Make sure you have a new fishing license if you’re fishing in Minnesota this weekend

If you’re planning to go fishing in Minnesota this weekend, make sure you buy a new fishing license first.

The old licenses expire today.

If my experience is any indication, there’s going to be some confusion about this.

Like pretty much everyone else, I’d been under the assumption that the 2013 licenses were good until April 30 — which for reasons I don’t understand had been the case for the past few years — even though walleye and pike season on Minnesota inland waters closes in late February.

But then a notice came out last week that licenses expire today, Feb. 28. For reasons I again don’t understand, Minnesota changed the expiration date — again — reverting to Feb. 28, which is when fishing licenses historically expired. If you’re fishing Lake of the Woods or other Minnesota-Canada border waters where walleye season is open through April 14, that’s a significant change.

And so, last Saturday, I decided to buy my new license while it was fresh in my mind. I stopped by a local sporting goods store and told the person at the customer service counter that I needed a new Minnesota fishing license — only to have him tell me I didn’t need the new one yet.

He almost convinced me, but I opted to err on the side of caution and told him I’d like to buy the new license anyway.

Now I’m glad I did.

The encounter made me wonder, though: If the person who was running the DNR’s Electronic License System machine wasn’t aware of the date change, I wonder how many anglers are going to be caught off guard this weekend.

I had an email chat with a Minnesota resort owner who summed it up best:

“For years, licenses expired on the 28th of February and then on March 1st, everyone would have to get a new license,” he wrote. “Then someone thought, ‘why don’t we simply allow licenses to expire when season closes, and then when the season opens, everyone can purchase a new license.’ Must have made too much sense; we are back to the old way.’”

So there you have it. Don’t ask why. Just go out and buy a new fishing license.

Regardless of what anyone tells you, you’re going to need it this weekend.

DNR: New Minnesota fishing licenses required March 1

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in its weekly enforcement report today sent out a couple of reminders that are worth noting.

First and foremost is that 2014 fishing licenses are required beginning Saturday, so if you’re planning to hit your favorite Minnesota fishing hole this weekend, be sure you have a new license first. Fishing season for walleyes and northern pike closed Sunday on Minnesota inland waters, but season on popular Minnesota-Canada border waters such as Lake of the Woods remains open through April 14.

The DNR also reminded fish house owners to remove all garbage from the ice in the area surrounding their shelter. That should go without saying, but huge amounts of garbage traditionally are left to wash up on shore every spring from careless fish house owners who leave trash on the ice.

In another example of stating the obvious, snowmobilers should get their snowmobiles registered before taking them out on the trails, the DNR reminded. Once you’re stopped by a conservation officer, it’s too late.

DNR: 12 people face 80 charges in Lake of the Woods case

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced this afternoon that 12 people face a total of 80 charges in connection with an investigation into guided fishing operations on Lake of the Woods that culminated with 40 conservation officers sweeping through the area in January.

Summonses have been mailed to the people being charged, and documents will soon be filed with the Lake of the Woods County Court Administrators office, but a spokeswoman this afternoon said she hadn’t yet received them. Soring said he couldn’t disclose the names of the people being charged because he didn’t know the status of the filing process.

He did, however, break down the 80 charges (all misdemeanors) as follows:

Angling related
 23 possess over limit walleye (misdemeanor fines plus restitution).
19 pack fish without a packer license.
10 transport walleye without a skin patch.
1 angle while angling license revoked.
1 unattended line.
2 transport undressed walleye from special regulations lake.
1 illegal length walleye.
1 unlawful culling of walleye.
2 deposit litter into lake.
1 angle with extra line.
Other violations
 5 guide bear hunters without guide license.
3 fail to register bear bait station.
3 fail to display ID sign on bear bait.
1 fail to register deer.
1 transport loaded firearm.
1 discharge firearm from moving watercraft.
2 possess waterfowl without markings.
1 unlawful gifting of waterfowl.
1 attempt to illegally take ruffed grouse.
1 operate unregistered ATV.