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DNR proposal would protect Kabekona River brook trout

The Kabekona River south of Bemidji offers unique opportunities for area brook trout anglers and enhancing those opportunities, at the request of many Kabekona River anglers, spurred DNR officials to consider an experimental regulation on a portion of the stream.

Park Rapids DNR Area Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley and assistant Edie Evarts brought those considerations to the public Monday night in Laporte and offered three options:

-- Maintaining the current statewide regulations (a daily limit of 5 with one allowed over 16 inches);

-- Implementing a catch-and-release regulation on the portion of the stream between CSAH 36 and Kabekona Lake;

-- Implementing a catch-and-release regulation on the portion of the stream between 257th Avenue and Kabekona Lake.

The remaining portion of the stream would continue to allow angler harvest under either of the catch-and-release options.

The meeting attracted 14 people and their views varied.

"We heard a wide range of opinions," Evarts said. "The opinions ranged from don't change a thing to making the entire stream catch-and-release."

The Kabekona River is a naturally reproducing brook trout stream that hasn't received any stocked fish since 1990. It also is a unique fishery for the Bemidji area. The size of the fish appears to fluctuate but currently the stream is home to a relatively high population of fish, especially trout that are in the 12-inch range.

Because brook trout are relatively short-lived, a 12-inch trout is considered rare and worth preserving.

The current trend of larger fish in the stream began in 2007 and DNR sampling has shown a similar population and size structure in 1994-1996 and 1999-2000.

A special catch-and-release regulation on at least part of the stream could enhance the overall size structure of the trout in the stream by providing a refuge for the larger fish. The hope is that the special regulation would also reduce these swings in the "boom and bust" size cycles.

"We want to be pro-active (with the regulations) to maintain or improve the average size of the adult trout," Evarts said.

"The Kabekona River is a unique resource with very high quality fishing. (The special regulation) reduces the risk on the fishery by always providing a refuge area."

Monday's meeting was designed to solicit comments from the public on the possibility of implementing an experimental regulation. Public comment will continue to be collected through Oct. 8 and anyone wishing to submit an opinion may contact the Park Rapids DNR Fisheries office at 301 S. Grove Ave., Park Rapids, 56470 or call 218-732-4153.

Comments will also be accepted via e-mail at

If a decision is made to implement a special regulation it would take effect next spring and continue through 2015. In the fall of 2015 the public would be asked to provide their input once again and DNR officials would then decide whether to continue, alter or drop the regulation.

"Brook trout are relatively short-lived so we will put the experimental regulation in place only five years," Evarts said. "We want to review the (effects of the) regulation relatively quickly," Evarts said.

For more information on the proposal contact the Park Rapids DNR Fisheries officials.

NOTES: DNR Fisheries officials are also hosting other public meetings about possible proposals for other area lakes. The meetings include:

- Beltrami County: Upper Red Lake (review existing regulation for northern pike); Oct. 7, 7 p.m., North Beltrami Community Center, Kelliher.

- Itasca County: Lake Winnibigoshish (review existing regulation for walleye); Oct. 11, 6-8 p.m., Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School, Bena, and Oct. 12, 6-8 p.m., Minnesota Interagency Fire Center, Grand Rapids.

- Cass County: Leech Lake (review existing regulation for walleye); Oct. 13, 6-9 p.m., Walker-HA school, Walker.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200