Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

May 5, 2003

Fishing season opens Saturday

The 2003 version of one of Minnesota's biggest events kicks off Saturday, May 10, at 12:01 a.m. The event, of course, is the fishing opener for walleye and northern pike.

On that day, a majority of the thousands of anglers that will wet a line will be in pursuit of the kind of trophy walleye that Tom Shoenfeld hooked near Red Wing on the Mississippi River.

In reality, few will catch good numbers of walleye, and very few will nab a trophy. Many, like myself, may not even catch a walleye, and after a few hours of trying will revert to Minnesota's good old standard ­ panfish, specifically sunnies and crappies.

For those anglers, this opening day will be much different than those of the recent past. The bag limits for sunfish and crappies change Saturday, May 10. The legal limit for sunfish will go from 30 to 20, and the limit for crappies will change from 15 to 10.

With the new limits, all those would be and impatient walleye anglers out there like myself, may want to spend an extra hour trolling for northern pike, after they have given up on the walleyes and before the head to shallows for panfish.

Here are a few other pieces of opening day information:

­ Today's column includes press releases from the DNR on new fishing regulations, and from the DNR's Hutchinson area fisheries office on fishing opportunities on lakes in our area.

­ Don't forget about the Crow River. The Crow, both forks, can provide some excellent opening weekend fishing for walleye and northern pike.

­ Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake will be open special hours for opener. Starting Friday, May 2, Joe's will be open until midnight. Saturday, May 10. Hours will be 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 11, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although I haven't confirmed it, Lil' Angie's Bait and Tackle at the Porthole in Lester Prairie will most likely also be open extended hours for the fishing opener.

­ Don't forget to purchase your new 2003 Minnesota fishing license.

­ Put new line on your reels ­ you'll have a better fishing experience with less twists and tangles.

­ Pay attention to special regulations on specific lakes. Many lakes in Minnesota now carry special regulations specific to one lake.

­ Be cautious, courteous, and not competitive at the landing and on the lake during this years opener.

Anglers reminded to check new regulations

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers to take a moment to review the 2003 Fishing Regulations before the inland fishing season opens on May 10.

Regulations booklets include special and experimental regulations, regulations changes, and new information about exotic species, catch and release, and fish identification.

"We made a number of changes this year and anglers need to make sure they are aware of the regulations before they fish," said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, program manager for the DNR Division of Fisheries. "Besides that, the regulation book contains excellent information to help anglers protect their resource and enjoy their time on the water."

Special or experimental regulations new this year include Annie Battle Lake (Otter Tail County), Bass Lake (Todd County), Cedar Lake (Morrison County), Mink Lake (Wright County), Pimushe Lake (Beltrami County), Big and Little Pine (Otter Tail County), Somers Lake (Wright County), Steiger Lake (Carver County) and Zumbro River (Wabasha County). In addition, new northern pike regulations are in effect on 66 lakes and one stream.

Special and experimental regulations are summarized on pages 27-42 in the regulations booklet. New regulations are signified with a pointing finger.

Unless specifically mentioned, all other general regulations, seasons, limits, border water regulations, possession and transportation regulations apply to waters with special and experimental regulations.

Statewide regulations will now apply for Bavaria Lake (Carver County), where special regulations governed largemouth bass and Platte Lake (Crow Wing/Morrison counties) where special regulations governed northern pike. Statewide regulations are found beginning on page 17 of the fishing regulations booklet.

New statewide bag limits on crappie, sunfish, lake trout and catfish officially begin Saturday, May 10. The lake trout bag limit change does not apply to Lake Superior and its tributaries up to the posted boundary.

However, the crappie and lake trout bag limit changes do apply to the Canadian border waters. The changes are in response to extensive biological analysis and public input on the state's game fish limits. Most Minnesota game fish limits have remained unchanged for the last 40 to 70 years, yet fishing pressure and technology have increased dramatically during that time.

Anglers should also note the special regulations affecting treaty lakes and Mille Lacs Lake, which are not listed in the 2003 regulations booklet.

These regulations will be announced in the media, posted on the DNR web site, and posted at public access sites on the affected lakes. A list of counties where waters might be posted with treaty regulations can be found beginning on page 25 of the fishing regulations booklet.

A brochure listing treaty lake regulations will be available soon from the DNR information center in St. Paul by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367).

The information will also be available from local fisheries offices in the treaty area. New treaty regulations go into effect on the fishing opener Saturday, May 10.

The summer catch-and-release trout regulation for the 3.3-mile posted section of the Middle Branch of the Whitewater (Winona/Olmsted counties one-quarter mile upstream of County Road 107 bridge to the source) is still in effect. It was accidentally left out of the 2003 synopsis.

Additional changes and new regulations are listed on page 5 of the 2003 Fishing regulations booklet, available wherever fishing licenses are sold.

Fishing licenses valid for 2003 are on sale now at any of the 1,850 Electronic License System agents located throughout the state. Licenses are also available at the DNR web site www.dnr.state. mn.us, or by calling 1-888-665-4236.

Fishing opener is Saturday

From the DNR

This year's opener for walleye, northern pike, and sauger is Saturday, May 10. The season for largemouth and smallmouth bass begins Saturday, May 24, for most of the state.

The season for muskellunge begins Saturday, June 7. Angling for crappies, bluegills, sunfish, rock bass, white bass, catfish, perch, bullheads, and carp is open on a continuous basis.

"This year should be a good opener," according to Gene Jeseritz ­ DNR Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor at Hutchinson. "We had a mild winter and net catches indicates good numbers of fish for anglers.

"Anglers may experience more aquatic vegetation in our lakes this spring and summer. This is typical of what happens following a mild winter. Moderate to light snowfall allows aquatic plants to better survive the winter.

"An early ice-out gives aquatic vegetation a jump-start on the growing season. We should keep in mind that aquatic plants are vital as fish and wildlife habitat even though dense vegetative growth might be a nuisance for some anglers and recreational lake users," said Jeseritz.

Anglers are reminded that all resident anglers, age 16 and older, must have an angling license. Exceptions are that mothers on Take-A-Mom Fishing Weekend (May 10-11), and adults accompanying children under age 16 on Take-A-Kid Fishing Weekend (June 6-8), may fish without a license on those dates.

Safety while on the water is always a concern. Boaters are reminded that all watercraft, regardless of length, will need to carry at least one U.S. Coast Guard approved, wearable life preserver for each person on board.

In addition, boats 16 feet and longer must carry at least one USCG approved throwable device. Persons 12 to 17 years of age are required to have a watercraft operator's permit to operate a boat of more than 25 horsepower, unless someone at least 21 years of age is on board and in reach of the controls.

Operation of a boat while intoxicated is illegal and dangerous. The DNR points out that about one-half of fatal boating accidents in the U.S. are alcohol related.

Boaters are reminded to clean off all vegetation from their boats, motors, and trailers. The purpose is to prevent the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil, an exotic plant species.

Each year the list of lakes containing Eurasian watermilfoil increases. Washington, Stella, and Ripley lakes in Meeker County have now been added to that list.

Something new this year is the fact that the discounted senior citizen license is no longer available.

Adults, 65 years and older will have to pay the full $17 for their angling license. There have been many questions as to why the DNR made this change. One of the main reasons was that there is a whole segment of the population that is approaching retirement age.

When all of these baby-boomers reach retirement age, and are eligible for reduced price angling licenses, the cash flow to the DNR who be greatly reduced.

Because most of DNR Fisheries funding comes from the sale of angling licenses, the elimination of the senior citizen license was necessary to maintain the level of operational funding in the future.

Anglers should also take note that possession limits have changed for some fish species. The crappie limit changed from 15 fish to 10 in possession.

The sunfish limit has changed from 30 to 20 fish. Lake trout went from three fish to two fish.

The catfish limit stays at five fish, however only one can be over 24 inches and only two can be flathead catfish.

A change affecting anglers in the local area involves a special regulation for northern pike at Lake Minniebelle, in Meeker County.

The new slot limit means that all northerns from 24" to 36" must be immediately released. Anglers would still be allowed to take two northerns under 24 inches and one northern over 36 inches.

Swan Lake Fishing Report

Swan Lake is located just north of the town of Silver Lake and should provide excellent fishing this summer. The 343 acre lake, though shallow, at 10 feet, has good numbers of fish available.

Access to Swan Lake is excellent with a public access on the east side, a county park and fishing pier on the north, and bank fishing access around nearly the whole lake.

Anglers should keep in mind that they need to get permission to cross private property. DNR assessment netting completed in 2001 indicated average numbers of walleye with lengths from 14 inches to 24 inches.

Numbers of northern pike are not high but some northerns were sampled up to 33 inches in length. The number of crappies is considerably higher than normal for a lake of this type. There should be many crappies in the 8-inch to 10-inch range. Swan Lake has pumpkinseed sunfish with lengths from 7-inches to 8-inches.

Though not really noted for largemouth bass, sampling turned up quite a few largemouth from 12 inches to 19 inches in length. Channel catfish will also provide some angling this summer with lengths ranging from 17 inches to 26 inches.

For those anglers that enjoy bullhead fishing Swan Lake would be a good choice. This season, Swan Lake should produce many 10 to 12 inch bullheads.

Collinwood Lake Fishing Report

Collinwood Lake will again be one of the more popular fishing lakes in the area. The lake is located about three miles southeast of Dassel. The 584 acre lake has a maximum depth of 28 feet.

There are public accesses on both the north and south shorelines. Boaters will notice that the access on the north side of the lake has been completely rebuilt and should be more user friendly.

There is a Wright County Park on the east side. The park has a public fishing pier, boat access, swimming beach and camping available.

In a netting survey conducted by the DNR in 2002, the number of walleye was between three and four times higher than the upper range for a lake of this type. Many walleyes were in the 17 inch to 24 inch length range.

Collinwood Lake is stocked in odd numbered years with walleye fingerlings to supplement natural reproduction. This past winter, anglers reported excellent fishing for smaller walleyes.

By the end of summer, these fish will be of a more acceptable size. Northern pike numbers in Collinwood are excellent with many pike in the 17-inch to 25-inches range. DNR netting also indicate good numbers of crappies and bluegills.

South fork Crow River Fishing Report

The South Fork of the Crow continues to be a good fishing spot for a variety of species of fish.

In particular, the area downstream of the dam in the city of Hutchinson has provided excellent catches of walleye, northern pike, black crappie, bullheads, and channel catfish. The river provides a unique recreational opportunity for many residents that do not have boats or who do not have the ability to travel to surrounding lakes.

An interesting note is that preliminary plans are being made to build a fish ladder at the site of the present dam. The aging dam will someday have to repaired or replaced so there has been talk about building a fish ladder to coincide with bridge replacement work planned for Highway 15, where the bridge crosses the South Fork Crow River.

A fish ladder would allow fish to move up over the dam and gain access to many miles of fish habitat.

The City of Hutchinson is presently in the process of improving shoreline habitat along the river above and below the dam. Angler access is an important part of that effort.

Note: More lakes will be listed in next week's Outdoors column.

Minimum Size Limits

The DNR office in Hutchinson, periodically receives calls concerning minimum size limits. The theory behind minimum size limits is to throw back the little fish so that they have the opportunity to grow to be a bigger size for anglers.

Minimum size limits can be used as a management tool in a particular situation in an attempt to improve the size of fish. This does not mean that minimum size limits are appropriate in every situation.

Some people have suggested a minimum size limit of 16 inches for walleye. It takes approximately three years for walleye to make 16 inches. What most people do not realize is that most walleye die due to natural causes before they reach 16-inches. In most cases, the keeping of 12-inch and 13-inch walleye does not hurt the walleye population.

Actually, the taking of these smaller fish may even help the population. If everyone threw back all walleyes less than 16 inches, anglers would be concentrating all their effort on the larger fish.

The additional pressure might ultimately reduce the number of spawning walleye in a lake. With this in mind, the next time you are fishing at a lake and see someone with a limit of twelve-inch walleye, you should not discourage him or her from taking their catch home.

Catch and Release

Catch and release or selective harvest as it has more recently been called has been promoted to provide the best long term fishing opportunity for anglers without negatively affecting fish populations.

Some anglers have taken catch and release to the extreme and say that all large fish must be released. This is not true. Fish are a renewable resource.

Large fish, if not taken by anglers, will eventually die. Also, there are typically enough spawning-sized fish in lakes for reproduction purposes.

Where selective harvest should be considered is where an angler has already taken one larger fish, they might choose to release additional larger fish that are caught. This will give other anglers the opportunity to catch a large fish.

Suggested Fishing Lakes

One of the big questions around the fishing opener is where to go fishing. Sources of information might include your local DNR ­ Fisheries office.

Other sources include local bait shops or talking to friends who are anglers. Regardless of where you get your information, the most current information is the best information.

Just to get you started, here are a few lakes anglers might try for various species of fish.

Walleye

For walleye, good choices would be Collinwood, Big Swan, Star, Stella, Washington, and Lake Allie.

Northern Pike

For northern pike, suggested lakes are Francis Lake, Stella Lake, Collinwood Lake, Jennie Lake, Stahls Lake, Clear Lake near Watkins, and Lake Marion.

Crappies

Collinwood Lake, Big Swan Lake, Ripley Lake, Marion Lake, Washington Lake, and Lake Allie are good bets for black crappies.

Bluegills

There are many lakes that have bluegills, but a short list of historically good bluegill lakes include; Collinwood Lake, Erie Lake, Francis Lake, Minniebelle Lake, Washington Lake, Clear Lake, and Marion Lake. Anglers might also try Lake Allie in Renville County and Lake Ripley near Litchfield.

Largemouth Bass

Here again, largemouth bass are present in many area lakes. A few to check out include; Washington Lake, Francis Lake, Long Lake near Dassel, Ripley Lake, Lake Erie, and Lake Marion. Anglers might try Belle Lake for big bass.

Smallmouth Bass

First choices for smallmouth bass would be Manuella Lake, Stella Lake, and Washington Lake. The smallmouth bass population in these lakes appears to be very healthy. Anglers may also want to check out the North Fork of the Crow River for smallmouth.

Bullheads

Nearly all of our fishing lakes have adequate numbers of bullheads to support a fishery, but a few suggestions might be; Belle Lake, Washington Lake, Stahls Lake, Cedar Lake, Swan Lake, Allie Lake and Star Lake. Clear Lake near Gibbon should also provide some nice sized bullheads. Minniebelle and Manuella lakes would be good choices for yellow bullheads.

Trout

The only lake stocked with trout in the Hutchinson Fisheries Management Area is Little Mud Lake near Watkins. The most recent stocking in April of 2003, consisted of 3,000 rainbow trout averaging one-half pound each.

Anglers are reminded that to keep trout, they will need to obtain a trout stamp.

Channel Catfish

Excellent lakes for channel catfish are Big Swan Lake, Marion Lake, Betsy Lake and Swan Lake. If your looking for the total channel catfish angling experience, you would have to select the Minnesota River.

Fisheries assessment work done on the Minnesota indicates channel catfish are present in high numbers. There are also a few channel catfish being taken below the dam on the South Fork of the Crow River in Hutchinson.

Flathead Catfish

The Minnesota River has gained the reputation as the place to go for quality flathead catfish. DNR crews can attest to regular catches of 20 pound to 40 pound catfish.

There have also been a few in the 50 pound range. A fifty pound flathead catfish is quite a trophy angling opportunity. The new catfish regulation is an attempt to start to protect the trophy flathead catfish fishery in Minnesota.

Handgun league begins Wed.

Handgun league will begin Wednesday, May 7 at 5 p.m. at Waverly Gun Club and run every Wednesday for four weeks.

For more information call Russ Johnson at (763) 675-3527.

Outdoor notes

­ Spoonbill mania ­ this spring the number of waterfowl in our area has been considerably higher than in recent years.

I'm not sure why, but one thing I do know is that a lot of those ducks are spoonbills. Last week I took a short drive through the countryside and the 13 of the 15 ponds I drove by were full of spoonbills.

A drake spoonbill in full spring plumage is a very beautiful duck that looks somewhat like a drake mallard. The spoonbill is often referred to or called a false mallard.

­ The only walleye I touched on last years opening weekend was a nice two-pounder caught by my then four-year-old daughter, Abbi.

Now at the age of five, and with another summer of fishing under her belt, I wonder if she can catch another opening weekend lunker.

­ Get your dog checked for heartworm and on a heartworm preventative medication.

­ If conditions stay warm and dry this spring, pheasants should have an excellent nesting season.

­ The sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve Program begins today, May 5 and runs through Friday, May 30. Landowners wanting more information can contact Pheasants Forever at (651) 773-2000.

­ Take some time to get outside and enjoy spring. Very soon, spring will have already happened and we will be in the heat and bugs of summer.

­ Today, Monday, May 5, the sun will rise at 5:57 a.m. and set at 8:23 p.m. That's about 14 hours and 30 minutes of daylight.

­ Many excellent shore fishing opportunities exist in our area. They all provide the perfect place to take a kid fishing. Try the northwest shoreline on Swan Lake near the city of Silver Lake or the south shoreline of Howard lake.

­ Here's my top ten local spots for fishing on this years opener:

1. Winsted Lake. Great for northern pike and a hot spot for crappies. Great spot to fish in shallow water and stay out of the wind.

2. Collinwood. One of the top lakes in the area for consistent opening day walleye action. Good on windy clear days.

3. Lake Washington. Always a good opening day walleye lake because of shallow, warm water. Get there early, the crowds can be tough.

4. Stahls Lake. Great spot for fast action on small northern pike. Super place to take kids because the water is clear and you can actually see the northerns lurking along the weed lines.

5. Crow River north and south forks. Great potential for lunker northerns and a few walleyes. Fast current and higher water levels could make it tough to fish on the opener. Try a fathead minnow or nightcrawler on a floating jighead.

6. All the lakes in southern Wright County that got hammered by flooding last summer. No one fished them most of last summer and activity on them was slim this winter ­ they should be ready to go.

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