DNR seeks input on walleye and smallmouth bass regulation proposals in Itasca County

Anglers and others interested in fisheries management are invited to attend three public open-house meetings hosted by the Department of Natural Resources to provide input on fishing regulation changes proposed for lakes in Itasca County.

The first open-house meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the Big Fork City Hall, 200 Main Ave., Bigfork.

The second open-house meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 6-8 p.m. in the training room at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) at 402 11th St. SE, Grand Rapids.

Those unable to attend a local input meeting may participate in an open-house meeting Sept. 25, from 6-8 p.m. at the DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul. Attendees at the St. Paul meeting will be able to learn about potential special regulations changes on waterbodies throughout the state.

The 17 to 26 inch protected slot limit walleye regulations are being reviewed on several lakes in the Grand Rapids area. In addition, the protected slot limit for smallmouth bass on Turtle Lake is also being reviewed. These regulations may be extended, modified, or dropped following public input in the fall of 2019.

According to Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids Area fisheries supervisor, “These lakes have been managed with a 17 to 26 inch protected slot limit for over a decade. Since that time, new regulation options have been developed that could allow more harvest, while protecting quality fishing in these lakes. In some cases, a special regulation may no longer be needed at all.”

The DNR proposes the following changes based on fish survey information: Deer (near Effie), Trout (near Coleraine), and Swan (near Pengilly) lakes are primarily maintained by walleye fry stocking and protection of spawning fish is less of a concern. The DNR is proposing that the 17 to 26 inch protected slot limit regulation be dropped in favor of the statewide limit (6 fish with one over 20 inches). The DNR is also seeking input on a 20 to 24 inch protected slot limit on these lakes.

On Moose (near Deer River) and Split Hand lakes (near Grand Rapids), the DNR recommends modifying the regulation to a 20 to 24 inch protected slot limit. Moose and Split Hand have the potential for good natural reproduction and the modified limit would allow some additional harvest while protecting important spawning age fish.

Turtle Lake has a long history of producing quality smallmouth bass. A special 12 to 20 inch protected slot limit with one over 20 inches regulation was implemented in 2006 to protect size quality. The DNR proposes changing the regulation to a 14 to 20 inch protected slot limit.

“When the regulation was first proposed and implemented in 2006, the 12 to 20 inch protected slot limit was the only tool box regulation for bass. Since then, other options have been developed, including a 14 to 20 inch slot limit with one over 20 inches, which is typically favored for bass fisheries with good reproduction. The abundance of bass between 12 and 14 inches on Turtle Lake represents a harvestable surplus that may be utilized by anglers without compromising overall size quality,” Weitzel said.

The public comment period began in May and will end Nov. 9.

“Hearing from the public during the comment period and at the meetings is extremely important to us, so that we can make the best decision regarding special regulations on all of these lakes,” Weitzel said.

The meetings are intended to share information and provide an opportunity to ask questions before comments are submitted. Questions and comments can be made at any time during the comment period. The comments will be reviewed and a decision on implementation will be made in December. If implemented, the regulations would become effective at the beginning of the 2020 fishing season.

More information is available by contacting the Grand Rapids Area Fisheries office at 218-328-8836 and on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/grandrapids/index.html.

Comments on the lakes in Itasca County may be directed to Dave Weitzel, DNR area fisheries, 1201 E. Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 or david.weitzel@state.mn.us. Written comments will be accepted until Nov. 9.