Friday, March 30, 2012


from WATERWORKS, an Outdoors Column by Gordon Prickett, for the April 4th Aitkin Independent Age


Every lake around Aitkin County has experienced its earliest Ice-Out in decades. Minnesota’s many lakes were slow to freeze over last fall. Skaters loved the open ice when snow came even later than usual this winter. The season for ice fishing and snowmobiling was awfully short. The same can be said for snow plowing, usually an added source of winter income up here.

When the ice cover on our lake disappeared on the second day of spring it became hard to imagine that this wasn’t something more than "unusual weather." Watchers of Nord Lake have kept score for 36 years, and this is a record!


At the Annual Commerce Show in Aitkin last month, Conservation Officer Bob Mlynar handed me a document from the DNR that tells what happens to the hunting and fishing license fees collected each year - how the DNR puts the money to work.

The dollars are deposited in the state’s Game and Fish Fund, which can only be used for fish and wildlife-related work. License revenue pays for fish stocking, population surveys, and habitat projects, as well as a network of conservation officers who protect wild species, snare poachers, and oversee firearms safety training.

This Game and Fish Fund currently receives $90 million annually, and 55% ($49.5 million) is license fees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service returns proceeds of the excise tax collected on firearms, hunting and fishing equipment to the state under the Federal Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs. This puts $22.5 million into the fund (25%). The State Lottery Sales Tax accounts for another 14% ($12.6 million).

The document has a message from DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, and he thanks us for buying our licenses. He also makes the case for a fee increase that is currently being requested. The last increase was in 2001, and the balance of the Game and Fish Fund has declined to a critical level. Besides tightening belts and increasing efficiencies, game and fish field effort has been reduced. Landwehr says that an adjustment now can assure the quality of modern fish and wildlife management.

You’re welcome, Tom! Thanks for the information.

To get a copy of this document with examples of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Enforcement activities putting these dollars to work, you can stop in at the Aitkin DNR Office in "Southgate," 1200 Minnesota Avenue South, phone 927-3751.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


from Outdoors column WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett, for
the 3/7/2012 Aitkin Independent Age

Cabin owners and guests last summer on both sides of our lake home enjoyed late night bonfires. They collect dead wood on their property in woodpiles and burn it in large bonfires over the weekend. In between gatherings their fire-ring ashes are smoldering until the next load of wood is piled on and ignited. At the end of the weekend the embers sometimes are still glowing. No one is around. They could be out on the lake for one last boat ride or headed back to the Cities.

In late July 2011 national news broadcasts carried a story from the Southern California hills above Los Angeles. High desert wildfires were raging out of control. When fire fighters would encircle an area to limit the spreading fires, they didn’t declare it was secure until they had collected the embers. Strong winds in the area have been known to fan embers into flames that reignited the countryside.

As I pictured the embers being collected above L A, I recalled the recent strong southerly winds in our township that gusted to velocities over 40 miles per hour.

Fire prevention is not very complex, but one does have to be conscious of danger when playing with fire. A watering can full of lake water next to the fire ring is the first step.

Water the ashes. Douse the glowing embers when the party is over. This is the last step. So simple and inexpensive to do. This practice provides the "Fire Insurance" that every lakeshore resident and every responsible visitor needs - to prevent catastrophic losses.


From drought to violent snowstorms in just a few days, the headline writers keep us posted on the changing weather. Some of the heaviest wet snow I can remember has just closed our local schools and finally brought out happy snowmobilers. Snow plows, snow blowers, shovels, and roof rakes are out in force, just a few weeks before the vernal equinox. A meltdown will come soon enough, and early lake levels are expected to be near normal in these parts. I’m ready for ice-out about a month from now.