Keep the Ice Clean

January 6, 2010 by  

By Doug Leier

One of my biggest outdoors pet peeves is trash. Empty cans along the river bank or discarded chip bags floating near the dock, even if it’s just one, seem to steal away the peaceful serenity that draws most of us outdoors.

The shorelines of Devils Lake are a prime example of how many slob fishermen their are and how bad it can get after they don't pick up their own trash.

The shorelines of Devils Lake are a prime example of how many slob fishermen their are and how bad it can get after they don't pick up their own trash.

Maybe to a fault, I carry extra trash bags along to make sure I leave an area cleaner than I found it. I guess it’s a hope that maybe my outdoors house-cleaning will save others from experiencing similar disgust. Actually, if everyone else was equally as disappointed with those outdoors litter bugs, we’d not have a problem.

My kids don’t have a choice when we find litter and trash as we spend time fishing and hunting. We pick it up, even if it’s not ours. If we’re seen leaving an area I don’t want the next person blame us, even if we didn’t make the mess. So rather than risk the accusation, we pick it up.

And it’s not just during the summer months either. It’s anytime, because what’s bad in summer can be even worse in winter.
In summer, bags float away and cans drift into cattails or over to another shore. The litter gets caught in trees, and dust and dirt over time camouflage the refuse.

Winter provides its own unique situation. Whether ice fishing, predator calling, cross-country skiing or just enjoying a brisk winter walk across the tundra, the white snowy canvas is indeed a special experience. Littered with fish guts or cigarette butts, however, the fluffy white backdrop makes the trash look even worse in my eyes.

Since we’re into the heart of ice fishing, it’s a good time to ask winter anglers to make sure to clean up the ice after fishing, and respect private property rights when traveling to and from a favorite fishery. It doesn’t happen very often, but it shouldn’t happen at all. Not only is on-ice litter unsightly, but it is also illegal to leave fish behind on the ice. According to the fishing proclamation, when a fish is caught, anglers must either immediately release the fish back into the water unharmed, or reduce them to their daily possession.

“It has also become common practice for some anglers to fillet fish on the ice,” said Robert Timian, chief warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “If you are going to do this, don’t leave the entrails and sides of filleted fish on the ice. Clean up after yourself. Put the carcass in a trash bag and properly dispose of it when you get home.”
Beyond the litter aspect, on lakes with size restrictions for certain fish, filleting those species on the ice is not allowed.

Another issue that sometimes surfaces in the winter is people sometimes driving out into private land to get around blocked section lines or other public access roads to reach a lake shore. When access roads are not passable because of snow, travelers cannot just navigate through a field in order to circumvent the blocked roadway without first talking to the landowner. While you want find a route onto the ice, others may follow and create an unwanted trail. It’s just not the neighborly thing to do.

“Private property rights are the same year-around,” Timian said. “Regardless of the time of year, if there is not a drivable trail, you should talk to the landowner; if the land is signed no trespassing, you need to seek permission.”

The bottom line is, courtesy and responsibility don’t take the winter off. It’s our job to leave places a little better than we found them no matter what time of year.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]


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