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Minnesota News
Minnesota News


From the Minnesota DNR:

Northern pike added to state’s catch-and-release record program

New estimate shows healthy Mille Lacs smallmouth bass population

Spring turkey season begins

 

 

Northern pike added to state’s catch-and-release record program

Anglers who catch and release northern pike can earn state records through an expansion of a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources record fish program that previously included only lake sturgeon, muskellunge and flathead catfish in the catch-and-release category.
“These catch-and-release records have really caught on and now we’re adding northern pike into the mix,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “Photos of these fish have ramped up awareness of Minnesota as a go-to state for trophy fish.”
This category of the DNR’s record fish program lets anglers submit photos and documentation of potential record fish they catch and release. Anglers send one photo of the fish displayed alongside a measuring stick, ruler or tape; and one photo of the angler with the fish.
“Catch-and-release fishing remains a time-honored tradition and when anglers release these large fish they give others the chance to catch them later,” Kurre said.
Diehard anglers and DNR Fisheries staff pushed for the record category, added in 2016, to recognize people who catch trophy fish while also supporting the catch-and-release ethic already shared by many anglers. The option remains to participate in the traditional category of records based on certified weight of fish caught and kept.
To be eligible for any state record, anglers must obtain a valid license and the fish must be caught in season. Anglers may fish for a species only when a season is open, even when catch-and-release angling.
Detailed guidelines for participating in both the catch-and-release and certified weight categories can be found at mndnr.gov/recordfish. Fishing regulations and season dates can be found at mndnr.gov/fishmn.
Anglers who catch large fish also have the option of participating in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame’s Master Angler program, which recognizes 60 fish species. Information about that program is available at fishinghalloffamemn.com/master-anglers.

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New estimate shows healthy Mille Lacs smallmouth bass population

Since the late 1990s, Mille Lacs Lake has become an increasingly popular destination for anglers who want to catch trophy-sized smallmouth bass. Until now, it wasn’t known how many of these fish – prized more for their fight than their fillets – called the lake home. A population estimate completed in 2018 shows there are some 67,000 smallmouth bass in the 128,000-acre lake.
“This looks like a healthy population,” said Tom Jones, regional fisheries treaty coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “This estimate roughly represents the number of adult bass in the lake. It does not include bass under 12 inches.”
The population estimate would not have been possible without the help of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance and Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation. The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance kept detailed records of their catches and provided length and tag numbers from more than 2,100 smallmouth bass. Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation held several tournaments on Mille Lacs, including the statewide Tournament of Champions, and anglers provided similar data for more than 1,600 bass.
“Mille Lacs is the number one bass fishery in the United States right now, and we just want to help protect it,” said Jim DeRosa, president of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance. “We’re really thrilled that we could play a small part in that.”
In 2013, smallmouth bass regulations changed to allow anglers more opportunity to keep smallmouth on Mille Lacs Lake. The move was made to permit anglers to keep some fish during a time when walleye harvest has been restricted or prohibited. During the past five seasons, smallmouth bass regulations have varied, but they generally have allowed harvest of bass under 17 inches. A 20-inch smallmouth bass is generally regarded as a trophy fish.
“One thing smallmouth anglers were concerned about was that allowing harvest would mean fewer big bass,” Jones said. “That’s not what we’ve seen with the most current assessment. About half of the smallmouth are over 17 inches, and that is consistent with what we’ve seen in past assessments of Mille Lacs smallmouth.” 
In 2016 and 2017, Mille Lacs Lake hosted the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, and in 2017 Bassmaster Magazine named Mille Lacs Lake the best bass fishery in the nation.
“We recognize Mille Lacs is a world-class bass fishery, and we’re committed to protecting it,” said Jones. “Now that we have a good estimate of the abundance of smallmouth bass, we look forward to working with Minnesota bass groups and the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee this summer to discuss potential long-term regulations.”   
While Mille Lacs has long been known for walleye, the growth of the lake’s smallmouth bass population is a fairly recent phenomenon. During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, smallmouth started showing up in DNR assessments more frequently. And anglers were hooking more of them.
“When fishing pressure increased in the late 1990s, that’s when we decided to protect smallmouth bass,” Jones said. “We thought the population was fragile at the time.”
From 2000 to 2012, anglers on Mille Lacs were limited to one bass over 21 inches, and a very small number of fish were harvested each year. The DNR’s first assessment of Mille Lacs smallmouth bass in 1999 supported the decision to restrict harvest of smallmouth bass, but a 2009 assessment found smallmouth bass in much higher numbers and in a much wider portion of the lake.
Though anglers have been allowed to keep more bass since 2013, creel surveys indicate that interest in keeping bass is low. The average number of bass kept each year is about 2,800. In recent years, anglers have caught and released more than 125,000 bass.
“Based on the estimated number of smallmouth bass in the lake and the number that anglers catch each year, it’s clear that these fish are being caught more than once,” said Tom Heinrich, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Garrison. “The anglers who are releasing those bass are helping maintain the lake’s incredible bass fishery.”   
Bass season on Mille Lacs opens Saturday, May 12. Prior to Saturday, May 26, all largemouth and smallmouth bass must be immediately released. Beginning May 26, the combined bass possession limit is three, with only one bass over 21 inches. All bass 17 to 21 inches must be immediately released.
More information about Mille Lacs Lake can be found at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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Spring turkey season begins

Licenses are available for seasons that run from May 2 to May 31

turkey photo

In 1978, Minnesota held its first turkey hunt in modern history. During that season, a lucky 420 hunters drew permits. Since then, interest in pursuing these big game birds has expanded along with their population and range. Last spring some 50,000 turkey permits were issued, and hunters registered nearly 12,000 birds.
“Wild turkeys are now found almost everywhere in Minnesota,” said James Burnham, DNR hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation coordinator. “It’s true that wild turkeys can be a challenging species to hunt, but getting started as a turkey hunter isn’t difficult. Camouflage, a shotgun, an inexpensive call, and a license are all you really need.”
Minnesota’s excellent turkey hunting is a management success story. Due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting, the state’s last native turkey was spotted in 1880. After several re-introduction attempts dating back to the 1920s, successful trap and transplant efforts began in 1971. Historically, wild turkeys were found primarily in the forested river valleys of southeastern Minnesota, but favorable habitat has allowed for the expansion of the wild turkey’s range to include most of the state.
“Recent changes have made it easier for more people to get started turkey hunting,” Burnham said. “Archery hunters and youth hunters are exempt from the lottery, and licenses for a large portion of the season can be purchased by anyone.”
The season runs from April 18 to May 31 and is divided into six hunt periods, A through F (see table below). Hunt A and B licenses for firearms hunters age 18 and older are limited in availability and assigned via lottery drawing. Archery and youth hunters (under 18) are exempt from the lottery and may purchase a spring turkey license valid during all hunt periods, including hunts A and B. All licensed turkey hunters can participate in Hunt F if they have an unused tag from one of the earlier hunt periods.
Visit mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey for more information about turkey hunting in Minnesota.
2018 Spring Turkey Hunt Periods
Hunt A:                 April 18 – 24
Hunt B:                 April 25 - May 1
Hunt C:                 May 2 – 8
Hunt D:                 May 9 – 15
Hunt E:                 May 16-22

Hunt F:                 May 23-31

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