Walleye Conservation Report
May 5th, 2021 by Keith Worrall
Modified May 5th, 2021 at 11:37 AM
A WORD FROM OUR PRESIDENT
By Ron Schara
First of all, thanks for taking the time to read the MN-FISH newsletter and for your support of our primary mission. And that is? To give Minnesota anglers a voice in the legislative decisions made by our elected officials and to function as a watchdog over fish management decisions made by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
At the moment, only a few fishing-related bills have been introduced and/or discussed in legislative committees. The most significant is a bill to change Minnesota’s walleye limit statewide from six to four fish daily, and in possession. Your MN-FISH board voted to support this bill largely recognizing the impact of our advanced angling skills and how social media attracts angling crowds to hot walleyes lakes in a matter of hours. It should be noted a four-walleye limit is not likely to make walleye fishing better, but may reduce exploitation of walleye populations as angling pressure increases. If you have an opinion about walleye limits, please reach out to your legislators and email them your thoughts.
In February, DNR fisheries officials and MN-FISH met via Zoom. (See board member Tom Neustrom’s full report.) Our goal is to have a series of meetings with the DNR in the future to voice the concerns of the MN-FISH membership.
Looking ahead, the 2022 Legislature will be writing a bonding bill, which is our chance to generate funding for: modernizing state walleye hatcheries; expanding life sports (fishing, hunting, bird watching, etc.) in schools; repairing, expanding and/or building new public boat accesses; and funding a massive stunted pike program. This will be a focus for MN-FISH next year.
Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.
MEET MN-FISH LEADER DAVE OSBORNE
Dave Osborne has been active as a MN-FISH board member since the day the organization was formed. Why? First of all, Dave is an avid, avid angler – both summer and winter. His passion is fishing!
Secondly, Dave is the CEO and owner of Clam Corporation, based in Rogers, Minnesota – a leading manufacturer of portable ice fishing shelters and accessories, as well holding company for Blackfish clothing/gear, All-Terrain Bass Jigs and more.
“I’m proud to be on the MN-FISH Board of Directors as I want to make a difference by giving back and continue to make fishing a vital part of the lives of every Minnesota angler,” said Osborne. “Fishing is an important part of living in Minnesota for so many people, and we want to continue this for generations of Minnesotans to come.”
A SPECIAL GIFT TO MN-FISH
MN-FISH member Jane Kingston has donated “shares of stock” to MN-FISH, the first-ever such gift to the organization. Ms. Kingston said the stock donation was in memory of Donald LeRoy Bellerud, LaVerne Mae Eilola, Thomas M. Peterson and David Gary Santelli. Thank you Jane Kingston for your generous donation! If you are interested in supporting MN-FISH though a tax-deductible donation, please contact us at [email protected]
MN-FISH MEETS WITH DNR OFFICIALS
By Tom Neustrom
On February 11th, members of the MN-FISH board met via Zoom with key members of the DNR to voice concerns of membership and get a better understanding of the DNR’s position on three main subjects: walleye stocking, live bait trapping and tournament fishing.
The Minnesota DNR was represented by Deputy Commissioner Bob Meier, Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons, and Fisheries Managers Doug Schultz from Leech Lake and Eric Altenna from Little Falls. MN-FISH attendees included Tom Neustrom, Ron Schara, John Peterson, Garry Leaf and Frankie Dusenka.
According to fisheries chief Brad Parson’s, DNR fisheries managers use a combination of science and common sense to manage state fisheries. The DNR is committed to continued stocking waters where a management plan is in place but relies primarily on natural reproduction to maintain consistent walleye numbers. He also reminded us that over stocking of walleyes does not mean better fishing. In fact, in many instances, it can lead to a negative walleye harvest.
MN-FISH requested and was granted an annual review of DNR stocking summaries to better understand stocking levels by region, in comparison to regional requests for fry and/or fingerlings.
With more than 100,000 additional fishing licenses sold in 2020, questions were raised on how MN-FISH could help the DNR promote sale of the Walleye Stamp – an optional $5 validation to your fishing license that supports private sector stocking to supplement current DNR stocking. The DNR supports private stocking that meet specific criteria established by the agency. However, walleye cannot be introduced into lakes that have not previously been managed for the species.
Live Bait Trapping/Transportation
MN-FISH voiced growing concerns from live bait trappers, bait dealers and state anglers over minnow shortages due to strict AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) trapping/transportation regulations, especially for fatheads, spot-tail and golden shiners. The DNR responded by telling us these AIS regulations cannot be deregulated as its spread threatens fish, wildlife, plants and the health of our ecosystem.
The DNR prohibits trapping spot-tail shiners in Upper Red, Lake Winnibigoshish and Mille Lacs when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees. That’s the temperature zebra mussels become active and the DNR does not want a spread of them through contacts with bait being trapped and sold publicly.
However, since no VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) has been found in Minnesota waters to date (except for Lake Superior), some regulations could be lifted in the future to benefit trappers and anglers. Brad Parsons ended the live bait discussions by telling us that due to strict invasive species regulation, private sector, “commercially grown” live bait may become the best way to meet the growing demands for live bait in the future.
There was discussion for having all tournaments, regardless of size of size permitted with the DNR to create public awareness prior to events. Support for limiting the number of fishing tournaments on a given body of water per month or year, were also aired and discussed for future review.
With an increasing number of tournaments on Minnesota lakes, complaints are coming in from lake associations and recreational users trying to access boat ramps on weekends or holidays. One solution discussed is having the DNR work with event organizers to schedule more events on weekdays to reduce weekend pressure and preserve access space for other recreational users.
MN-FISH voiced support of walleye and bass tournaments going to Catch, Photo & Release (CPR) format to reduce fish stress and mortality during events, especially those held during the warm-water months of July and August, as well as spring bass tournaments when bass are transported several miles from their spawning beds to weigh-in sites.
The meeting with the DNR in February was informative, enlightening and highly productive. Our mission was to provide the DNR with valuable input and feedback from MN-FISH anglers and industry stakeholders to assist them in their critical decision-making process.
We encourage MN-FISH members to comment on these issues, either directly to MN-FISH or on our Facebook page.
MN-FISH ICE FISHING SWEEPSTAKES WINNERS ANNOUNCED
Two winners have been awarded the top prizes in the WIN-A-MN-FISH Ice Fishing Dream Package prize drawing that look place on March 31st.
Grand prize winner is Owen Tisland from LaPorte, MN who won the Sportsman Lodge Ice Fishing Dream Trip for 4 people (3 nights lodging/2 full day of fishing) valued at $1,870. His trip will take place next winter on Lake of the Woods.
Second place prize winner is Mandy Nienas of Duluth. She wins the $1,500 Ice-Gear Dream Package that includes a CLAM Nanook XL Fish Trap fish shelter, a StrikeMaster Lithium 40 volt electric auger, and a 46-piece Team Northland Fishing Tackle ice tackle assortment.
MN-FISH PRIORITIES & GOALS FOR 2021
By Steve Pennaz
Even though COVID-19 challenged us and tried to put a damper on most of our MN-FISH missions in 2020, we were still able to achieve many of our goals as highlighted in past e-newsletters.
As our country and state continue to recover, MN-FISH has been focused on setting a list of priorities for 2021-22, to include:
Hire Executive Director
We expect to hire an Executive Director in mid-to late 2021. This position will oversee strategic planning, administration, fundraising, member development, communication and other responsibilities as assigned by the board. MN-FISH will still rely on its strong volunteer committees for the bulk of its work.
Fund Key Angler Initiatives
MN-FISH is working with key legislators in both parties to fund key angler initiatives in 2022 through a bonding bill. We have not finalized a wish list at this time, but projects that have been identified for potential support include modernizing state walleye hatcheries, expanding youth fishing programs in schools, repairing, expanding or building new public boat accesses, funding stunted pike and panfish programs, and more. If you have feedback on programs that deserve funding, please contact MN-FISH AT MN-FISH.com
Expand Current Board
The MN-FISH board currently has 15 members, which is five short of the 20 board positions possible under current articles of incorporation. We are actively working to expand the board, looking to increase diversity, capacity and expertise.
Schedule Additional Meeting with DNR
To date, we’ve had two meetings with lead DNR officials, including one with DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen and two with Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons, among others. We plan to hold meetings in the future to share the concerns of MN-FISH members on a variety of topics including stocking, gamefish limits, two-line fishing, youth angling programs, live bait trapping, tournaments, accesses and more.
Strengthen Member Communications
With COVID, member communication suffered. We recognize that and have made the commitment to strengthen member and benefactor communication to not only share the work already accomplished, but also to highlight goals for the coming year.
Photo courtesy of boattrader.com
YOUTH FISHING PROGRAMS & OPPORTUNITIES
By Nicole Jacobs
We all know what springtime in Minnesota means, open water fishing. Over 1.4 million anglers hit the water during this time to share the joy of fishing with family and friends. From the docks, piers and lakeshore of Lake Minnetonka to the riverbanks of the Mississippi, families gather to fish.
With the rise of Covid, it is no surprise that there was a significant increase of new anglers fishing in Minnesota in 2020. People wanted to be outside with their families and explore fishing. With over 52,000 new anglers hitting the water, mostly youth; we wanted to highlight three fishing program opportunities to get your kids outside and involved in fishing.
Fishing in the Neighborhood (FIN)
This program is put on by the Department of Natural Resources, which can be found on their website https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin. It is led by two Fishery Specialist dedicated to the East and West Metro to increase fishing opportunities for families in the city and educate them about environmental stewardship.
Fishing for Life
Tom Goodrich and the Fishing for Life team are dedicated to the growth of youth and family outdoor education. From ice fishing events to local trout ponds, the team has all the resources to get you fishing and continue fishing. This program can be found at https://fishingforlife.org/.
School of Fish
This fishing program is put on by Mike Frisch and information can be found at https://fishingthemidwest.com/school-fish/. School of Fish offers a 2.5-hour course for classroom education on Fishing 101, from knot tying to fish care. This class is dedicated for youth wanting to learn how to fish and for parents looking how to start. In addition, School of Fish offers a Walleye class on techniques, understanding electronics and more.
Minnesota is a gold mine for anglers of all kinds with over 10,000 lakes and rivers. Not sure where to start or what is in your area? Check out: Take Me Fishing at https://www.takemefishing.org/, which is put on by the Recreation, Boating and Fishing Foundation. This foundation is a dedicated site where you can find local fishing spots, buy a fishing license and more. Happy Fishing.