DNR urges anglers to fish close to home for fishing opener

Fishing opener is a Minnesota rite of springtime, and this Saturday’s kickoff of fishing for walleye, bass, trout in lakes and northern pike will have anglers on the water to wet a line, reconnect with nature and benefit from time spent outdoors.
While the fishing opener is a time-honored tradition, the COVID-19 pandemic requires that Minnesotans approach the fishing opener differently this year, said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.
“We need for Minnesotans to fish close to home,” Strommen said. “This is not the time to travel long distances to fish since travel can spread the COVID-19 virus, particularly to rural communities that may have more virus-vulnerable populations.”
To help anglers and other people engaging in outdoor recreation determine what “close to home” means in the context of COVID-19, the DNR, in consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health, developed additional guidelines. Following these guidelines will minimize potential opportunities for transmission:
* No overnight stays.
* Bring all needed supplies with you.
* Only go as far as you can travel and return on a single tank of gas or single charge for EV drivers.
Strommen said these guidelines will help protect many rural communities that are home to older Minnesotans and American Indians, groups that have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions.
Many destination fishing spots are in and near these communities and anglers don’t just go to the boat ramp, but visit the convenience store, gas station and grocery store. Small town residents use these same retail outlets and one viral transmission can have serious impacts on a rural community.
“Let’s remember that part of the fishing opener tradition is teaching the next generation,” Strommen said. “Let’s teach them to protect our fellow Minnesotans by finding the many wonderful fishing opportunities we have close to home. It’s an important lesson that goes beyond fishing. We can have a great opener and stay safe.”
Maintain social distancing and buy license earlyAnglers also need to maintain appropriate social distancing by staying at least 6 feet from people from other households. This is essential at boat launches, shore fishing areas, and fishing piers.
Anglers planning to fish on the water also should only boat with those in their immediate household and maintain a minimum six-foot distance from other boats at all times. Beaching or rafting with other boats is not allowed.
When launching or loading a boat, boaters should give those ahead plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before approaching.
To avoid crowding at license agents, the DNR is encouraging anglers to buy their fishing licenses early, and consider buying online and then saving that license on your phone.
“You can feel good about spending money on a fishing license and walleye stamp because we use those dollars to improve fishing opportunities today and create better fisheries habitat and fish populations for the future,” said Brad Parsons, DNR Fisheries Section manager.
Licenses are available online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense. Even if anglers don’t intend to fish on opening weekend, the DNR is encouraging them to purchase a license, and consider purchasing a voluntary walleye stamp. The investment in the license and additional $5 for the walleye stamp ensures management of the state’s fishing resources, creation of habitat that benefits fish and aquatic systems, and ensures good fishing for future generations.
While fishing seasons open Saturday, May 9, for walleye, northern pike, bass, and trout in lakes, some fishing seasons are open all year for panfish and other species. Trout season in streams opened in April. A full list of seasons can be found on the DNR website.

Water access, AIS, and water safety reminders
Anglers should know that conditions at water access sites may differ from those encountered in previous years. For example, while DNR-managed accesses are open, spring maintenance has not been completed and amenities such as courtesy docks will not be in place in some locations. Other public and private access sites may not be open.
More information on DNR-managed public water accesses is available online here.
Anglers play a vital role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Every time their boat comes out of the water – whether or not an AIS inspector or enforcement officer is present – boaters must clean aquatic plants and debris from their watercraft, drain lake or river water, and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Boaters must remember to keep their drain plugs out and water draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
Finally, everyone on a boat should wear their life jacket and children fishing from shore or on piers should wear life jackets. It’s especially vital during the cold-water season. Wearing a life jacket is the best way to ensure an unexpected fall into cold water doesn’t turn tragic.
More information about fishing is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/fishing. Those new to fishing can find helpful information at the DNR’s learn to fish webpage.
For fishing news, follow the DNR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and look to participate in the agency’s fishing photo contest next week on those platforms.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR issues corrections to 2020-2021 Trout Regulations

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing corrections to the 2020-2021 Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations effective May 2.
The 2020-2021 Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations contained incorrect bag and length limits and gear restrictions for two popular streams in southwest Wisconsin. Anglers should note the following regulations are in effect for:
* Castle Rock Creek downstream of the third County Highway Q bridge to Witek Road - Daily bag limit: two trout over 12 inches in length.
* Castle Rock Creek between the third County Highway Q bridge and Church Road, including Castle Rock Spring - Daily bag limit: ALL trout caught shall be immediately released; Gear restriction: ONLY artificial lures may be used.
* Gordon Creek from South 78 upstream to Spring Creek Road - Daily bag limit: 5 trout under 12 inches in length.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Catch and-release walleye regulations in effect on Minocqua Chain

MINOCQUA, Wis. – To protect the future walleye fishery, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is extending the catch-and-release walleye season on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes in Oneida County beginning May 2.
The catch-and-release regulation for walleye was implemented in 2015 to help rehabilitate the declining walleye fishery. Several years of no harvest has allowed the walleye population to grow, but natural reproduction and population goals are still not at target levels. The Natural Resources Board approved an emergency rule to put the extension into effect while a permanent rule is under discussion.
Walleyes are currently stocked into the Minocqua Chain to help re-establish populations, but populations on some of the lakes are still below established goals. Walleye population goals are expected to be achieved by 2021 under this emergency rule.
Waters subject to the extended catch and release season include:
* Lake Kawaguesaga
* Lake Minocqua
* Mid Lake
* Little Tomahawk Lake
* Tomahawk Lake
A partnership of stakeholders including the DNR, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Walleyes for Tomorrow, Lac du Flambeau Tribe and Tribal Natural Resources Department and Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company have met over the past several years to evaluate the status of the walleye population and make recommendations to bring it to sustainable levels.
This stakeholder group has worked with the public to support extending the catch-and-release season for walleye to meet walleye population goals in Lakes Kawaguesaga and Tomahawk and solidify natural reproduction across the lakes, which will decrease the need for future stocking of young walleye to sustain the population. The Lac du Flambeau Tribe will also maintain the walleye spearing prohibition on the Minocqua Chain to help achieve these goals.
“One more year of catch-and-release walleye fishing on the Minocqua Chain will help increase walleye abundance to levels that will be more sustainable for harvest,” said Mike Vogelsang, DNR North District fisheries supervisor. “This will also give us time to bring partners and anglers back to the table to discuss permanent regulation options for future fishing seasons."
More information on fishing regulations can be found on the DNR website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota DNR proposal aims to safeguard big bluegills

Anglers can weigh in on whether to keep fewer bluegills from some Minnesota lakes as a way to protect and improve the sizes of one of the state’s most prized and frequently caught fish.
“We’re hearing from more and more of our stakeholders, every-day anglers, resort owners, fishing guides and fishing celebrities that they’d like more opportunities for large bluegill,” said Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
DNR area fisheries staff worked with local anglers and angling groups to identify lakes where bluegill size could be improved by lowering bag limits. Under this proposal, some lakes would have a bag limit of five bluegills and others a limit of 10. Reduced bag limits have worked on other Minnesota lakes in past years to maintain big bluegills under increasing fishing pressure. In some cases, the number of big bluegills in those lakes increased.
The statewide limit is 20 bluegills per angler. Bluegills are also known as sunfish.
The DNR has posted a list of proposed lakes designated for changes, as well as how people can provide input at mndnr.gov/sunfish. People can provide input now into this fall. The DNR will post informational signs at water accesses on lakes included in the proposal.
“We really want to get the public’s opinion on these regulations. A regulation only works if people support it,” Weitzel said. “We believe that, through the use of reduced bag limits, we can definitely maintain our high-quality bluegill fisheries, and maybe even improve some of those that have slipped over the years. And it’s going to benefit anglers.”
This proposal is the result of years of discussion and the review of angler and lake survey data. The DNR heard from anglers that they’re satisfied with the number of bluegills they catch, but that the size of the fish has been decreasing.
The DNR mailed questions to a random selection of anglers and asked about the level of support for reducing bag limits for the whole state. While anglers did not overwhelmingly support a statewide change, there was strong support for reducing limits on selected lakes.
Based on input collected through the summer, the DNR will make any necessary changes to the proposal, and new regulations could go into effect March 1, 2021.

Bluegill biology and fishing
On any lake, anglers can voluntarily help protect big bluegills by releasing or limiting their harvest of those eight inches or bigger.
Spawning bluegills are particularly prone to over-harvest because they are very aggressive while defending a nest. Anglers can help by releasing spawning bluegills, especially large, nesting males. Released fish have a high survival rate and will typically return to their nests to complete the spawning cycle.
Fish are a healthy source of protein, but any fish – even those bought in a store – can contain contaminants that can harm human health, especially in children and fetuses. You can learn more by checking out fish consumption guidelines in the fishing regulations booklet.
More information about sunfish biology and management can be found at mndnr.gov/sunfish.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

New walleye regulations set for Turtle-Flambeau Flowage

MERCER, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued new walleye regulations for the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and connected waterbodies.
Anglers should note that these changes went into effect on April 1, ahead of the game fish season opener on May 2.
These new walleye regulations will impose a minimum length limit of 12 inches. Anglers will also only be allowed to keep one walleye over 15 inches with a total daily bag limit of three walleyes.
Waters subject to the new regulations include:
* Turtle-Flambeau Flowage
* Trude Lake
* The Bear River
* The Flambeau River - upstream of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage at Murray’s Landing
* The Little Turtle River
* The Manitowish River - upstream of the Flambeau River to the Rest Lake Dam (including Benson, Sturgeon and Vance lakes)
“This new regulation is tailored to a system with a recent decline in natural reproduction, but where harvest pressure on the entire population remains high,” said Zach Lawson, a DNR fisheries biologist. “Combining recent survey information with a rich historical dataset on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage suggests that this regulation is a sustainable option for protecting one of Wisconsin’s great walleye fisheries.”
This Turtle-Flambeau Flowage regulation change should help reduce the harvest of both juvenile and adult walleyes while still allowing anglers to harvest some quality-sized fish. The goal of this regulation change is to manage for a higher walleye population density with larger walleyes available for harvest.
Visit the 2020 Fishing Regulations for more information.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Anglers can prevent spread of aquatic invasive species

This weekend’s fishing opener comes with a reminder to always follow Minnesota’s laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Along with taking care to follow social distancing guidelines while fishing and boating, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it’s also important to take a few minutes for invasive species prevention every time a boat comes out of the water.
Lt. Col. Greg Salo, DNR Enforcement Division assistant director, said that’s true every time, whether or not an enforcement officer or watercraft inspector is present.
“All anglers and boaters in Minnesota are required to take three simple steps: clean, drain, dispose,” Salo said. “It’s not only the best way to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, but it’s also the law in Minnesota.”
People must clean aquatic plants and debris from watercraft, drain lake or river water and keep drain plugs out during transport, and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash, not in the water.

In addition to these required steps, the DNR also recommends that anglers:
* Spray boat and trailer with high-pressure water.
* Rinse boat and trailer with very hot water (120 degrees for two minutes, or 140 degrees for 10 seconds).
* Dry boat and equipment for at least five days.
More information is available at mndnr.gov/AIS.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Order 20-38 allows people to be outdoors, engaging in activities such as walking, running, fishing and hunting. We urge outdoor enthusiasts to:
* Stay close to home.
* Not congregate when outdoors.
* Follow social distancing guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health.
* Remain home if they are ill or exhibiting any symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Social distancing guidelines while boating include:
* Only boat with people in your immediate household.
* Do not invite guests or anyone outside your household onto your boat.
* Do not go boating if someone in your group is feeling sick or may have been exposed to someone who is sick.
* When launching your boat, keep a safe distance of at least six feet from others.
Most state-managed public accesses are open, though the availability of amenities, such as docks, are contingent upon seasonal maintenance.
More information, including a video with social distancing tips while boating, is available on the DNR COVID-19 Response webpage.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

2020 egg take operations canceled due to COVID-19

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will cancel its 2020 egg take operations for walleye, northern pike, muskellunge and steelhead because the work cannot be done safely under COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Collecting eggs and sperm from spawning fish in the wild is a labor intensive effort that requires teams of 6-8 people working in close proximity. After a careful examination of whether the egg take process could be re-engineered, the DNR determined that is was not possible to safely handle fish during the egg take and practice appropriate social distancing to protect staff from COVID-19.
The DNR collects eggs each spring to hatch, raise and then release either as fry or fingerlings to stock Minnesota waters that have low or no natural reproduction of these fish species. While this stocking is important to maintain fish populations and angling opportunities over time, missing one year will not cause long-term harm to the fish population of any waterbody.
“Fish populations naturally are made up of fish hatched in different years, so a missing or weak year class is not uncommon,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the DNR. “In fact, in lakes with natural reproduction, a strong year class often follows a weak year class, so not stocking for one year might actually benefit the following year’s stocked fry.”
Canceling egg take activities means walleye eggs and fry will not be available for the DNR’s cooperative fish management programs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Nation. In addition, the DNR will not be able to fulfill requests from private sector hatcheries to purchase eggs and fry in 2020.
Since hatchery rearing ponds will not be in use, the DNR will lower the water levels in many of these ponds to improve long-term productivity and future fish-rearing capacity. Other hatchery repairs, such as dike and pond improvements, also can be done when water levels drop.
Because this winter was relatively mild in southern Minnesota, there should be good numbers of walleye in natural rearing ponds that were not harvested last fall. Those fish will help replace some fingerlings for the 2020 season.
Minnesota joins some other Midwest states including South Dakota, Michigan and Indiana in suspending egg take operations. In addition, the USFWS canceled all planned lake sturgeon production for 2020.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR