Brute’s Bleat January 6, 2016

Daryl Hennen and I made a late season pheasant hunt last Wednesday west of Morris and hunted in about six inches of soft snow. We saw a fair number of birds, roosters and hens, but getting close to a rooster was near impossible. The majority of those seen were either on private property or they headed to their safe havens when spooked. Consequently neither of us got any shooting, but on the plus side, seeing that many hens is a good indication that next spring’s brood numbers should be up. A lot depends upon the rest of the winter and the spring nesting season. On behalf of the pheasant population I’m in favor of an extended January thaw, even though the winter thus far has been unusually warm. Now it’s time for a thorough cleaning of the O/U until the trap shooting season comes around. My only New Year’s resolution is to participate on a regular basis in that sport and hope it will do me so good in next fall’s upland game seasons!
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Winter anglers on East Maple have been after crappies and sunfish since that portion of the lake has had some firm footing. Crappies have been running up to 12 inches. I ventured out on Maple Lake Saturday from the swimming beach off Hwy. 55 and followed a snowmobile track. There was 3 1/2 to 4 inches of ice in that area with minor flooding wherever I drilled a hole. I moved around punching holes from 7 to 14 feet, using a Vexillar to locate sunfish or crappies in or near the weeds. After a couple hours of scouting Daryl Hennen came out to join in the hunt. The water was extremely clear and would have been great for sight fishing had we been able to locate some fish. That didn’t happen so we wrapped up the equipment about noon. Three fellows were coming on the ice and probably didn’t like our report, but they were armed with tip-ups and a spear, apparently after Northerns. A spearing friend who normally fishes Clearwater and would have a sack full of Northerns by now is waiting for thicker ice. He figured 2 1/2 inches was a little thin. I notice some spearing houses on Lake Mary. I haven’t had my spearing house out for a couple of years and I may give it a try even though the best spearing usually comes in December. I tried Rock Lake last Friday and caught numerous small sunfish in about 8 feet of water, but none that would be considered keepers. There were four other anglers trying to find some sunnies, too, but none of us hurt that lake’s panfish population. Two guys said they were headed for Lake Sarah after getting skunked like myself. It’s got to get better! We noticed the lake association put up their sign Saturday to advertise the Feb. 6 forty-first annual fishing contest on Maple Lake.
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I reviewed the DNR’s Dec. 28th weekly report for District 5 (north-east) where most of the conservation officers were reporting ice conditions as not good, but for the most part improving. Included in the report was this paragraph, “CO Matt Frericks (Virginia) spent time working on and closing out numerous cases from deer season. Ice conditions on area lakes are only slightly improved and anglers are urged to use caution. Of the anglers he checked throughout the week, angling with extra lines seemed to be a violation some anglers were trying to get away with. In one instance on a remote lake, CO Frericks observed two anglers with eight lines through the ice. One of the anglers, a former Minnesota resident who now resides in Hawaii, didn’t even bother to purchase a license. Both anglers were cited. The following day as CO Frericks was preparing the reports for court he noticed the Hawaiian resident had purchased a resident muzzleloader license earlier in the month. The former resident was cited for a non-resident purchasing a resident license.” Another paragraph had some sound advice for anglers: “CO Marty Stage (Ely) checked a few fishermen and found that the ice was improving a little. But then the new snow came so the problem with bad and unknown ice thickness persists. If you can't resist going onto the ice, wear ice picks and a PFD, bring a friend with a rope, and use a chisel bar to check the ice as you go.” I think the advice, bring a friend with a rope, might have been the best advice!

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