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CO Reports: Panfish, Crappie bite picking up

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - May 4, 2021

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO Patrick McGowan (Pine River) patrolled Crow Wing County lakes for angling activity. Anglers are starting to find some crappies in the shallow bays.

CO Chelsey Best (Crosslake) worked fishing, turkey hunting, trapping, burning, and ATV activity this past week. Enforcement action was taken for trapping issues, no fishing licenses, ATV-registration issues, operating an ATV in a wetland, and targeting game fish out of season. Assistance was provided for illegal burning. Two ATV safety classes were conducted. Littering along ATV trails was the biggest issue this past week.

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) worked area lakes and ATV trails. Sullivan also assisted at an OHM crash with injuries in the Foothills State Forest.

CO Scott Fitzgerald (CCSRA) reports checking the state recreation area for illegal vehicle and ATV activity. Time was spent checking the closed mine pits for illegal fishing activity, with several enforcement actions for fishing in a closed trout lake for other species. Assistance was given to park staff with a camper not paying and violating other campground rules. Time was spent looking into who spray painted graffiti in one of the SRA parking areas. Enforcement action was taken for various SRA and fishing violations.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Bill Landmark (Pelican Rapids) spent the past week checking anglers in the Pelican Rapids station. The panfish bite has picked up on most area lakes as the water is warming and most anglers are finding enough fish for a meal. Anglers are reminded it is their responsibility to know the regulations of the lake they fish. Read page 78 of the fishing regulations book for instructions on the proper way to measure fish. Numerous anglers this past week were discovered to be in possession of illegal-length crappies on area special regulation lakes. Enforcement action was taken for possession of illegal-length crappies, angling with extra lines, operating unregistered watercraft, angling without a license, no Type IV throwable, and off-highway motorcycle operation on a state aquatic management area.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reports spring fishing activity is picking up as the weather warms and panfish begin to move into the shallows. Anglers are reminded that species that have a closed season may not be targeted, even for catch and release. TIPs were taken about potential illegal angling activity. Vinton and CO Anderson worked a case of ongoing damage to a public water access. Enforcement action was taken for attempting to take fish out of season, no angling license and ATV/OHM violations.


CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports speaking at a firearms safety class in Plummer. Time was also spent following up on fire-related complaints. Anglers and watercraft operators were also contacted.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) patrolled area lakes for angling and boating activity. Area lakes and trails were busy over the weekend with the nice weather. He responded to an ATV-vs.-tree accident south of Bemidji. Time was spent completing online training.

CO Steve Chihak (Moorhead) spent the past week working sport fishing, spring turkey hunting and ATV enforcement. Time was also spent attending ATV and firearms safety education classes. Thank you to all the volunteer safety instructors for their hard work to provide safe and accessible classes for students.

District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Daniel Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the past week focused on checking anglers, boaters and ATV operators. He also monitored for AIS-law compliance. Additional time was spent checking turkey hunters and teaching an ATV safety class. Calls were handled about injured animals and bowfishing laws.

CO Troy Richards (Fergus Falls) worked activity surrounding fishing, boating and ATV operation. In addition, fire and turkey hunting activity was monitored. Preparations are underway for firearms safety classes.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) monitored panfish-fishing activity on station lakes throughout the past week. Things are still rather slow but a few consecutive warm days will activate the fish. One boat with multiple anglers was checked. There were wearable PFDs onboard at all. Turkey hunters were out, and had harvested several birds. A fire smoke plume was spotted from a distance and after locating the landowner, it was learned that the field brush area was being burned off without a permit during burning restrictions. Enforcement action was taken.

District 4 - Walker area

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) spent much time over the past week on bowfishing and sucker-spearing enforcement. All recreational vehicle owners are reminded to check registration before venturing out. Time was also spent on fire enforcement, litter, public waters violations and speaking at local safety education classes.

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checked turkey hunting and fishing activity. She also received multiple nuisance-animal calls.


CO Michael Cross (Lake George) fielded numerous phone calls and took multiple reports from people. Trap tampering and dumping of illegally taken wild animals were investigated. Cross also educated multiple OHV riders on rules and regulations of legal riding in Minnesota. Questions can be answered by searching Minnesota DNR off-highway vehicle regulations.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time working ATV and sport fishing enforcement. Enforcement action was taken for multiple violations, including expired ATV registration, failure to display valid registration, operating an ATV without headlights and operating in the road right-of-way. Follow up on deer-hunting cases was worked.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) monitored invasive species enforcement related to boats and docks traffic as a lot of gear was getting put in the lakes for the first time this year. Burning permits were checked as warm and dry weather increased the fire danger. Beaver trappers are making use of the open water but have also generated incidental otter kills.

CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) monitored angling, AIS compliance, and ATV activity in the Isle and surrounding areas. Several calls were fielded regarding youth operation of ATVs. Griffith also spent time investigating a trespass complaint. Enforcement action was taken for fishing without a license, fishing after revocation, and using game fish as bait.

CO Ashley Whiteoak (Malmo) spent time patrolling the area for fishing, boating, trapping, and ATV activity. Enforcement action was taken for trailering a boat with the plug in. She also followed up on a trapping complaint and a call about a fishing violation.

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) worked ATV, boating, fishing, and turkey hunting activities. Enforcement action was taken for no license, ATVs on the roadway, an off-highway motorcycle on the highway, and driving down a closed trail in a wildlife management area. Assistance was given to other law enforcement personnel for an individual who was at a public access causing alarm to anglers trying to use the access. Drugs played a large role in the individual’s extremely odd behavior.

CO Mikeena Mattson (Wealthwood) checked various anglers and recreators this past week. Lake activity has been increasing as fishing opener and warmer weather approach. Violations encountered included burning without a permit, no fishing license in possession, operating an ATV without lights, failure to display ATV registration, failure to display watercraft registration, and no fire extinguisher onboard watercraft. Mattson responded to a report of a water emergency. The person involved was found alive.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) assisted with a commercial game farm violation, monitored ATV activity, and checked anglers and turkey hunters. Enforcement action was taken for not having angling license in personal possession, a youth passenger on an ATV without a helmet, and taking a turkey overlimit.


CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) took calls concerning overlimits and taking fish out of season. He assisted neighboring officers and spoke at an ATV safety training class to discuss laws and ethics.

CO Adam Seifermann (St. Cloud) reports focusing enforcement efforts on anglers and turkey hunters. He also investigated several wetland-related violations. Calls from the public involved spring crappie overlimits, possible big-game violations and wildlife-related calls.

CO Keith Bertram (Long Prairie) spent the past week checking anglers, boaters and ATV riders. Enforcement action was taken for insufficient boat and ATV safety equipment. Bertram also responded to grass fires and a wetland violation.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Nathan Benkofske (Milaca) reports checking anglers and enforcing ATV laws. A case was investigated originating from a TIP to a Nebraska CO about Minnesota hunters traveling there to hunt turkeys. State forest lands were patrolled and assistance was given to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office with a hit-and-run suspect who fled in Zimmerman.

CO Mike Krauel (Mora) spent the past week checking anglers and working on follow up from deer-dumping complaints. Krauel also spent time working on garbage-burning complaints and on equipment maintenance.

Aviation Section

CO Pilot Bob Geving (Mankato) attended to administrative and maintenance tasks. He also worked on flight planning for upcoming surveys.

NR Pilot John Heineman (Bemidji) flew wetland photo flights for Forest Assessment and a wolf-telemetry location flight. Heineman also flew a night currency training flight.

Standby NR Pilot Jessica Holmes (Grand Rapids) reports completing a flight review with another pilot. She also completed online training and administrative tasks.


CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports giving a flight review to another DNR pilot, and flying an ATV detail reconnaissance flight and a fire detection flight. In transit between missions, Jensen landed on a remote lake near Cotton and checked some anglers in a watercraft. On the fire-detection flight, Jensen observed a small brush pile fire that got away from the owner, spread across the forest floor and started an adjacent home on fire. The home was a total loss.

NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) stocked trout by helicopter in a lake in Voyageurs National Park, coordinated by DNR Fisheries personnel from the International Falls Fisheries office. About 2,880 trout weighing 240 pounds were stocked. The park allowed it because the helicopter has no issues with invasive species. The fish are dropped into the water from a 5-foot hover and the helicopter never touches the surface. He also worked on helicopter maintenance and attended aviation webinars.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids) flew fire-detection routes and checked closed forest and ATV trails for activity. Scott provided display aircraft for Aviation Days at the Breezy Point Airport. He also attended to equipment maintenance.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Joseph Stattelman (NW) spent the past week working AIS enforcement for boaters, lake service providers and anglers. Bowfishers, spearing activity, and fishing were monitored. Cases were worked on and complaints were followed up on.

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) worked on cases in his assigned area. Time was spent on AIS and ATV enforcement and calls for service.

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Joe Albert, Communications coordinator | Division of Enforcement

I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with numerous job titles since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently as Digital Editor. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work these 30+ years. I was present and worked on the our web page when our original BrainerdDispatch.com website first went live on April 26, 1994.
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