Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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OAK ISLAND, Minn. — Something was different about this fish, judging by the red blob that now bubbled on the screen of my Vexilar FL-18 depthfinder. It looked thicker than the walleye blips that had shown up and cooperated with pleasing regularity throughout the morning, seeming almost to pulsate as I bounced a gold-and-glow-red "Stop Sign" jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head above it in hopes of enticing a strike. Whatever was down there, I wanted to catch it — or at least hook it.
BISMARCK — Whether the behemoth muskie Ryan Getz of Bismarck caught while ice fishing on New Johns Lake in Burleigh County is a new state record tiger muskie — a hybrid pike-muskie cross — or just a very large pure strain muskie won't be known until genetic test results become available. Either way, it's one heck of a fish to pull through a hole in the ice. The muskie measured 51 inches and weighed 41.3 pounds. "Yeah, it wasn't too bad," Getz said with a laugh Thursday, March 6, in a phone interview. "I wish they'd give me word" on the test results.
I'm in catch-up mode after a few days out of the office that served up near-perfect weather. Perfect weather by late February and early March standards, at least. It all started last Saturday, Feb. 24, when four of us set out by snowmobile on a trip across Lake of the Woods from Warroad, Minn., to Oak Island on the Northwest Angle. Ice fishing and snowmobiling were on the agenda, and the conditions for both were ideal.
I was talking to a fisheries manager the other day when I told him I thought this winter had become a bit of a grind. And in many ways, it has. There's been relentless periods of cold, too much wind and, for skiers, snowmobilers and other snow sports enthusiasts, marginal snowfall, at least in the Red River Valley. Except for a couple of trails in northeast North Dakota, there hasn't even been enough snow to groom snowmobile trails until you get farther east into Minnesota, where snowfall has been more abundant and ample wooded areas have kept it from blowing away.
The winter of 2017-18 hasn't been too severe for deer and most other wildlife to this point, but prolonged cold spells could cause problems in some areas if they persist too late into the season, managers say. "Some of these cold days are starting to take their toll a little bit, but it looks like we're working out of that now here for a short period of time," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
ST. PAUL—The Department of Natural Resources' request to increase the price of fishing and some hunting licenses dominated the game and fish agenda during last year's session of the Minnesota Legislature, but this year's session looks relatively quiet in terms of hunting and fishing bills, a key lawmaker on the outdoors front says.
At first glance, Jake Cosley says he wasn't quite sure what he was seeing Wednesday afternoon while snowmobiling on the Red River south of Pembina, N.D. It looked like a dead deer, but something else seemed to be going on, too, he said.
WALHALLA, N.D. — Jim Brown had seen the two bucks on his trail camera near Walhalla, N.D., earlier in the fall, but then they stopped showing up. That all changed one day in December when Brown, a Walhalla contractor, checked the card on his Cuddyback trail camera. What he saw only can be described as a spectacle of nature: One buck entangled with the rack of another buck whose body is severed from its head. The antlers and severed head hang from the rack of the living buck.
DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—Ask Gary Thompson why people break through the ice, and he'll say they usually don't do a good enough job of testing it before they venture out. There's more to "reading" ice than measuring how thick it is. The Eskimos have more than 100 different words for snow, Thompson says. And while his vocabulary for describing ice is less extensive, it's no less accurate.
GRAND FORKS—The reprieve from cold weather came none too soon for my tastes, and a few days of above-zero temperatures have offered all the motivation I needed to get out of the house. As I write this late in the week, the mercury has climbed into the mid-20s where I'm headed for the weekend and is set to hit the high 30s. There's nothing specific on the itinerary other than putting a few miles on the sleds, strapping on the snowshoes and tromping through the woods to see what I can see and perhaps even doing a bit of ice fishing.