Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Walleye limit change loses favor at Capitol

St. Paul – Some of the most high-profile game and fish issues
before the Legislature this year – reduced walleye limit, earlier
opener, and a statewide slot limit – appear to be dead.

The plans had been moving in Senate bills and have run into
various roadblocks as the session has unfolded.

Last week, a Senate committee removed the walleye bag limit
proposal – to lower from six to four the bag limit – from the
omnibus environmental policy bill. The DNR brought forward the
reduced limit idea.

“We floated that proposal out there through the legislative
process to have the discussion with anglers and decision-makers,”
said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director.

The agency advanced the idea after hearing from some people
about lowering the walleye limit on individual lakes in the state.
Officials said reducing the limit from six to four throughout the
state would reduce the walleye harvest by about 7 percent. There
seemed to be early support for the reduction, but it waned as the
session went on.

“We’re fine with that,” Schad said. “It was very fully and
robustly discussed out there in the angling community.”

Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, who carried the walleye
legislation, wasn’t available for comment earlier this week.

Most members of the state’s Walleye Advisory Committee opposed
the walleye-limit drop. A lot of talk centered around the belief
that dropping the limit would send the wrong signal to out-of-state
fishermen, said Dick Sternberg, a committee member.

“If it’s necessary, that’s fine, but if it’s for no real reason,
why do it?” he said. “It just wasn’t a very convincing argument, I
don’t think, that the DNR made.”

The DNR hoped there would be more support for the lower limit,
and will discuss it further with anglers, including committee
members, according to Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner.

“I would anticipate that we won’t bring it forward without their
support and recommendations,” he said.

Other fishing bills remain in play. The House game and fish
bill, which was scheduled to be heard earlier this week in the
Taxes Committee, includes provisions to create a conservation
angling license, and to allow anglers to use two lines if they
purchase a second-line endorsement for $5. (Ice anglers, who
already may use two lines, wouldn’t need the endorsement.)

The cost for a conservation license would be two-thirds the cost
of the standard license fee, and the license would allow fishermen
to take one-half the regular daily and possession limits. The state
of Colorado also charges a $5 second-line fee, Meier said.

The Senate omnibus bill still contains a provision that would
create a voluntary $5 walleye stamp validation. Money raised would
be “used only for stocking walleye in waters of the state and
related activities.”

Budget bills

Lawmakers earlier this week still were hashing out how to close
a $1 billion budget deficit. DNR officials are watching to see what
cuts the agency might receive, and also are trying to let staff
know how cuts to other areas of government could affect the
agency.

The Senate version of the budget bill also includes the concept
of a citizen-legislator council, which would advise the Legislature
on spending from the fish and wildlife habitat portion of dedicated
funding.

Moe not running again

Frank Moe, a DFLer from Bemidji, announced that he won’t run for
re-election. Moe, now serving his second term, has worked on a
variety of outdoors legislation.

“That’s a big hit,” said Gary Botzek, of the Minnesota
Conser-vation Federation. “We need more people like Frank Moe, not
less.”

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