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Dick Herfindahl: Spring, oh spring, where art thou? How we look forward to thy return

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

This past week we have been experiencing some fairly mild weather, and overall, we have had a pretty mild winter. I talk to my brother-in-law from Nome, Alaska, a few times a week, and when he tells me it’s below zero there, I almost feel a little guilty telling him it’s 30-plus here. The key word there would be almost.

I have been a little bit under the weather this week, but each day is a little bit better. I now have another illness to deal with, the dreaded cabin fever. I have tried watching some fishing shows and other outdoors shows, which seems to pacify me momentarily. But for this there is only one sure fix: getting outdoors and going to the cabin. I can’t really remember a time when I’ve missed being at the cabin this much.

I have a lot of great pictures of our cabin and the area that we fish, which gives me satisfaction each time I look through them. This is what helps get me through the winter. I try not to check the snow depth on the DNR website because that alone could cause a relapse in my cabin fever.

I love going to the cabin in early spring when there might still be a little snow on the ground. I fill and hang the bird feeders and then sit back and wait for them to make an appearance. In the winter or spring there are mainly nut hatches, chickadees, bluebirds and blue jays. Blue jays are fun to watch and when they first come around, they are content to eat the food off of the ground that the others have spilled. Eventually they get braver and go right to the feeders. Blue Jays are kind of skittish at first, but eventually get into a comfort zone where they don’t fear humans as much.

I learned a few years ago that you just don’t leave your feeders unattended in the spring or a hungry bear might see them as an easy meal. We did the unthinkable and headed to town not far from our cabin, and in the short time we were gone, a bear had come into our place and knocked down or destroyed almost all of my bird feeders. That was a lesson learned. I have, for the most part, raccoon-proofed my feeders by suspending them from wires strung between the trees.

Spring is not the time to feel safe when it comes to my feeders. The raccoons might not be able to reach my feeders, but a bear can stand tall and reach them. That is why I wait until halfway through summer before I feel safe in leaving them out at night. In the spring, the bears are hungry after hibernating so they are in search of food and bird feeders are prime targets.

It is time to return to reality and address the subject of litter on the ice left by ice fishermen. A few years ago when the channel by Frank Hall Park would resemble a small city, I would go for my morning walk, and when I walked past the channel I couldn’t believe the garbage left floating in the channel after ice-out. What is the matter with people? There were pop bottles, Styrofoam leech and worm containers and all other sorts of trash.

Cigarette butts. Propane canisters. Cans, bags and bottles, some full of human waste. Blocking materials. Fish carcasses. Those are just a few of the items that make up the long list of litter 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. Shelters must be removed from inland waters in the southern two-thirds of the state by midnight on March 2, and from inland waters in the northern one-third by midnight on March 16. Different dates apply to border waters.

Trash left on the ice is not only an eyesore, but it also has the potential to negatively affect water quality, especially if the litter remains when the ice melts.

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

Clean up after yourselves people!

Please take a few moments to also honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have served and those troops that are serving today.