Doug Smith

Even if the fish aren’t biting, the ducks aren’t flying and the pheasants aren’t flushing, Doug Smith says any day spent outdoors is a good day. A Minnesota native, he’s been covering the outdoors for the Star Tribune since 1995. He considers walleyes fried over a campfire to be gourmet cuisine.

Amazing video of Kansas man trying to release ensnared trophy buck

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: March 5, 2014 - 2:33 PM

When whitetail bucks fight, several outcomes are possible.

One deer gives up and runs off. One deer might be seriously wounded or even killed in the encounter. And occasionally the bucks will lock antlers during the fight, spelling doom for both.

Rarely do people find or witness such an event. But a Kansas man last month encountered two nine-point bucks whose antlers were solidly locked. Amazingly one of the deer had been mostly eaten, apparently by coyotes, while the other was exhausted from the struggle but uninjured and still entangled with carcass.

The Kansas City Star posted the story and incredible video the guy took with his cellphone of him trying to release the ensnared buck. Check it out:

DNR opens Pelican Lake in Wright County to unlimited fishing

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: February 28, 2014 - 6:05 PM



Pelican Lake in Wright County – a fishing hotspot for several years but one destined to change – has been open to liberalized fishing for the next nine days.

That means anglers can keep as many fish as they want for personal use.

The Department of Natural Resources announced the change on Friday, and said liberalized bag limits will continue until sunset March 9. The reason: Low oxygen levels likely will result in winterkill of fish in the lake, so officials figure anglers might as well utilize them.

The DNR says the early onset and bitter cold of winter 2013-14 have combined to make some shallow lakes susceptible to winterkill, which is created when sunlight is unable to penetrate the ice and oxygen levels in the water drop.

 Fish are often unable to survive in these low-oxygen conditions. Such lakes are opened so the public can make use of these fish, which are otherwise likely to die. Tests conducted on Pelican on Friday showed oxygen levels less than 1 part per million throughout the lake.

I just fished the lake and wrote about it and the plans by the DNR to drastically lower the water levels over the next couple years to restore waterfowl habitat. That likely means the end-of-the-line as a fishery. Here's a link to that story:

Here's more from DNR:

On a lake open to liberalized fishing, licensed resident anglers may take for personal use all species of fish, in any quantity and in any manner, except with the use of seines, hoopnets, fyke nets or explosives. Rough fish such as bullheads, carp, suckers, and buffalo fish may be sold. If used, all gill nets must have metal tags affixed to the net stating the operator's name and address; the tags must be attached to one end of the float line near the first float.  Each tag must be a minimum of 2-1/2 inches by 5/8 inches. 

Anglers are reminded that they must obey all laws regarding trespassing on private property, and that it is against the law to discard fish on shore or on the ice.

For the latest information on lakes that are open to liberalized fishing and for detailed information about those lakes, go to



Despite cold, Walker's International Eelpout Festival was a hot success

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: February 27, 2014 - 11:13 AM

Scott Swanson of Golden Valley caught the biggest eelpout, an 11.98-pound dandy. With him is Jason Freed, a guide with Leisure Outdoor Adventures, which runs the contest.


Cold weather reduced turnout but not the enthusiasm at the International Eelpout Festival last weekend on Leech Lake.

An estimated 9,000 to 10,000 folks showed up for the 35th annual event at Walker. Anglers registered 340 eelpout that weighed a total of 1,134 pounds. Scott Swanson of Golden Valley caught the biggest eelpout, an 11.98-pounder.

Chelsea Brunklow of Sartell caught the second largest, a 11.29-pounder.

But perhaps the most excitement occurred Friday night, when a fire destroyed a fish house and nearby pickup truck on the ice. No one was injured. Here's YouTube video:

Here's a photo, below, of Chelsea Brunklow and her fish.

A dozen people charged in Lake of the Woods poaching bust

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: February 20, 2014 - 2:55 PM



A dozen people, including some guides, face 80 game and fish violations as part of large bust conducted at Lake of the Woods last month by 40 Minnesota conservation officers.

The 12 defendants have been issued summonses for the violations, all misdemeanors, Department of Natural Resources officials said Thursday. Names of those charged weren't released.

The DNR announced the bust last month, saying the poaching investigation began last summer following tips that some anglers were “double-tripping” -- catching fish, leaving the lake, then returning and catching more than their limit.

Minnesota’s fish possession limit is just that: The total number of fish an angler can have in possession, whether in the freezer or on a stringer. And fish that are caught and eaten must be counted as part of a person’s possession limit the day of the catch.

 Among the charges:

*23 citations for over- limit of walleyes.

*19 citations for packing fish without a packing license.

*10 citations for illegally transporting walleyes.

Other fishing charges included angling while license was revoked, unattended line, illegal length walleye, unlawful culling of walleye and transporting undressed walleyes from a special regulation lake.

Meanwhile, hunting violation charges included:

*Five citations for guiding bear hunters without a guide's license.

*Three citations for failing to register a bear bait station.

*Three citations for failing to display an ID on bear bait.

Other hunting violations included failing to register deer, transporting a  loaded firearm, discharge a firearm from moving watercraft, illegal possession of waterfowl and unlawful gifting of waterfowl.

Southeast catch-and-release trout season might be extended

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: February 14, 2014 - 10:39 AM

The fall catch-and-release trout season in all of southeastern Minnesota would be extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 15 if changes being considered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are adopted.

Other proposed changes include allowing catch-and-release angling on designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota state parks from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31 and extending the winter trout fishing season in some southeastern Minnesota streams to all designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota.

The proposed new rules and repeal of others will be adopted without a public hearing unless 25 signatures requesting one are received in writing by 4:30 p.mMarch 28.

The DNR says comments or questions on the proposed changes and written requests for a public hearing should be submitted to Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020.

Complete information on the proposed changes and formal notice of their pending adoption are available on the DNR website at



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