Leech Lake walleye rules allow more chances for harvest

Leech Lake anglers will be able to keep a wider size range of walleye starting on the 2019 fishing opener.
“Walleye abundance in Leech Lake is currently at a point that we can provide anglers additional harvest opportunity beginning in May,” said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We got here through protective fishing regulations and consistently good year classes over the past 10 years.”
The new regulations, which will take effect Saturday, May 11, will remove the 20- to 26-inch protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation, but with a four-fish walleye limit, only one of which can be over 20 inches.
Currently, anglers on Leech Lake can keep four fish, but must immediately release any walleye that are within a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. Only one fish over 26 inches is allowed in possession. The four-fish walleye possession limit on Leech Lake has been in effect since 2005.
Schultz said each year on Leech Lake, the DNR evaluates the success of current regulations, and looks at fish population data and angler surveys.
“We also work with the Leech Lake Fisheries Input Group, area businesses and community members. They’ve been strongly supportive of these changes,” Schultz said.
Leech Lake’s management plan includes goals for the lake’s walleye population. Walleye have exceeded the management goals for six of the past seven years, leaving a window open for increasing harvest opportunity. DNR lake surveys show naturally reproducing year classes of younger walleye are present to replace additional fish taken by anglers.
By the same token, if future fisheries assessments or increased fishing pressure indicate harvest should be reduced, the DNR anticipates revisiting the protected slot limit.
Perch populations in the lake, unlike walleye, have been below management objectives for five of the past six years, an expected result of a high walleye population. One goal of additional walleye harvest is to reduce the amount of perch being preyed upon by walleye, which may increase the perch population.
More information about Leech Lake, including the management plan for the lake, can be found at mndnr.gov/leechlake.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Fishing rules change in March on Lake of the Woods, Rainy River

Anglers will be able to keep fewer walleye and sauger beginning Friday, March 1, on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“The new regulations will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource while maintaining fishing opportunities,” said Phil Talmage, DNR Baudette area fisheries supervisor. “We received a ton of public comment from anglers all over the state and there was very strong support for the proposed changes.”
The winter regulations on Lake of the Woods will match the current summer regulations, reducing the aggregate walleye and sauger limit from eight to six, with no more than four walleye. The protected slot limit remains in effect that requires anglers to immediately release any walleye between 19.5 and 28 inches, with only one fish over 28 inches allowed in possession.
On the lake, the changes are a response to expanding winter fishing pressure that pushed sauger harvest above management objectives – the annual target harvest is 250,000 pounds, but current harvest is 400,000 pounds. Winter angling accounted for 80 percent of the annual sauger harvest.
“The walleye and sauger fishery on the lake remains strong right now, but we’re looking to the future and adapting regulations based on what we’re seeing through our fish monitoring program and angler surveys,” Talmage said.

Rainy River regulations
On the Rainy River and Fourmile Bay, a catch-and-release season will be in effect March 1 to April 14.
The current Rainy River spring season regulation allows anglers to keep two walleye or sauger, and requires the immediate release of walleye 19.5 inches in length or larger.
The changes on the river are a response to increasing fishing pressure and longer periods of open water that has led to higher harvest of walleye, particularly male walleye in the spring.
Despite higher harvest, 95 percent of anglers who participated in the spring fishery do so for the opportunity to catch big walleyes, catch a lot of walleye and just get the boat in the water, according to DNR angler surveys. Less than two percent of anglers indicated that the primary reason for participating was to keep walleye.
The DNR has also recently updated the fisheries management plan for Lake of the Woods. That plan, developed through a public input process, will guide fisheries management on Lake of the Woods through 2023.
“We sincerely appreciate the contributions of time and effort made by the citizen participants on the Lake of the Woods Fisheries Input Group. Their input was critical in developing new harvest regulations and updating the management plan,” Talmage said.
More information about Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, the new management plan and a document detailing public comments and DNR responses to frequently asked questions can be found at mndnr.gov/lakeofthewoods.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Emergency rules in place for harvesting catfish by hand, bow, crossbow

MADISON - Emergency rules establishing bag limits, season dates, and other regulations for harvesting catfish with a bow, crossbow or by hand are now in place while Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff complete a companion permanent rule.
The rules were signed by Gov. Scott Walker earlier this week following approval in November by the Natural Resources Board, the policymaking board for the Department of Natural Resources.
Lawmakers legalized alternative methods of harvesting catfish in 2017 Act 297 and these rules seek to provide opportunities for harvest while helping protect the fish during spawning and overwintering seasons, according to Bradd Sims, the fisheries biologist leading DNR's catfish team.
"While we haven't heard of a lot of anglers using these alternate fishing methods, we wanted to have rules in place for when the fish start overwintering because they are particularly vulnerable at this time," Sims says.
Catfish will soon be moving into deep pools where they'll congregate over the winter in large groups. The fish are quite lethargic, adding to their vulnerability to harvest.
Meredith Penthorn, fisheries policy specialist, says that establishing appropriate regulations for taking catfish will help protect these fish during spawning and overwintering seasons while providing opportunities for harvest. These emergency regulations do not affect the catfish hook and line season.

The regulations include:
* No size limit and a daily bag limit of 1 for flathead catfish and 5 for channel catfish harvested with a bow and arrow, crossbow or by hand.
* A season for taking catfish by hand that runs from June 1-Aug. 31, and a bowfishing season that runs concurrent with the rough fish bowfishing (spearing) season.
* Equipment restrictions for taking catfish by hand. Ropes, hooks, gaffs, artificial nest or spawning boxes, or breathing devices such as snorkeling or scuba gear may not be used.
* A prohibition on commercial harvest of catfish with bow, crossbow or by hand.
* The rule also provides that on waters with special size limits or season closures, anglers harvesting catfish by bow, crossbow or by hand will follow those special regulations in addition to the established daily bag limits for bow, crossbow and hand fishing seasons.
DNR staff will conduct monitoring efforts for catfishing to understand impacts on catfish populations and will also develop a voluntary creel system to shed light on bow, crossbow and hand harvest of catfish.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Wisconsin team leads Bassmaster Team Championship

LEESBURG, Fla. - If Wisconsin anglers Pat Schlapper and Wade Rickey had started Wednesday's opening round of the Bassmaster Team Championship using sturdier fish hooks, they likely would have a considerably heavier weight than the 22-pound, 3-ounce limit they carried to the weigh-in.
Still, that limit of five bass was enough to put the Wisconsin tandem atop the leaderboard heading into the second and final day on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida.
Schlapper and Rickey had never fished in the Sunshine State, and they believed 3/0 hooks would be enough to boat the hefty Florida bass they hoped to catch. But when they did stick big bass early on Wednesday, the fish literally straightened those hooks and slipped away.
Frustrated, but undeterred, Schlapper and Rickey switched to beefier 4/0 hooks, and they started putting big bass in the boat. Rickey’s 6-pounder was the largest, and the duo rounded out their bag with a quartet of solid 4-pounders.
Schlapper and Rickey, who fish with the Major League Series back in Wisconsin, are 10 ounces ahead of the Anglers Choice team of Virginia’s William Samples and North Carolina’s Charles Purcell, who are second with 21-9.
Brothers Travis and Shannon O’Quinn of Team Morristown Marine are in third place with 20-8. Eddie Levin and Ryan Mallory of the Ohio B.A.S.S. Nation Team Trail are fourth (20-6), and Dean Alexander and Tom Martens of the Texas Bass Nation Team Trail are fifth (19-15.)
“We’ve never been fishing down here, so we didn’t know what to expect,” Schlapper said. “We lost some nice fish, but we ground it out. We only fished that one spot, and we stopped fishing it hard about 10 a.m.”
Schlapper and Rickey said they found big bass on another half dozen spots they scouted in practice, but they’re not sure those places will be unoccupied when they arrive Thursday morning. The duo was, however, aboard the 151st of 197 boats to launch on Wednesday. Since the takeoff order is inverted on Day 2, they’ll get an earlier start on Thursday.
Duos from 35 different states and three foreign countries (Australia, Canada and South Africa) are competing in the Team Championship. Each team consists of two anglers trying to amass a shared five-bass limit in the team portion of the championship.
The tandem with the heaviest two-day combined weight will be crowned team champion after Thursday’s weigh-in, and also will win a Nitro Z20 boat and Mercury 225 Pro XS boat/motor combo valued at $42,000.

SOURCE: B.A.S.S.

DNR urges extreme caution on early ice, around cold water

Anglers in Minnesota have begun making their first forays onto hard water, but ice conditions statewide – and even on the same body of water – remain extremely variable.
Safety officials with the Department of Natural Resources remind people to stay off the ice until there’s at least 4 inches of new, clear ice. And they should be vigilant about safety and check conditions at least every 150 feet whenever they’re on the ice.
“No fish is worth the risk of going through thin ice,” said DNR conservation officer Adam Block. “At this point, it is going to take several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic, and even longer before ATVs and snowmobiles should be on the ice.”
Every year, unexpected falls through newly formed ice lead to tragedy. Of the six ice fatalities in 2017, five occurred during the early ice season of late November and early December.
“In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on hard water should wear a life jacket,” Block said. “It’s the one piece of equipment that increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice.”
Last winter, all of the fatalities occurred while the victim was on an ATV or snowmobile. The extra weight of an ATV (especially the popular side-by-side styles) and snowmobile needs to be considered when calculating how much ice is needed to support the machines, gear and passengers.

Open-water danger
In addition to early ice, there are water bodies that still have open water accessible to late-season anglers, boaters and paddlers.
“Air temperatures might be relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Water temperatures are dangerously cold across the entire state, which means it’s more important than ever to wear that life jacket. A fall into extremely cold water can incapacitate you within seconds.”
State statistics show one-third of boating fatalities typically occur during the “cold water season.” Of the 14 reported boating fatalities in 2018, all victims were male and all but one was found without a life jacket.
“This is a troubling trend - one that will only be reversed if boaters in that high-risk demographic choose to put safety first by wearing their life jacket,” Dugan said.

General ice safety guidelines
No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:
* Always wear a life jacket or float coat on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
* Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
* Check ice thickness at regular intervals; conditions can change quickly.
* Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
* Don’t go out alone; let someone know about trip plans and expected return time.
* Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:
* 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
* 5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
* 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
* 12-15 inches for a medium truck.
Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.
For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Northern pike anglers, spearers gearing up for winter

As cold temperatures begin to make ice on Minnesota lakes, ice anglers and spearers are gearing up for winter fishing action.
For many, winter is a time to seek out the eager-to-bite northern pike. This will be the first ice fishing season of new northern pike zone regulations throughout Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The new regulations went into effect in May 2018 and created three distinct zones. While not designed to manage for trophy pike, the new regulations are meant to move pike populations to a larger size more desired for table fare, particularly in the southern and north-central zones.
The move toward new regulations was a response to anglers’ concerns about the over-abundance of small, hammer-handle pike in much of central to north-central Minnesota, the low numbers of pike in southern waters, and a desire to protect large pike in the northeastern part of the state.

North-central zone
Anglers: Limit of 10 northern pike, but no more than two pike longer than 26 inches; all from 22 to 26 inches must be released.
Spearers: Limit of 10 northern pike, only one between 22-26 inches and 1 over 26 inches; or, only two over 26 inches.

Northeast zone
Anglers: Limit of two pike; anglers must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession.
Spearers: Limit of two pike; only one northern pike over 26 inches.

South zone
Anglers and spearers: Limit of two pike; minimum size 24 inches.
The new northern pike regulations apply to inland waters, but do not affect border waters or individual lakes, rivers and streams that have their own special regulations for northern pike.  Special pike regulations are in place on about 95 waters and always take precedence over statewide regulations. Anglers and spearers should always research the lake they are fishing and must be prepared to reliably measure their fish. Waters with special regulations are identified in the fishing regulations booklet and with signs posted at public accesses.
“Family photo albums almost always include an old photo of someone with a large pike in their hands and family recipes for pickled northern are often considered prized secrets,” said Rick Guertin of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association. “The new zone regulations are a big step forward in improving the northern pike sizes in our waters and maybe restoring an interest in pike fishing while also preserving those opportunities for the next generation.”
Northern pike are found in nearly every Minnesota lake and stream. Pike are voracious predators that are relatively easy to catch because they willingly bite shiny lures and live bait, such as minnows. Their sharp teeth can easily cut fishing line so many anglers use a steel leader ahead of their hook so they don’t have to re-tie hooks, jigs or lures. Early ice often is the best time to go as the fish seem to be more active, and it’s easier to cut the hole in the ice. Look for moderately shallow water with aquatic vegetation close by for the best action for pike.
New anglers often shy away from harvesting northern pike because of their reputation as a difficult fish to fillet because of their Y bones. Dozens of instructional videos, often created by Minnesota resort owners and anglers, are available on YouTube and can be a great source for techniques to easily remove the Y bones from northern pike.
For more information about the new zone regulations, visit mndnr.gov/pike or contact a local area fisheries office. Contact information can be found in the fishing regulations booklet, available online at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Angler sets new benchmark for northern pike state record

Minnesota anglers wishing to catch a state record northern pike now have a new mark to beat after angler Matthew Swanson (pictured) of Woodbury claimed the record with a 45 1/4-inch northern pike caught on the Rainy River.
The record surpasses the first ever record set in early October when Maddy Ogg caught and released a 43 1/2-inch pike from Mille Lacs. However, Swanson reeled in his pike five months earlier, in May. The Department of Natural Resources received Swanson’s application on Oct. 29, and certified the fish soon after.
Swanson was on an annual Rainy River pike fishing trip with his dad and brother. Swanson reported that after three days of fishing, he had not landed any large pike, but his dad and brother had caught several over 30 inches. His father fishes spring pike with streamer flies on 30-pound test wire line. Using his dad’s setup, Swanson took a few casts and the water around his fly exploded – he had hooked a big pike.
After a brief fight and some careful netting, Swanson had caught the 45 1/4-inch northern pike. They handled the large pike carefully to get a couple pictures and a length measurement before releasing the fish.
“Because this was to date my first and only pike on a fly, it was a very memorable experience,” Swanson said.  
Cool spring and fall temperatures make for excellent catch-and-release conditions. The DNR announces new state records in news releases, on social media and on the DNR website. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at mndnr.gov/recordfish.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR