Cigarette butts. Propane canisters. Cans, bags and bottles – some full of human waste. Blocking materials. Fish carcasses.

Those are some of the items that the Minnesota DNR says conservation officers have found out on the ice.

Litter is an issue throughout the ice fishing season, but it tends to be particularly problematic as the deadlines for removing fish houses from lakes loom, according to a DNR news release.

Shelters in the southern two-thirds of the state were to be removed from inland waters by midnight on March 2. Shelters from inland waters in the northern one-third must be removed by midnight on Monday, March 16.

(Courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)
(Courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

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“People need to clean up after themselves when they head home," said Rodmen Smith, director of the Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division, in the news release. "The only thing they should leave is an imprint in the snow or ice.

“The majority of people do things right, but unfortunately there’s a subset of people who leave a mess on the ice and count on someone else to clean up after them.”

Conservation officers spend the winter monitoring anglers and documenting areas where they believe litter might be a problem, according to the release. People who leave their trash on the ice receive litter citations. It’s also common for officers to hear from anglers upset about the trash left behind by the people they’ve fished near during the winter.

“Leaving trash on the ice isn’t a mistake or an oversight – the people who litter make a conscious decision to do it,” Smith said. “They take advantage of the fact that the majority of people care about our lakes and will clean up trash, even if it isn’t theirs.”