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 launches eagle nest webcam

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has launched a streaming live video of a nesting bald eagle pair in the Twin Cities.

The webcam is available at www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle. In a news release, DNR officials said they believe it’s the same pair of eagles that used the nest last year. Those eggs failed to hatch because they were laid too early and froze.

This year, the DNR said the female eagle has laid two eggs in the past five days.

“We’re excited they came back, and grateful that they’ve waited until a little later in the season to lay their eggs,” Lori Naumann, DNR nongame specialist, said in a news release. “With the thaw this week, we’re really hoping the birds will be more successful this year.”

The DNR is withholding the exact location of the nest to prevent it from drawing crowds that might disrupt the eagles.

The eagle camera was paid for by DNR’s nongame wildlife program, which is largely funded by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income taxes. Located on Line 21 of the Minnesota income tax form, the option to donate to the nongame program often is referred to as the “chickadee check-off.”