Get out there: Fishing already open for many species
Each year about 500,000 anglers flock to the water on the opening day of the fishing season for walleye, northern pike, bass and trout in lakes. Despite all the opener fanfare, fishing already is open for a variety of species.
“Don’t wait to fish. You can already be out fishing for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and a variety of other species, and when the weather is as nice as it has been, it’s even more of an incentive to get outdoors,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t even need a boat because you can catch panfish from shore.”
When anglers talk about the fishing opener, they usually mean the May opener for walleye, pike, bass, and trout in lakes. However, at this point in the year fishing is already open for species that are popular among anglers all year, like crappie, bluegill and trout in streams. In fact, in some Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters, walleye fishing is open all year long.
So what is the reason for a closure on walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes? The short answer centers on the Minnesota state fish – the walleye. The walleye fishing closure is borne out of the need to protect spawning populations of walleye as they congregate in areas like shallow shorelines and riffle areas of rivers. Opening fishing for them at this point could make walleye highly vulnerable to getting caught by anglers in large numbers.
Even if there were other ways to protect walleye at this time of the year, such as a catch-and-release season, the idea of doing away with fishing opener could make planning for the upcoming fishing season difficult for resort owners and anglers who traditionally plan on fishing the opener.
And pike? They spawn before walleye, but closing the season for pike allows the walleye closure to be enforceable, because fishing methods can be similar for the two species.
“The tradition of fishing opener in Minnesota – where walleye is king – remains strong. We know fishing is big business and people’s fishing traditions are important. Still, our biggest concern remains about protecting spawning walleye,” Stevens said.
On inland waters this year, fishing opens for walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes on Saturday, May 14. Bass fishing remains catch-and-release in most of the state for another two weeks. Fishing is open now for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and rough fish. Sturgeon fishing is catch-and-release from mid-June to mid-April. Muskellunge fishing opens each year in early June.
On border waters, the picture changes considerably depending upon where one wants to fish. For example, walleye fishing is open all year in Minnesota-North Dakota border waters and parts of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters. And the lake sturgeon season is open on the Minnesota-Canada border waters.
When fishing is closed for a species, it is illegal to target that species when fishing.
“If you’re fishing with a crankbait or spoon before the walleye opener, that’s not allowed because it’s obvious the target is a walleye, bass or pike,” Stevens said. “However, if you’re fishing with a bobber and live bait and accidentally catch a bass, you’re fine as long as you immediately release the fish.”
Overall, regulations are meant to protect fish populations when they need protecting while preserving fishing opportunities whenever possible.
“The great thing about fishing in Minnesota is there are opportunities to fish all year, depending on your location and the species you want to catch,” Stevens said. “The fishing opener for walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes is a big deal, but don’t let that stop you from getting out there with a rod and reel.”
For more information on fishing seasons and regulations, visit www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.
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DNR to implement northeast deer permit area changes in 2017
Public response to a proposal to re-align a handful of deer permit areas in the northeast part of the state has prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to wait to implement the change in 2017.
“We remain committed to the boundary changes, which benefit both deer and moose,” said Adam Murkowski, DNR big game program leader. “However, it is important that we take the time needed to do more outreach with the public about the proposal, the specific changes being proposed, and what the proposal means for deer and moose.”
He added that the DNR does not want to implement any changes until after completion of an ongoing evaluation of the state’s deer management program by the Office of the Legislative Auditor in case any findings would influence the roll-out of the new boundaries.
The agency made the proposal and asked for public comment about it earlier this year, with possible implementation as soon as this fall. However, comments on the proposal showed that the information presented did not clearly explain the reasons for the proposed changes, implications for deer populations and potential health benefits for moose.
“We could have been clearer about the reasons behind the proposal, and the additional time prior to implementation will allow us to better address concerns and questions,” Murkowski said.
Prior to the 2017 deer hunting seasons the DNR will:
- Clarify the agency’s overall goals for moose management and how the proposal supports that work.
- Provide detailed deer population estimates and trends, detailed deer harvest reports by permit area, public survey information, and 2015 deer goal setting process and outcomes.
- Describe how the proposal would maintain current deer populations in the moose emphasis areas, and increase deer populations elsewhere in the region.
- Better explain the relationship of habitat, winter weather and predation to both deer and moose. In addition, data being collected from ongoing studies at the University of Minnesota investigating deer and moose, as well as wolf and moose interactions, will be integrated into these efforts.
Information about deer can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer. Deer hunting information is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.
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State record fish program to include catch-and-release records
Change applies to muskellunge, flathead catfish and lake sturgeon
Minnesota’s state record fish program will now include catch-and-release length records for lake sturgeon, flathead catfish and muskellunge.
“State records for sturgeon, flathead catfish or muskies can now be set without harvesting the fish,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “However, the traditional catch-and-keep records for all species will remain an option.”
The traditional records are based on certified weight. The new catch-and-release length records for muskellunge, lake sturgeon or flathead catfish require anglers to measure and take a photograph of the fish before releasing it.
Several factors led to the adoption of catch-and-release records. Primarily, the popularity of catch-and-release fishing is growing, and many anglers are reluctant to harvest muskies, flathead catfish and sturgeon to qualify for a state record. Additionally, in 2015 a higher minimum length for muskellunge and a statewide catch-and-release season for lake sturgeon were adopted, meaning fewer opportunities to keep muskies, and a greater number of locations where anglers can target lake sturgeon.
“We sometimes hear reports of large fish caught and released that may have been state record weight. Now we have a way to formally honor the skill of those who catch and release these fish and recognize Minnesota’s outstanding fishing opportunities for these species,” Kurre said.
Kurre also reminds anglers to obtain a valid license and check that the season is open before going fishing. “Anglers may fish for a species only when the season is open, even when catch-and-release angling,” he said.
The certified weight record and catch-and-release length record each have an individual set of guidelines for submitting a state record fish. Guidelines and application forms are available at www.mndnr.gov/recordfish, while fishing regulations and season dates can be found at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.
Anglers who catch large fish also have the option of participating in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame’s Master Angler program, which recognizes 60 fish species. Information about that program is available at www.fishinghalloffamemn.com/master-anglers.
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Youth archery continues to grow in popularity statewide
Nearly 1,400 youth from 72 schools participated in the state high school archery tournament in Minnesota in early April, representing only a fraction of the nearly 200,000 students in Minnesota who participate in Archery in the Schools programs.
“There continues to be strong interest in youth archery in Minnesota and beyond,” said Kraig Kiger, who oversees the Archery in the Schools program for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Who knows, there may be a skilled youth archer just down the street or in your town with a story to tell about why they’re involved in this growing sport,” added Kraig.
The state tournament in Bemidji, held April 1-2, was sanctioned by the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and run by the North Country Bow Hunters Chapter of Safari Club International. To see which schools had archers advance to the state tournament, visit www.nasptournaments.org. Click on “tournaments” and select “Minnesota” and “completed 2016.”
In the schools, NASP aims to train teachers and provide students with the best equipment, training and curriculum available for the lowest price. Most schools with archery programs hold activities during the school day, but about 10 percent have an additional after-school archery program that develops into a competitive team.
Through the DNR, schools can receive grant money for archery programs. The DNR can help match a school’s contribution toward starting an archery program, with the school’s minimum financial contribution set at $1,600.
For more on the DNR archery grants, visit www.mndnr.gov/grants/epr/archery.
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