A wimpy winter goes out with a whimper

While Northlanders saw record amounts of snowfall back in October, a dry December and a cold February, followed by a recent increase in temperatures helped see the winter season come to an end.

You might have heard a collective cry from thousands of snowmobilers this past week as temps in the mid to upper 30s probably put an end to an already sad sack of a winter for those who love the smell of two-stroke (or the quiet purring of a 4-stroke).

While some diehards might still try to get a few more miles on the grass and rocks this weekend, the reality is that without some significant snowfall soon, it’s over, Johnny.

For a season that started with such promise – including a snowstorm in October that dumped record amounts of fresh powder across much of Minnesota and Wisconsin – the winter of 2020-2021 was ultimately a dud.

Not only did a lack of December snow (and the minimal amounts that fell afterward) delay the snowmobile season but a two-week sub-zero cold snap in February basically robbed us of two weekends of riding.

That’s not to say some people didn’t enjoy the lack of snow and relatively mild temps that we saw.

For those who hate to shovel, despise the outdoors when the world is cold and icy, and generally live for warm weather, this winter was a welcome reprieve from the previous two versions, which both landed in the harder than usual category.

Skiers – both downhill and cross country – must have loved it. Just enough snow to make things fun and not enough to make driving to the local hill or field too difficult. Same goes for those who like to snowshoe.

Ice anglers no doubt enjoyed the set up. Many years the snow falls fast and furious early in the season before the ice has a chance to really freeze properly and that can make life difficult when placing and maintaining an ice-house.

By the way, dark houses, fish houses and portables need to be removed by March 15 from inland waters found north of an east-west line formed by U.S. Hwy. 10, east along Hwy. 34 to Minnesota Hwy. 200, east along Hwy. 200 to U.S. Hwy. 2, and east along Hwy. 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Finally, the northern deer herd will definitely benefit from this mild winter after enduring such harsh conditions most of the last several seasons. The population should come through with flying colors now even if we get the inevitable last second April snowstorm.

As far as snowmobiling goes, while plenty of people probably feel like they got robbed of the season they were looking forward to after a long, locked-down 2020, the truth is it wasn’t as bad as it might seem. Despite only a foot of snow to be found throughout much of the Arrowhead region, plenty of sledders got out and put on many miles.

I personally rode more than 1,200 miles, all on local trails, and enjoyed every second of it. A lot of people were out there riding in less-than-optimal conditions.

For that, we should all thank the dedicated volunteers who make up the membership of all the snowmobile clubs in the area. The guys and gals that groom the club trails were out in force all winter, working with minimal snow, and grooming the trails in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible.

They took what is usually the base layer for the trails and turned it into hundreds of rideable miles all the way up until this week, when the melt left them with little or nothing to work with.

The guys and gals from the Trails Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, especially the crew at the Tower office that grooms the Arrowhead and Taconite Trails, also deserve a lot of praise.

They did a great job molding some normally crappy sections of rock filled terrain (particularly on the Taconite) into something very rideable and they didn’t give up until this week either.

And if we get some unexpected snow this week, I imagine all the main players from the clubs and the DNR will be back at it, creating a place for the thousands of snowmobilers that take advantage of this winter wonderland to play for one more weekend.

o

Comments sought for Grand Rapids area fisheries management plans

Anglers and others interested in management of fisheries resources in the Grand Rapids area are invited to comment on fisheries management plans for selected lakes in Itasca County through Wednesday, March 31.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources uses fisheries management plans to identify specific management activities planned for designated lakes over the next five to 20 years. The plans include background information such as water chemistry characteristics, water temperature information, species presence, stocking, regulations, and historic catch rates from previous fisheries surveys.

The plans can also identify biological and social factors that may limit a fishery’s potential and seek to address these limiting factors by prescribing science-based management tools when biologically, fiscally, and socially appropriate.

Comments and suggestions from the public are important for planning and evaluating the success of activities laid out in management plans.

Fisheries information is being updated for the following lakes: Bass (near Effie); Big Too Much; Burns; Dock; Five Island; Guile; Gunderson; Long; O’Reily chain; Snaptail; and Thistledew.

Trout management evaluation is being reviewed for the following lakes: Larson; Moonshine

Walleye stocking evaluation is being reviewed for the following lakes: Little Turtle; Maple

People can contact the DNR’s Grand Rapids area fisheries office by calling

218-328-8835, or emailing grandrapids.fisheries@state.mn.us to receive an electronic copy of any of the draft plans.

Comments and suggestions for managing other lakes and streams in the Grand Rapids work area are welcome at any time and will be considered when those plans are due for review.

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