DNR Report: Snowmobile trail conditions result in sore backs, broken equipment

Jan. 23—Conservation officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports ice fishing and snowmobiling continue to be the focus of the work activities. Ice conditions are improving on Rainy Lake, but people are still encouraged to use extreme caution when venturing out. Snowmobiling is mainly restricted to the lake surfaces, as not enough snow has allowed for grooming. Enforcement action for week consisted of license violations and ATV registration issues.

CO Curtis Simonson (International Falls 2) reports working area lakes and rivers this past week checking anglers and monitoring snowmobile and ATV activity. Anglers reported a slow bite in most areas. Equipment maintenance was also attended to this week.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) reports snowmobilers have run out of patience and begun riding in the area restricted mainly to the waterways. Caution is still needed, especially if operating in unfamiliar areas. A set of Class 2 ATV tracks was noted running through a narrows that is never safe. It appeared they made it through and likely didn't realize how lucky they were. Along with the first groups of snowmobilers, illegal exhaust was also noted. Any muffler that emits a sound louder than the stock muffler is illegal. Just because an exhaust can is labeled "trail can" does not make it legal to use. Angling success slowed significantly this past week, but not for lack of effort.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports below-zero temps most of the week and found little angling activity on several lakes in the work area. Snowmobile trails have minimal snow cover and still have unfrozen areas. As a result, snowmobile trail activity was nonexistent and trail work continues. Area forest roads continue to be checked, equipment worked on, and computer work completed.

CO Sean Cannon (Cook) spent most of this week checking anglers. The cold this week helped make ice, with areas that were cleared of snow early on seeing 18 inches or more of ice, however, most areas that were still snow-covered have significantly less. The bite was fairly slow this week, but a few decent fish were seen. Most anglers were hoping for the coming weather change to trigger the bite. A fur registration was also attended at the Tower DNR office.

CO Aaron Larson (Tower) worked primarily angling and snowmobile enforcement. The ice on Lake Vermilion still varies greatly from spot to spot with some areas taking truck and wheelhouse traffic and some areas only being accessible to lighter machines. Snowmobile trails remain primarily ungroomed, but some packing has occurred, and more snowmobiles are accessing trails off of the lake. Violations encountered were related to angling licenses; shelter identification; possession of fish filets on a special regulations lake; state park passes; and snowmobile registration. Larson also spent time on equipment maintenance and at the Tower fur registration.

CO Marc Johnson (Hibbing) primarily worked angling, trapping and snowmobile activity. Time was also spent attending the final furbearer registration date in Hibbing and working on training materials and equipment maintenance. Extremely cold weather helped improve ice conditions on local lakes, but the snowmobile trails remain in poor condition due to a lack of snow.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the week monitoring fishing and snowmobile activity. Recent colder weather improved ice conditions but there are still significant differences in ice thicknesses between lakes. The snowfall the area received has now settled and most trails do not have adequate snow for snowmobiles. Few ice anglers were encountered this week and anglers reported limited success. Broughten also fielded calls regarding injured animals and ice shelter license questions.

CO Shane Zavodnik (Virginia) spent time investigating a report of raw beaver pelts being illegally sold. Both the buyer and seller were successfully located and educated about the rules and regulations involving fur trade. Zavodnik also attended the second fur registration event in Eveleth. Extremely low numbers of otter and bobcat furs were brought in. Angling activity remained slow due to cold conditions, and snowmobile trails are in desperate need of snow.

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) reports angling and snowmobile activity in the Ely area slowed as over a week of subzero temperatures arrived. Trout fishing success was drastically lower than the previous weekend and reports of ice depths only improved slightly. Violations included angling without a license in possession, no shelter ID displayed, and failure to display current snowmobile registration.

CO Brent Ihnen (Ely 2) spent the week checking anglers and snowmobile operators. Additional time was spent patrolling for trapping and ATV activity.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) encountered a high volume of snowmobile traffic toward Finland over the weekend despite poor trail conditions. Enforcement action included two trout overlimits; fishing without a trout stamp; and snowmobile registration and muffler violations.

CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) checked angers on area lakes and snowmobile activity. He assisted with a DWI arrest and spent time in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness checking anglers. Enforcement action was taken for angling and snowmobile violations.

CO Hudson Ledeen (Grand Marais) spent time checking trout anglers throughout the area. Snowmobile trail conditions remain abysmal. However, some folks are riding the trails, resulting in sore backs and broken equipment. On Saturday, Ledeen arrested one subject for operating a snowmobile with a blood alcohol concentration over twice the legal limit.

CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) reports finalizing equipment transfers as he finished his last days patrolling in Cook County. Hill has transferred to the Mound station and will begin patrolling the west metro at the end of the month. Hill wants to thank those he interacted with during his four years in the Tofte station.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked angling and snowmobile activity during the week. Ice conditions are slowly improving with the recent cold weather but ice depths are lacking from previous years and caution should be used while venturing out. Most area snowmobile trails are still ungroomed and more snow is needed for good trail conditions.

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) spent time checking anglers and working ATV and snowmobile enforcement. Reports of trucks and wheelhouses going through the ice were received. Enforcement action taken for ice fishing-related violations.

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) worked ATVs, small-game and fishing activities. He patrolled campgrounds and trails. Numerous game and fish-related questions were answered. He also responded to wildlife-related complaints.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers, monitored snowmobile activity and responded to a vehicle and fish house through the ice. Angler success was good this week. Enforcement action was taken for license issues and shelter tag issues.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked ice angling, spearing and trapping activity over the past week. With colder conditions ice thicknesses have improved. Sutherland has seen some snowmobiles operating in the area even with the limited snow. Sutherland also worked on closing out older cases and took road-killed-deer calls.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) focused enforcement efforts on sport fishing, dark house spearing, and snowmobile activities. One group of anglers was contacted while "ice camping" on the lake, despite the negative overnight temperatures. Enforcement action was taken for several angling and snowmobile-related violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) talked with anglers battling cold weather and a slow bite overall. More and more vehicles are being driven out on the ice. Please remember that ice thickness varies greatly from lake to lake and while some lakes can be driven on, many should not.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) checked angling and snowmobile activity throughout the previous week. Time was also spent working on a background investigation of an applicant for the next CO Academy. Enforcement action involved angling license violations.

CO Derek Peterlin (Brookston) spent time handling various wolf incidents, including follow-up with livestock depredation, a car kill, an incidental catch, and a mortality alert from a collared wolf. Follow-up investigations from deer season were also conducted. Angling activity was also monitored, and enforcement action was taken for various recreational vehicle violations.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) followed up on open cases from deer season and spent time working anglers on area lakes. ATV violations were observed and handled on area snowmobile trails. He assisted with the laws and ethics portion of a snowmobile safety class and met with a firearms safety instructor group.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) spent time investigating 2023 deer-hunting licensing, registrations, and several other issues involving the 2023 deer-hunting season. Ice conditions locally have improved due to the extended cold snap, so anglers are feeling more comfortable while fishing. Snowmobile activity has picked up, but trail conditions are still less than ideal due to the lack of snow. Duncan also worked with neighboring officers going over trapping investigations involving the 2023-24 trapping season.

CO Tony Elwell (Cloquet) monitored ice angling and snowmobile activity this week. There's still not enough snow for grooming, but a few snowmobiles are out. Most traffic is on area lakes. Fur registration was attended and expired ATV registration violations were handled throughout the week. A wolf mortality was investigated and is ongoing.

CO Mikeena Wehr (Carlton) continued work on a big-game case. Time was spent completing special projects.

CO Ben Karon (Pine City) spent time this week looking into trapping activity and attending fur registration. Time was spent patrolling for angling activity and working on hunting cases as well. Most of the time for this short week was spent working on a background investigation for the next CO Academy.

CO Matt Miller (Marine Unit — Duluth) worked the 2024 Boat Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center answering questions about watercraft laws and the upcoming boating season. Calls regarding wolf depredation, injured wolves, and a possibly poached deer in the city of Silver Bay were handled. Some snowmobile activity was seen, but trails are quickly deteriorating with a lack of any fresh snow. Enforcement action was taken for angling and snowmobile violations.