cars over the past week. It seems the wolves are on the move with their mating season currently underway.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) monitored recreational vehicle activity and ice fishing during the previous week. Time was also spent handling animal-related calls and responding to a snowmobile accident. Holt assisted with a youth snowmobile safety class in Grand Rapids. Enforcement activity involved angling licenses and angling with extra lines.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) focused on patrolling snowmobile trails and checking ice anglers. Trails remain in great condition and are seeing lots of use when the weather allows. People are noticing that more wildlife are using the trails as the winter rolls on. Please remember to slow down and give the wildlife a chance to safely get off the trail before going by.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) checked fishing activity where anglers were making use of their final days with a 2021 license. Snowmobile conditions continued to look good except for a few registration and speed issues. Verkuilen also checked some trappers and clarified issues about protected slot fish.

CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) monitored snowmobile activity in the Isle area. Mille Lacs Lake was also checked throughout the week. Fishing success remains slow. Griffith continues to remind anglers to clean up all garbage when leaving the ice.

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) worked snowmobile, fishing, and trapping activities. A vintage snowmobile event was permitted and attended, with numerous antique snowmobiles making the voyage. Enforcement action was taken for an overlimit of pike, no snowmobile registration, and a non-resident lacking a snowmobile trail pass. A kids fishing event had to be canceled due to a snowstorm moving in. Starr also assisted a trapper with the release of an incidentally caught fisher.

CO Mikeena Mattson (Wealthwood) worked snowmobile and sport fishing enforcement this week. High volumes of anglers were seen this weekend with fishing tournaments occurring on Mille Lacs Lake. Many snowmobilers were seen out and about as well.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) worked area lakes and trails. The fishing bite is fairly slow. There was heavy snowmobile use throughout the area. Westby worked coyote hunters and trespassing issues with dogs. A complaint of a vehicle that was traveling on a snowmobile trail and got stuck was handled. The vehicle was removed.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) checked ice anglers and monitored snowmobile activity. Equipment maintenance was also conducted. The fish bite continue to be slow on area lakes. Trail groomers have been doing a fantastic job! Trails are in good condition and have been busy.

CO Keith Bertram (Long Prairie) spent most of the week checking anglers. Enforcement action was taken for license violations, extra lines, unattended lines, and registration violations. Calls about litter were also investigated.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) fielded phone calls about snowmobile trespass and hunter trespass. The landowners were upset when they realized the property was not properly posted. Refer to the hunting regulations booklet if you have questions about legally posting your property.

CO Mike Krauel (Mora) spent the week checking anglers and working snowmobile activity. He also spent time working on dogs-chasing-deer complaints. Enforcement action taken included fishing without a license, possession of marijuana, and angling with an extra line.

Aviation Section

CO Pilot Tim Gray (Bemidji) flew survey flights for Fisheries and sold incidentally taken fur to the local fur buyer.

Standby NR (Natural Resources) Pilot Jessica Holmes (Grand Rapids) continued with the coordination of the Lake Vermilion Creel Survey.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports flying wolf-telemetry flights and checking ice anglers from the ski plane. Jensen forwarded possible wetland and solid waste violations to local officers. An angling report was also sent to officers for various bodies of water.

NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) worked on classroom and helicopter flight training for a pilot. He also did administrative tasks and completed an aviation webinar.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids). Worked on manual updates and initial training curriculum. He also worked on training for an upcoming software rollout and provided training for initial aircraft checkout.

Standby CO Pilot Jake Willis (Grand Rapids) completed a training flight as well as ground training. Aircraft paperwork and maintenance were also addressed.

NR Pilot Gracie Zeller (Brainerd) progressed through ground training and flight training. She did a ride along with CO Jake Willis to learn more about the duties and role of her Division.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) worked on wetland and public water cases in his assigned area. He continued work on a Division background.

WREO Luke Belgard (SW) worked angling, snowmobile, and ATV activity this week. Time was spent on background investigations and following up on ongoing wetland and waters cases.

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