DNR announces new special angling regulations
Following public review that wrapped up this past fall, fishing regulations will change on 17 lakes and one stream starting in March, while existing regulations on five lakes will become permanent, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
The changes involve three types of regulations that are specific to individual waters: new regulations that have not yet been in effect; modified regulations that have been in effect but will be changed; and regulations turning permanent that were reviewed and will now be in effect indefinitely.
“We listen to the public and consider biological information from our fish surveys when making decisions about changes to fishing regulations,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the DNR. “Each year we let the public know what decisions are made so they know the result of the public process and what regulations will change.”
Birdseye Lake (Itasca County): Walleye 17 to 26 inches must be released with one fish longer than 26 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; intended to increase abundance of spawning-age walleye, stabilize reproduction and end boom-and-bust cycles of walleye fishing success. This regulation is for Sand Lake and connected waters (Birdseye, Portage and Little Sand lakes).
Green Prairie Fish Lake (Morrison County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Little Sand Lake (Itasca County): Walleye 17 to 26 inches must be released with one fish longer than 26 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; intended to increase abundance of spawning-age walleye, stabilize reproduction and end boom-and-bust cycles of walleye fishing success. This regulation is for Sand Lake and connected waters (Birdseye, Portage and Little Sand lakes).
Long (Higgins) Lake (Morrison County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Maple Lake (Crow Wing County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Moose Lake (Todd County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Platte Lake (Crow Wing County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Portage Lake (Itasca County): Walleye 17 to 26 inches must be released with one fish longer than 26 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; intended to increase abundance of spawning-age walleye, stabilize reproduction and end boom-and-bust cycles of walleye fishing success. This regulation is for Sand Lake and connected waters (Birdseye, Portage and Little Sand lakes).
Sand Lake (Itasca County): Walleye 17 to 26 inches must be released with one fish longer than 26 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; intended to increase abundance of spawning-age walleye, stabilize reproduction and end boom-and-bust cycles of walleye fishing success. This regulation also applies to connected waters (Birdseye, Portage and Little Sand lakes).
Sullivan Lake (Crow Wing County): 10-fish bag limit on sunfish; regulation reviewed after 10 years to evaluate how well they provided quality sunfish for anglers.
Blackwater Lake (Cass County): Bass 14 to 20 inches must be released, one over 20 inches allowed in possession; currently there is a 12-inch maximum size limit on bass. The existing regulations worked to protect large bass; however, relaxing the regulations will allow more harvest opportunity while still protecting larger bass desired for quality angling.
Kabekona Lake (Hubbard County): Walleye 20 to 26 inches must be released, one longer than 26 inches allowed in a possession with a limit of four; regulation replaces the 18- to 26-inch protected slot limit that has been in place for the last 10 years. The walleye population in Kabekona has improved to the point that additional harvest opportunity can be provided by changing the regulation, which now will match the walleye regulation on Leech Lake, which is connected by a navigable channel.
Mule Lake (Cass County): Bass 14 to 20 inches must be released, one over 20 inches allowed in possession; currently there is a 12-inch maximum size limit on bass. The existing regulations worked to protect large bass; however, relaxing the regulations will allow more harvest opportunity while still protecting larger bass desired for quality angling.
North Turtle Lake (Otter Tail County): Bass 14 to 20 inches must be released, with one fish longer than 20 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; regulation relaxed from the current 12- to 20-inch protected slot limit.
Pierz (Fish) Lake (Morrison County): Bass 14 to 20 inches must be released, with one fish longer than 20 inches allowed in a possession limit of six; regulation relaxed from the current 12- to 20-inch protected slot limit.
Rainy Lake (Koochiching and St. Louis counties): Walleye 18 to 26 inches must be released, one longer than 26 inches allowed in possession; regulation is relaxed from the previous 17- to 28-inch protected slot; bag limit remains four walleye. Change allows for more harvest opportunities while still protecting spawning-age fish. In recent years the slot limit on Rainy has consistently met objectives established for the regulation.
Vermillion River (Dakota County): Trout regulations will change in 2016 allowing for greater opportunity to harvest rainbow trout while further protecting a natural-reproducing population of trophy sized brown trout. Except for a 2-mile reach within the city of Farmington, the entire 19.5-mile-long special regulation zone has been managed with catch-and-release regulations for both species since 2006. However, starting next spring anglers will be able to harvest rainbow trout along the entire special regulation area. Brown trout, however, will gain additional protection as the entire special regulation zone will become catch-and-release only. Additionally, anglers will have a chance to fish for both brown and rainbow trout later into the fall with a catch and release season that extends angling through Oct. 15.
REGULATIONS TURNING PERMANENT
Battle Lake (Itasca County): Experimental regulations on sunfish will become permanent special regulations. Reduced bag limits of 10 sunfish were shown to have effectively maintained quality populations of sunfish. Also applies to nearby Deer and Pickerel lakes.
Crooked Lake (Stearns County): Bass regulations have shown to improve the sizes of bass and will become permanent.
Deer Lake (Itasca County): Experimental regulations on sunfish will become permanent special regulations. Reduced bag limits of 10 sunfish were shown to have effectively maintained quality populations of sunfish. Also applies to nearby Battle and Pickerel lakes.
Long Lake (Stearns County): Bass regulations have shown to improve the sizes of bass and will become permanent.
Pickerel Lake (Itasca County): Experimental regulations on sunfish will become permanent special regulations. Reduced bag limits of 10 sunfish were shown to have effectively maintained quality populations of sunfish. Also applies to nearby Battle and Deer lakes.
Horseshoe Lake (Cass County): Special regulations on walleye, northern pike, bass and crappie will be dropped and return to the statewide regulation. Regulation objectives for improving populations for these species were not achieved, so special restrictions will be lifted. However, the existing five-fish bag limit restriction on sunfish is working to maintain quality sizes of sunfish, and the regulation will continue to be in place.
Special regulations that are specific to individual waters take precedence over statewide regulations. Special regulations can be found in their own section of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn and are posted at public accesses.
Before changes are made, the DNR evaluates each regulation, shares what’s found in the evaluations and angler surveys, hosts public input meetings in the fall, and reviews comments from the public about the regulations. Goals of individual lake management plans also are considered.
“One goal of special regulations is to improve fish populations to make fishing better or more sustainable. So we need the public to tell us what they want for the process to be most effective, and we value that input,” Stevens said.
For more information on special or experimental fishing regulations, visit www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.
Back to Top
DNR designates new wildlife lands for public use
Land added to Minnesota’s 1.3 million-acre system of wildlife management areas (WMA) this past fall means protection of more high-quality wildlife habitat and more opportunities to hunt, trap, hike, cross country ski and watch wildlife.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently designated an additional 2,067 acres of newly acquired land as part of 22 existing and new WMAs spread across 19 counties. In total, there are about 1,500 WMAs located in 86 of the 87 counties in Minnesota.
“These WMA lands provide important habitat for game and nongame wildlife species,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “Enhancing our system of public land strengthens habitat, as well as our Minnesota outdoors tradition by making sure everyone has access regardless of a person’s connections or how much property they own.”
Conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and The Nature Conservancy, and individuals who partner with the DNR, played a major role in helping to acquire and protect these new WMA lands.
“We are thankful for the work of these groups and individuals for helping current and future generations continue to enjoy these lands,” Boggess said.
Priority has been placed on enhancing contiguous parcels of WMA land to provide important, high-quality habitat. As public land, it can be managed for the long term and allow fish and wildlife populations to cope with changing environmental conditions.
Of the 2,067 new acres of WMA land, 1,297 acres were paid for with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the state Legislature. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of several created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the constitution in 2008.
In addition to Legacy funds, other major funding sources were the $6.50 surcharge on each small game hunting license sold, and the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching Program that equally matches private donations of cash or lands.
The RIM matching dollars came from the sale of the critical habitat license plates. The $30 per year charge for each of these colorful plates generates over $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations. The RIM matching dollars are used to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state. To see plate designs and information on ordering them, visit www.mndnr.gov/features/plates.
Those looking to find existing public hunting, fishing and trail access can use the DNR Recreation Compass feature online at www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html, or can purchase DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) available from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore, or several sporting goods and map stores around the state. The PRIM maps may also be purchased online at http://bit.ly/1m1Yv3w.
These newly dedicated WMA lands will be posted and developed over the spring and summer months next year and will be fully ready for the 2016 hunting season. The newly designated WMA lands will be added to the Recreation Compass and the PRIM maps in the future.
- Ground House WMA, 161 acres, Mille Lacs County.
- Phelps Lake WMA, 166 acres, Rice County.
- Carlos Avery WMA, 30 acres, Anoka County.
- Vogel WMA, 85 acres, Brown County.
- Janet Johnson Memorial WMA, 108 acres, Chisago County.
- Old Red Lake Trail WMA, 120 acres, Clearwater County.
- Vermillion WMA, 364 acres, Dakota County.
- Wo Wacintanka WMA, 5 acres, Freeborn County.
- Oxbow WMA, 97 acres, Jackson County.
- Devil’s Playground WMA, 40 acres, Kittson County.
- Twin Lakes WMA, 10 acres, Kittson County.
- Caerulean WMA, 73 acres, Lac qui Parle County.
- Cordova WMA, 73 acres, Le Sueur County.
- Pembina WMA, 31 acres, Pennington County.
- Delhi WMA, 67 acres, Redwood County.
- Nereson WMA, 280 acres, Roseau County.
- Edward Raymond Mohs WMA, 96 acres, Stearns County.
- Benson WMA, 138 acres, Stevens County.
- Dolven WMA, 30 acres, Stevens County.
- Whitewater WMA, 0.4 acres, Winona County.
- Minnesota Veterans WMA, 31 acres, Wright County.
- Pelican Lake WMA, 62 acres, Wright County.
For more information about WMAs, visit www.mndnr.gov/wmas.
Back to Top
Spring turkey season changes create more hunting
Hunters this spring will get more time to enjoy being outdoors while trying to bag a wild turkey, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
Turkey hunting time periods will be longer, all will include weekends and more time periods will be available to each hunter. Five one-week time periods will be followed by one longer time period ending on Tuesday, May 31. Previously, there were eight time periods, and not all included weekends. The bag limit will remain one bearded turkey.
The DNR made the changes following a public process, in hopes of increasing hunter opportunity and satisfaction while maintaining hunt quality.
“A significant change will be that hunters who don’t bag a turkey during their first time period will also be able to hunt the last time period using their original license,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager. “This will make the experience more relaxing, as snow or rain storms that could ruin an entire hunt will not be as much of a problem.”
Hunters who hunt a second time during the last time period will need to hunt in the same zone that they hunted in during their first hunt period.
Firearms hunters who want to hunt either of the first two time periods will need to enter into a lottery to participate. In past years there were lottery drawings for the first three time periods. People can apply to the lottery starting Monday, Dec. 14, and the deadline to apply is Friday, Jan. 22.
In another change, archers will be able to hunt the entire season and in any zone from when the first time period begins on Wednesday, April 13, through May 31. Hunters must choose between a firearms or archery turkey hunting license.
The changes in the spring turkey season came about following a public process. The decision was informed by data from a 2014 statewide survey of adult turkey hunters. Four “Talking Turkey” dialogue sessions took place across the state in the fall, and the proposal was further refined after taking public comment in October. The DNR received 160 comments.
“The changes that begin this spring will provide more opportunity for hunters, but we are aware that some hunters are concerned that these changes will lead to crowding, negatively impacting hunt quality,” Merchant said. “For that reason, we remain committed to measuring hunter satisfaction and hunt quality so adjustments can be made in the future if necessary.”
Each year, the season will begin on the Wednesday closest to April 15, and each time period will start on a Wednesday. This year, the first time period begins April 13. Each year, the final time period will end on May 31. More information on turkey hunting is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.
Back to Top
Correction on party fishing on Mille Lacs Lake
Anglers and dark-house spearers are advised to closely read the regulations regarding party fishing on Mille Lacs Lake. A previous Department of Natural Resources news release and online material describing this regulation was inaccurate.
Regulations became effective Dec.1 that set the northern pike bag limit at five. Each angler or spearer can keep one pike longer than 30 inches only by first harvesting and possessing two pike under 30 inches from Mille Lacs Lake on the same day and by keeping them in immediate possession.
Anglers wishing to harvest a pike longer than 30 inches may not accept a pike shorter than 30 inches from another angler in order to fulfill the two-fish-under-30 requirement. However, anglers not harvesting pike larger than 30 inches may party fish for pike shorter than 30 inches.
“The bottom line is you need to take two northern pike shorter than 30 inches yourself before harvesting a pike longer than 30 inches,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager with the DNR.
Consistent with statewide regulations, dark-house spearers are not allowed to party fish, which means each fish a spearer harvests counts only toward that person’s bag limit. Because dark-house spearers are not allowed to party fish, spearers are not allowed to accept pike from another person to fulfill the two-fish-under-30 requirement.
For more information on Mille Lacs Lake management, see www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake. For Mille Lacs fishing and spearing regulations, see www.mndnr.gov/millelacslakeregs or contact the DNR Information Center at email@example.com or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Back to Top
Hunters register more than 128,000 deer through third weekend
Minnesota firearms hunters registered 128,174 deer through the third weekend of firearms deer season, up from 112,715 from the same period in 2014, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
So far this year during special hunts and the archery, early antlerless and firearms seasons, hunters have harvested 145,383 deer, up from the 2014 to-date harvest total of 128,134. Preliminary numbers show that the number of deer registered rose 13.5 percent from 2014.
Buck harvest during the firearms season was up 18.4 percent from last year, indicating that the population has in fact grown from its low point two springs ago. Zone 1 total firearms harvest was up 11 percent, Zone 2 was up 15.5 percent and Zone 3 was up 7.7 percent. Buck harvest was up significantly in all zones.
The DNR has projected the 2015 total deer harvest to be between 140,000 to 155,000 deer. The 2014 total harvest after last year’s conservative season was just over 139,000.
In much of Minnesota, the last day of the firearms deer season was Nov. 15. The northern rifle zone season continued through Nov. 22. Additional deer will be harvested during the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 21, through Sunday, Nov. 29; the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 28, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 13; and the archery season, which runs through Thursday, Dec. 31.
Final numbers from all deer seasons will be available in January.
New this year, hunters can preview an interactive deer information tool being developed by the DNR at www.mndnr.gov/deermap. This map is the first step toward launching an online application that delivers useful information hunters need and want. Hunters are encouraged to take a look at the application, discuss it and provide the DNR with feedback.
More information on deer management can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer.
Back to Top
Legacy funding proposals support pheasant action plan
Pheasants and pheasant habitat will benefit from approximately $60 million of more than $111 million in habitat programs and projects recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund next year.
The proposed projects will provide key support for several components of the Pheasant Summit Action Plan announced earlier this fall. That plan arose from the December 2014 Minnesota Pheasant Summit convened by Gov. Mark Dayton.
“This funding is critical to keeping up progress on key steps in the pheasant plan and highlights the great partnerships between governments and conservation organizations, in cooperation with interested landowners,” said Kevin Lines, pheasant action plan coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Outcomes of these projects will protect and restore grassland and wetland habitat; create and enhance habitat buffers; and restore once-drained wetlands.
“Together, these activities will improve habitat, wildlife populations, and hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities across the pheasant range,” Lines said.
The $60 million ties directly to several of the 10 steps included in the pheasant plan by helping to protect large complexes of wildlife habitat; enrolling more land in conservation easements; increasing quality of habitat on public and private land; adding more vegetative buffers along waterways; and increasing land open to public hunting.
“Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council members and staff are aware of the rates of habitat loss in southern and western Minnesota,” said Bob Anderson, who chairs the LSOHC. “We are pleased that our efforts are helping support these habitats and wildlife across Minnesota’s pheasant range as well as the rest of the state.”
The recommended funding package includes about $20 million to acquire public lands; $25 million for private land easement programs; and $15 million to enhance grasslands and wetlands on both public and private lands.
All the action plan steps, as well as the complete plan, are online at www.mndnr.gov/pheasantaction.
Recommendations made by the council this fall total more than $111 million. All funding requires approval by the 2016 Legislature.
“We want to thank LSOHC members and council staff for being aware of the habitat needs in southern and western Minnesota,” Lines said. “We are pleased that their efforts are helping support these habitats and wildlife across the pheasant range.”
In many of the projects, conservation organizations work with the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire land and do the initial improvement work. Once improvements are made, the DNR or FWS manage the land.
“Our partnerships with state and federal agencies lead directly to better hunting and better habitat for pheasants, which benefits other wildlife and water quality, too,” said Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever Minnesota state coordinator. “It takes all of us working together to make conservation effective on the landscape.”
Habitat loss continues to drive the long-term decline in pheasants, waterfowl and other grassland-dependent wildlife. Outdoor Heritage Funds and the support of council members are both crucial to help stem the tide of this loss, enhance existing public lands and make sure those lands are as productive for wildlife as possible.
The loss of nesting habitat, primarily driven by the expiration of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, is one of the largest factors explaining the decline of pheasants over the last six to eight years. Minnesota has lost 247,000 acres of CRP since 2007 and another 495,000 acres will expire by 2018 if contracts are not renewed or new acres enrolled in the program.
“There is no one single answer to the issue of grassland habitat loss and declining grassland wildlife populations,” said Greg Hoch, DNR prairie habitat team supervisor. “Bringing wildlife populations back to historic levels will require a combination of protecting and restoring habitat on public and private lands and managing those lands for the benefit of wildlife.”
The LSOHC, made up of eight citizen and four legislative members, reviews project proposals for the Outdoor Heritage Fund and makes funding recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature for approval.
The fund was created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, which increased sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. The Outdoor Heritage Fund receives one-third of the sales tax dollars and may only be spent to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game, fish, and wildlife.
Details on all the proposals recommended by the council can be found at http://tinyurl.com/LSOHC2016
Back to Top
Conditions look good for late-season pheasant hunting
Plenty of roosters in the fields and light hunting pressure are two good reasons why Minnesotans should keep their pheasant hunting gear handy, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“People may not realize that pheasant hunting success is probably as good as it has been in many parts of the pheasant range for the last three to five years,” said Cory Netland, DNR area wildlife supervisor for six counties in the Willmar area.
The daily bag limit is two roosters through November with a possession limit of six. Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1, the daily bag limit increases to three roosters with a possession limit of nine.
Weather conditions during the first few weeks of the season were warmer and drier than average, making it tougher for hunters and their dogs. However, temperatures are cooling off and recent rains should help dogs pick up the scent of birds.
“Conditions are shaping up nicely for the last half of the season, and there are still plenty of birds out there,” said Nicole Davros, DNR upland game project leader.
Pheasants are still using grassland cover and haven’t appeared to move to winter cover just yet. Pheasants will move to winter cover such as cattail sloughs or willow thickets once grasses get pushed down by snow or heavy rains. Netland said that snow shouldn’t scare hunters away.
“A light snow can actually help with pheasant hunting because it makes it easier to find roosters in winter cover,” Netland said. “And hunting access improves once cattail wetlands freeze up.”
Many DNR wildlife managers have noted that hunting pressure has been lighter than expected so far. Yet those who have spent time in the fields have had plenty of opportunities to harvest roosters. Some hunters have even reported filling their daily bag limits within their first hour afield.
The upcoming holidays will take even more attention away from pheasant hunting, yet hunting can be a part of holiday traditions.
“There is no better way to spend time with family and friends while walking off the holiday calories than pushing through tall grasses and cattails for the chance to harvest roosters,” Davros said.
Hunters need a small game license and a pheasant stamp to hunt pheasants in Minnesota. A small game license costs $22 for Minnesota residents age 18 to 64, and the pheasant stamp costs $7.50. Pheasant hunters 65 and older need to buy a small game license for $13.50 but are not required to buy a stamp. Hunters age 16 to 17 must buy a $5 small game license but do not need to buy a stamp, and hunters under 16 can hunt pheasants without a license or stamp.
Minnesota’s 2015 pheasant season is open through Sunday, Jan. 3. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.
Back to Top