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Entries in Minnesota (31)

Wednesday
Oct152014

Minnesota Considers Expanding Bass Season

Minnesota is proposing to increase bass fishing opportunities.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to open the season statewide two weeks earlier, at the same time that the walleye season begins. Those two weeks would be for catch-and-release only, except in the northeast, where the bass season already opens two weeks before the rest of the state.

Additionally, anglers would be allowed to keep smallmouth bass during the fall in the northeast. At present, all smallmouths must be released from mid September through February.

Warming winters and expanding bass populations are primary reasons for the changes. Traditionally, the opener was delayed to protect spawning bass, even though largemouth and smallmouth bass account for just 5 percent of fish caught and kept.

“When you look at the facts, we have no recruitment issues with bass. Our electrofishing numbers are extremely high, and the changes will have no impact on that,” said Eric Altena, a DNR fisheries supervisor and member of the Technical Bass Committee.

“We are way above recruitment in most parts of the state, and most waters have an abundance of bass.”

Bass tournaments, however, would not be allowed during the catch-and-release season. Under the proposal, all bass caught until Saturday of Memorial Day weekend must be released immediately.

“The proposal probably could have gone even more liberal, but there wasn’t as much support for more liberal framework,” said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager. “But we can do this and still protect the (bass) population statewide.”

Following a public-comment period, the proposals will be reviewed by DNR staff before a final decision is made. If approved, the regulations will go into effect for the 2015 fishing season.

Wednesday
Jun182014

Night Ban Imposed to Protect Sagging Walleye Fishery at Mille Lacs

Removal of the minimum length requirements for bass is but one of the new regulations recently implemented at Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake in hopes of bolstering the sagging walleye fishery.

But it is the extension of the nighttime fishing ban until Dec. 1, instead of lifting it in mid-June, that has stirred the most controversy. That’s because summer anglers like to pursue walleyes after dark.

“It’s like a dagger to the economy up here,” said Bill Eno of Twin Pines Resort.

Guide Jason Hamemick added, “They’re going to have to figure something else out because this is blowing up right now.”

Others think that the “bad publicity” generated by the change in regulations is worse than the reality.

The reality, meanwhile, is that walleye numbers are at a 40-year low, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The current walleye regulation and extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock, and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief.

By contrast, northern pike numbers are at record highs, and the smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s.  But populations of tullibee and perch, both important forage species, are relatively low.

“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible,” Pereira added.

“More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressures because their populations are at or near record highs.”

For bass, the creel limit remains at six, with no minimum size. Only one can be longer than 18 inches.

Previously, smallmouths had to be between 17 and 20 inches, with one longer than 20 permitted. Additionally, Mille Lacs will be exempt from the statewide catch-and-release smallmouth rule that goes into effect in mid-September.

The northern pike limit has been increased from 3 to 10, with one of more than 30 inches allowed.

For walleyes, daily and possession limits remain unchanged at two fish of 18 to 20 inches, with one of more than 28 inches allowed.

Friday
Apr042014

Minnesota Politicians Get Tough on 'Asian' Carp

Congratulations to Minnesota politicians for serving as a shining example to the rest of the nation, as they deal with the most critical issue related to decimation of our waterways by Asian carp.

What is that issue? How can you ask such an inconsiderate question!

Of course it’s designating a new name for the exotic invaders so that no one is offended. During this utopian era of political correctness, when some want to ban the word “bossy,” what more noble endeavor could there be for those paid by taxpayers?

“Caucasians brought them to America,” said John Hoffman, a Democrat state senator who is sponsoring the bill. “Should we call them ‘Caucasian carp’? They have names. Let’s call them what they are.”

The executive director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans added that the term “Asian carp” will cause people to “reflect negatively on our community.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), meanwhile, testified that her agency was unaware of any comments from the public that “Asian carp” is offensive.

Those folks at DNR should be ashamed of themselves. They should have been on top of this months ago, as should legislatures in other states where these insensitively named invaders are destroying fisheries.

Don’t they know it’s not about whether people are offended? It’s about an obsessive need for government to eliminate the slightest possibility that people might be offended.

As soon as the enlightened Minnesota politicians force DNR to start referring to Asian carp as “invasive carp,” then they could get to work on renaming Eurasian watermilfoil, a troublesome exotic plant that has spread into many state waters. That threatens to offend people of not only Asian descent, but European as well.

And I don’t even want to think about how the zebras in Como Park Zoo in St. Paul must be suffering because of those inappropriately named mussels.

And here are some other offensive names of exotic species that we must get rid of, never mind that they simply are named after geographic areas from which they originated:

African honeybee, Brazilian pepper, Burmese python, Canada thistle, Chinese mitten crab, Cuban tree frog, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and New Zealand mud snail, just to name a few.

Oh, yeah, and there’s Asiatic witchweed, Asian tiger mosquito, Asian lady beetle, Asian long-horned beetle . . .

Tuesday
Feb252014

Providing Quality Fisheries Is Complicated Challenge

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Fisheries management often is an enigma wrapped inside a riddle, and the more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. That’s why I respect fisheries biologists.

To provide us with quality fisheries, they must “manage” not only the fish, but the fishermen. Plus, they must factor in the effects of development, pollution, water degradation, introduction of exotic species, and many other variables.

Up in Minnesota, anglers and biologists have compiled some impressive statistics regarding the fragility of a fishery.

On a 160-acre private lake this winter, 97 northern pike have been caught and released 431 times. Additionally, 24 measured 30 inches or longer and had been caught an average of 6.83 times each.

“Now think about how long it takes a fish to grow,” said Dallas Hudson, one of the anglers who initiated the idea of not spearing or keeping northern pike caught on hook and line. “A northern in our lake will take six years to reach 24 inches and nine years to reach 30 inches and weigh 7 or 8 pounds.

“So it becomes pretty obvious what happens if people keep not only the bigger fish, but the medium-sized fish, say 24 to 30-inch northern. You end up with what we have in many Minnesota lakes: stunted fish.”

Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley added, “Dallas’ work shows us pretty clearly how vulnerable northerns, in particular, are to being caught. When you can catch the same fish 15 times over, and sometimes two times in the same day, it seems clear that in many lakes we need to limit the harvest of larger fish if we want bigger northern pike in our lakes.’’

For example, the work by Hudson and his associates clearly suggests that--- at least on smaller lakes--- larger northern pike can be overharvested. Still, many Minnesota anglers likely would oppose reducing the current harvest regulation, which allows three northern daily, with one longer than 30 inches. Plus, spear fishermen convinced the legislature to pass a law in 2011 that limits the establishment of length-based harvest regulations on 100 state lakes.

Arizona Game and Fish photo

Out in Arizona, fisheries managers are trying to figure out how to reign in an exploding population on non-native gizzard shad that threatens the health of bass and crappie fisheries at Apache and other Salt River impoundments.

In Lake Havasu, however, the combination of two introduced species seems to have ignited a premiere fishery for redear sunfish, also known as “shellcracker.”  Just recently, Hector Brito caught a 5.8-pound lunker, which likely will be declared a world record. In 2011, Bob Lawler caught the previous record --- 5.55 pounds--- also at Lake Havasu.

In the Northwest, meanwhile, champions of native species have been blaming bass for decades for the decline of salmon fisheries. In truth, dams destroyed salmon habitat and blocked habitat, while creating impoundments where bass have thrived.

Still, nature is resilient. That’s why this year’s projected spawning run of fall-run Chinook (king) salmon on the Columbia could be the largest since 1938. That was the year after the Bonneville Dam was completed, blocking their migration route and enabling the fish to be counted.

Fisheries managers suspect that the healthy run is attributable to good ocean conditions for the salmon while they are out at sea, as well as a mandated  water releases from spill gates at dams on the Columbia and Snake River dams, allowing small salmon to move downstream.

Tuesday
Nov262013

Carp Threat Moves East

This Asian carp was caught at Kentucky Lake, Photo by Steve McCadams.

Asian silver carp DNA has been found as far up the Ohio River as Wheeling, West Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa. That’s bad news for East Coast river fisheries.

The silver is most noted for leaping from the water when frightened, injuring passing anglers and other boaters. But the most damage is being done to our waterways, as silver and bighead carp crowd out and outcompete native species for food and habitat.

"Unfortunately, the test results provide some evidence that this invasive species could be in the upper Ohio River in Pennsylvania," John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania and Boat Commission.

 "This is an early warning sign, since we don't know for certain the origin of the genetic material. We don't know if the eDNA came from live or dead fish or if it was transported from other sources, like bilge water or storm sewers, or even waterfowl visiting the basin."

For years, most of the focus was on the fear that Asian carp would devastate fisheries in the Great Lakes when/if they gain entrance. But now they also are threatening the inland waters of Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota, as well as the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers and their reservoirs, including Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Read more here.