Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Dirk Peterson takes over as Fisheries chief

St. Paul – A veteran fisheries manager is taking over the
state’s top fish spot.

The DNR announced Monday that Dirk Peterson, a 30-year veteran
of the agency, will be the newest Fisheries Section chief. He
replaces Ron Payer, who retired last November.

Peterson will be in charge of the section’s $35 million annual
budget, and takes over as Fisheries is “really having a difficult
time making ends meet,” said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Fish
and Wildlife Division.

“This is one of the – if not the – best programs in the
country,” he said. “We need an effective leader if we want to stay
on top.”

Part of the allure of Peterson was his experience at all levels
of the Fisheries Section, including at the area and regional
levels, Schad said. Additionally, he’s worked on statewide matters,
“and knows our issues and knows our programs inside and out,” he

Since Payer retired, Peterson has been the interim Fisheries
chief. Beginning in 2001, he was the manager of the section’s
central region, which includes the Twin Cities and 24 counties.
Peterson’s DNR career began in 1978, working on minnow, leech, and
live-bait projects.

Peterson, 58, of Northfield, also has been area fisheries
supervisor in Waterville, a federal aid coordinator, and planning

“This is the opportunity of a career, to lead a great
organization like the Minnesota Section of Fisheries,” he said. “I
find myself humbled to believe I’m in this role at this

One of the immediate challenges for Peterson will be dealing
with the budget, since Fisheries expenditures routinely exceed
revenues. In addition, the Game and Fish Fund is projected to have
a $5 million balance at the end of 2013, and slip into the red in

“We really need to look internally at how we do our fisheries
work and if there are better or more efficient ways to maintain the
good fishing we’ve got in this state,” Schad said. “Are there other
ways to pay for our work?”

Said Peterson: “Part of the future will be trying to refocus the
organization in a way that will deliver services in a more
efficient and effective way.”

Peterson was one of three finalists for the job. The other two
were Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River fisheries and bluffland
coordinator, and Jason Moeckel, Fisheries operations support
supervisor. A fourth person, New Hampshire Game and Fish Department
Fisheries Chief Steve Perry, was also in the running, but pulled
out for personal reasons.

Peterson said the Fisheries Section would have an increased
focus on habitat management. The Legacy Amendment that state voters
approved in the fall of 2008 provides the opportunity to do
“serious work” in that regard, he said.

“For the last 20 years, we have tried to provide a variety of
angling opportunities using the tools at our disposal, like
stocking and regulations,” Peterson said. “We have spent quite a
bit of time in the last 20 years tailoring those opportunities and
now we can adjust a little bit and spend additional time focusing
on habitat issues.”

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