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“We need something drastic to drive home that this is a huge problem,’’ he said.
Without such changes, Lilienthal said, “I don’t see any hope for anything but more smaller pike.’’
Pereira said he sees the irony in the current regulations.
“Historically, they reduced the [northern] bag limit to three, and we have a six-fish walleye limit. It seems like the inverse would make more sense.’’
But politically, such a change would be difficult, he said.
The DNR began working with angling groups more than 20 years ago to try to boost the average size of northerns in some lakes. Experimental regulations were introduced on some lakes in the early 2000s, and the agency adopted a long-range northern plan in 2008. The DNR limited the waters with special regulations to about 125.
Those special regulations, which usually involved a protected slot limit, usually succeeded in increasing the number of larger northerns.
But while many lake associations and anglers pushed for the special rules, other anglers and spearers objected to restricting their ability to take northerns.
Leaders of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association went to the Legislature in 2011 and succeeded in getting the number of lakes with special northern regulations capped at 100, forcing the DNR to remove regulations from about 19 lakes, and preventing the agency from adding any more lakes.
Lilienthal said his research clearly shows lakes with high densities of northerns have lower densities of walleyes, and he bluntly says the Legislature’s 2011 law was “a stab in the back for modern northern pike management.’’
Pereira said the law has handcuffed the DNR, preventing the agency from dropping special northern regulations on lakes where they don’t appear to be working, and preventing them from adding regulations to lakes where they might work.
Meanwhile, Vern Wagner, vice president of Anglers for Habitat, said his group plans to take the issue to the Legislature this year.
“We just feel this is something Minnesota anglers need to know about. It’s impacting our walleye-stocking efforts.’’
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org
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