The new northern pike fishing regulations, which were announced recently and go into effect on the May 12 fishing opener, have three distinct zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Each of the zones – north-central, northeast and south – provide protection for different sizes of pike, and there are reasons for those differences.
“We’re continuing to let anglers know there are new pike regulations for those who want to keep pike on inland waters,” said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR northeast region fisheries manager. “We also want to share the thinking behind the new regulations.”
The north-central zone is the largest of the three zones, and here the possession limit is 10 northern pike, but only two can be longer than 26 inches; and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released.
“We’re responding to angler concerns about the over-abundance of small, or hammer-handle, pike in the north-central zone,” Kavanaugh said.
Through anglers keeping small fish but protecting the 22 to 26 inch pike, the objective in the north-central zone is to both reduce the abundance of small pike and allow medium size pike to grow larger.
The advantages of growing larger pike are twofold. While protected these medium size pike will eat small pike, helping reduce abundance of small pike. And when they eventually grow out of the protected size range they will be a more desirable size for keeping.
In the southern zone, where reproduction is limited, the regulation intends to increase pike abundance while also improving the size of fish harvested.
Anglers in the southern zone can keep two fish, but the minimum size is 24 inches.
“The management issue in the southern zone is the opposite of what’s happening in the north-central zone,” Kavanaugh said. “With low reproduction, stocking is often necessary to provide a pike fishery in the south. Here we want to protect young pike and give them a chance to grow.”
Growth rates are much faster in these southern lakes so most will reach the 24 inch keeper size in a few years.
In the northeastern zone, pike reproduction is good but these lakes do not have the high density problems of the north-central zone since they still have a nice balance of medium to large pike. Here, it makes sense to provide protection for large pike while they still exist.
“The trophy pike of the Arrowhead Region have definitely made some great stories and photos over the decades,” Kavanaugh said. “But these fish grow slowly in the cold water and if too many anglers keep trophy pike here, they’ll be gone.”
In the northeastern zone, anglers can keep two pike but must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession.
Anglers who want to keep pike will need to be prepared to measure them. Those planning to take advantage of the expanded bag limit on small pike should familiarize themselves with the extra cuts it takes to fillet the fish.
New pike regulations do not affect border water fishing regulations or special regulations that cover individual lakes, rivers and streams.
Darkhouse spearing regulations for pike differ slightly and those regulations are listed in the spearing section of the regulations booklet.
For more information on the new zone regulations visit mndnr.gov/pike or contact a local area fisheries office. Contact information can be found at mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries or in the printed fishing regulations booklet.