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PAUL NELSON FISHING: 'Angler hours' are on the rise

More snow is not what we need on the Lakes in the Bemidji area. Some melting temperatures to gradually melt some snow would be much better for those interested in continuing the ice fishing season.

The walleye and other game fish season in Minnesota closes on Feb. 24, so there are about two weeks left in the season for anglers fishing the inland waters.

There are also some other changes that happen on March 1, which include anglers needing to purchase new 2019 Minnesota Fishing Licenses.

Paul Nelson

Anglers fishing Lake of the Woods will no longer be able to take an aggregate limit of eight walleyes and sauger. The new regulation starting March 1 will be a six-fish aggregate limit of walleyes and sauger, with no more than four walleyes in a limit of fish.

The protected slot limit on LOW will remain 19½ to 28 inches for walleyes, with one walleye longer than 28 inches allowed in a limit of fish.

The spring walleye season on the Rainy River used to be two walleyes under 19½ inches, but on March 1, the limit on walleyes will be eliminated and anglers will not be allowed to keep walleyes of any size during the spring season.

Anglers with new 2019 Minnesota Fishing Licenses are allowed to fish continuously for species such as crappies, sunfish, perch, tullibees, whitefish, eelpout and other species that are not considered game fish. Anglers can check the DNR website if they have any questions on the fishing regulations for 2019.

There are other regulations that will likely need to be looked at for future fishing with the significant increase in "angler hours" on the lakes during the winter.

The biggest change in ice fishing in the past decade has been the explosion in popularity of wheeled fish houses, which are largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the number of "angler hours" on the lakes during the winter.

The wheeled fish houses are self contained units that allow anglers to live on the lakes during the weekends and whenever anglers have "free time" during the winter.

Most anglers fishing out of wheeled fish houses have their lines in the water the entire time they are on the lakes.The fish houses are similar to an RV, so anglers have cooking facilities and many other amenities onboard.

Anglers are able to eat, watch TV and sleep overnight in the wheeled fish houses, so they are able to live in comfort and fish the entire time they are on the ice.

Species such as crappies, sunfish and perch are much more concentrated during the winter, so anglers can have a significant impact on fish populations. There is a big need to reevaluate the limits on panfish, to be sure anglers are not having a significant negative impact on the lakes.

Large perch are much more rare on the large lakes because of the increased harvest pressure and liberal limits during the winter. The increased pressure doesn't allow the perch to grow to jumbo size before they are getting harvested. If anglers are not able to catch the 11-plus inch perch they desire, they will instead harvest the eight- to 10-inch perch.

The protected slot limits on walleyes also has an impact on perch numbers because the larger walleyes are eating more of the larger perch, so it is a combination of factors affecting the numbers of jumbo perch in the lakes.

The Bemidji areas main claim to fame are the lakes and other unique outdoor activities available to visitors and area residents alike.

We need to protect our fish populations from overharvest if we want the slow growing fish populations to continue to thrive.

In order for the Bemidji area to continue to be special and provide world class fishing and other unique outdoor activities, we have to protect the resources and be proactive in our approach to managing our lakes and woods for future generations.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips can be booked for the 2019 season by calling or texting 218-760-7751 or by email at panelsonbemidji@gmail.com.

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