DNR Lake of the Woods Fisheries Management Plan Update
Lake of the Woods has a new draft fisheries management plan and the Department of Natural Resources is seeking input on it beginning Monday, June 11.
The DNR fisheries management plan outlines the proposed five-year fish population objectives and fisheries management actions. It incorporates the recommendations of the 14-member Lake of the Woods Fisheries Input Group, which has met five times since December 2017.
“Fishing on Lake of the Woods is very important to the communities of Baudette and Warroad, as well as surrounding areas,” said Phil Talmage, Baudette area fisheries supervisor. “The diverse Lake of the Woods fishery is also a significant statewide resource that all Minnesotans can enjoy.”
Members from the input group added great value to the content of the management plan. Long-term sustainability was at the forefront of the group’s discussion. Input group members were concerned about the growth in winter angling pressure on Lake of the Woods and encouraged the DNR to continue to support the creel surveys in order to monitor fishing pressure over time.
In a nutshell, there are two proposed changes.
- Spring Fishing. For the spring fishing season on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River that lasts each year from March 1 – April 14th, the current limit for walleyes / saugers is a combined limit of two fish under 19.5″. The proposed regulation will call for simply catch and release only, eliminating the ability to keep two fish. The reason is during the electrofishing that happens during the spawn, the DNR is seeing fewer and fewer male walleyes. As the only fish allowed to be kept during the spring fishing are under 19.5″, a good population of these fish are mature male walleyes. Hence, the change increases the chances for successful spawning activity. In addition, it is noted through surveys, most anglers fish the spring season for the chance at catching big walleyes, tradition of the spring season, potential numbers of fish and the opportunity to get their boats in the water for the first time.
- Winter Fishing. The second proposed regulation change has to do with the winter fishing. Currently, the winter regulation for walleyes and saugers is a combined limit of 8 fish, in which up to 4 may be walleyes. Any fish within 19.5 – 28″ must be released. One fish per day over 28″ may be kept. The proposed regulation will change the winter regulation to the same as the open water regulation for the lake, which is a combined limit of 6 fish, in which up to 4 may be walleyes. Any fish within 19.5 – 28″ must be released. One fish per day over 28″ may be kept. The reason for the change has to do with monitoring the estimated population of saugers in the lake vs the results from creel surveys which take into account estimated harvest levels and hours fished. The sauger population is healthy and holding it’s own, but with 2 million angling hours this past winter season as well as the year before, this is an effort to stay ahead of the curve to ensure continued healthy sauger numbers.
The input group also expressed concerns about system change from things like invasive species. They recommended that the DNR continue to study the potential impact of invasive species on the sustainability of the Lake of the Woods fishery.
The lake has thriving walleye, sauger, and lake sturgeon populations, making it one of the premier fishing destinations in Minnesota.
Other regulations and direction in the MN DNR Fisheries management plan included…
-Conduct survey of Lake Sturgeon tag purchasers to determine if the regulation of allowing lake sturgeon over 75 inches is desirable or if the state’s new Catch and Release Record program replaces that need.
-Addressing the current regulation of “quick strike rigs” to allow rigs up to 18″ to be acceptable.
The theme of the discussions around the Lake of the Woods fishery was around sustainability. Everyone agrees, this is a wonderful natural resource and preserving it is key. This input group was put together at a time when things are going well and the lake is very healthy. The proposed regulations are meant to stay ahead of any potential curves and keep it that way.
Public comments will be accepted through Monday, July 11, and online at mndnr.gov/lakeofthewoods. Paper questionnaires also are available at the DNR’s Baudette Area Fisheries Office, 204 Main St. East in Baudette. Comments will be reviewed and considered in July and August. The final Lake of the Woods management plan will be completed in September.
For more information on the Lake of the Woods draft DNR Fisheries management plan and the public input process, contact the DNR’s Baudette Area Fisheries Office, 218-634-2522.