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Entries in Minnesota (41)


Whether He's Keeping or Releasing, Respect The Other Guy

Back when Jack Wingate still owned and ran Lunker Lodge on Lake Seminole, a sign on the entrance road said, "You should have been here yesterday."  On one memorable trip, some friends and I were there "yesterday," a sunny, early spring day when big pre-spawn bass began migrating into the shallows.

We caught and released dozens of 4- to 7-pound bass, mostly on soft plastics. Back at the lodge, we saw that others had enjoyed similar success.

Only they hadn't released their fish. They were cleaning them. Everyone in our group was upset by this, but one was so enraged that we had to physically restrain him from confronting and possibly provoking a fight.

The meat fishermen at Lunker Lodge had broken no laws. They simply kept their limits and were taking them home to eat. But in doing so, they had raised the ire of other anglers, who practiced catch-and-release with an almost religious fervor.

That same passion remains with millions today. They would never think of keeping a bass for the table, especially a big pre-spawn female. It's sacrilegious, and they have little regard for those who do.

Much the same disdain is directed toward those who use live bait instead of artificials.

Up at Minnesota's Mille Lacs right now, catch-and-release bass fishermen are  agitated because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has prohibited harvest of walleyes, as it attempts to revive that sagging fishery. As a consequence, the agency has redirected meat fishermen, often equipped with live bait,  toward the lake's world-class smallmouth bass fishery.

I share the distress of  anglers upset by this. While I do keep smaller largemouth and spotted bass for the table, I would never keep a smallie. Plus, up north, they're slow-growing, the spawning season short, and year-class success less a certainty than in more temperature areas. In other words, the quality of that bass fishery is more tenuous, not just at Mille Lacs but throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes area.

Coincidentally, quite a few northern anglers use live bait to catch and keep bass, as well as walleye. It's a long-standing traditional way to fish and goes hand-in-hand with opposition to catch-and-release fishing, especially as it relates to tournaments. And they get just as mad at the "opposition" as my friend did at Lake Seminole.

Here's what one of them told me in a comment at my Activist Angler website: "Sport fishing to catch and release should be outlawed!  We are working to keep fish for real fishermen who enjoy the taste and food. We need to keep these so called sport fishermen out of Minnesota lakes . . . I am not alone, and I vote!"

My point in all of this? As anglers, we are divided, when we must be united if sport fishing is to survive. That's because it's under siege as never before by the ever-growing and aggressive animal rights movement, which garners much of its support from well meaning people who care about animal welfare, but have no connection to and no interest in fishing and hunting. In parts of western Europe, catch-and-release is outlawed because it's "cruel." Only fishing for food is acceptable.

Now, let's look at the science. Exploitation of the smallmouth bass population at Mille Lacs is only 5 percent, according to MDNR.  "That's horrible for die-hards, but really not that big a deal," said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. national conservation director.

"Limits are set in accordance with good science, to sustain fisheries," he added.

Most bass anglers today, he said, "are indoctrinated into a bass culture in which catch-and-release is the only way to go. But many states have other customers , along with other fish, and they have to listen to them too. If they don't, license sales go down and all species suffer."

Additionally, too much catch-and-release actually can be detrimental. When first popularized during the 1970s, when harvest was high, it  did, indeed, help sustain many fisheries. Now, though, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that limits are almost irrelevant for fisheries management. Often, slot limits don't work because people won't keep small bass. Selective harvest would be much better for some fisheries than 90 to 95 percent catch-and-release.

So . . . let's calm down and remember that we're all in this together. Whether that guy in the other boat is using live bait and keeping fish for the table or competing in a tournament, as long as he's obeying the law, you should respect his right to be there, just as he should respect yours.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Noise Could Be Way to Slow Spread of Silver Carp

Anglers and other boaters already know that silver carp don't like noise, and arguably that's not a good thing. That's because huge schools of these exotic fish go airborne as they flee the sounds of outboard engines, often damaging boaters and injuring people.

But this aversion to noise also could provide a silver lining in the quest to slow the spread of silver carp, according to scientists with the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).    

“Our complex noise findings suggest that certain sounds could be used to divert silver carp away from strategic points on waterways or herd them into nets,” said Brooke Vetter, a UMD researcher and graduate student.

After placing speakers at the ends of outdoor concrete ponds, scientists tested carp response to pure sounds, which resemble a dial tone, and more complex noises. The fish quickly adjusted to the pure tones, never swimming away more than two consecutive times. But they continuously fled the more complex sounds.

Now researchers are testing complex noise as a way to control silver carp in the Illinois River.

“Silver carp threaten many waterways in the Great Lakes basin by competing with native species,” said USGS's Mark Gaikowski. “Understanding silver carp behavior is critical for determining effective techniques to minimize the ecological and economic damage of this invasive species."


Lethal Parasite Investigated in Minnesota Fish

Infected flesh looks as if it has freezer burn or has been cooked.

An aquatic parasite that can be lethal to multiple species of sport fish is a top priority these days for Minnesota fisheries scientists.

"Heterosporis has a very broad host range, and is in at least 15 fish species from at least 26 lakes," Dr. Nick Phelps told B.A.S.S. Times, adding that the largemouth bass is one of 11 species known to be susceptible via laboratory exposure.

"You have to be cautious with laboratory exposure as it may not necessarily reflect the real world," said the assistant professor who is leading investigation of the pathogen at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC). "But some of these species clearly are highly susceptible."

In Minnesota fisheries, meanwhile, walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, rock bass and five other species are naturally susceptible to this infectious, muscle-dissolving parasite, known scientifically as Heterosporis sutherlandae. It also has been found to a lesser extent in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario.

"We are in the process of working up hundreds more fish from known-positive lakes to add more clarity to the list of both susceptible and resistant species," Phelps explained, adding that he has received several "suspect-positive" reports from anglers since they learned about the parasite and the disease it causes.

"When you have lakes that have 30 percent (of the fish population) infected, you can imagine how big of an impact this may have to fishermen trying to catch fish," he said. "When you have something that liquefies tissue and you don't know a lot about the biology and ecology of it, that is a cause for concern."

According to a MAISRC fact sheet, as the parasite dissolves tissue, it gives muscles a freezer-burned or cooked appearance. And that tissue is soft to the touch. "In severe infections, the fish will appear to curve inward due to muscle loss," the center said.

Heterosporis, which is not known to infect humans or other animals, is most often observed when a fish is filleted.

The parasite can be spread by moving infected fish or contaminated water.  Unlike many other fish parasites, this one does not require an intermediate host. It is transmitted directly from one fish to another through consumption of spores or an infected fish. First noted in 1990, its origin is unknown, although related species have been found in marine fish of the West Pacific and Arabian Sea.

"As far as diseases go, this is a nasty one," Phelps said.

"Our understanding of this important pathogen is far from complete and we hope, through the work at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, to fill in the gaps and provide the important information needed to guide recommendations for management."


Minnesota Allows Culling for Mille Lacs Bass Tournaments

In hopes of attracting larger tournaments that will generate more  revenue for local economies, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) will allow culling of bass at Mille Lacs. It already is legal in other lakes around the state.

"This is one of the ways DNR is actively responding to the economic needs of the Mille Lacs Lake area," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "The change has potential economic benefits and will not hurt bass populations."

John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, added, "Eliminating one of the hurdles to attracting more national bass fishing tournaments gives the Mille Lacs area another tool to draw national attention and help improve its economy."

The lake already is known nationally as one of the best bass fisheries, especially for smallmouths, with Bassmaster Magazine ranking it 10th in its top 100. But a regulation that forced competitors to keep their first six bass deterred tournament circuits, especially larger ones, from going there.

The rule restricting an angler to one bass of 18 inches or longer remains in effective. But now a tournament fisherman can cull smaller bass until he puts a limit in his livewell. Then he must stop fishing.

"A difference of only a few ounces often determines the winner of a bass tournament," MDNR said. "Having the ability to cull allows tournament anglers to keep the biggest fish that weigh the most."


Are Anglers, Hunters Endangered Species In Minnesota, As Well As California?

Slowly, but inevitably, anglers and hunters are becoming endangered species in California, the most Leftist state in the nation.  Based on an editorial that I read in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, I fear that Minnesota's anglers and hunters might not be far behind, despite the state being the "land of ten thousand lakes."

While many Democrats do fish and hunt, Leftist ideology is anti-fishing and anti-hunting both directly and indirectly. Directly it takes the form of many preservationist and animal rights groups, which want to restrict access to public lands and waters, as well as ban fishing and hunting outright. Indirectly it manifests as a nanny-state bureaucracy which over-regulates and over-taxes.

For example, California fishing licenses cost an average of 76 percent more than in other states, according to the California Sportfishing League. It's no surprise, then, that fishing license sales have dropped nearly 55 percent since 1980, even as the population has increased from 23 to 38 million.

Now, to Minnesota, which, sad to say, was turning Left before this editorial. Just last year, a Democrat state senator proposed and the legislature approved changing the name "Asian carp" to "invasive carp" so as not to offend the state's Asian population. If that's not a sign that the state has fallen into the PC rabbit hole, I don't know what is.

Here is the headline for the editorial, written, it seems, by people who learned about the outdoors solely through Disney movies: "From hunting to fishing, humans are doing damage as 'super predators.'"

And here are a couple of choice excerpts from the editorial, which was prompted by a study: 

"The upshot is that humans have evolved into 'super predators' unwilling or unable to maintain the natural equilibrium. All manner of 'normal' human activity — including global trade, fossil-fuel subsidies, food processing, and recreational hunting and fishing — contribute to failing ecosystems worldwide."

"Scientists said last week that global warming caused by human emissions has exacerbated the severity of the current California drought by 20 percent. Scientists in Minnesota have said repeatedly that agricultural practices and suburban-style development are helping to destroy the state’s cherished lakes. We’ve met the enemy, and the enemy is us."

Here's something that might be pertinent and that the Star-Tribune staff obviously has no clue about: Recreational fishing and commercial fishing are NOT the same thing. And recreational anglers do far more to sustain and enhance fisheries than they do to damage them. This includes catch-and-release, which has become almost universal, as well as millions of dollars contributed annually by anglers for fisheries management and conservation via license fees, excise taxes on equipment, and private contributions to fishery groups.

And that global warming thing? Yes, the climate is changing. It always has, and always will. But it is a disturbing indication of the lunacy of the newspaper's editorial staff, and possibly an indictment of readers in Minnesota that "global warming caused by human emissions" is presented as fact. It is not fact. No quantifiable evidence exists to support that statement.

The best part of finding that editorial was reading a lengthy comment from at least one Minnesota resident who has not fallen into the Leftist abyss. Here are some excerpts:

"License fees and contributions collected from hunters and hunting advocacy groups (Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society) account for most of the wildlife conservation dollars spent in this state." 

"The hunters I associate with are ethical. We won't take the shot unless we are certain it will result in the most humane kill possible. We'll never kill something that doesn't end up on the dinner table (coyotes being the only exception) and we never kill more than we need."

"I'm also a landowner. I manage my property to benefit all wildlife. I leave my corn and soybeans standing over winter to provide winter food for deer. I've planted countless trees, shrubs and grasses that benefit birds, mammals and pollinators."

"It's obvious that the authors of this study have a confirmation bias. It reads like it was commissioned by PETA." 

And it's obvious that the editorial staff of the Star-Tribune has that same bias.