By Javier Serna
St. Paul – A number of significant changes are featured in this year’s Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.
The changes include, but are not limited to a number of dropped special regulations on northern pike waters – following the recently implemented northern pike zone changes – and a slew of changes on the Wisconsin border waters of the Mississippi River.
Jon Hansen, the Minnesota DNR’s fisheries management consultant, said the changes functionally “go into effect this weekend,” with the May 9 fishing opener.
Hansen led off with the dropped special regulations for northern pike on Ada (Cass County), Big (Beltrami), Big Carnelian (Washington), Elephant (St. Louis), Elk (Clearwater), Eunice (Becker), Little Cascade (Cook), Loon (Cook), Maud (Becker), Prairie (St. Louis), and Ten Mile (Cass) lakes.
“Following the northern pike zone rule, we committed to doing a larger-scale review of our individual special regulations to make sure they are still needed given the broader zones,” Hansen said.
Many were changed because the zone regulations made more sense, he said.
“We tried to keep things as simple as possible,” he said of the changes, which are listed on Page 7 of the booklet.
There were some modifications to northern pike special regulations as well.
On Upper Red Lake, the 26- to 44-inch protected slot was changed to 30 to 40 inches, with one over 40 inches allowed and a possession limit of three.
On 8th, 9th, and 10th Crow Wing lakes (Hubbard) and Mitchell Lake (Crow Wing), the 40-inch minimum length limit for pike was changed to a 24- to 36-inch protected slot, with only one over 36 inches allowed and a possession limit of three fish.
Two other special regulation modifications include the catch-and-release largemouth bass regulations on Turtle Lake (Ramsey), changed to a 14- to 20-inch protected slot, with only one over 20 inches allowed, and the 12- to 20-inch protected slot limit for smallmouth bass on Turtle Lake (Itasca) changing to a 14- to-20-inch protected slot, with only one over 20 inches allowed.
Other special regulations to be dropped were those for muskies on Elk Lake in Clearwater County, and the 17- to 26-inch protected slot limit for walleyes on Deer, Battle, and Pickerel lakes in Itasca County, while on Moose, Split, Hand, Swan, and Trout lakes, the slot limit was changed to a 20- to 24-inch protected slot with one over 24 inches allowed.
Hansen pointed out a trio of new special regulations.
The possession limits for walleyes on Green Lake (Kandiyohi), and Horseshoe and Minnewawa lakes (Aitkin) have been reduced to three fish.
“On Green Lake, there is a concern about a loss in carrying capacity in the system because of zebra mussels and reduced (walleye) productivity,” Hansen said. “Minnewawa was similar. They had concerns with strong natural reproduction not as consistent as it used to be, and then good year-class years that (get fished hard). They wanted to spread out some of the harvest.”
The possession limit for black crappies in Mound Lake (Todd) was reduced to five fish.
But some of the most significant changes are on the Wisconsin border waters of the Mississippi River, following years of both states working together to have consistent rules on both sides of the river. They are listed on pages 63-65 of the regulations booklet.
“It was a multi-year process that took quite a bit of consultation with the Wisconsin DNR,” Hansen said. “This has been talked about for five years. It is hard to coordinate such a large-scale change between two states. … It got a lot of good feedback and generally a lot of support for the changes. There are some pretty significant ones, given the fishery.”
Perhaps most notable is that on the waters that include the border portion of Pool 3 and pools 4-8, including Lake Pepin, the combined walleye and sauger possession limit is now four fish (it previously was six fish). The 15-inch minimum size for walleyes remains, with only one walleye or sauger over 20 inches allowed in the bag.
On the river downstream of Lock and Dam 8, the possession limit is six fish combined, with a 15-inch minimum size for walleyes, and all walleye from 20 to 27 inches must be immediately released, and only one walleye over 27 inches allowed in the bag.
Specific panfish bags (for perch, crappies, and sunfish) were each reduced from 25 fish to 15 fish. White and yellow bass bags were reduced from 25 to 10 fish.
“People worried about excessive harvest,” Hansen said.
That was reiterated by Rochester fishing guide Drew Evans, who said he’d not heard from any anglers who opposed the changes.
“I’ve always thought it was pressured hard,” he said of the year-round fishery. “I will also side with some of the statistics that Pool 4 itself is pretty self-sustaining with big populations of walleyes and sauger. And they do fluctuate. They do get pressured sometimes and the numbers go down, but years later they are back up.”
He said he doesn’t mind the panfish changes either, having just kept 20 perch last weekend fishing with his son. Those fish fed three families.
“You can still keep 15, and that is still a lot in my opinion,” Evans said. “There’s three meals, and it wasn’t even full limits.”
A handful of other changes regarding northern pike, channel and flathead catfish, and shovelnose sturgeon also were made.