Response to special pike lakes is mixed’

Associate Editor

St. Paul In some places, they love it; in others, they hate it.
So go anglers’ responses to a DNR proposal to implement special
northern pike regulations on some Minnesota lakes in order to grow
bigger fish.

The DNR is wrapping up an extensive series of meetings held
across the state to gain public sentiment regarding the proposed
70-plus lakes where new regulations could be in place next year.
More realistically, DNR officials expect to end up with 30 to 50
lakes where one of three possible special regulations will be in
effect come opener, 2003.

“The response has been mixed,” said Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries
director. “There is support in some places, but concerns have been
raised in others. Some believe the regulations are too restrictive,
both from an angling and from a spearing perspective.”

In the Grand Rapids area, Rod Pierce, a DNR fisheries
researcher, said public feedback has been for the most part
positive. However, he added, opposition has come from some of those
who spear northerns through the ice. Some spearers have said the
special regulations are for “elitist anglers,” according to Pierce.
“There are those who like the smaller pike for shore lunch or just
to take home to eat,” he said.

Payer said in some situations, on lakes with special
regulations, spearers have used techniques to attempt to measure
fish before dropping their spears. However, “this would make it
more difficult for them,” he said.

Another spear fisherman said he’d give up spearing on a
particular lake in order to have special regulations.

Al Stevens, DNR Fisheries program coordinator, said special pike
regulations “for all practical purposes” would end spearing on
those water bodies, due to size restrictions.

Under the current proposal “candidate” lakes fall into one of
three categories, including:

A 24- to 36-inch protected slot (to protect pike during a period
of time when they’re growing rapidly, but susceptible to harvest).
A three-fish limit could be caught, but only one could be greater
than 36 inches;

A 40-inch minimum size limit (to protect fish in lakes with
limited reproduction, but excellent growth rates and a past history
of growing big pike). Only one fish above the 40-inch minimum could
be caught and kept, and;

A 30-inch minimum size limit (to protect fish in the
aforementioned 40-inch minimum lakes, but not as highly rated in
terms of ability to grow big fish and with higher natural
reproduction). Only one fish could be caught and kept above the
30-inch minimum.

The category most often recommended by DNR managers is the 24-
to 36-inch slot.

Roger Hugill, DNR Fisheries area supervisor in Hinckley, said
angling organizations have supported possible regulations for the
candidate lakes in his area, including Knife Lake near Mora.
Support for the special regulations is vital, he says.

“We need people to support the regulations in order for them to
work,” he said.

Pierce said if needed, officials might consider changing from
the proposed special regulation to one of the other two
categories.

“That still would provide a heckuva lot more protection than we
have now, which is nothing,” he said.

The special regulations would be in effect indefinitely, with
DNR officials monitoring the results of the regulations.

Officials hope protective regulations will create something some
Minnesota anglers believe has been missing from most lakes trophy
potential. The candidate lakes were picked based on their ability
to grow bigger northerns.

Stevens said area fisheries managers will make their final
recommendations to DNR officials in St. Paul sometime in October.
In November, the final list of lakes with special pike regulations
will be announced. That list will appear in the 2003 fishing
regulations pamphlet, and accesses to the lakes with special
regulations will be posted.

The state Legislature recently increased the DNR’s ability to
name special regulation lakes, allowing for up to 200. Currently,
there are 90 lakes in the state with special regulations, just some
of which pertain to northern pike.

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