Published January 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

Four-walleye limit and statewide slot limit

Already, several major walleye waters in Northeastern Minnesota have four-walleye limits rather that the statewide norm of six. Those waters include Lake Vermilion, Kabetogama Lake, Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River.

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Already, several major walleye waters in Northeastern Minnesota have four-walleye limits rather that the statewide norm of six. Those waters include Lake Vermilion, Kabetogama Lake, Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River.

State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary (DFL-Fridley) has proposed reducing the statewide walleye limit to four in hopes of improving fishing.

“I’m tired of seeing people spend thousands of dollars to fly over Minnesota into Canada and spend their money at those resorts just to release dozens upon dozens of walleye,” he said.

He believes Minnesota’s walleye fishing “could be far better.”

The state’s Walleye Advisory Committee is split on the four-fish walleye limit, said Tom Neustrom, a Grand Rapids fishing guide and a committee member. He’s opposed to changing the limit without a sound biological reason.

“If the population of walleyes in Minnesota was in trouble, or if we didn’t have an Accelerated Walleye Stocking Program — when you take all of that into consideration, I don’t see a reason to change the limit,” Neustrom said.

Department of Natural Resources researchers say so few anglers regularly catch more than four walleyes that lowering the limit would cause only a 5 percent to 8 percent reduction in harvest.

“It’s negligible from a population standpoint,” said Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries manager in Grand Rapids.

But he said it could preserve some fish in short-term, hot-bite situations on specific lakes when word gets out about good fishing.

“It might redistribute the harvest among more anglers and over a longer time period,” said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Grand Rapids. “As far as saving a lot of fish, it doesn’t. But it is a step in the right direction.”

Fishing is good to excellent on most waters where a four-walleye limit is in effect, usually in combination with a protected slot limit. The four-walleye limit and a 17- to 26-inch protected slot limit took effect on Lake Vermilion in 2006.

“We expected we might hear more about it,” the DNR’s Geis said. “We haven’t heard that many complaints about the four-bag on Vermilion.”

Sue Chalstrom, owner of Chalstrom’s Bait & Tackle in Duluth, thinks many anglers would go along with the four-walleye limit.

“It would save more fish for other years,” she said. “I think catch-and-release has caught on beautifully.”

“I guess I see [the four-walleye limit] as mostly a social issue,” said Steve Persons, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Grand Marais. “It’s hard to defend biologically on individual waters in many cases. The best arena to fight it out is going to be the Legislature.”

Chaudhary also has suggested a statewide slot limit under which walleyes from 13 or 14 inches up to 19 or 20 inches could be harvested, with one over 20 inches allowed in a daily limit.

“We want to let the little ones grow,” he said.

Most slot limits now preclude the harvest of walleyes from 17 inches to 26 or 28 inches.

“Seventeen inches seems to be a critical length on most lakes,” the DNR’s Kavanaugh said. “That’s when females mature sexually and spawn for the first time.”

Lake Winnibigoshish, the major lake in Kavanaugh’s work area, now has a 17- to 26-inch protected slot limit in effect.

“A substantial portion of the harvest on Winnie [Lake Winnibigoshish, near Deer River] was from 17 to 18 inches [before the slot limit],” Kavanaugh said.

Youth License requirements

Lawmakers want to hook more young anglers

In an effort to encourage more young people to take up angling, State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary (DFL-Fridley) wants to allow youths to fish without a license up to age 18. Currently, a license is required beginning at age 16. Dropping that requirement would take about $2 million from the Department of Natural Resources budget, according to the DNR. A Minnesota individual angling license costs $17.

“Seventeen to 20 dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to people like me who pay for licenses as a matter of course,” Chaudhary said. “But to bring someone who has never fished before, who lives in a home where budgets are tight, it can make that difference.”

Others say the cost of a license is negligible compared to other costs associated with fishing, including travel.

“It costs you $40 to fill up your [gas] tank,” said Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries manager in Grand Rapids. “You mean I can’t afford five gallons worth of fishing license?”

“I personally don’t think that the license requirement is a deterrent for many of them [young people] to go fishing,” said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Grand Rapids. “And it would be a substantial revenue loss.”

“We need to find out where we’re going to come up with $2 million to allow kids to fish free,” Chaudhary said. “Maybe adult anglers would be willing to pay more.”

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