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Early fishing opener, wolf hunt and fee increases in doubt

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH
  • Star Tribune
  • April 18, 2012 - 6:45 AM

Chances that Minnesota's walleye season will be moved up a week stalled and perhaps died along with a hunting and fishing license increase Tuesday on the Minnesota Senate floor.

And a wolf hunting season next fall also is in jeopardy.

That's because a large game and fish bill that would address those and many other outdoors issues might die at the Legislature because of a political dispute between DFLers and Republicans.

"It's very possible at this point," said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, author of the bill. Ingebrigtsen offered an amendment to his bill, raising hunting and fishing license fees. The House passed a game and fish bill earlier that has no increases. A conference committee would have to resolve such differences.

License fees haven't been raised since 2001, and the state's Game and Fish Fund could go into the red by July 2013.

Under Ingebrigtsen's amendment, individual fishing licenses, now $17, would increase to $22. A small game license, now $19, would jump to $22. And a $26 deer license would increase to $30. Nonresident hunting and fishing license fees also would be increased.

Ingebrigtsen blamed election-year politics on Tuesday's actions, saying DFLers want to kill the game and fish bill to make Republicans, who are in the majority, look bad. "They want us to look like the do-nothing Legislature," he said.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, the Senate minority leader, spoke against Ingebrightsen's fee-increase amendment and said he would vote against it because the measure contains a provision killing the DNR's conservation fishing licenses. Those cheaper licenses allow anglers to take half-limits of fish. The DNR has proposed eliminating them because few are sold.

"We need to change the culture of what a successful day of fishing is," Bakk said on the Senate floor. "I think getting rid of it is a big mistake."

The amendment was defeated on a 39-27 vote, with only seven Democrats joining 20 Republicans who voted to support it. Ingebrigtsen then tabled the bill, and said later he's unsure if it will be resurrected.

"I'm not going to bring it forward without some support," he said.

Besides establishing a wolf hunting season, the bill also would tighten restrictions on the use of body-gripping traps, require publicly owned shooting ranges to provide public access for gun-safety classes, prohibit the state from regulating venison donated to food shelves and require hunters to pay $15 to participate in the state's new walk-in hunting access program.

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