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image links to fishing guide jeff sundin Jeff Sundin February 19, 2021 Walleye Bag Limits "Linking the Link-Able"

image links to article about minnesota walleye bag limit reductionI know that Ringo Starr gets by with help from his friends, but these days, mine are doing a darn good job of helping me get by too!

On Thursday, I mentioned my search for some of the charts and statistical information that had been shared, at various times during the time that I served as a volunteer on the Walleye Advisory Committee.

More than a few of my friends helped me out by pointing to their specific locations on the internet and in the end, I wound up with almost enough information to crash the mainframe at IBM. Some of the publications that will interest a few of you are these:

There are still a couple of problems, one of them is tying the information together without writing a book. The second is that while many of them are highly comprehensive, well conducted studies, they’re getting a bit dated. Still, a discussion based on scientific data, dated or not, is better than forming opinions based on third party hearsay and internet chatter.   

Along the way, my search for clarity about whether the walleye bag limit reduction is a good idea or not, the door has been open for a lot of comments from anglers. Some have been good, others have been great and below, I’ve shared comments from most of folks who have given me permission to do so. Scroll down to read each of them individually.

One of the more extensive expressions of opinion, came in the form of a “social” media comment from Nate Blasing. In it, Blasing dresses me down, apparently for not properly or thoroughly thinking through my position in opposition of the bill to reduce Minnesota’s walleye bag limit.

Responding to his list of questions not only offers me an opportunity share my views, but also allows me to tie in links to some of the scientific data that supports them; so here goes.

On February 17, 2021 Nate Blasing wrote, “I represent the Walleye Alliance, Inc. and we have been working hard on this initiative. It is supposed to be something from anglers for anglers that we have heard concern for several years now relating to walleye populations from many anglers across the state.

I think we have been transparent in that the MN DNR does not have the data to show that going to a statewide 4 bag will do much for walleye populations overall. But it might, in some instances, and also is more of a social change at this point. That being said, let me pose a couple questions.”

Nate, before I get into each of your questions individually, let me start by saying thank you for your comments and thank you also for the opportunity to share some history with you and with our readers.

Like you, I have been concerned about the quality of Minnesota’s walleye fishery for long time. In fact, I was a charter member of the Walleye Advisory Committee which was formed in 2005. Among the first issues we addressed was a MN DNR proposal to reduce the walleye bag limits that was published in May of 2001. Yes, that’s right, 20 years ago.

The publication “Bag Limits in Minnesota: A Proposal for Change” endeavored to lay out a case for reducing walleye bag limits in Minnesota.
While the paper contains extensive information to support their assertion that bag limit reductions were needed, their motivation for making the change is spelled out by this language that appeared within its abstract.

"Recent research has indicated that creel limits are largely ineffective in regulating recreational fish harvest in Minnesota. Current creel limits give an unrealistic picture of the biological capabilities of Minnesota's fisheries and less than 5% of angler-trips culminate with the harvesting of a creel limit.

We present evidence that high creel limits may cause anglers to have unrealistic expectations of their potential harvest. When fishing success expectations are not met, the result is often dissatisfied anglers. We propose reducing creel limits to more appropriate levels by using a probability angling management strategy. These new limits would be based on past recreational harvest data from completed angler-trips.
Our goal is to select creel limits that more anglers could attain or come closer to attaining. Over time, we anticipate reduced creel limits would function more as an educational tool and may help anglers develop more realistic expectations of Minnesota's fisheries."

The message, as it appears to me, is that they were offering to lower the bar, making the goal of catching a limit of walleyes easier to attain, thereby relieving our distress about not being able to accomplish that goal. In other words, in their view, the effort to reduce walleye bag limits was a “social” one, and with their assistance, we would all be happier.

Fast forward to 2021, if my math is correct, approximately ALL of the walleyes that were alive and swimming at that time are now dead and gone. Somehow, despite all of our advances, we are still able to catch walleyes today. Amazing, how does that happen?

Since that time, efforts to tinker with the walleye bag limit have come and gone and I suspect that will not change. But in my view, these efforts are unnecessary because if the issue of preserving quality walleye fishing is a social one, then we should handle it “socially”, not through regulation. So with that, lets tackle your list of questions.

1) Do you have concern with the current fishing pressure many lakes in MN are seeing?

A) Yes, I’m concerned that the number of people participating in fishing and outdoor sports might go down! My concern stems from listening to anglers expressing their frustration about increasingly complicated regulation. Most folks want nothing more than to spend a fun day on the water, catch a few fish and be left alone. I like seeing a full parking lot my favorite bait shop because it makes me optimistic that they will stay in business and I will be able to buy bait in the future.

2) Do you feel the DNR creel data accurately reflects current winter fishing pressure/harvest? It used to be thought that winter harvest accounted for a minor portion of the yearly harvest other than some of the major lakes.

A) If there is any problem with DNR creel data, it is that we don’t provide them enough funding to conduct more of them. I have friends who gather creel data, and, in my opinion, they do an excellent job. I can’t think of any better way to gather the information and I believe that DNR Fisheries should be doing more creel surveys.

3) Do you think “zeebs’ (Zebra Mussels) are having an effect on fry stocking success?

A) This one is over my pay grade Nate. I really can’t find any scientific research that supports the assertion, and my personal experience is limited to less than 100 lakes in north central Minnesota. However, I have been advised by Region 2 fisheries staff at Grand Rapids that so far, Zebra Mussels have not reduced walleye recruitment on Lake Winnibigoshish. I realize that is only one example and also that Winnie is not a “fry stocked” lake.  But if productivity in that lake remains good, there are likely others that remain healthy as well.

4) Night fishing on many “zeebs” lakes appears to be getting very popular, do you think the DNR has accurate creel surveys that capture that harvest?

A) Again, I would love to see more creel surveys and my instinct is to say no, there probably is not enough data from a wide variety of lakes where night fishing is popular. But, I don’t see how a reduced bag limit on walleye will do anything to fix that. Night fishing can be good, but like fishing during the daytime, does not automatically guarantee an increased harvest. In fact, I could probably argue that releasing fish caught at night is more successful than releasing fish during the daytime.

5) Do you think if the DNR was able to be proactive with respect to the small pike issue in the state that lakes may be in a different situation rather than now trying to solve the problem that is already here?

A) In my view, the preservation of large pike does not relate to walleye bag limits in any shape, manner, or form. If by “being proactive” you mean preventing folks from harvesting large pike from lakes that already produced them, then yes. If we had not removed so many large pike from lakes that had the ability to produce them, then we would have fewer lakes where stunted populations of pike now exist.
There are, and always will be, certain lakes that simply do not provide habitat that will produce large pike. So, one size fits all regulation would not necessarily have been the answer to preserve large pike either. Social reform is and was what we need. If we were to convince all of our fellow anglers to eat little pike and release the big ones, we would see an impact and it would happen quickly.

6) Do you feel the DNR has accurate creel data that reflects guides catches versus the pubic?

A) I do not believe that they attempt to separate creel data based on the angler’s occupation or skill level. If what you’re getting at is that guides should have a “special” regulation, then you should pursue that.

I have expressed on numerous occasions that I already subject myself, voluntarily, to much more restrictive limits than what would be “legal”. I don’t see any reason to restrict the catch of one citizen to offset a greater catch of another one. Here’s where the “social” should really come into play. There’s nothing stopping us from raising our own bar. We, along with our fellow anglers who have the greatest access and availability could, and should, self-regulate.

7) Does the general public voice frustration with varying regs from lake to lake?

A) Yes, they absolutely do.

8) If the average person only catches 2 walleyes, why would this be of concern to them? But rather be of the concern for the folks that are able to catch a limit on a regular basis and likely taking a larger portion of the fish?

A) Statistically, it is true, most folks don’t even come close to catching their limit on a per day basis. But I have argued and will continue to argue that most folks simply want to have the opportunity to catch them. Anglers who travel long distances to fish in Minnesota may not catch a daily limit of fish on any given outing, but over the course of a week, may be able to accumulate a possession limit.

In the past, MN DNR Fisheries has expressed a Zero Tolerance Policy against having a split limit for walleyes. But if there was a single regulation that might actually serve to improve the overall quality of walleye fishing in Minnesota, it might be a 2 fish daily limit, combined with a 6 fish possession limit.

Blasing summed up his comments with this, "We are not trying to suppress any varying thoughts on the topic. Everyone's opinion on this is just as important as our groups so more power to varying thoughts. The DNR are the experts, I am relying on them constantly for data. Again, the concern in some instances is that by the time the data is there and can be acted on, it may be to late. Proactive vs reactive. Thanks."

These days, the term proactive could mean a lot of things, especially in government.

I suppose we could set up checkpoints and tell anybody that has a fishing pole that they have to go home because you never know, if we let them go the lake, they might catch too many fish.

Or maybe we should make them download an app that keeps track of how many fish they catch and whenever they reach an arbitrary threshold, the APP signals the GPS to return the boat to the landing.

Or what we could try is to treat the “social” issue with a “social” response. In the 1980s, getting folks to release fish voluntarily was easy. They were proud to do it because they were being trained to believe that it was helping to ensure a future filled with good fishing. Resorts, lodges and bait shops passed out special decals for anglers who released fish of certain sizes and anglers collected them like they were tournament trophies. I’d like to go back to that, I’d like to see all of us spend more time teaching and less time bickering about minutia, especially when the bickering won’t lead to the desired effect anyway.

Speaking of desired effects, I think that for now, I’m about done working on the walleye bag limit story. The legislation is already in the works anyway, so if you have strong feelings one way or another, the time has come to contact your legislators and let them know your thoughts. If you don't know who your representatives are, finding them is easy, just click this link for the Minnesota Legislature Website, here you'll find a fantastic interactive map that will locate them for you.

For me, it’s time to get back to fishing or least talking about fishing anyway. If you’re in the neighborhood and want to help me do that, then swing into the open house at Ray’s Marine in Grand Rapids. I’ll be in and out of there today, Friday 2-19-2021 and for most of the day on Saturday 2-20-2021, I hope to see you there! fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image reader comments Reader Comments Shared With Permission February 19, 2021 MN Walleye Bag Limits S.F. 12 Dave Heck

Dave Heck wrote, “After reading your post about the proposed limit reduction on walleye, I feel I need to share my two cents worth. My name is Dave Heck and I live near a small town in east central Iowa.  For most of us who live in Iowa walleye fishing wouldn't be considered a primary fish source. 

It doesn't mean there aren't walleye available to catch here because the DNR have done a great job of introducing them back into our streams and a few lakes.  I'm just not set up for river fishing It's why we make two trips to northern Minnesota each year. 

We spend a Pretty good chunk of dough on these trips and have even gotten a guide six times to help "train us" to catch walleye.  When you're on a fixed income it's not easy to do,  but we do it for the love of fishing and the friends we've created along the way. 

We could buy walleye in the store and save a ton of money if all we wanted was to eat walleye.  It's the North woods experience and the people we've come to call family that keep us coming back.  All that said, let me make it clear.  Two of the reasons we stopped going to Canada were the costs and the small limits we could return with.  Because we are multi-species fisherman and walleye aren't the only fish, we are targeting we have done well over the years to bring back quantities of fish that appease the fact that we are spending as much money as we do on these trips. 

Put another way we don't have the same opportunities a local fisherman has to go fishing at the drop of a hat.  If a local fisherman can fish multiple times in a year and take-home multiple quantities of fish then why should we as out-of-staters only be regulated to take home only four fish per trip.  I know two fish doesn't sound like much, but it does make a difference.  Besides there are other states that have some great walleye fishing in them also.  Just saying... Well, that's my two cents worth. Thanks for all you do and mean to fishing.” — Dave Heck

image reader comments Reader Comments Shared With Permission February 19, 2021 MN Walleye Bag Limits Gary Barnard

NOTE: This section actually includes 2 unique comments, each one arrived in its own seperate message. Both pertaining to specific portions of Jeff Sundin's follow up about Gary Barnards commentary about S.F. 12 from February 17, 2021. For reference, links to each individual section are provided.

On February 18, 2021 Gary Barnard (Reference Report 2-17-2021) wrote, "To be clear, I have no dispute with the projections of harvest saving, or that harvest saving may be more significant on some waters. What I do dispute is the automatic assumption that any harvest reduction realized would somehow "help" those walleye populations. That lack of understanding of how walleye populations function is troubling coming from professional fish managers, and very misleading to the angling public." — Gary

On February 18, 2021 Gary Barnard (Reference Report 2-18-2021) wrote, "Jeff, Good observation on Walleye slot limits, and pertinent to the ongoing bag limit discussion. Walleye slot limits are a very effective management tool where sound biological data confirms the NEED for improving or protecting spawning stock. They are also useful when there is demand to improve quality (size) in a fishery, as long as the significant trade off in walleye harvest opportunity is clearly understood and acceptable. Broad application of Walleye slot limits because they are popular, "might help the fishery", but with no defined objectives are poor management decisions." — Gary

image reader comments Reader Comments Shared With Permission February 19, 2021 MN Walleye Bag Limits S.F. 12 TR James

On February 18, 2021 TR James wrote, "Hi Jeff, thanks for the reply and your post today, linking Mr. Barnard's comments directed toward the Senate hearing. Interesting that it was not included in testimony along with others (Mr. Barnard's assertion) that were in opposition. I think Mr. Barnard's comments are very concise and instructive and based on a lifetime of professional experience, in part directed specifically toward walleye management. There is no evidence that he can present (from a biological standpoint) to support the measure.

A couple of highlights are worth restating: "When discussing the potential effects of harvest reduction, it is essential to understand the different types of Walleye populations we have in Minnesota, Natural reproduction lakes, Fry stocked lakes, and Fingerling (including yearling and adult) stocked lakes.

Unnecessarily lowering the statewide Walleye limit sends the wrong conservation message. It implies that Minnesota anglers are over harvesting Walleye populations when in most cases there is no evidence to support that.

The quote in your article from the Brainerd Area Fisheries Manager on the other hand, "A minority (of anglers) disagree with a reduction in the limit. This is primarily a social regulation change requested BY ANGLERS, that will do no harm (and) in many parts of the state, in some cases, may help; especially in the long run. What a refreshing situation where the Senate, House and Executive branches all support the bill. Let's get on board this train.", would appear to be a completely political statement.

From my viewpoint, the proposal is a classic case of directing a very blunt object at a problem that exists largely in the minds of a select group of people who must have something to gain from the change. It is not about the resource.

I have contacted both my State Representative and Senator and asked that they oppose the measure. Thanks again for the conversation." — TR

NOTE: At the time he wrote, both of James' state legislators had responded, but until we learn whether we have permission to share their responses, they will remain private.

image reader comments Reader Comments Shared With Permission February 19, 2021 MN Walleye Bag Limits S.F. 12 Shawn Wahlstrom

"Hi Jeff, I just read your article on the MN (walleye) bag limit and I've been thinking about this for a few years too. My thought is 3 or 4 fish daily limit but have 6 in possession, so the out of staters on vacation can still bring home a few meals.Just a thought. Hope to talk soon!" — Shawn Wahlstrom, Pine Grove Lodge"

image reader comments Reader Comments Shared With Permission February 19, 2021 MN Walleye Bag Limits S.F. 12 Alan Kershaw

"Hey Jeff, just wanted to put my two cents in on the walleye reduction topic. I live in the grand rapids area and am basically retired. I fish on average 2 to 4 times a week and practice selective harvest or catch and release almost 100% of the time. Reducing bag limits wouldn't affect me personally because of the amount of time I spend on the water. My thought is that a reduction wouldn't really affect our fisheries health. Most of the major walleye fisheries that get the most pressure already have special regulations.

I think the biggest problem we have is over harvest and wanton waste, especially in the winter. I have personally witnessed people keeping every walleye they catch no matter the size or how many. Also I have seen dozens of nice size pike laying on the ice that were just thrown under fish houses.

I don't want to just classify a group of people but with the wheel house boom the amount of pressure during winter on lakes like Red, LOTW, Mille Lacs and Winnie has sky rocketed and a certain amount of people are just harvesting everything. Bag limit and slot enforcement is difficult for conservation officers with wheel houses and permanent shelters. I think this is gonna be our biggest problem especially on lakes that get heavy pressure." — Alan Kershaw

image links to fishing guide jeff sundin Jeff Sundin February 18, 2021 Walleye Bag Limits "Following The Follow-Able"

Follow up on yesterday’s report about the legislative proposal to reduce Minnesota’s walleye bag limit is going to take a little while. That’s because somewhere in my piles of saved stocking reports, DNR meeting agendas and notebooks filled with jotted notes, are some facts. Facts, in this case, facts about average walleye angler catch rates in Minnesota. I know they’re out there though because I’ve seen them with my own eyes. I just can't put my fingers on them and I don’t want to start spewing information, relying only on my memory.

The reason I am searching high and low for facts about walleye catch rates, is because nobody else is doing it. Advocates for walleye bag limit reductions cite plenty of “social reasons” for making the change. But statistical information and biological facts are harder to come by than an autographed Virgil Ward fishing pole.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the discussion about walleye bag limits is even still alive. A month ago, according to everything I had read, passage of S.F. 12 “should have been” a foregone conclusion. The Walleye Alliance supports it, MN-Fish supports it, the DNR supports it, heck, even my own State Senator is a co-sponsor. It seems like the reader comment on the “social” page sums up the spirit of support for the measure, “if it’s good enough for Al, it’s good enough for me.

Okay, I get it, anglers who fish a lot, especially those who catch a lot, support reducing the walleye bag limit. It would be easy for me to jump on the band wagon too, I catch enough fish to be happy and I’d be fine with a 4 fish limit. But that doesn’t mean that this is the RIGHT thing to do.

The reason that the discussion began heating up is that certain people began inquiring as to the facts. How do we know that reducing the bag limit will help? Further, how do we know that it won’t make matters even worse? Unexpected consequences, that is what I’m afraid of and I think, for good reason.

I have been around the block a few times and in the past, I have supported other “popular” regulation changes. 20 years ago, I was out front and center in support of “protected slot size limits” for walleyes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, protecting more female fish so that they could re-produce more and allow all of us to enjoy even better fishing than we already had, who wouldn’t feel good about that?

While slot limits didn’t turn out to be a total disaster, they did not create walleye fishing Nirvana either. Sometimes they made fishing harder, especially for folks who were eager to gather a few fish for a meal. Looking back, I think that on balance, I was wrong to support slot limits and would take it back if I could.

That’s why I want to be more careful this time. Anyone can drum up anecdotal examples that support their singular point of view and we’re seeing a lot of that going on now. But laying out facts isn’t as easy, it takes time, but I’m working on it. Please check back tomorrow for a progress report. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

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image links to fishing guide jeff sundin Jeff Sundin February 17, 2021 Walleye Bag Limit Reduction "A Lively Discussion"

image of walleyes laid out on fillet table Recently I wrote about the legislative bill S.F. 12 which proposes to reduce Minnesota’s statewide walleye bag limits. See report February 11, 2021. At the time, I invited commentary about the proposal and did receive some mail, but there were fewer responses than you might expect. The good news is that folks who responded offered well thought out, insightful commentary, worth sharing here with you.

I fear that if I publish all of comments in their entirety, I’ll lose a lot of you; there’s simply so much reading that most folks won't finish it all. Still, I do want all the material to be available, so here are the highlights, along with links to full text versions for those of you who want to dig deeper.

It’s worth noting that which side of the issue anglers argued, depended on which medium their comments came from. Virtually 100% of the commentary from those in favor of reducing Minnesota's walleye limit came via the “social” media page where I posted links to the original article. Conversely, 100% of the anglers in opposition to the regulation change are those who took the extra time to write their comments and send them via email.

I’ll let you be the judge of what made that happen, but I think it’s interesting. I'll have to think about it for a while and I'll let you know if I develop any solid theories.

image of Dick SternbergOf the social comments from folks in favor of limit reductions, the most credible, in my opinion, came from MN DNR Brainerd Area Fisheries Manager Marc Bacigalupi who wrote, "A minority (of anglers) disagree with a reduction in the limit. This is primarily a social regulation change requested BY ANGLERS, that will do no harm (and) in many parts of the state, in some cases, may help; especially in the long run. What a refreshing situation where the Senate, House and Executive branches all support the bill. Let's get on board this train."

Larry Brown, East Peoria, IL wrote, "You couldn't have said it better in your response to the proposed (walleye bag limit) reductions. Thank you for speaking on behalf of the out-of-state fishermen who have limited access to Walleye's for harvesting. There are a lot of good, honest families who vacation in Minnesota each year that only want a chance to harvest a limit of Walleyes to take home and savor until the next vacation rolls around."

Adam (last name withheld) wrote, “For me, I’m indifferent, simply due to my skill set because 90% of my walleye fishing isn’t affected by a limit. If I were to vote, I’d vote to keep the (current) limit because I feel like the vast majority of walleye fisherman fall into my skill set and (share) my available timeframe to fish. I DO, however, ALWAYS keep a limit when I (visit) a fish factory. This is probably 1 to 3 times each year and usually, is a planned trip. I love eating fish and when I can provide a few meals I really appreciate the 6 fish for me and my family.”

Dale Schroeder wrote, “First, I fish often and rarely, if ever, keep more than a meal of fish of any species. My point is that I don’t see that lowering (or raising) the limit on walleye will make much difference to the average resident fisherman anyway. I think for most of us here, the main purpose of fishing is not to catch fish. We go fishing to spend time outdoors, connect with friends and family, and enjoy the resources we have here in Minnesota. And if we get to share a meal after the trip, that’s a bonus.

Second, if we look at the non-resident who takes a fishing vacation in Minnesota, the idea of being able to keep a reasonable quantity fish to take home is indeed attractive and totally understandable. But beyond fishing, they also purchase lodging, groceries, gas, meals, accessories, licenses, tackle, bait, etc, and inject a considerable amount of money into our economy. Even if we assume that the average non-resident will keep a limit of walleye, that seems to be a reasonable tradeoff.

I agree with the point you made about looking at the conservation issue on a lake-by-lake basis. If we need to adjust limits to support a particular species in a particular lake, then do it. We have some rather good scientists around that I’m sure can figure out how to deal with those issues when they arise.”

Retired MN DNR Bemidji Area Fisheries Manager Gary Barnard wrote, "Excellent article you wrote regarding the Walleye bag limit bill SF 12. It is worth noting that the UofM survey asked those questions without much context for anglers to provide an informed answer. It would be interesting to see the answers while providing the context that DNR data shows very little harvest reduction would result from the regulation change.

DNR predicts minimal harvest savings from the reduced bag limit, though there might be some effect on certain lakes during high catch rate periods. It's ironic that the regulation would reduce harvest opportunity on our very best, healthiest walleye populations that provide high catch rate walleye fisheries but would provide zero harvest reduction on mediocre and poor walleye fisheries.

image of walleye anglers on lake winnibigoshishBarnard offered testimony to legislators considering the bill, but it was not included. Barnard, “I provided written testimony (attached) prior to the Senate hearing yesterday but somehow it was not included. I am aware of other letters of opposition that did not make the hearing as well.

There is a lot of pressure on angling groups to support this bill as a conservation measure. I have been in contact with MOHA and Anglers for Habitat. I think both were leaning toward support until they received just a summary of the biological implications (attached).

Again, great to see some folks taking a closer look at this feel-good regulation proposal. “ — Gary Barnard

Barnard granted permission to share his work publicly and I would encourage you to read it. For those of you interested in the deep dive, sharing the information with your legislators may also be helpful. Here is a link to the downloadable, un-edited and complete testimony that would have been provided by Barnard. >> 02.09.2021-Gary-Barnard-Walleye-bag-limit-recommendations.

Discussion about reducing Minnesota's walleye bag limit is not new, news. In fact, I googled my own website and found an article about Minnesota’s effort to ration walleyes from way back in July 2017. You can read the entire article here >> Jeff Sundin Fishing Report July 14, 2017, but here are the bullet points.

During the 4 years that’s past, one thing has not changed, most anglers who fish Minnesota lakes do not catch their limit of walleye. Not only do they not catch 6, but most anglers don’t catch 4 walleyes either. In fact, the average walleye harvest per angler in Minnesota is below 2 fish, at least that was the average when I was on the “Walleye Advisory Committee” and had ready access to the statistical information.

Fishing supports businesses whose interests lay far beyond the obvious ones. Of course, resorts, bait shops and fishing guides benefit from good angler success. But revenue from fishing reaches into the bank accounts of folks who probably don’t even realize that it is fishing that helps them feed their own families.

Recently for example, we traveled to the Mayo Clinic for a week. I am fairly sure that the staff at our hotel had no idea that fishing paid for our room there, but it did. Multiply that effect by adding that to all of the other stops and appointments throughout the week and you may start to see my point.

Decisions taken about fishing by the MN DNR and the MN Legislature are not only of critical importance to folks who depend directly on fishing tourism for their livelihood. These decisions affect all Minnesotans, even ones who have never even picked up a fishing rod.

We all share concerns about how many fish leave our lakes vs. how many are left for seed. We all want anglers who visit Minnesota’s lakes to enjoy good fishing and we’d love to see them come back, over and over again.

So, why approach every fishing issue from the point of view that rationing is the only solution to every problem? In my view, we should look at fish as what they really are, a renewable resource, a commodity.

From my report July 14, 2017, “Let’s say that that Roy Anderson’s family has been driving all the way from Utah to Minnesota for 25 years. It’s expensive, they can barely afford it, but they love it here and they would never dream of going anywhere else.

One of the reasons that they come here, is because if they could catch them, they would be allowed to take home 6 Walleyes. Even though their vacation costs thousands of dollars, the promise of catching 6 measly fish makes them happy and they’re willing to come back every year, based solely on the promise that they may potentially bag a half dozen fish.

From my point of view, we should be bending over backward to assure folks like Roy and their families that the odds of catching fish are good and if they keep coming, they can continue to enjoy a couple of family fish fries each year."

Statically, a Walleye bag limit of 4 fish will not significantly impact the overall walleye harvest in Minnesota. Fisheries staff and angling insiders know this, but they want to feel good about showing us that they are "doing something." That is fine, but if something really does need to be done, then I'd prefer to get it right the first time. My suggestion is that we base our decision on science, let's apply real data to the situation and make choices that benefit everybody; then we won’t have to come back to “fix” the problem again later.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

Senate Bill SF 12 Minnesota Walleye Bag Limit Reduction Introduced January 7, 2021 — Jeff Sundin

image links to article about bill to reduce walleye bag limit in minnesota In recent years, support for reducing Minnesota's walleye bag limit has grown among Minnesota anglers. In fact, results of an informal FishRapper poll conducted last year, indicated that anglers in favor of reducing Minnesota's walleye possession limit could be upward of 75%.

This year, supporters of a bag limit reduction could be in luck, because Minnesota Senate Bill SF 12 would do just that. If passed, the bill will mandate the MN DNR to reduce the statewide walleye possession from 6, down to 4 walleyes.

The bill's author, MN Senator Carrie Ruud spoke with me about the proposal. “In the past, discussions about reducing walleye limits have centered more around the social aspects of the issue rather than statistical ones.” Ruud said. Anglers who have a high conservation ethic would naturally be supportive simply because they want to see populations of our state fish flourish.”

But these days, the Covid pandemic, among other things, have heightened interest in outdoor activities. Fishing license sales are at record levels and Minnesota’s lakes filling up with eager anglers. Today’s bill, in Ruud’s view is a protective one, a way to help preserve walleye populations in times of increasing demand on the resource.

image of Dick SternbergSenator Ruud introduced a similar bill in 2020. “The first bill was an uphill battle, Ruud said, without a co-author or a companion bill in the House of Representatives, I was on my own. So, we didn’t get much traction and discussions about the bill didn’t last long. This time, I think it will be different, support for the bill is broader. Senators Einhorn and Ingebrigtsen have both signed on and soon, there will be a companion bill introduced by Representative Rob Ecklund in the house.”

I spoke with representative Ecklund about the bill too. Ecklund’s preferred destination for walleye fishing is Rainy Lake, and that is where he spends most of his hours in a fishing boat.

Ecklund; “Rainy Lake has already had a 4 fish limit for a long time and the lake is more popular than ever. Minnesota’s statewide limit of 6 walleyes has been on the books since the 1950’s, well before advances in electronics have made catching fish so much easier than it was then and I think it’s time to address that”, Ecklund said.

Support from anglers and guide groups has been high according to Ecklund who fishes a lot but doesn’t feel the need to harvest a lot of walleyes.

Ecklund; “Some days we really get into the fish, but once we’ve got enough for a meal, I’m happy. So, even on good days when we could keep more fish, we seldom do. I have a hard time understanding anglers who feel the need to catch their limit every time they go out. But if that is what they need to do, then a reduction in the bag limit will help preserve at least a portion of the population.” Ecklund added that support from anglers and guide groups that he’s spoken with has been high.

The bill will apparently be supported by the MN DNR as well. In a note to members of the MN DNR Walleye Work Group, Minnesota’s DNR Fisheries Section Chief Brad Parsons wrote, “As you know, there has been a great deal of discussion over the last several years regarding the switch of the statewide walleye bag from 6 to 4.  Senator Carrie Ruud and Representative Rob Ecklund will be introducing a bill to that effect this session, and the Department intends to support it and work with the legislators moving forward.”

Whether or not reducing the walleye possession limit to 4 fish is “the best way” to preserve the resource is debatable. But with broad support, the road to passage of this legislation appears to be a smooth one. Unlike regulation changes initiated by the DNR, there is no public comment period for those passed through legislation. So, if SF12 is successful, the new regulation could become effective quickly.

Updates will be provided as they become available. — fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

Jeff Sundin is a full time fishing guide, outdoor writer, photographer and developer of custom web content. Sundin currently serves as a volunteer on the Panfish Workgroup, an advisory committee of the Minnesota DNR. Learn about guided fishing trips and more, click here "About Jeff Sundin".

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