Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Tournament concerns quiet in ’04

Staff Writer

Alexandria, Minn. There hasn’t been a decrease in requests for
tournament permits in the Alexandria area during the past three
years, but Dean Beck, DNR fisheries manager in Glenwood, has
fielded fewer complaints.

“Things have improved,” Beck said. “I don’t know if that’s a
function of people just giving up or if we have been effective in
scheduling a little better.”

In 2000, the state Legislature established a new permitting
system in response to growing complaints about tournaments on
Minnesota lakes. The regulations tightened the rules and forced
more organizers to get permits for their tournaments, in addition
to limiting the number of events on each lake.

Before 2001, there were typically between 270 and 280 tournament
permits in Minnesota. In the three years since the regulations took
effect, as many as 500 tournaments require permits each year. So
far in 2004, the DNR has issued about 550 permits, according to Al
Stevens, DNR lake and stream survey program coordinator.

In the Alexandria area, a perennial hotspot for bass
tournaments, the number of permit applications has doubled in the
past 10 years.

Statewide, the DNR has fielded more tournament complaints in
2004 than any year since before the new regulations took effect.
But that number is smaller than the years before tournaments were
tightly regulated.

“It’s going smoothly. All of the hills and bumps have kind of
been ironed out. People know what to anticipate,” Stevens said.
“This summer it has jumped, though. We are hearing about
non-permitted tournaments.”

Those events with fewer participants 30 or less don’t need
permits. However, on some lakes the public’s perception is that
there is always a tournament going on, Stevens said.

Complaints have been about crowded accesses and the amount of
boat activity on the lakes.

While Stevens used to hear complaints about tournaments on
Minnetonka regularly, that hasn’t been the case this year. Rather,
tournaments of all kinds on lakes like Prior and Vermilion are
generating the most complaints.

When the regulations changed, they limited how many tournaments
could be held on lakes based on acreage and the size of the
contests, which distributed tournaments over more lakes, Beck
said.

Whereas the Alexandria chain and Lake Minnewaska used to be the
most common tournament lakes in Beck’s area, lakes like Ida,
Miltona and Osakis are seeing heightened tournament activity.

“Some people are starting to question that,” Beck said.

Lake Vermilion has experienced perhaps the greatest increase in
tournament activity for all kinds of events, including bass,
walleye and muskie tournaments.

“We have heard more about Lake Vermilion this year than any
other lake,” Stevens said. “That lake has sort of been discovered
as a place to hold tournaments.”

In response, the Lake Vermilion Sportsmen’s Club has drafted a
set of guidelines that would limit the number of events on the
lake. The guidelines don’t have the weight of law, but the club
hopes its proposals could help tighten the existing rules.

“We want these tournaments to be handled in a responsible
manner,” said Walt Moe, president of the sportsmen’s club.

Among the club’s main concerns are too much noise and too many
boats on the lake, during both pre-fishing and the tournament. Its
guidelines would, for example, limit the number of tournaments to
three per month (the law currently allows five) and limit
pre-fishing to weekdays provided it’s not a national holiday in the
seven-day period before the tournaments begin.

“We are not dead set against tournaments,” Moe said. “We want
the tournaments to come and not do any damage and give something
back to the lake.”

The DNR is reviewing its tournament rules, Stevens said, and
could implement some changes by 2005. The changes would involve
rules rather than statutes.

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