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DNR proposes to open trout lakes during winter

BEMIDJI — Opening trout lakes in Beltrami, Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing and Becker counties to winter fishing is among several rule changes proposed by the Minnesota DNR officials and the public is invited to give their opinions.

The only lake in Beltrami County that would be affected is Benjamin south of Blackduck while the Hubbard County lakes include Newman south of Bemidji and Crappie and Blacksmith which are located in the Paul Bunyan State Forest.

The proposed changes are the result of a switch in the stocking schedule. Previously, the lakes received rainbow trout in the fall but the recent schedule calls for stocking in the spring.

“Closing the trout lakes to winter fishing was put in place years ago,” said Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries Supervisor Gary Barnard. “We used to stock in the fall all of the time in Benjamin but there was high pressure on the fish and when they were caught in the winter they didn’t have much time to grow.

“Now, because of the switch to stocking in the spring, there is no need to protect the trout during the winter. The fish also have grown for a couple of seasons (one year in the hatchery and one summer in the lake) so they can provide an added fishery during the winter.”

A similar situation exists in the three Hubbard County lakes, according to Park Rapids Area DNR Fisheries Supervisor Doug Kingsley.

“We have some concerns about just how much pressure or how quickly the fish may be harvested but we’ll keep an eye on things,” Kingsley said. “But winter fishing on the trout lakes should provide a nice opportunity for the fishermen.”

Blue Lake is located seven miles northeast of Park Rapids and it also offers the opportunity to catch rainbow trout. The lake is a multi-species water and is best known for its walleye fishery. But it also is stocked with trout and in 2007 the lake was opened to winter trout fishing.

“Initially there was quite a bit of pressure (by the winter trout anglers) but I don’t think they harvested much and interest quickly waned,” Kingsley said. “But I suspect that, because Newman, Crappie and Blacksmith are solely trout waters, there will be more interest.”

The hope is to have the new regulations in effect this winter.

The Park Rapids DNR Fisheries officials also have implemented a study to determine the potential of Newman, Blacksmith and Crappie lakes as trout fisheries.

The special project involves the stocking of two different rainbow trout strains and enlists the aid of anglers who regularly fish those waters and those who make only occasional visits.

“The three lakes have been stocked over the past two years with two different strains of rainbow trout,” said Calub Shavlik, the Park Rapids DNR Area Fisheries assistant supervisor. “Recently, we noticed that one strain appeared to have generally survived better than the other.”

In an effort to monitor that survival the DNR officials are asking anglers who regularly fish those lakes to participate in an “angler diary” survey. Participants would collect information, including the lake name, the dates and times on the water, lengths of trout harvested and/or released and the presence or absence of a fin clip.

“The kamloops strain is marked with an adipose fin clip and we’re trying to see if that strain or the one we’ve been using all along is more suitable for the lakes up here,” Kingsley said.

“We really do need this information and we would like to send a diary to everyone who will often be fishing the lakes.”

Anglers who only occasionally fish those waters are also urged to contact the Park Rapids DNR officials to report their data.

To participate in the diary project contact Shavlik at 218-732-4135 (ext. 223) or

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200