Last spring, for the first time in 43 years, there was no Lake Minnetonka crappie contest. After foundering for several years, the once-popular harbinger of spring died for lack of sponsors.

This year, there will be two Minnetonka crappie contests, just two weeks apart.

The Lions Club announced last week that it will hold a Lions Lake Minnetonka Crappie Contest on April 21, with proceeds going to the Orono and Northwest Tonka Lions Clubs.

Lions officials said they decided to hold their contest even though Minnesota Bound host Ron Schara announced in January that he would bring the crappie contest back on May 5, calling it the 44th annual Minnesota Bound Lake Minnetonka Crappie Contest.

Cort Naab, a Lions Club organizer, said he grew up on Lake Minnetonka and fished the crappie contest with his dad.

"We decided to go ahead and do it,'' he said. "The contest was always the third weekend in April. May is just too late for it,'' he said.

But Naab said he believes both contests can be successful, and an expected early ice-out could help.

Weigh-in for the Lions' contest will be at Maynard's Restaurant. Registration is $5 and can be done online at For more information, see the registration website or call 763-458-1460.

Schara's contest will be headquartered at Lord Fletcher's and will have $50,000 in prizes. Proceeds will go to Minnesota Teen Challenge and Fishing For Life. Registration is $5, and anglers can register at all Cub Food stories beginning April 1. More information is at, or call 952-545-9471.

Third duck zone?

The DNR is considering adding a third duck zone in southern Minnesota to provide additional late-season duck hunting opportunities. The agency solicited opinions in an online survey, and also held a series of public meetings around the state. Attendance at those was fairly sparse; only 10 people showed up for the last meeting Thursday night in St. Paul.

More than 2,000 hunters responded to the online survey. Overall, 61 percent supported a third duck zone, and 70 percent favor a zone that extends across southern Minnesota, perhaps using Hwy. 212 as a dividing line, rather than a zone that includes only the Mississippi River. Several at Thursday's meeting said the duck season in the southern zone should start later, rather than open for two days, then close for a period and reopen later.

If established, the boundaries would remain in effect at least until 2016.

Snaring, nontoxic shot

At the public meetings and online survey, the DNR also asked whether the public supported allowing snaring to start the Saturday nearest Oct. 30 in the farmland zone, instead of Dec. 1. About 58 percent support that change.

And the agency asked whether hunters support requiring nontoxic shot for hunting rails and snipe, which usually are found in or near water. The concern is that rail and snipe hunters are depositing lead in wetlands used by waterfowl. About 53 percent support the restriction; 45 percent oppose it.

Fly fishing expo

The recent unseasonably high temperatures probably have fly anglers thinking spring. And Tom Helgeson's Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo this week in Blaine likely will add to fishing fever. The show at the National Sports Center in Blaine runs Friday through Sunday.

Helgeson of Minneapolis, a longtime conservationist, fly-fishing advocate and journalist, created the show. He died in 2010 from cancer, but his family has continued it. Any profits go to the Tom Helgeson Legacy Fund, which supports river restoration and conservation work.

Among the highlights: free fly casting lessons, fly-tying lessons for beginners and numerous presentations, including smallmouth bass techniques, helicopter fly fishing in Alaska, muskie fishing and early season trout fishing. For more information, see

Ice fishing fades

The warm weather has caused Sportsman's Lodge near Baudette to call off ice fishing on Lake of the Woods. "We are done ice fishing for the year,'' the lodge wrote to customers. The lodge also reported that the Rainy River is open 5 miles east of Birchdale. "We anticipate it to be open by early next week at Birchdale,'' the lodge reported.

Did you know?

• Women 18 and older can try shed antler hunting 1-3 p.m. March 25 at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills, part of the DNR's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. Cost is $10. Contact Jane Heinks at

• A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would require the Legislature to approve the five-year management plan for Lake Mille Lacs walleye harvest developed by the DNR and Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa.

• The carcasses of two wolves apparently killed by gunshots were recovered recently near Fosston, Minn., and conservation officer Dan Malinowski is investigating.

• Conservation officer Tricia Plautz of Henning received a call from a citizen who checked an elderly person's home and found a deer had broken through the basement window and struggled on the pool table before it crawled under a bed and died.

• Snow geese and mourning doves have returned to the Benson area.

Doug Smith •