MN: Veto possible for G&F bill?

St. Paul – If you were betting new Republican majorities in the state House and Senate would break the annual impasse over two-line fishing and using scopes on muzzleloaders during that season, it's time to pay up.

Neither provision was in the final Game and Fish Bill the Legislature approved Monday and sent to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The bill tends to be a grab-bag of fish and wildlife policy provisions, and this year is no different. While there are several proposals the DNR isn't keen on, it's unclear whether the bill will meet the same fate as last year's, which then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed.

"We've got concerns with portions of the bill and are preparing a bill review for the governor's office," said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. "At this time, I'm not sure what our recommendation will be."

One of the main problems, according to the DNR, is a provision that caps at 90 the number of lakes with special regulations aimed at growing larger northern pike.

Spear fishermen sought the reduction, arguing a lake with pike slot limits essentially closed it to spearing.

"There's nothing in there that tells us how to remove 29 lakes from the list," which must be done by Nov. 1, said Bob Meier, DNR legislative affairs director. "That's the problem we have with that."

The bill also removes the spearing ban on Cass Lake in northern Minnesota. Muskie advocates had argued against that proposal, saying it would jeopardize the lake's muskies.

"The disappointing part in the bill is it also prohibits future regulations on pike," Boggess said. So if the quality of the lake's pike population declines, the agency could not use slot limits, for example, to try to improve the population.

"We know that spearing can have a significant effect on the size of northern pike," he said. "It doesn't take removal of very many fish to start having an effect on the size structure."

Other provisions

• Zone 3 deer hunting. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered a bill early in the session to repeal the deer regulations in Zone 3, which where instituted last year and prohibit adult hunters from shooting bucks that don't have at least four antler points on one side. Hunters also cannot tag bucks for one another.

The DNR wants to keep the regulations in place for three years and then re-evaluate them.

The regulations will indeed stay in place through the 2012 deer season, but if the agency wants to extend them beyond that, it will need approval from the Legislature.

• Waterfowl hunting. The bill removes language that requires shooting hours on the opening day of the duck season to begin at 9 a.m. It also removes the requirement that the season can't open before the Saturday closest to Oct. 1, giving the DNR the ability to open the season in accordance with federal law.

While no decision has been made about the 2011 duck season – that won't happen until this summer – "there is a strong possibility that we would open earlier and have earlier shooting hours on opening day," Boggess said.

• Poplar River. The bill allows Lutsen Mountain Resort to take for snow-making up to 150 million gallons of water each year from the Poplar River, a designated trout stream. Many conservation groups, including Minnesota Trout Unlimited and Audubon Minnesota, opposed the permit, arguing taking river water threatens fish and wildlife habitat.

• Bounties. Counties and town boards can offer bounties for taking coyotes. The idea has been discussed at the Legislature for years; the DNR says bounties aren't effective ways to control coyote numbers.

• Gray wolves. The bill adds gray wolves to the list of small game in the state, but stipulates there would be no open season until after they are delisted and the public could comment.

• Deer collisions. Drivers who hit and kill a deer on public roads have priority for a possession permit for the deer.

• Walleye stamp. Money raised as a result of fishermen buying the $5 walleye stamp may be used only "for stocking walleyes purchased from the private sector."

• Deer stands. Hunters may construct deer stands as high in the air as they want, as the bill does away with the 16-foot restriction.

• Sandhill cranes. The bill adds sandhill cranes to the list of game birds in the state. It does not create a sandhill crane permit.

• Shallow lakes. The DNR, by Jan. 1, 2012, must prepare for the Legislature a report pertaining to management of shallow lakes.

• State park fishing. Anglers may ice fish without a license on water bodies entirely within state parks.

Categories: Hunting News, News

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