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CO Reports: Conservation Officer rescues locked-in shelter occupants

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - January 4, 2021

Photo illustration PineandLakes.com

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO (Conservation Officer) Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) assisted an angler group that was locked in a permanent fishing shelter after having a door handle failure. Through an open window, Sullivan provided the occupants with the required tools to remove the door handle. They were really excited to be released from the shelter and continued angling after the door handle was replaced. Snowmobile trails were extremely busy over the holiday despite the extremely cold air temperatures.

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports checking snowmobile riders and ice anglers. The heavy snowfalls were enjoyed by the riders, and the cold did not stop many people. Thanks to the local groomers for working hard on the trails. Enforcement action was taken for no angling licenses, expired registration, controlled substances, and illegal-length pike and walleyes. If anyone has any info on damage that was caused to a fish house in the narrows on Big Sandy Lake sometime New Year’s Eve night, please contact CO Benkofske at nathan.benkofske@state.mn.us.

CO Andrew Dirks (CCSRA) spent time throughout the week checking anglers and snowmobile riders. Recent heavy snows have the trails in good condition for snowmobiles and bikes. Snowmobile riders are reminded that off-trail riding is prohibited in the recreation area, as well as on snowmobile trails throughout the area since many of these trails cross private property.

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) worked from the snowmobile after getting decent riding snow. Many snowmobilers were checked enjoying the cold winter. Ice anglers were checked on area lakes. He attended the funeral for Itasca County Deputy Jayme Williams as part of the Honor Guard

District 4 - Walker area

CO Adam Seifermann (Staples) reports the recent heavy snowfall has made for well-groomed snowmobile trails. He would like to remind snowmobilers to check their machines to ensure they are in good running condition, registered appropriately and to respect private landowners by staying on the designated/groomed trails. He also reports checking anglers and assisting another agency with stolen property.

CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) patrolled the area for snowmobiling and ice angling activity. He has ridden many of the area snowmobile trails and ditches, and reports good conditions for riding. Baum found anglers having varied success on area lakes. He took enforcement action for various violations, ranging from angling without a license to failure to display snowmobile registration. Baum wants to remind snowmobilers to double-check their registration before getting out on the trails.


CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checking angling and trapping activity. She also followed up on ongoing cases.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) spent time on the snowmobile working trails and fishing activity. The area received approximately 20 inches of snow but not all the trails have been groomed yet. Enforcement action was taken for failure to transfer registration, operating an unregistered snowmobile, failure to display registration and failure to display a shelter license.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) patrolled Cass and Crow Wing county snowmobile trails throughout the week. Enforcement action was taken for numerous violations.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time checking ice anglers and snowmobile riders throughout the week. Snowmobile trails in the area are in great condition due to the recent snowfall and trails being groomed. Multiple snowmobiles were found to have expired registration. Other violations included failure to display valid registration.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily checked anglers. Some pockets of good walleye and panfish catches were seen. Anglers navigated deep snow and very cold weather during the week, which led to many failing heaters and vehicles that wouldn’t start. The lake ice is still extremely variable with 8 to 22 inches seen and reported. Enforcement action was taken for angling and ATV violations.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports spending time this week checking deer hunters during the late-season CWD hunt. Anglers and snowmobile operators were also contacted. Aeration systems were checked. Various deer-hunting and snowmobile-related violations were encountered.

CO Tim Gray (Bagley) checked local ice anglers.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) monitored angling activity on area lakes. Snowmobile trails are in excellent condition after the snowfall. Individuals were checked for cross-country ski passes at area trails.


CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week checking ice anglers and snowmobilers. There is plenty of snow that came down throughout the week, and plenty of snowmobilers were out enjoying the snow. Ice conditions continue to improve, even with the heavy snow, and there seems to be 8 to 16 inches on a lot of area lakes. The extremely cold weather over the weekend and through next week should continue to help the ice.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) assisted with fur registration, worked snowmobile patrol and handled calls of injured deer and a public-access nuisance.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) worked angling activity. People are reminded that even with the cold weather, ice conditions continue to vary. Wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas were monitored for activity. Snowmobile activity was worked, with most trails getting groomed.

District 7 - Grand Rapids area

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers, assisted with fur tagging, handled injured-animal calls and attended the funeral for Itasca Sheriff’s Deputy Jayme Williams this week. The cold weather did not stop many anglers from venturing out this week. Angler success was good on area lakes. Enforcement action was taken for license issues and operate snowmobile on roadway.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) checked anglers and trapping activity during the previous week. Complaints involving illegal trapping were investigated. Time was also spent working snowmobiling and ATV riding in the area. Enforcement action involved taking illegal-length walleyes and ice shelter violations.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked ice angling and snowmobile activity over the last week. With all the added snow in the area many snowmobile enthusiasts are out on the newly groomed trails. Enforcement action was taken for failing to transfer the title of a snowmobile, failing to register and failing to display a registration of a snowmobile. With all the extra snow in recent days, slush is starting to be present on lakes and it is a good idea to check ice shelters to make sure they aren’t freezing in. Extra blocking may be advised. Enforcement action was taken for failing to have an angling license and transporting walleyes without a skin patch present.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) gave a law and ethics talk to a snowmobile safety class and assisted at a fur-registration station. Snowmobile clubs are working hard and the groomers are out. Extremely cold weather has kept the crowds down, but some hardy snowmobilers were found out on the trails enjoying the fresh snow.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) checked anglers on Mille Lacs Lake and other area lakes. Fishing success was slow. Snowmobile trails were monitored in the Isle and surrounding areas. Activity slowed down over the weekend with the dropping temperatures. Griffith would like to remind anglers that all shelters, except portable shelters, need a shelter license. A portable shelter is one that collapses, folds, or is disassembled for transportation. Please refer to the Minnesota Fishing Regulations for further information on ice shelters.


CO Dan Starr (Onamia) worked ice anglers and snowmobile riders. Ice conditions were improving, but recent snowfall has made travel treacherous. A work detail in Lake County focused on early trout fishing and snowmobiles. Violations for ATV registration, snowmobile registration, and illegal youth operation were handled.

CO Mikeena Mattson (Wealthwood) worked sport fishing and snowmobile enforcement over the week. Fishing was slow for most with the recent cold snap. Snowmobiling activity was high due to recent snowfall. Enforcement action was taken for no fishing license in personal possession, no shelter license, no shelter ID, possessing drug paraphernalia, and possessing a small amount of marijuana. A big-game-hunting-related complaint was investigated. A call was fielded regarding fishing equipment.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) worked angling activity in the area. With better ice, more anglers have been out but the overall bite is still slow. Westby assisted with a minor snowmobile crash and had a talk about staying on groomed designated GIA trails, and checking piles of snow before you go over them blind. Most snowmobile trails are all groomed and well used.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) monitored fishing and snowmobile activity. Enforcement action was taken for no license in possession, failure to transfer ownership of a snowmobile, and expired snowmobile registration.

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) worked angling, trapping and the close of the deer and pheasant seasons. He closed out a trapping case from last week. VanderWeyst also worked some snowmobile activity this week, which was limited with little snow and very cold temps.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) patrolled Isanti County on snowmobile. Trail conditions varied but for the most part they had not been groomed when they were patrolled. Hanna did enforce expired registration and illegal youth operations of a snowmobile.

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