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CO Reports: Mild weather, new snow create varied ice conditions

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - December 7, 2021

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District 4 - Walker area

CO (Conservation Officer) Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) reports ice conditions didn’t improve much due to recent mild weather. Anglers were finding some select locations with up to 6 inches of ice. However, some spots that had ice opened back up. Snowfall will greatly slow down the ice creation, creating uneven and large areas of unsafe ice conditions for the foreseeable future. Some trappers were checked and Bear Committee items were also worked on.

CO Adam Seifermann (Staples) reports conducting seasonal equipment maintenance and checking small-game, muzzleloader deer hunters and trappers. He also assisted people with nuisance-animal questions and patrolled state lands by ATV.

CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) patrolled the area for big- and small-game activity. He continues to investigate big-game violations. Baum also patrolled the area for early ice angling activity and found anglers with various numbers of fish.

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) spoke at two snowmobile safety classes. Enforcement action was taken for use of an aeration system without a permit.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) spent time working the muzzleloader deer season. Activity is slow in the woods but picking up on the lakes, with many ice anglers checked. Ice conditions are still questionable.

CO Michael Cross (Lake George) worked deer hunting, trapping, and early ice fishing. Hunting activity has slowed down over the last week, but a few late-season hunters are still out. Ice conditions have deteriorated significantly over the past week in the area with the higher temperatures. Cross notes there is still open water on many of the smaller lakes in the area as well.


CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time checking grouse hunters and trappers throughout the week. She received calls in regards to trespassing and deer-possession permits. The warm weather is causing most lakes in the area to not have ice that’s safe enough to fish on yet.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) continued working deer-hunting and ice fishing activity. Area lakes are unpredictable with the warm weather and fresh snow. Some snowmobile riders were observed traveling area ditches.

CO Chelsey Best (Pequot Lakes) worked on open trapping and muzzleloader investigations. She checked ice conditions and a few anglers. Dumping cases were also investigated.

CO Jim Guida (Brainerd East) worked sport fishing and big-game-hunting activity this week. A detail was worked with another CO focusing on trapping and angling activity. Contacts were made. Guida is monitoring case prosecution and convictions from this past deer and angling season.

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports checking anglers and hunters. Enforcement action was taken for transporting loaded firearms in a motor vehicle, possessing controlled substances, and fishing on trout lakes in the closed season. Wetland-related complaints were also investigated.

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) checked ice anglers getting out on the small lakes. He spoke at two snowmobile safety classes in Deerwood and winterized and stored the boats for the season.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week following up on cases from the deer season and checking ice anglers. The bite has remained slow on many area lakes. Ice thickness ranges from open water to 6 inches on smaller lakes. If you plan on going out, check the thickness as you go. Swedberg also assisted with a snowmobile safety course for about 50 area youth over the weekend.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) checked area lakes for angling activity. He spoke to a group of students at Bemidji State University about ice safety and winter angling regulations.


CO Al Peterson (Osage) checked small-game and deer hunters, and worked ongoing cases. A violation of hunting with an invalid license was handled. Peterson also spoke to a snowmobile class about laws and safety.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) spent time on small-game and muzzleloader-hunting activity, with checks performed. Ice angling activity was monitored with ice conditions continuing to vary. A complaint of possible trespass was investigated. Information was provided about hunting regulations. A complaint of a dead swan was received. WMAs and waterfowl production areas were monitored for activity. Follow up on open cases was conducted.

District 7 - Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) checked ice anglers and monitored trapping and decorative material harvesting activities. An unmarked bear-bait site was located in the woods containing a bait drum and was found to have been left out since the 2020 bear-hunting season. The hunter who established the bait site was tracked down and enforcement action was taken for an unmarked bait drum, failure to pay the bait drum surcharge, and failure to remove the drum at the close of the season. The drum was promptly removed by the hunter. An ice angler was found in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The marijuana and paraphernalia were seized and enforcement action was taken. Two anglers were found in possession of fully dressed walleyes taken on special regulation waters. The walleye fillets were seized and enforcement action was taken.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers, monitored trapping activity and assisted with motor vehicle accidents. Enforcement action was taken for license issues and operating a snowmobile on a roadway.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked early ice anglers. Success was had by people spearing northern pike and catching panfish. Sutherland also checked muzzleloader deer hunters in the area with deer moving as the winter storm came through.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) checked anglers, muzzleloader deer hunters and recreational vehicle activity throughout the previous week. Time was also spent on complaints involving trespassing and injured animals. Ice conditions vary greatly on area lakes and caution is still advised. The illegal dumping of deer carcasses in places such as lake accesses continues to be a problem. Enforcement action was taken for angling license violations and illegal dumping of deer carcasses.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) worked a mix of big-game, small-game, and angling activity. More and more ice anglers are beginning to take to the lakes for the early ice season. Some nice walleyes, crappies, and sunfish were seen in pails.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) continued to see variable ice conditions in the area. There’s still open water as well. Muzzleloader deer hunters were out in numbers exceeding the regular firearms season. Verkuilen also checked bird hunters and participated in training.


CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) worked a detail on Upper Red Lake checking ice anglers. Trapping activity was monitored throughout the week. Assistance was given to Mille Lacs County with the search for a lost snowmobile operator. Enforcement action was taken for burning prohibited materials, no license in possession, failure to renew ATV registration, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

CO Ashley Whiteoak (Malmo) spent time patrolling the area for deer hunting, trapping, and ice fishing. She also went to Upper Red Lake to patrol ice fishing activity. Enforcement action was taken for possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to renew ATV registration, failure to display ATV registration, failure to display snowmobile registration, no fishing license in possession, and leaving a fishing line unattended.

CO Dustie Speldrich (Willow River) followed up on deer-season investigations. Time was spent processing evidence and completing equipment maintenance.

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) took deer-dumping, trespassing, and early fishing complaints. A warrant arrest was made on an ice angler who did not know he had a warrant. A fish house fell through the ice on an area lake, underscoring safety concerns for those who continue to venture out on thin ice. Starr would like to remind early ice anglers to carry safety gear, rope, and PFDs to avoid death. Angler checks have revealed an extreme lack of safety items.

CO Mikeena Mattson (Wealthwood) worked deer-hunting and ice fishing enforcement this week. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license, angling with an extra line, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a small amount of marijuana, failure to display ATV registration, and no license in personal possession. Assistance was given to Mille Lacs County with a lost snowmobiler and a call was fielded regarding a trespass issue.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) worked area WMAs and other public hunting areas for muzzleloader-hunting activity. He located several deer stands that had been left out overnight. Time was spent assisting a neighboring officer working ATV enforcement, and follow up from previous bear and deer cases. Westby also located a male who had a deer run into his truck at night and called friends to assist him in locating the deer. They put the deer down without contacting law enforcement. Westby spoke with all parties involved and advised them to not put deer down on their own and to obtain a permit before moving any wild animal.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) checked archery and muzzleloader hunters. He took a call about a fish shelter partially going through the ice due to the warmer weather. Ice fishing activity is starting to ramp up. Please exercise caution as ice is never safe, especially during this time of year. Enforcement action was taken for not having a hunting license in possession.

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) worked on paperwork from past deer season. He took calls concerning deer-hunting regulations and possession of firearms as a convicted felon. Ice continues to be extremely unsafe with the warm weather this past week.


CO Keith Bertram (Long Prairie) spent the week checking hunters. Enforcement action was taken for license violations and transporting a loaded gun. Ice fishing activity has stopped. Many lakes that were frozen over have opened up again.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) patrolled the area for small-game hunters and conducted some follow up to the gun deer season. He investigated trespass complaints and attended a snowmobile safety class.

CO Mike Krauel (Mora) spent the week checking muzzleloader hunters and small-game hunters. During a small-game-license check, Krauel noticed the individual who was hunting did not match the description on the hunting license. When he asked to see ID, the individual stated he did not have ID with him even though Krauel had just seen ID in his wallet when he took out the hunting license. The individual then admitted that he gave Krauel his brother’s license because he didn’t have one. The hunter also claimed he was alone, but when Krauel asked about the three other gun cases in the back of the car, the hunter stated he was with one friend. That friend was found later and after a brief search for his hidden firearm, he also admitted to hunting without a license. Enforcement action for the week included hunting without a license, giving a peace officer the name and date of birth of another, lending/borrowing a license, and hunter harassment.

Aviation Section

NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) worked on helicopter-maintenance items, administrative and training tasks.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids) completed a creel flight on Lake Vermilion. He worked on the upcoming creel schedule and maintenance schedule for the Grand Rapids aircraft.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports setting up aircraft for winter operations. A night currency flight was completed.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) issued summons to individuals in Isanti and Mille Lacs counties for failure to comply with restoration orders. Case files were updated and extensions granted to individuals actively working on restoration of wetlands.

WREO Luke Belgard (SW) worked angling, pheasant, and muzzleloader deer activity this week. Time was spent following up with ongoing wetland and waters cases. New cases continue to come in.


WREO Julie Siems (SE) checked deer hunters and worked on public water and wetland cases. K9 Brady assisted with a trespass complaint on a deer hunter. Some anglers were found testing the ice as well.

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