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DNR wardens answer questions about sea caves, snowmobiling, ice fishing

By DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement

The Frequently Asked Questions features recent warden-related questions taken by wardens and the DNR Call Center. The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The number is 1-888-936-7463.

Question 1: I am going to sturgeon spear this year. Can I scout ahead of when the season starts to find a place to spear? One of my friends takes a coffee can from home, attaches it to a long pole before he dips it into the lake bed. He pulls it out and counts the lake fly larvae in the can. He then dumps it on the lake. Is this OK? Is this littering?

Answer: Sure, you can do what your friend is doing. And, no, this amount that is coming out of the can is not littering. That’s because you’re talking about a very small amount of lake bed material that is being disturbed. When the ice melts, that sediment is going back to the lake bottom. This is not considered what you may be thinking of as dredging, which does require a permit. Thanks for asking and good luck with your sturgeon spearing.

Question 2: I am getting ready for sturgeon spearing season. I’m not so sure my chainsaw is going to work on the ice. Is it OK if I take my chainsaw to the lake ice now and try to cut an ice hole before the spearing season? I just want to check it. My idea is to cut a straight line three feet long and a quarter-inch wide. Is this OK?

Answer: Go for it. Generally speaking, it is not illegal to cut holes in the ice. Cutting a narrow slit in the ice a few feet long generally will not create a public safety issue or require marking as an unguarded ice hole. The restrictions come into play when the ice hole is going to be used for fishing. Larger holes may be cut and covered for sturgeon spearing purposes, but not more than 48 hours before the season begins. Good luck with your chainsaw test.

Question 3: I often ride with other snowmobilers. I have a question about what we do as a group when we come to a stop sign. If the first snowmobile stops, can the leader wave the rest of the snowmobilers across the road or does each snowmobiler have to stop?

Answer: That’s a great question. Thanks for asking. Each individual snowmobiler must stop when it’s his or her turn at that stop sign. If there are no right-of-way vehicles approaching you on the roadway, you then may cross that roadway. Thanks again for asking and have a lot of fun this season.

Question 4: How many tip-ups can I have while ice-fishing?

Answer: There sure are a lot of ice-fishing opportunities this winter! Good question. I can walk you through a few scenarios. I can tell you it is illegal to fish with more than three hooks, baits or lures. So, let’s say you are fishing only with tip-ups – you could have one hook, one bait and one lure attached to each tip and fish with a maximum of the three tip-ups. Let’s say you want to fish with a jig pole while watching your tip-ups. In this case, you cannot also be fishing with 3 tip-ups and that jig pole. Why? The maximum number of total lines a person can legally be fishing with is 3 -- provided only one hook, bait or lure is attached to each line. Have a great time fishing.

Question 5: I heard about the Apostle Island sea caves now being ice caves. And I heard people have visited them. Where are they?

Answer: Conservation Warden Supervisor David Oginski of Ashland trekked out to the sea caves in January and got some great photos. See some of his pictures on this page. Warden David walked along the edge of Lake Superior. He says this is the first time since 2009 the caves have been accessible like this. They are part of the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore out of Cornucopia a few miles – Meyers Road access along the beach. It’s a couple miles to hike out. Warden David says it can be a tough walk because of the snow and some jagged ice pack. He saw a lot of people out there on cross-country skis and snowshoes. Sounds like fun and looks like the views would be worth the wintry hike!

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, please call: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens. Anyone who calls the Violation Hotline or provides information can remain anonymous.