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Snowmobiling, spearing activity ramps up in Northland

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Dec. 13, 2021.

District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports the muzzleloader deer season came to a quiet close. Overall hunter numbers in the area seemed to be down from previous years. Snowmobile activity and spearing activity are picking up, but upcoming nice weather might hinder ice-making. People are reminded to use extreme caution when venturing onto the ice, and to be prepared for the worst.

Enforcement action for the week included operating an unregistered snowmobile and trespass issues. A few animal-related complaints were also handled.

CO Curtis Simonson (International Falls 2) reports working the last weekend of the muzzle-loader deer season. Activity was low in the area with only a few hunters out and about. Trapping activity and early ice fishing activity was monitored.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) checked spearing activity as well as snowmobile and ATV operators. Ice is forming on area waterways but not at the pace area snowmobilers would like to see. The forecasted warm spell will slow ice development and as a result extreme caution should be used when venturing out. Even though some of the local bays and backwaters are being traveled for spearing and angling, the main lake surface is far from being ready for long-distance travel.

The close of muzzleloader deer hunting was monitored, training was completed, and seasonal equipment maintenance was tended to.


CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports monitoring ice fishing activities. Lake travel was hampered with the recent heavy snowfall as slush has appeared. Snowmobile and ATV activities were checked. Car-killed deer permits were issued, phone calls were returned and administrative tasks were completed. Assistance was provided to the DNR Forestry Division.

CO Aaron Larson (Tower) worked primarily angling and snowmobile enforcement. Larson spent time investigating illegal snowmobile trail usage and checking anglers on Lake Vermilion. Snowmobile trail conditions remain fairly poor.

CO Marc Johnson (Hibbing) primarily worked angling and small-game-hunting activity. The muzzleloader deer season came to a close and few hunters were seen over the final weekend. Time was also spent investigating a trespassing complaint, attending a darkhouse association meeting in Hibbing, and maintaining station equipment.

CO Shane Zavodnik (Virginia) spent time monitoring snowmobile trails and completing paperwork. Zavodnik has observed 3-6 inches of ice on most of the surrounding lakes.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) reports mild weather over the weekend meant a huge amount of hunting, fishing, ATV, snowmobile, and skiing activity. A good amount of time was spent focusing on ski trail pass enforcement. A 100% compliance rate was seen. Violations included operating an ATV with no safety certificate and failure to display ATV registration.

CO John Velsvaag (Ely 2) checked deer hunters and anglers this past week. Snowmobile activity picked up a bit but trails aren’t groomed. Velsvaag worked a detail in the Grand Marais area and took calls about deer zones and a designated trout lake.

CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) spent the week checking snowmobilers and anglers. He attended training at Camp Ripley and worked on equipment. Enforcement action was taken for multiple snowmobile violations.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) helped provide use of force training and participated in annual training at Camp Ripley. Manning attended a meeting of the DNR’s Honor Guard to review previous events, plan for Police Week in 2022 and practice drill and rifle work.


She also hit area forest roads on snowmobiles. Groomers are working to pack trails and roads so conditions are varied. Trails and ditches may appear good, but hidden rocks are not far below the surface in many spots so ride cautiously.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) worked angling, muzzleloader, small-game and recreational vehicle enforcement throughout the week. Training was completed and a presentation was given to a homeschool group.

CO Dave Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked early ice anglers, muzzleloader hunters and trappers throughout the week. Recent snowfall has brought many snowmobilers to the area, but riders should use caution as trails are not in prime condition. Trails crews are packing current snow to make a base, but more snow is needed before any meaningful grooming can happen.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked trapping and snowmobile activity this week. Some area trails were groomed for the first time of the snowmobile season. Ice conditions continue to improve and more anglers are venturing out on the ice, but conditions are not yet safe for vehicle traffic on most lakes.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) checked ice anglers and enforced snowmobile and ATV activities. Enforcement action was taken for expired snowmobile and ATV registrations, loud snowmobile exhaust, and fishing with no fishing licenses in possession.

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) patrolled state parks, and checked anglers, big- and small-game hunters, and ATV operators. Numerous game and fish-related questions were answered. He also responded to wildlife-related complaints and assisted other agencies.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked early ice anglers with some great success on area lakes for walleyes, panfish and even pike spearing. Ice conditions are very spotty at best and with the projected warm weather, a careful look at lakes is warranted before venturing out on them.

Enforcement action was taken for not having an angling license in possession. Multiple road-killed deer tags were issued as well as the deer are still in a post-rut movement pattern.


CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) reports working big-game, angling, and snowmobile enforcement throughout the surrounding areas. Van Asch also spoke at a snowmobile safety class about laws and safety. Enforcement action was taken for various angling and ATV violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) focused on checking early ice anglers. As ice conditions improve, more and more people are beginning to venture out. Hochstein also talked with some late-season muzzleloader hunters. Assistance was given to other law enforcement agencies on calls for service.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) checked anglers and muzzleloader deer hunting. Time was also spent monitoring recreational vehicle activity, including snowmobiles. Complaints were received related to deer-hunting violations.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) conducted training with the Division’s use of force team for annual training at Camp Ripley. Equipment maintenance was attended to and phone calls were fielded regarding regulation questions and ongoing cases. Meetings and training were also conducted with the Division’s Honor Guard.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) attempted to locate the ever-elusive late-season muzzleloader and archery deer hunters. Anglers were checked at area lakes and ice conditions have been pretty good on smaller bays and bodies of water. A few fish were seen and anglers are excited to be getting out.

Schmidt spent some time at the ice angling show at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and assisted with the Turn in Poachers trailer.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) followed up on a possible license issue with a muzzleloader deer hunter. Time was spent completing annual online training throughout the week. Ice fishing has been busy on area lakes, with many people out enjoying the early ice and mild temperatures.

Duncan followed up on ongoing big-game investigations that recently were forwarded to the county attorney’s office for charging.


CO Jeff Humphrey (Cromwell) checked area lakes for ice conditions and angling activity. He patrolled Moose Lake State Park and worked the special muzzleloader deer hunt held in Jay Cooke State Park through the middle of the week. Humphrey followed up on a trapping trespass complaint and worked on a wetland case from this fall.

Calls of an injured goose and archery hunting concerns on state land were received. Humphrey attended annual training held at Camp Ripley.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked ice anglers on the lakes north of Duluth and the St. Louis River. Success was limited but folks were happy to be out on the ice. Recent snowfall and warming temperatures produced slushy conditions in some places. Equipment was organized and ready for upcoming details. Some area snowmobile trails have been groomed earlier in the week.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) wrapped up deer-season investigations and equipment seizures. Ice anglers were found gingerly testing ice on the Duluth Harbor, but several more cold nights are required before it is passable on foot. Remember that ice conditions may not be the same across a body of water, especially where there is current. Snowmobiles were out making use of fresh snow, with usual violations of operating on the road and modified exhaust.

Enforcement action was taken for big-game and snowmobile violations.

Katie Rohman has served as the managing editor of the Duluth News Tribune since 2019. She started with Duluth Media Group in 2017 as regional editor of the Superior Telegram, Pine Journal, Lake County News-Chronicle, Eastern Observer and Western Weekly. She has worked in newspapers around the Midwest since 2004.
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