Ice fishing is underway on many north-central and northern Minnesota lakes. But officials warn ice still is forming in many areas, with patches of uneven thickness.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer Kyle Quittschreiber of Blackduck reports ice conditions last weekend varied on Upper Red Lake, with several unsafe areas on the lake even for foot travel.

Also at Upper Red, officer Hannah Mishler said many anglers ventured onto the ice, despite open water in some areas. Walleye fishing was good enough that some anglers were cited for over-limits.

Meanwhile, officer Jim Guida of Brainerd warned anglers in his area that “no fish is worth drowning for or worth risking the safety of the public or responders in a rescue attempt.”

Deer license sales down

Minnesota deer hunting license sales were down 2.28 percent as of Monday, compared to a year ago, the DNR reports.

In all, 446,993 licenses have been sold for the 2017 season, compared to 457,400 a year ago. The 2017 license-sales figure is the lowest at this point in the season since 2002, when 437,188 were sold by the Monday after the third weekend of the firearms season.

Yet deer registered were up 16 percent from 2016 through the season’s third weekend of firearms season, the DNR said. The increase is due in part to the additional antlerless permits issued this year. In Zone 1, northeastern Minnesota, firearms harvest was up 36 percent. In Zone 2, which covers most of the state, the harvest was up 10 percent, and in Zone 3, the southeast, the kill was down 5 percent.

Pheasant prospects improve

Minnesota pheasant hunting improved last week as farmers took advantage of the weather and harvested 11 percent of the state’s corn acreage. The corn harvest is now 90 percent complete, but remains behind the five-year average. Drier weather has facilitated the harvest. Topsoil moisture is rated by the USDA in the state’s primary farm range as 82 percent adequate and 11 percent surplus.