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CO Reports: Busy opener in the mine pit lakes

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - May 17, 2022

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO (Conservation Officer) Andrew Dirks (CCSRA) (Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area) worked a busy fishing opener weekend. Many anglers were out on the mine pits trying their luck for trout and had good success overall. The SRA (State Recreation Area) was busy overall with the good weather for trail riding. Enforcement action included license violations, insufficient life jackets on a watercraft, and lack of recreation vehicle registration.

CO Chelsey Best (Pequot Lakes) took enforcement action this week for ATV, fishing and licensing/registration issues. Numerous wildlife-related calls were handled as well.


CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) saw a great fishing opener. The weather was nice and some fish were being caught. He took calls about injured and dead birds in the area. He also had Honor Guard duties at the Peace Officer Memorial in St. Paul.

CO Jim Guida (Brainerd East) worked a busy angling season opener. Numerous contacts were made with anglers who had purchased new angling licenses. The walleye bite was slow. Guida observed and addressed some watercraft owners who had not purchased/renewed their watercraft registration. A call of game fish being speared in a stream was fielded and is being investigated.

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports checking anglers and ATV riders. Enforcement action was taken for lack of life jackets, targeting bass, no angling license, illegal-length northern pike, and expired boat registration. An ATV safety class was also given in Palisade.

CO Calie Kunst (Crosslake) spent time working sport fishing and ATV enforcement. Plenty of anglers were out over the weekend and enjoying the beginning of open-water season. Kunst took enforcement action on various violations.


District 4 - Walker area

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checked multiple anglers over opener weekend. Enforcement action included fishing without a license, illegal possession of a deer, no license in possession, and failure to display current registration.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) patrolled Cass and Crow Wing county lakes and reports a busy opening fishing weekend. McGowan also assisted local law enforcement agencies with calls for service. Enforcement action was taken for numerous boating and fishing violations.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily worked activities associated with the Governor’s Fishing Opener in the Cass Lake area. Several anglers were checked during opening fishing weekend despite the very windy weather. Most anglers were catching a few walleyes. In one instance, a TIP led to a citation being issued for possessing an overlimit of walleyes over 20 inches. Mathy also checked ATV trails and worked on Bear Committee-related items. A nuisance-beaver permit was also issued and a moose-sighting call came from the Bena area. Enforcement action was taken for angling, boating, and ATV violations


CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) patrolled the area for wild turkey, angling, and recreational vehicle activity. Baum patrolled area lakes for fishing opener and found many anglers having success even with the windy conditions. Baum found several ATV riders out with the recent opening of the county forest roads. He took enforcement action for various fishing and ATV-related violations. Baum continues to investigate a wild turkey case.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) primarily worked fishing activity during opening weekend. Fishing wasn’t the best in the station, but there was a fair amount of activity. Water levels remain high in the area, which has some effect on accessibility. Numerous ATV and OHM violations were addressed also as the local trails and forest roads opened prior to the weekend.

District 2 - Bemidji area


CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports spending time this week checking watercraft operators and anglers. Several wetland-related complaints were followed up on. A deer case from the 2021 firearms deer season was closed out.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) worked angling activity over the busy fishing opener weekend. Anglers and boaters are reminded to check safety equipment before going out on the water. He taught a boating operations course to deputies from around the state at Camp Ripley. Area ATV trails and forest roads were patrolled

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the weekend checking anglers. Many battled through the windy conditions to attempt to catch some walleyes. There was some success through the area, with most people having better luck in the evenings once the wind died down. The best success was seen by anglers targeting crappies. Other time was spent instructing water survival techniques to boat and water deputies, and assisting Becker County with a suspect who fled from a burglary.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) received calls on nuisance beavers and trespass. Peterson also worked commercial enforcement, and checked anglers and boaters over opening weekend.


District 7 - Grand Rapids area

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked a busy fishing opener with many area and out-of-state anglers in town. Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra lines, northern pike out of season, angling for walleyes prior to the season, angling without a license and expired registration on a watercraft.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) focused enforcement efforts on angling activity throughout the previous week. Time was also spent investigating a wildfire and several TIP complaints. Holt worked a busy fishing opener in the Grand Rapids area. Enforcement activity involved boating, AIS and trapping violations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) worked a very busy fishing opener. High water levels and windy conditions challenged anglers but most had some success putting fish in the livewell. Hochstein was impressed that every angler checked in a boat had a wearable life jacket on board and only minor violations were addressed.


District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) checked opening weekend traffic where wind and cold water were prevalent. He also attended training, monitored ATV traffic, and checked boat traffic for invasive species.

CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) worked a busy fishing opener on Mille Lacs Lake. Fishing success was slower, with most success coming from the night bite. Time was also spent working ATV activity in the Isle area. Nuisance-bear complaints and litter complaints were also addressed. Griffith and other officers attended the Aitkin kindergarten environment day. Enforcement action was taken throughout the week on various violations. Griffith would like to remind ATV riders to have helmets for minors.

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) worked on pre-opener fishing activities and ATV-use questions. Wet conditions have hampered turkey hunting success. Fishing activity was found to be minimal, with a few walleyes, bass, and pike being caught. Assistance was given to local law enforcement on a fleeing in a motor vehicle and subsequent foot pursuit until the suspect was apprehended.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) spent time prepping boats for the 2022 fishing opener. Multiple phone calls were handled, as were several complaints of ATV riders trespassing and speeding. Westby spent the opener on the Mississippi River and surrounding lakes. Several boats did not have all the required safety equipment on board. Please read through the boating regulations and familiarize yourself with what is required.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) conducted equipment maintenance and worked the fishing opener weekend. The fish bite was slow overall on area lakes, but a few anglers were able to find some success.

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) reports the week’s focus was fishing activity, including bowfishing. Complaints of overlimits were investigated and unfounded. He fielded questions concerning boat lighting. Heavy rains were a factor in the reduced number of anglers seen on the opener this year with most accesses underwater and no-wake restrictions on many area lakes.

CO Keith Bertram (Long Prairie) reports a busy fishing opener. Enforcement action was taken for no boat registration, insufficient boating safety equipment, and possession of marijuana. Nuisance-bear complaints were also handled

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Mike Krauel (Mora) spent a busy fishing opener checking anglers. Anglers were still finding moderate success despite the extremely high water levels in the area. Krauel also patrolled for ATV activity. Enforcement action was taken for extra lines, no fishing license, possessing a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, no life jackets and operating an unregistered watercraft. An arrest was also made on an angler with multiple felony warrants.

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) patrolled area lakes for the fishing opener. Not many walleyes were caught but anglers were going for other species as well. Area lakes produced some good crappies and plenty of enjoyment for youth and adult anglers.

Aviation Section

CO Pilot Tim Gray (Bemidji) flew CO Wood over her station for the first time and she found a few items to follow up on during the week. He finished radio collar telemetry training and got a flight checking fishing pressure on area lakes. He also checked anglers out for the fishing opener.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) flew a recon flight in northern Minnesota to determine where lakes are still iced over for walleye opener work planning. Jensen also worked a boating safety detail on Mille Lacs Lake. Minor boating violations were found, along with some minor ATV/OHM violations.

NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) did ground training with a pilot, worked on helicopter equipment, and began preparation for helicopter trout stocking. He also brought a helicopter with WREO Haberman for a school display at Aitkin Elementary. He also completed online training and an aviation webinar.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids) completed requested enforcement flights and planned out upcoming training flights for unit pilots. He attended required online training. Scott also scheduled upcoming aircraft maintenance

Standby CO Pilot Jake Willis (Grand Rapids) attended National Police Week events in Washington, D.C., with the Division Honor Guard. Honors presented for the Grell family included the Candlelight Vigil on the National Mall, marching in the National Emerald Society Parade, and standing the cordon line for President Joe Biden at the Fraternal Order of Police Memorial Service on the Capitol Lawn.

NR Pilot Gracie Zeller (Brainerd) spent time designing, creating and implementing a door storage solution for one of the helicopters. She acted as TFO for a flight near the Boundary Waters and Grand Marais to look at water and ice levels.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Joseph Stattelman (NW) spent the week working on permit compliance, case follow up, fishing opener, ATV activity, following up on calls around the Detroit Lakes area, assisting other agencies, and AIS compliance and monitoring.

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) continued working on cases in his assigned area. An oversized-dock complaint was looked into on Cross Lake. Haberman worked AIS enforcement over the fishing opener and an overlimit of trout was found.

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