Hook a catfish and get hooked on fun

Consider the lowly catfish.
With its long, whisker-like barbels and flattened face, it might not be the prettiest fish swimming in Minnesota’s waters. But more and more anglers around the state are finding it an attractive species, both for sport and for the frying pan.
“Catfish are hard fighters, and they’re widely considered fine table fare,” said Mario Travaline, a fisheries biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fishing in the Neighborhood program. “Usually, if you can find one, you’ll find several. And they can be fished with simple tackle and a variety of baits.”
Once stigmatized as common river dwellers that were unappreciated at dinner time, catfish have been growing in popularity as people learn that they’re fun to fish for and good to eat, as long as you follow the same consumption advisories that apply to other fish.
Some of those changing perceptions are the result of fishing shows that have highlighted catfish angling, and the many high quality opportunities easily available in Minnesota.
“People saw these big fish being pulled up and thought, that looks like fun,” said Joel Stiras, a DNR fisheries specialist who’s been studying the habits of catfish and other river species for the past decade. “It’s also something that can be done without a major investment. You don’t need a $20,000 boat and $20 lures. You can pretty easily catch fish of good size, and in good numbers with simple tackle.”
When Stiras mentions “fish of good size,” he’s not kidding. While the state record for walleye is 17-1/2 pounds, channel catfish weighing 20 pounds are not uncommon in some of Minnesota’s large rivers. And 30- to 40-pound flatheads – the other species of catfish in the state – are well within reasonable expectation on the Minnesota River and elsewhere. The state record for a flathead catfish, caught on the St. Croix River in Washington County, is 70 pounds – about the size of an average 10-year-old child.
While rivers are the best place to fish for big catfish, the DNR also stocks channel catfish in about two dozen lakes around the metro region to provide close-to-home angling prospects. To find an interactive map go to the Catfish in the Metro webpage.
Channel catfish will eat almost anything. Nightcrawlers are commonly used for bait, or anglers can try “Mario’s magic,” as recommended by the DNR’s Travaline: Cut some cheap hot dogs in half, put them in a zip-close bag along with some garlic powder and a package of red or purple gelatin mix, and let it sit overnight. Slip the hot dog on a hook with a weight above and put it in the water.
“You might have to fight off some sunfish,” Travaline said. “But if you get it near a channel catfish, they can’t resist.”
Flathead catfish are predators and respond best to live bait – a bullhead, white sucker or creek chub works well. Look for areas where faster currents are broken by fallen trees, logs and rocks. May to early June offers some of the best catfish action, and flatheads tend to be more active at night.
The season for flatheads runs from April 1 through Nov. 30, while channel cats can be caught year-round. Anglers can have a total of five catfish in possession, but only two can be flatheads, and only one can be bigger than 24 inches.
The Red River of the North is nationally recognized as a great place to hunt for big channel catfish. The 240 miles of the Minnesota River from Granite Falls to Fort Snelling is the best place in the state to catch flatheads, and it’s an excellent choice for channel cats as well. And with four state parks and numerous other public lands along its course, finding a place to launch a boat or fish from shore is easy.

Catfish facts
* Minnesota has two species of catfish: Flathead catfish and channel catfish.
* The state record flathead catfish weighed in at an even 70 pounds, and was caught on the St. Croix River in Washington County in 1970.
* The state record channel catfish was caught on the Mississippi River in Hennepin County in 1975, tipping the scale at 38 pounds.
* Flatheads tend to return to the same site to overwinter in large groups of fish that remain so stationary that sediment accumulates on them.
* After spawning, the male flathead drives the female off the nest, which he then guards, fanning water over the eggs until they hatch.
* Contrary to popular belief, catfish don’t sting people with their barbels (the long whisker-like appendages around their mouth). They do, however, have sharp, stiff spines along their dorsal and pectoral fins (the ones on the top and sides of the fish). Anglers can easily be poked by these spines if they don’t handle the fish appropriately.
* Catfish have been described as “swimming tongues” because they have taste buds on their barbels, along the sides of their bodies, and near their tails. These help them locate food in the murky water of rivers.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR urges extreme caution on late-season ice

Lakes in every part of Minnesota are experiencing later-than-usual ice-out, but temperatures are rising and the Department of Natural Resources reminds anyone venturing onto remaining ice to use extreme caution – or stay off altogether.
During the past week, conservation officers throughout the state report deteriorating ice conditions and instances of people and equipment falling through.
“Just because you can access a lake doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “Ice this time of year is dangerously deceptive and can change markedly in a matter of minutes – and within just a few feet.”
So far during the 2017-2018 ice season, there have been six ice-related fatalities in Minnesota. All involved people breaking through while riding a recreational vehicle, and the most recent occurred April 23, in St. Louis County.
Anyone who heads onto the ice this time of year should use a chisel to check the strength of the ice frequently and be sure to wear a life jacket or float coat, according to Lisa Dugan, DNR boat and water safety outreach coordinator. Adults also should be vigilant about keeping children away from ice and open water unless they’re accompanied by a responsible adult.
For more safety tips, see the DNR’s ice safety page.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

La Crosse's Monsoor wins $8,800 in FLW Qualifier

JASPER, AL - La Crosse professional bass fisherman Tom Monsoor cashed in again in the FLW Tour Qualifier on Lewis Smith Lake in Jasper, AL, on Friday.
The veteran pro Monsoor finished in 60th place and cashed a check for $8,800.
Monsoor, recognized as the best tourney angler to come out of La Crosse or the state of Wisconsin for that matter, reeled in another five fish limit on Friday. His fish weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Coupled with Thursday's heavier weight of 12 pounds, 4 ounces, it raised his two-day total to 21-10, but not enough to make the semifinal round.
The field is now cut to the top 30 pros for Saturday's semifinal round with the top 10 pros advancing to the championship round on Sunday.
Monsoor has had an up-and-down season. He finished 59th in the FLW Tour Qualifier on Lake Lanier in Gainesville GA, on March 8, earning $10,000. Monsoor's other finishes this season were 91st, 155th and 73rd.
The veteran La Crosse bass pro was in 100th place with 427 points entering this week's tournament, but will certainly move up the ladder after this weekend

Winnebago System sturgeon spawning season begins

Wisconsin DNR Senior Fisheries Biologist/Winnebago System Sturgeon Biologist

The 2018 lake sturgeon spawning run on the Wolf River is officially underway.  
Fish began spawning at the Sturgeon Trail in New London last evening/early this morning and our crew was out there tagging fish this afternoon.  
The fish were not spawning real heavy as there were only a few active pods working, but we were able to handle 45 fish.  
We checked a few other spots between New London and Shawano this afternoon and to my knowledge the Sturgeon Trail is the only location with actively spawning fish.  
There were some fish exhibiting "cruising" behavior at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton and numerous other sites, but these fish were not yet actively spawning.  
Cruising behavior normally means that spawning activity is very close, so I believe spawning will commence at these sites within the next day or two.  
New London will be the best location for interested spectators to see fish Monday and that will be the starting location for our tagging crew Monday morning.  
The weather forecast for the next couple of days looks great, so don't wait too long to get out and see the sturgeon spawn on the Wolf River!

Fishing opener features hungry walleye, pike, panfish

MADISON, WI - Opening day of the 2018 regular inland fishing season follows the coldest and snowiest April on record, meaning it's a pretty good bet many anglers' favorite fish species will be hungry and ready to bite, state fisheries officials say.
"May fifth is approaching fast, although if you live in the north you might still think we are in the middle of winter with all of the ice," says Wisconsin Fisheries Director Justine Hasz. "For those of you in southern Wisconsin, the waters have been open for a few weeks and are starting to warm up nicely.
"No matter where you spend your opening day fishing, anglers should find northern pike and walleye are hungry, and if you prefer to set your tackle at panfish focus on shallow waters that warm early."
The late winter weather means that as of April 23, many lakes are still ice-covered in northern Wisconsin, but waters in the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin are open and northern rivers are open as well, Hasz says. Regardless of whether there is still ice in some parts of northern Wisconsin, the fishing season is open as of May 5, even if anglers need to use ice fishing gear where the ice is safe.
"We're hoping the warm-up predicted this week into next will help thaw more lakes up north," says Hasz, who went ice fishing in the Woodruff area over the weekend. "If the northern lakes are still locked up, the rivers are a good option for some good walleye and pike fishing."
Walleye are anglers' number one target, according to surveys, and Wisconsin has hundreds of waters with naturally self-sustaining populations. In addition, more walleye fishing opportunities will be available this year as more than 1.275 million extended growth walleye stocked in 2013 and 2014 under the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative are now at catchable size.
The wintry conditions have delayed stocking of catchable trout in some of the 400 waters where stocking is planned. Heavy snow, road conditions and road weight restrictions combined to push back delivery of fish last week in northern Wisconsin, so crews are playing catch up this week and are still not able to reach some sites. The DNR will provide an update later this week of the waters that won't be stocked in time for opening day.

Season dates and regulations, including new trolling rule
The 2018 hook-and-line game fish season opens May 5, on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.
The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 5, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 5, through June 15, with the harvest season opening June 16. Statewide, the harvest seasons for bass have a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.
Musky season opens May 5, in the southern zone and May 26, in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.

Trolling now allowed statewide, but different rules for different counties
The biggest change in regulations concerns trolling. Rules on motor trolling which were considered temporary over the last few years have been replaced by permanent trolling rules.
Trolling means fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by a means other than drifting, pedaling, paddling, or rowing. Casting and immediate retrieval of a bait, lure or similar device while the motor is running (or "position fishing") is not considered trolling.
New this year, motor trolling is legal on all inland waters with either:
* 3 hooks, baits or lures per person with no maximum number of lines trolled per boat.
* Or 1 hook, bait or lure per person with a maximum of 3 hooks, baits or lures trolled per boat.
Review a map and list of waters where each regulation applies.

Early fishing season safety tips
DNR recreation safety officials warn anglers that while ice cover may look sturdy in parts of Wisconsin, it's likely weakening fast as spring fights to take hold.
"No ice is safe ice, so the best advice is to stay off the ice," says Chief Warden Todd Schaller.
The slow seasonal transition serves as another reason to wear a life jacket when enjoying fishing from a boat or shore.
"The water is still cold, and hypothermia is a painful and dangerous possibility should you fall out of your boat or slip and fall into some water near the shoreline," Schaller says. "You may have up to two minutes in the cold water before the cold water chills your muscles to the point of inability to save yourself."
Anglers are reminded to dress in layers, not fish alone, take a cell phone and make sure someone knows your outing plans - including where you are and your anticipated return.
"And fish in an area that is familiar to you or that you have taken the time to learn about the characteristics of the area," Schaller says.
A good place to learn more is the local bait shop or local fishing club.
If your fishing plans involves a boat, please hold off enjoying alcoholic beverages or drugs before or during operating your boat. Wear your life jacket and encourage all passengers to wear one, too. At the least, make sure you have a life jacket aboard for each passenger - and do not overload the boat. Keep a radio on board to stay current on weather changes. Know the navigational rules of the water, and check your boat lights should you return after sunset. Check your First Aid kit and if your on-board flares will work, Schaller says.

Take precautions to avoid spreading fish diseases, invasive species
A 2016 study by DNR showed the spread of aquatic invasive species is stable, indicating prevention efforts may be working. Anglers can help prevent the spread of VHS and other fish diseases and aquatic invasive species like Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels by taking a few simple steps.
* Remove all plants, animals and mud from boats and trailers and fishing gear.
* Drain all water from boats, motors and livewells.
* Never move plants or live fish away from a waterbody.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Milton's Leidholdt wins Great Lakes Bass Fishing League opener

Rob Leidholdt of Milton, WI, was the top dog in the T-H Marine BFL Great Lakes Division opener in La Crosse on Saturday.
Despite high, turbulent water, Leidholdt reeled in five fish weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces and pocketed a $5,046. Leidholdt outlasted 153 other anglers in the Pro Division.
Mike Brueggen and Ben Potaracke, both from La Crosse, led local pros with fourth and fifth place finishes, respectively. Brueggen won $1,177 with a 16-0 weight. Potaracke won $1,209 with 15-15.
David Howard of Farmington IL, captured the Co-Angler Division title with a 16-9 bag. He cashed $2,523.
The only Coulee Region angler to finish among the top 10 co-anglers was Brad Juen, who weighed in four bass at 11-6 (4). Juen won $663.

1. ROB LEIDHOLDT, MILTON, WI, 17-11 (5), $5,046
3. RYAN LEWIS, GLASFORD, IL, 16-14 (5), $1,682
4. MIKE BRUEGGEN, LACROSSE, WI, 16-0 (5), $1,177
5. BEN POTARACKE, LACROSSE, WI, 15-15 (5), $1,209
6. DAN MOHN, LANSING, IA, 15-12 (5), $925
7. BOB DOWNEY, HUDSON, WI, 15-8 (5), $841
8. NICK TRIM, GALESVILLE, WI, 15-1 (5), $857
9. FRANK CIPRA, PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, WI, 14-10 (5), $673
10. JEFF RITTER, PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, WI, 14-1 (5), $589

1. DAVID HOWARD, FARMINGTON, IL, 16-9 (5), $2,523
2. KORY KRIENKE, ANNANDALE, MN, 14-9 (5), $1,262
3. MIKE FRAZER, DE FOREST, WI, 14-1 (5), $841
4. JAKE LAMBRECHT, DAVENPORT, IA, 13-14 (5), $589
5. ALEXANDRU SPIAC, CHICAGO, IL, 12-6 (5), $505
6. BRAD JUEN, LA CROSSE, WI, 11-6 (4), $663
7. JASON WULF, CROWN POINT, IN, 10-2 (3), $471
8. CHAD SCHULTZ, ROCKTON, IL, 9-10 (4), $378
9. JASON SWANSON, WATERLOO, IA, 9-5 (3), $336
10. CHAD SMITH, DAVENPORT, IA, 8-4 (3), $294

Why zones? DNR explains new regulations for keeping northern pike

The new northern pike fishing regulations, which were announced recently and go into effect on the May 12, fishing opener, have three distinct zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Each of the zones – north-central, northeast and south – provide protection for different sizes of pike, and there are reasons for those differences.  
“We’re continuing to let anglers know there are new pike regulations for those who want to keep pike on inland waters,” said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR northeast region fisheries manager. “We also want to share the thinking behind the new regulations.”

North-central zone
The north-central zone is the largest of the three zones, and here the possession limit is 10 northern pike, but only two can be longer than 26 inches. All from 22 to 26 inches must be released.
“We’re responding to angler concerns about the over-abundance of small, or hammer-handle, pike in the north-central zone,” Kavanaugh said.  
Through anglers keeping small fish, but protecting the 22- to 26-inch pike, the objective in the north-central zone is to both reduce the abundance of small pike and allow medium size pike to grow larger.
The advantages of growing larger pike are two-fold. While protected these medium-size pike will eat small pike, helping reduce abundance of small pike. And when they eventually grow out of the protected size range they will be a more desirable size for keeping.  

Southern zone
In the southern zone, where reproduction is limited, the regulation intends to increase pike abundance while also improving the size of fish harvested.
Anglers in the southern zone can keep two fish, but the minimum size is 24 inches.
“The management issue in the southern zone is the opposite of what’s happening in the north-central zone,” Kavanaugh said. “With low reproduction, stocking is often necessary to provide a pike fishery in the south. Here we want to protect young pike and give them a chance to grow.”
Growth rates are much faster in these southern lakes so most will reach the 24-inch keeper size in a few years.     

Northeastern zone
In the northeastern zone, pike reproduction is good, but these lakes do not have the high density problems of the north-central zone since they still have a nice balance of medium to large pike. Here, it makes sense to provide protection for large pike while they still exist.
“The trophy pike of the Arrowhead Region have definitely made some great stories and photos over the decades,” Kavanaugh said. “But these fish grow slowly in the cold water and if too many anglers keep trophy pike here, they’ll be gone.”  
In the northeastern zone, anglers can keep two pike, but must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession.

Other considerations
Anglers who want to keep pike will need to be prepared to measure them. Those planning to take advantage of the expanded bag limit on small pike should familiarize themselves with the extra cuts it takes to fillet the fish.
New pike regulations do not affect border water fishing regulations or special regulations that cover individual lakes, rivers and streams.
Darkhouse spearing regulations for pike differ slightly and those regulations are listed in the spearing section of the regulations booklet.
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