New northern pike fishing regulations coming in spring

Anglers and spearers pursuing northern pike this winter can prepare for new pike regulations that will be in effect for the spring fishing opener on Minnesota’s inland waters.
“Pike regulations remain the same this winter, with major changes coming this spring,” said Chris Kavanaugh, northeast region fisheries manager. “As anglers continue fishing for pike, we encourage them to get used to measuring their catches and even consider keeping some of the smaller ones in the north-central part of the state.”
The new regulations on inland waters will be in effect starting March 1. However, fishing for northern pike is not allowed on these waters until the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.
Spearing season opened Nov. 15, and pike fishing remains open until Feb. 25. Current statewide regulations including the daily and possession limit of three northern pike is still in effect. So, too, are special and experimental regulations listed for specific waters in the 2017 Minnesota Fishing Regulations.
The new fishing regulations beginning in the spring take a cue from hunting regulations and will set up three distinct zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota.
“Anglers and spearers have an opportunity to use this winter as a transition period and become accustomed to measuring their catch before the new rules take effect,” Kavanaugh said. “We know many anglers already do measure fish, and spearers judge fish size, but we want to highlight the importance of those practices when it comes to northern pike.”
When the new regulations take effect this spring, the majority of the state will be in the north-central zone where the issue is overpopulation of small pike. Anglers here will be able to keep 10 northern pike, but not more than two pike longer than 26 inches, and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released. Northern pike taken by spearing follow the same rules except one pike may be between 22 and 26 inches and one longer than 26 inches.
In the northeast zone, the new regulation will maintain harvest opportunity and protect large fish already present and anglers here will be able to keep two pike and must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession. Spearers also will be able to take two pike, but only one may be longer than 26 inches.
In the southern zone, the regulation will intend to increase pike abundance and improve the size of fish harvested. Anglers and spearers will be able to keep two fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches.
For more information on the new zone regulations visit mndnr.gov/pike or contact a local area fisheries office. Contact information can be found at mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries or in the printed fishing regulations booklet.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Wear life jackets on early ice

With daytime temperatures still climbing above freezing even in the northern parts of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding outdoor enthusiasts to stay clear of early ice and use extreme caution when recreating on dangerously cold water.
Although some locations in the northern and western regions of the state were reporting ice formation at the end of November, the recent fluctuations in weather have led to degraded ice conditions and warnings from public safety officials to stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.
“No fish is worth the risk of going through thin ice,” said DNR conservation officer Lt. Adam Block. “At this point, it is going to take several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic, and even longer before ATVs and snowmobiles should be on the ice.”
A recent tragedy occurred in northern Minnesota when two anglers lost their lives after breaking through thin ice on their ATV. Several emergency ice rescues have also taken place over the last few weeks. Last winter, two people died after breaking through the ice.
Block stressed that once ice formation picks up again, it will be important to stay vigilant about safety on the ice, since conditions can be unpredictable and vary greatly even on the same body of water.
“In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on hard water should be wearing a life jacket,” Block said. “A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that exponentially increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice.”

General ice safety guidelines
No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:
* Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure.
* Check ice thickness at regular intervals – conditions can change quickly.
* Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
* Don’t go out alone; let someone know the plan and expected return time.
* Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
* Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:
4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
12-15 inches for a medium truck.
Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.

Open water danger
The lack of ice cover means many bodies of water in the state still have open water accessible to boaters. However, late season anglers, boaters and paddlers are cautioned that a life jacket is an absolute must on cold water.
“A fall into extremely cold water can incapacitate you within seconds,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Air temperatures have been relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you. Water temperatures are dangerously cold across the entire state, which means it’s more important than ever to wear that life jacket.”
State statistics show that one-third of boating fatalities typically occurred during the “cold water season,” and that in the vast majority of cases the cause of death is drowning due to not wearing a life jacket.
So far in 2017, three boaters have died on cold water, and 12 total boating fatalities have been reported.
“The last three years boaters have enjoyed extended seasons with mild fall temperatures and early ice out in the spring,” Dugan said. “With increased days on the water came higher fatality numbers and a dangerous trend, which should not be ignored. Ten of the 12 deaths involved male boaters who sadly drowned while not wearing a life jacket. This is a continuing and troubling trend that will only plateau or reverse if boaters in that high-risk demographic choose to put safety first by putting on their life jacket.”
For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Fish houses, wheelhouses require licenses

Beginning this ice fishing season, anglers using a wheelhouse type of ice or dark-house shelter are required to purchase a license to place the shelter on the ice, even when occupying it.
A new definition for portable shelters has been provided in law, which states that a portable shelter is one that collapses, folds or is disassembled for transportation.
“Wheeled fish houses, which formerly were considered portable – and thus excluded from licensing requirements for shelters – will now need to be licensed,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “In the past, anglers using wheelhouses could use them without shelter licenses as long as they were occupied, including overnight.”  
A shelter meeting the new definition of portable only needs a license when a person leaves it unattended, meaning they are farther than 200 feet from the shelter.
The change pursued by the DNR and enabled by 2017 legislation accompanied hunting and angling fee increases. An annual resident shelter license is $16. A three-year license is $43. Owners of houses to be rented pay $31 annually or $88 for a three-year license.
A valid license tag must be attached to the outside of the fish house in a readily visible location. On border waters, a shelter license is not required on the Minnesota side if the neighboring state doesn’t require a shelter license for its waters.     
To learn more about the fishing and hunting license dollars are spent, visit mndnr.gov/licensedollarsatwork. Shelter or fishing licenses can be purchased at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


4 bighead carp caught on Lower Wisconsin River

PRAIRIE DU SAC, WI - With state fisheries crews recently catching four Asian carp on the Lower Wisconsin River and finding another dead along the shore, anglers who catch one of the invasive carp species are reminded to keep the fish and contact their local fish biologist.
"Anyone who catches a fish they believe to be an Asian carp species - bighead, silver, black or grass - should keep the fish, make sure it's dead before they leave the riverway, and contact their local fisheries biologist to verify the species," said David Rowe, fisheries supervisor based in Fitchburg. "Asian carp can be very prolific and out compete native species, and we want to keep them out of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway."
It is illegal to transport a live Asian carp, so anglers will want to make sure the fish is dead before taking it away, Rowe said. He reminded anglers to avoid moving bait fish to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species or fish diseases.
Asian carp have been occasionally captured in Wisconsin waters of the Mississippi River and Lower Wisconsin River since 1996. They have not been found in inland waters above the lower dams on the Mississippi tributaries.
DNR fisheries crews captured four adult bighead carp this fall while doing routine surveys to monitor the lake sturgeon population below the Prairie du Sac Dam. They also recovered another bighead carp that was freshly dead on the shore, according to Nate Nye, DNR fisheries biologist for Columbia and Sauk counties.
DNR believes the Asian carp are individual fish that strayed and do not represent an established population. No other Asian carp were found by DNR on the river over the summer despite multiple other fish surveys that likely would have turned up Asian carp if they were there. Nor did DNR hear any reports from anglers that they caught Asian carp.
"These fish were the only ones we saw," Nye said. "They were all very large adults that likely migrated up into the lower Wisconsin River from the Mississippi River this spring or summer when we had high river flows, which can be an environmental trigger for the Asian carp species."
Bighead and silver carp are filter feeders and directly compete with native species like paddlefish and buffalo, but also because they are large-bodied fish that eat very low on the food chain they can harm the entire fish community, Nye said.
More information about Asian carp, including a map of Asian carp found in Wisconsin waters and photos to help identify Asian carp species, is available on DNR's web site, dnr.wi.gov by searching "Asian carp control."
Anglers and boaters can avoid spreading invasive fish and other aquatic invasive species by taking steps including inspecting boats and trailers after leaving a water body. Removing all attached aquatic plants and animals; draining all water from boats and equipment; and never moving plants or live fish away from a water body.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Hard Water Ice Fishing Expo scheduled in Blaine

BLAINE, MN – The National Sports Center in Blaine will present the sixth annual Hard Water Ice Fishing Expo, Nov. 17-19, at the NSC’s Sport Expo Center and Welcome Center.
Just the Facts:
Location: National Sports Center Welcome Center, 1750 105th Ave NE, Blaine, MN 55449. The main expo space will be in the Sport Expo Center, a 21,000 square foot clear span roof ideally suited for vendor booths
Hours: Friday, Nov. 17, 2-8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $10 per day; Students (12-17), $7 per day. 11 and under admitted free. Unlimited free parking.
Features: ice fishing celebrities, seminars and classes, guide services, wheel houses, youth programs, travel destinations, new equipment, outdoor equipment testing.
Seminar schedule, presented by Clam Outdoors:
(All seminars will be in the Exhibition Hall of the Welcome Center)
Friday, 3 p.m.: “Bite Detection,” Pat Rodger.
Friday, 4 p.m.: “Tournament Mindset On-Ice,” Shawn Lankki and Adam Griffith.
Friday, 5 p.m.: Q and A session with the Ice Team Pro Panel.
Friday, 6 p.m.: “Ice Fishing Masters Course,” Chris Granrud.
Saturday, 11 a.m.: “Go-To Tactics for Everything Big,” Jeff Anderson.    
Saturday, noon: “Panfish Simplicity,” Jason Durham.
Saturday, 1 p.m.: “Ice Fishing Q and A; bring a question, win a prize,” Dave Genz.
Saturday, 2 p.m.: “Family Ice Fishing,” Mark Stevens.
Saturday, 3 p.m.: Q and A session with the Ice Team Pro Panel.
Saturday, 4 p.m.: “Catching Giant Bluegills,” Garrett Svir.
Sunday, 11 a.m.: “Putting it Together: a modern product overview,” Mike Rodger.
Sunday, noon: Q and A session with the Ice Team Pro Panel.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued its annual ice safety warning for lakes with winter aeration systems.
Aeration creates areas of thin ice and open water that are extremely hazardous to people and pets. Open water areas can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions, and leaks may develop in airlines, creating other areas of weak ice or open water.
The updated list of aerated lakes and more information is available at mndnr.gov/eco/lakeaeration.
“We’re urging people to use caution anytime they venture onto lake ice, especially at night,” said Amanda Yourd, DNR hydrologist and aeration coordinator. “Extreme care should be taken on aerated lakes. Watch for the large orange and black warning signs at high use public accesses and the required thin ice signs around open water areas.”
Aeration systems help prevent winterkilll of fish populations by adding oxygen to the lake, and in certain situations to protect shorelines from ice damage. They are generally operated from the time the lakes freeze until the ice breaks up in the spring. About 280 lakes will have aeration systems operating on them this winter. Private hatchery operators also use aeration systems, usually on small lakes without public accesses.
A permit from the DNR is required to install and operate an aeration system. Permit holders must publish public notices, post warning signs, and inspect the systems at least once every seven days. Liability insurance is generally required of private groups or citizens operating aeration systems in protected waters.
Watch for notices in your local media identifying aerated lakes in your area. DNR staff ensure permiittees comply with all requirements and regularly inspect systems for safety.  
Some municipalities may have ordinances that prohibit entering into the thin ice marked area and/or prohibit the night use of motorized vehicles on lakes with aeration systems in operation. These local regulations are often posted at accesses where they apply.  
Questions concerning aeration or thin ice can be answered by calling a regional or area fisheries office or the Department of Natural Resources toll-free at 888-MINNDNR (888-646-6367).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Upper Red Lake winter walleye regulations set

Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake in northwestern Minnesota this winter will be able to keep four walleye of which only one may be longer than 17 inches, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
This same regulation has been in effect since the walleye fishing opener in May, but this will be the first winter season with the combination of a four fish bag limit and one over 17 inches allowed.
“Harvest under a three fish bag limit last year resulted in approximately 109,000 pounds for the winter season,” said Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Bemidji. “Total harvest for the past winter and summer seasons combined was below the target harvest range so there is room for additional harvest this year.”  
Red Lake walleye harvest is managed under a joint harvest plan, revised in 2015 by the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee.
“The new harvest plan recommends a more aggressive approach when spawning stock is in surplus, as it currently is,” Barnard said. “The extra fish in the daily bag this winter is expected to increase winter harvest, and allowing one fish over 17 inches meets our harvest plan objectives by spreading harvest over a wide range of sizes and removing some of the surplus spawning stock.” More information on Red Lake fishing regulations are available at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR