Muskie minimum of 48 inches on table

By Joe Fellegy Contributing Writer

Grand Rapids, Minn. — Minnesota anglers would be unable to keep
muskies less than 48 inches long under a DNR proposal to raise the
statewide muskie minimum size from the present 40 inches to 48
inches. If the proposed regulation change becomes law following a
public input process, it likely would be implemented on the 2007
muskie season opener.

DNR’s formal proposal will be released soon, according to Tim
Goeman, regional fisheries manager at Grand Rapids. State Fisheries
chief Ron Payer said Minnesota law requires that following DNR’s
proposal of such a regulation, there will be posting of notices on
affected lakes and streams for 90 days during the open-water
fishing season. News releases and media efforts also are required
“so as many anglers as possible are informed” about the proposed
regulation change and a series of pubic input meetings that could
begin in September. A final decision on the proposed 48-inch
minimum size for Minnesota muskies will come after the public input
process.

Upping the muskie minimum has been a pet cause among some
angling activists. If enacted, the tighter restriction would apply
to about 40 muskie waters, mainly in the northern half of
Minnesota. Kit Nelson, DNR’s Aitkin area fisheries manager,
endorsed the one-shot group approach, saying “it makes sense to get
a lot of these done at the same time rather than individually.”

Announcement of the upcoming muskie regulation proposal came in
response to questions while Goeman, Payer, Fisheries research
supervisor Jack Wingate, and several Mille Lacs-connected fisheries
biologists from DNR’s Aitkin-area office were attending a Feb. 7
meeting of the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group. Also on hand was
Dave Schad, new head of DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division. The
meeting, held at the Hazelton Town Hall in southern Aitkin County,
dealt mainly with DNR’s Mille Lacs walleye regulation proposal for
2006 under 1837 treaty fisheries management, as well as recent
fishery assessment activities and findings on the lake.

Thanks to muskie stocking over several decades, plus a lake
environment conducive to growing big muskies, Mille Lacs has become
a muskie-fishing mecca in recent years, with predictions it might
produce the next Minnesota muskie record. Expect that big lake to
be cited often as anglers respond to the 48-inch statewide minimum
proposal.

Debate expected

There surely will be debate about the merits and need for a
48-inch minimum size restriction on muskies. Some biologists and
muskie aficionados caution that female muskies, the biggest
trophies, would be discriminated against, since male muskies
generally top off below 48 inches. Significant harvest of
48-inch-plus fish, some warn, could reduce muskie brood stock.
Others regard a 48-inch minimum as unnecessary, since overall
muskie harvest, even among non-muskie anglers, is often
insignificant and accounts for less muskie mortality than
catch-and-release. Some worry about effects on other species if
muskies are further protected and their populations expand. Another
view is that upping the minimum size limit beyond the present
statewide 40 inches should be done on an individual waters basis,
perhaps with attention paid to natural muskie lakes versus mainly
stocked lakes.

An important consideration will be angler values regarding
trophy fish and the harvest of muskies. Greg Erickson, launch
captain at Garrison Sports on Mille Lacs and generally a strong
proponent of catch-and-release, said he’s “neutral” about raising
the muskie minimum. “I’d have a hard time telling somebody to
release a 20-pound fish,” he said.

Proponents of a 48-inch minimum size rule argue that muskie
fishing is essentially trophy fishing and that nobody should keep
muskies under 48 inches. The present 40-inch minimum, some say,
encourages too much muskie harvest. Another sentiment is that a
higher minimum size will result in more big muskies and greater
chances for surpassing the present 54-pound state record, caught in
1957 on Lake Winnibigoshish.

A 48-inch muskie typically weighs either side of 30 pounds,
depending on body proportions, and could push 40 pounds when heavy
with spawn.

Categories: Hunting News

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