The biggest change to fishing regulations in Minnesota this season comes to the most popular walleye lake: Mille Lacs.
Walleye regulations are being tightened there to prevent overharvest. Anglers will have to release fish 17 to 28 inches. In recent years, the protected slot was 18 to 28 inches. One fish over 28 is allowed in the four-walleye bag limit. The slot is being tightened to ensure the state doesn't exceed its allocation of 357,000 pounds. The tribal allocation is 142,500 pounds.
The protected slot limit for Lake Vermilion walleyes has been relaxed, meaning anglers will have a better chance of keeping fish for the fry pan. Walleyes 18 to 26 inches must be released. Previously, the slot was 17 to 26 inches. One fish over 26 inches is allowed in the four-fish possession limit.
Regulations also have been changed on a half-dozen other lakes, and special northern pike regulations have been dropped on 21 lakes, all detailed in the 2012 DNR fishing regulation booklet.
Other "new regulations'' listed in the booklet include clarifications and some simply new to the booklet. Here's the scoop:
Hook use clarified
Anglers may use up to three single or treble hooks on a line used as a single piece of tackle. Total length must be 9 inches or less. The rule change makes it clear that multi-hook crawler harnesses are legal.
"We haven't cited people for using crawler harnesses in the past, but with this change it's clear now they can use them,'' said the DNR's Al Stevens.
So-called "stinger hooks'' also are legal. The changes mean an angler can use a lone treble hook, too, something that hadn't been allowed. So-called Alabama or umbrella rigs still are illegal.
When fish are cleaned and eaten on the ice or in a boat docked or moored to shore, the carcass of a fish with special size limits must be retained until the fish is consumed so conservation officers can ensure the fish met the special size limits. (The law has been in effect on Upper Red Lake.) And, of course, any fish that are eaten for shore lunch must be counted in the daily bag.
• It's unlawful to take fish by snagging or noodling (by hand). That's long been the law, but officials added it to the synopsis.
• Drain plugs must be removed from bilges and live wells while boats are being transported. The plugs had to be removed last year, but this year it was clarified that they must remain removed while being transported.
• If you want to keep bait, you must exchange water in bait buckets with tap or bottled water before leaving a lake to prevent spread of invasive species or diseases. That law also was in place last year for infested waters only but is now required for all waters.