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DNR to anglers: Enjoy the ice, but don't make a mess

It's hard to beat ice fishing if you want to get away for some quiet enjoyment, but a few slobs are giving all anglers a bad name.

We're talking about fishermen who leave their garbage to blow around out on the ice.

"Lakes are normally ringed by fish houses this time of year so conservation officers find it challenging to identify who is leaving trash on a lake," said Captain Ken Soring, DNR Enforcement northeast regional manager in Grand Rapids in a news release.

"Another factor is the wind, which makes it difficult to prove where the trash came from. And we just don't have enough conservation officers to thoroughly enforce litter laws."

Littering, Soring noted, is a petty misdemeanor criminal charge with a fine of up to $300. Conservation officers also have Solid Waste Civil Citation authority. These civil citations are "by the pound" or "by the cubic foot" penalties, and since they are not criminal charges, they don't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The person suspected of littering must pay the penalty and clean up the mess.

The DNR offers the following tips to keep Minnesota waterways clean:

• Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.

• Properly dispose of tangled fishing line to prevent wildlife from being trapped and injured.

• It is unlawful to dispose of ice fishing shacks anywhere in the state. Check with local refuse provider or landfill for disposal.

• Litter is a costly problem that we all end up paying for to keep our roadways, parks, and waterways clean. The act of littering not only hurts our pocketbooks, but it also causes harm to our environment in many ways.

• Keep a litterbag or trash container in your fish house, dark house or shelter.

• Secure trash container covers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter.

• Cover and secure any vehicle, truck, or trailer carrying refuse.

• When visiting any recreation area, make sure to leave the area clean for the next person to enjoy.

In short, treat the ice like any public place, worthy of respect and proper care.

Not only does it ugly up the view, leaving trash on the ice can be dangerous -- larger items left behind can be enough to cause a snowmobile accident.

And when the ice melts, all the junk ends up in the lake.

We hope ice anglers do the right thing and take a little time to clean up the area around their fish houses in the next few weeks. Even if you didn't make the mess, you'll be doing all of us a favor if you help clean it up before the ice melts.

And the guilty parties should remember: leaving trash on the ice is illegal and can cost you a $300 fine.