I know this may seem like a long post but well worth the reading, as it effects all of us, tournament anglers or not tournament anglers. Some of you may not even be aware of this.
The Minnesota DNR is sticking hard to its NO-CULL rule change. This will mean a hard battle ahead. We need everyone to write, call or fax them with our opposition. And to contact your State Legislators. This needs to be done now!!
Minnesota Bass Federation opposes DNR rule change
The Minnesota DNR fisheries staff is proposing a State wide, all-species no-cull rule. This new rule is being proposed as a response to last season’s high walleye hook mortality rate on Lake Mille Lacs. Last year, the DNR changed the “slot” rules, causing a large majority of the fish to be released. As the walleye is a very fragile fish and is highly susceptible to hook mortality, this unusually high number of released fish resulted in a large number dead fish (estimated to be more than 100,000 lbs.). The sight of thousands of dead walleye washing up on the shores of Mille Lacs has led to a ground swell of adverse public reaction. The DNR’s answer to this localized Mille Lacs problem appears to be placing a “no-cull” rule on all species of fish, state wide.
Culling or High grading is generally understood as replacing a fish with a larger fish once the angler has reached the set daily bag limit (for tournaments, one less than the daily bag limit).
This “no-cull” rule is acknowledged by the DNR to be unenforceable, except for tournaments, and will probably be ignored by the public. The irony of this is, tournament anglers are trained and equipped to ensure the fish’s survivability and have long been leaders in the development and implementation of techniques to keep fish alive over extended periods of time. In fact, the Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society (B.A.S.S.) pioneered the concept of catch-and-release and is primarily responsible for the nation-wide acceptance of this practice for all species of fish. Nowadays, all tournament boats are equipped with modern equipment such as oxygenating and water re-circulating systems to keep fish alive for long periods of time. Special chemical additives are used in the live wells to help heal any wounds and to assist in the fish’s speedy rejuvenation. These measures are taken because if a fish dies in the angler’s possession, major penalty points are assessed which effectively eliminates them from the competition. In short, tournament anglers are not the problem here.
Another point that doesn’t make sense is the fact that walleye, muskie, panfish and bass are very different fish when it comes to hook mortality. Where walleyes and panfish are fragile, bass and muskies are extremely durable fish and documented records show hook mortality rates for bass tournaments to be less than 2%, especially in the cool water conditions of Northern states such as Minnesota. This could be reduced even more if the DNR would allow bass tournament organizers to use live release boats and more selective bass distribution sites after tournaments.
In Minnesota we are blessed with a robust Bass population. By the DNR’s own admission, the bass population in our State is very healthy. In fact, there are those in this State (and across the Nation) that feel that catch-and-release for bass has become too widespread and the fish population would benefit from anglers keeping some of the smaller bass for the table. The bottom line is this: there are no scientific reasons to limit or restrict bass fishing beyond the current guidelines.
With all this in mind, why are bass included in this “cover all” rule.
For some reason, bass tournament anglers in Minnesota are perceived in a less-than-positive light than their counterparts in other parts of the country. For the past few years, the Minnesota DNR appears to be doing everything they can to stifle tournaments and discourage organized bass fishing in this State. This is very curious because in the Southern States where bass is the prime angling target, tournaments are viewed as a major sporting event and are highly sought out by the local communities. The economic benefit is well known and welcomed throughout the region, just as with other major sporting events. A recent survey of bass anglers in Minnesota showed that the average amateur week-end bass angler spends almost $5,500 in support of his/her sport each year. This same survey documented that the mere 550 members of the Minnesota B.A.S. S. Federation alone contributed nearly 4 million dollars to the Minnesota economy during 2001. From another angle, a typical 2-day amateur tournament with 100 boats nets the local community about $140,000 in added spending by the contestants. A “professional” tournament of the same size can be expected to contribute at least twice that. All this is a product of a sporting event that releases the fish back to the water, unhurt, and ready for the next angler to enjoy.
There are 1.6 million registered anglers in Minnesota. This group’s financial contribution to the State supports more jobs than does 3M (40,840 vs. 32,000). Together we spent 2.17 billion in 2001 on outdoor activities in this State. This has a net ripple benefit effect of 4.18 billion to the Minnesota economy. This should give us anglers a voice in how our resources are managed.
The Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation believes that our natural resources should be managed based on sound research and good scientific management principles. Setting “feel good” rules without doing the proper homework does nothing except alienate the population supporting this activity. If a rule change is needed to protect the resource and is backed up by sound scientific research and management principles, we will support it enthusiastically. We will not, however, support rule changes that restrict the rights of anglers if they are based on purely political motives. Instituting a “no-cull” rule for bass in Minnesota is a prime example of a rule without scientific basis. Recently South Dakota exempted B.A.S.S. and other “permitted” tournaments from the no-cull (high grading) rule.
The Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation is not alone in its views of the political system in this State. In 2002, the Game and Fish Oversight Committee said: “The Fisheries research division largely works in the dark, without stakeholder input or in many cases knowledge. This lack of information flow can and often does generate mistrust between Fisheries and its’ stakeholders.”
Minnesota anglers need to speak up about the proposed “no-cull” rule. We need to let the our policy makers, State Legislators, and other State officials know that walleye mortality on Mille Lacs will not be affected by crippling bass,walleye, muskie or panfish tournaments or by weakening fishing in the rest of Minnesota. The only thing that will happen is the economy will suffer and the rift between the DNR and Minnesota anglers will widen.
Comments on this proposed no-cull rule can be sent to:
Fisheries Program Manager
Minnesota DNR – Section of Fisheries
500 Lafayette, Box 12
St Paul, MN 55155-4012
email = [email protected]
phone = 651-296-0791
fax = 651-297-4916