Outdoors: Know all of the rules when you go fishing or hunting

Published 9:12 am Friday, September 12, 2008

With the onset of fall weather the walleye fishing should once again be picking up. Once we have a good “hard” frost and the lakes turn over the fishing should be good. The green algae that now occupies our lakes will give way to cleaner looking water. Fall is a great time to fish walleye, northern, bass, and those nice “jumbo” perch that are so tasty this time of year. It just seems like the perch fishing in the channel by Frank Hall Park just hasn’t been quite as good the last couple of years as it previously was.

This spring when the walleye bite was on I would pass by the channel near Frank Hall Park and see basically the same people fishing every day. This is great — enjoy our resources, that’s what they are there for. Although I am sure nobody was doing anything wrong I did wonder what these people were doing with all these fish? Can you possibly eat fish for every meal? I am sure some of us can eat our share but most people that take home a limit may eat some and freeze some. This again is a good thing, but we have to remember that we are only allowed one limit of fish per person in possession. This means that if there are six walleye in your freezer and there are three in your family that can legally fish then fishing for more is no problem.

Another person who is also concerned about our resources reminded me that with the excellent fishing we had this spring there were people boasting about catching their limit of 20-inch plus walleyes. I do hope that they are aware that each fisherman is only allowed one walleye over 20-inches in possession. This is the law statewide; it’s not an experimental rule or one that is only for select lakes. It is the state law!

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We are fortunate in our area that there are no other slot limits, so the rules are simple and the average fisherman can more than satisfy his or her desire for a nice walleye dinner. Unfortunately there are those that do abuse the law and even if they don’t, tend to overuse the resource we have. There seem to be plenty of fish in the 14-18-inch range that are ideal for the pan and although they are legal, keeping a limit of 9-10-inchers really isn’t doing anybody any good and more than one over 20 is a no-no.

A few weeks ago Gary Clancy wrote in his column in Outdoor News about getting stopped on Red Lake by a conservation officer and being cited for having a couple of fish that were barely over the legal size slot limit. Although Mr. Clancy wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of a fine, he did admit he was in the wrong and I assume he paid the fine. Following that column people wrote letters to the editor saying he was whining or they went the other way and blamed the treaty and the Red Lake band of Ojibwa for having too much control over the lake and on and on it went. The bottom line is the law was broken, a fine was paid and that was it. Whether you like the Red Lake situation or not the rules are there and blaming someone else will not change them.

This was an incident where a noted outdoorsman inadvertently broke a law by just a fraction of an inch and he was fined for it. This can happen to anyone, I guess that’s why when there’s a slot limit involved I like to leave myself a little leeway because if I get checked I want no doubt. I want to make sure that no matter how you measure a fish it will be legal.

The people that really irritate me are the ones that get caught with 250 sunfish and 60 bass in their freezer or 600 crappies in the trunk of their car. The guy with the 600 crappies actually claimed ignorance to the law but as far as I am concerned this was just a blatant disrespect for the law. And even worse yet, incidents like these do a lot of damage to our resources that cannot be fixed overnight. A fine alone cannot begin to repair the damage that has been done to a lake when hundreds of fish are taken illegally.

The Minnesota DNR and it’s conservation officers are spread pretty thin and don’t have enough manpower to check every fisherman in the state. The best way to avoid any situation is to know the regulations, whether it is hunting or fishing, and abide by them.

If you see a violation there is a tip hot line that you can call to report an incident. Persons reporting violations are asked to obtain as much information from observation as possible, and to report all violations as soon as possible. If an arrest is initiated, the person reporting the violation may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000, depending upon the seriousness of the crime.

You can call statewide toll-free: 1-800-652-9093 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Here are a few fishing reports from around the state:

FAIRMONT — Minnows started turning walleyes at Hall Lake in 15 feet. Catfish are hitting crawlers in the shallows of lakes George, Fox, Budd and Hall. Bucktails have been the ticket for muskies on Fox and you’ll hit a mixed bag of panfish in eight to 10 feet at Lakes Sissiton, Budd, and Hall. The goose season started well and there seems to be quite a few birds in the area.

MANKATO — Pitching a jig and minnow on the shoreline breaks of Lake Hanska has produced walleyes. Madison Lake is giving up crappies and a few walleyes in eight to 15 feet of water. On Lake Washington, you’ll find sunfish in eight to 10 feet and crappies in eight to 15 feet of water. Work the weedlines of German Lake and Lake Francis with minnows for northern pike. The goose season started on a slow note for most hunters.

WATERVILLE — Best Point on Lake Tetonka is producing walleyes and crappies in 12 feet. Small jigs and minnows tend to work best for the bigger fish. The swimming beach area of Tetonka also has kicked out good-sized sunfish. Most goose hunters reported a slow opening weekend.

CROSBY — Crappies and bluegills are being caught during the day in 14 to 16 feet and during low-light periods in eight to 12 feet at Cedar Lake, Black Hoof Lake, Nokay Lake, and Mahnomen Lake. You’ll also find good- sized ‘gills at Rabbit Lake in 21 to 24 feet. The deep holes of the Mississippi River are producing walleyes and smallmouth bass. Rabbit Lake and Serpent Lake are giving up walleyes during the evening hours in 18 to 22 feet and there’s a night bite on Pelican Lake with crankbaits in six to eight feet. Jigs tipped with plastics or minnows are turning northern pike on the weed edges of Serpent and Clearwater lakes.

GRAND RAPIDS — Walleyes are being pulled from Lake Pokegama and Big Cutfoot Sioux Lake with minnows in 20 to 25 feet. Rice Lake and Little Splithand Lake are giving up crappies in eight feet, as is Big Cutfoot in 20 to 25 feet. Look for bass and pike on Pokegama in 10 to 20 feet and the bass action has been excellent on Deer Lake. Bluegill action is picking up on the eight- to 10-foot weedlines of Jay Gould Lake, Bass Lake, the Mississippi River, and Little Splithand. Bear reports have been limited and goose hunting has been spotty.

LEECH LAKE — Minnows or crankbaits are producing walleyes in 10 to 16 feet near Sand Point, Big and Little Hardwoods, and the Goose Flats. The Walker Bay humps and Walker Narrows also have produced walleyes and some perch via minnows. Muskie anglers are experiencing a spike in action with bucktails and topwaters on the rocks and weeds. Low-light periods tend to provide the most activity. Look for bass to hit topwaters in the rice beds in Boy Bay.

Until next time, play safe, good fishin’ and enjoy the outdoors.

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