A dozen people, including some guides, face 80 game and fish violations as part of large bust conducted at Lake of the Woods last month by 40 Minnesota conservation officers.
The 12 defendants have been issued summonses for the violations, all misdemeanors, Department of Natural Resources officials said Thursday. Names of those charged weren't released.
The DNR announced the bust last month, saying the poaching investigation began last summer following tips that some anglers were “double-tripping” -- catching fish, leaving the lake, then returning and catching more than their limit.
Minnesota’s fish possession limit is just that: The total number of fish an angler can have in possession, whether in the freezer or on a stringer. And fish that are caught and eaten must be counted as part of a person’s possession limit the day of the catch.
Among the charges:
*23 citations for over- limit of walleyes.
*19 citations for packing fish without a packing license.
*10 citations for illegally transporting walleyes.
Other fishing charges included angling while license was revoked, unattended line, illegal length walleye, unlawful culling of walleye and transporting undressed walleyes from a special regulation lake.
Meanwhile, hunting violation charges included:
*Five citations for guiding bear hunters without a guide's license.
*Three citations for failing to register a bear bait station.
*Three citations for failing to display an ID on bear bait.
Other hunting violations included failing to register deer, transporting a loaded firearm, discharge a firearm from moving watercraft, illegal possession of waterfowl and unlawful gifting of waterfowl.
The fall catch-and-release trout season in all of southeastern Minnesota would be extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 15 if changes being considered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are adopted.
Other proposed changes include allowing catch-and-release angling on designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota state parks from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31 and extending the winter trout fishing season in some southeastern Minnesota streams to all designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota.
The proposed new rules and repeal of others will be adopted without a public hearing unless 25 signatures requesting one are received in writing by 4:30 p.mMarch 28.
The DNR says comments or questions on the proposed changes and written requests for a public hearing should be submitted to Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020.
Complete information on the proposed changes and formal notice of their pending adoption are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/input/rules/fisheries/se-mn-trout.html.
The DNR will hold public meetings in February to solicit public comments on southeastern Minnesota deer population goals.
The meetings are 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at Lake City Lincoln High School, and 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the St. Charles Elementary School auditorium.
The meetings are part of the DNR's reexamination of its deer density goals throughout the state. The DNR began reexamining deer density goals in 2012, and new goals have been established in 23 deer permit areas. This winter, the DNR is reexamining permit areas in much of southeastern Minnesota, and will soon select a stakeholder group from about 100 nominees.
Similar groups will be formed in other areas of the state, so deer densities statewide should be revised by the fall of 2016, officials say.
All of this comes at a time when some hunters are questioning the deer densities established by the DNR from 2005-2007, saying deer populations are too low in many areas. Last season produced the lowest deer harvest in 15 years — and a 17 percent decline since 2010.
Here's the DNR news release on the southeastern meetings:
DNR to hold public meetings on southeastern deer population goals
Deer populations and how to manage them in portions of southeastern Minnesota will be the topic of two Department of Natural Resources public meetings scheduled in February.
Population goals will be set for all 300-series permit areas with the exception of 338 and 339, which are just south and west of the Twin Cities metro area.
“This first step in the DNR’s goal-setting process is designed so citizens can express their views on deer numbers and issues associated with deer management,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “Whether your interests in deer management include hunting, wildlife viewing, natural resource management, deer damage or local business and economic impacts, it’s important that all viewpoints and factors be considered during the goal-setting process.”
The meetings are scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Lake City Lincoln High School, 300 S. Garden St., and from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the St. Charles Elementary School auditorium, 925 Church Ave.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 10, people may visit www.mndnr.gov/deer for more information and background on the goal-setting process. They also may provide input on the goal-setting process and deer management by completing an online questionnaire.
Written comments also can be mailed to: Leslie McInenly, DNR, Box 20, 500 Lafayette Road, Saint Paul, MN 55155.
Similar to past deer goal-setting processes, a citizen advisory team will be convened to provide direction on deer permit area population goals. Members of the advisory team – selected from a previous call to the public for nominations – will be announced later this month.
Prior to the first advisory team meeting, DNR staff will assemble comments from the upcoming public meetings, online questionnaire and mail. The advisory team will review the public comments as well as information on regional deer populations and management before making its recommendations. There will be additional opportunity for the public to comment on the advisory team’s recommendations before the DNR sets final deer population goals.
An early September teal season could be coming next fall for Minnesota duck hunters.
"There's a very high probability of having a teal season,'' said Steve Cordts, Department of Natural Resources waterfowl specialist.
Teal and a potential teal season were among the topics Saturday at the Minnesota Waterfowl Association's 17th annual Waterfowl Symposium in Bloomington, attended by about 100 people.
The bag limit likely would be six teal, and the DNR might ask to also allow one "mistake'' duck.
The DNR is expected to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize a September season, which has long been offered in other states. Federal officials probably won't decide until June.
Minnesota hasn't had a special teal season because it's a teal-production state.
But the continental blue-winged teal population has been at record highs recently at around 8 million to 9 million, and wildlife officials have said the population could sustain a higher harvest.
Though federal officials allow 16-day teal seasons elsewhere, Cordts said a Minnesota season likely would be nine days or less, and probably would begin the first weekend in September.
But if it comes, it will raise other issues, such as concern that a teal hunt would disturb other waterfowl before the regular season. Also an early teal season could kill Youth Waterfowl Day, which in Minnesota has been held two weekends before the regular opener.
"There's a possibility we'd drop it,'' Cordts said.
An early season also could conflict with wild rice harvesters, Cordts said.
Other topics at the Waterfowl Symposium included wild rice management, duck migration research using radar, waterfowl photography and duck decoy collecting.
The safe walleye harvest for Lake Mille Lacs this season will be just 60,000 pounds, the lowest ever, officials announced Friday.
To put that in perspective, in 2006 the safe walleye harvest was 600,000 pounds, the highest ever.
The Department of Natural Resources and tribal officials agreed to the ultra-low harvest because of concern over declining walleye numbers on the lake, long the state's most popular walleye fishery. What that 60,000-pound harvest quota means for fishing regulations when the season opens May 10 has yet to be determined.
The DNR said the regulations likely will be "similar'' to last year. The DNR will meet with the Mille Lacs advisory group before setting next season's regulations.
We'll have much more on our Sunday Outdoors pages. Here's the DNR news release:
Walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will likely see regulations similar to last year when the season opens May 10, based on the safe harvest level announced today by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The 2014 walleye safe harvest level is 60,000 pounds. Of this amount, 42,900 pounds is allocated to the state and 17,100 pounds is allocated to the eight Chippewa bands with 1837 Treaty harvest rights. These allocation amounts were recently agreed upon at a meeting of DNR and tribal natural resource leaders.
DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said a limited harvest under the existing restrictive harvest slot, combined with potential additional more restrictive regulations, will provide the needed protection to the lake’s struggling walleye population. Under existing regulations, anglers are able to keep walleye only between 18- and 20-inches. All others must be immediately released. The possession limit is two, with only one longer than 28 inches.
“Is the walleye population where we want it? Absolutely not,” Pereira said, “but restrictive harvest opportunities this year will not impair the lake’s ability to produce future generations of walleye. Mille Lacs has and always will be a great fishing destination.”
Pereira said the conservative allocations – the lowest since cooperative treaty management of the lake began in 1997 – reflect biologists’ deep concern about the lake’s recent inability to produce large crops of young walleye, despite adequate spawning stock and excellent production of young-of-the-year, fingerling-sized fish. The lake has not produced a strong year class of walleye since 2008.
The Mille Lacs safe harvest level has ranged from a high of 600,000 pounds in 2006 to this year’s low of 60,000 pounds. Actual harvests, however, have been very low in some previous years. In 2003, for example, state anglers took only 66,492 pounds of walleye and similar situations occurred in 2004 and 2008.
“We have not yet finalized size or bag limit regulations for the 2014 fishing season and won’t until we confer further with citizens later in February,” Pereira said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to seek answers to the perplexing problem of young walleye survival and will also open our entire fisheries management books to a newly formed “blue ribbon” panel of nationally recognized fisheries experts.”
Pereira said the agency is exploring new ways to engage citizens this year because it will seek input on harvest reduction options in addition to walleye slot length and bag limit regulations. These options, such as an extended night fishing ban, would help to ensure the walleye safe harvest level is not exceeded.
“Nothing has been decided other than we need to have this discussion with anglers and affected interests,” Pereira said. “We want to identify a variety of regulatory options because regulations are how we manage harvest.”
In contrast to walleye, northern pike continue to increase in abundance, with record catches of young fish in the last two assessments. The total harvest cap will be increased for the coming fishing season to 100,000 pounds with equal allocation between the state and the bands. The DNR will also explore expanded angling opportunities for both pike and smallmouth bass.
Pereira also said Brad Parsons, the DNR’s central Minnesota regional fisheries manager and a long-time research biologist, has been assigned to lead the DNR’s efforts to turn the Mille Lacs walleye population around as quickly as possible, while minimizing negative impacts to the local community and economy. “Brad is a strong leader who brings a fresh set of eyes to this effort, as well as extensive walleye research and management experience,” Pereira said.
Final 2014 Mille Lacs open water fishing regulations will be announced in March.
For more information about Mille Lacs Lake, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/millelacslake.