PAUL — Plans to improve Minnesota’s northern pike fishery with a system of zones and changes to bag limits and size limits has been put on hold after the proposed regulations hit an unexpected legal snag.
As a result, the statewide pike limit for Minnesota inland waters remains at three with one longer than 30 inches in possession for this year, but the new regulation is on track to take effect in 2018.
The proposal, which came after extensive discussion and public comment, resulted from an effort by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to reduce the number of “hammer handle” pike in waters across the state.
Because pike populations differ in various parts of the state, the DNR felt a change to the “one size fits all” regulation was necessary.
In northeast Minnesota, pike are less abundant but grow fairly large, the DNR said. In the north-central part of the state, small pike are too abundant and anglers keep too many medium and large pike, even though the fish grow slowly. Pike in the southern third of the state are less abundant and don’t reproduce well enough to keep up with pressure and harvest but grow relatively fast, the DNR said.
As a result, the DNR proposed dividing the state into three zones:
- North-Central: The zone, which covers most of the state including northwest Minnesota, would have seen a 10-fish limit for pike with a 22- to 26-inch protected slot and two pike longer than 26 inches allowed in that limit.
- Northeast: In the Northeast Zone, a part of the state with traditionally lower pike numbers but more large fish, the DNR after public comment proposed a limit of two northern pike, a 30- to 40-inch protected slot and one fish longer than 40 inches allowed in the limit.
- Southern: The proposed regulation for the Southern Zone, aimed at increasing pike numbers and size of harvested fish, called for a two-fish bag and a minimum size limit of 24 inches.
According to Al Stevens of DNR Fisheries in St. Paul, the proposed rule, which was scheduled to take effect this spring, was delayed because the administrative law judge who reviewed the proposal in February ruled the DNR first had to repeal the one-pike-over-30-inches regulation in statute before she could sign off on the change.
“We had thought we could simultaneously adopt the new rule while appealing the statute,” Stevens said.
In a letter to staff, Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said the DNR intends to have the one-over-30-inch rule rescinded during the current legislative session, paving the way for implementing the new regulations in time for the 2018 northern pike season opener.