Minnesota fishing license sales accelerated last week as the statewide outlook for ice-outs improved, but the Department of Natural Resources continued to report a shortfall in the sales compared to a year ago.

As of Monday, five days before the opening of the traditional fishing season, the DNR had sold 101,934 individual fishing licenses to state residents. That compares to 126,591 licenses sold last year at the same interval.

According to data compiled by licensing officials, the DNR sold 261,401 fishing licenses as of Monday. That compared with 314,475 total fishing licenses sold last year with five days to go before the opener. The year-to-year gap was larger with two weeks to go before the opener.

In Minnesota, fishing license sales continue to grow throughout the season. Last year, by the end of Labor Day weekend, more than 1 million fishing licenses were sold. It’s estimated that 400,000 children (license not required) also went fishing last year in Minnesota.

Watching whitetails

The DNR’s study of deer movements to fight chronic wasting disease (CWD) in southeastern Minnesota is underway with slightly fewer deer than intended.

DNR research scientist Chris Jennelle said Monday that the agency is now tracking 96 radio-collared whitetails in and around the Fillmore County disease management zone. The monitoring and mapping will help the agency identify potential pathways that CWD could travel.

The $450,000 research project sought to capture and collar 115 deer, mostly fawns. Aided by a specialized helicopter crew, 109 animals were captured to receive battery-powered tracking collars in late March.

Jennelle said a few captured deer were released without collars because the devices meant for them had faulty circuitry. Then, within the first week of monitoring, three deer shed their collars by kicking them off, he said. Since then, one deer died in an apparent vehicle collision, two others were killed by coyotes and one died of disease unrelated to CWD.

Leech Lake changes?

A proposal to allow anglers on Leech Lake more opportunity to keep walleyes starting in 2019 is being weighed by the DNR.

“We’ve met or exceeded all of our walleye management objectives on Leech Lake in large part due to very consistent production of young walleyes over the past 10 years,” said Doug Schultz, DNR area fisheries supervisor. “For this reason we will be discussing potential relaxation of walleye regulations and asking for public comments on a proposal immediately after our fall survey work wraps up this September.”

Anglers will see yellow signs at public water accesses around Leech Lake on Saturday notifying the public of the upcoming proposal. Details about a public comment period will be forthcoming.

The current regulation requires immediate release of all walleyes 20 to 26 inches long with a possession limit of four fish, one of which can be longer than 26 inches. Any potential change would be effective for the 2019 fishing season.