New Fishing Regulations begin March 1st
There a couple of new fishing regulation changes coming to Lake of the Woods come March 1st. These changes are a result of the MN DNR working with a group of stakeholders and looking out for the betterment and sustainability of Lake of the Woods.
One of the fishing regulations change takes place on the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay. In the past, March 1st through April 14th, there was a two walleye limit with all fish having to be under 19.5 inches. Starting March 1, 2019, you can still fish for walleyes on the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay but the fishing is catch and release only. This change was implemented as the DNR does electroshocking in the spring and began to notice the lower percentages of mature male walleyes. It used to be the male walleyes made up over 50% of the total walleye catch. In past years, the percent of males was around 20%. The MN DNR believes the decline of these male walleyes is due to the slot limit of being able to keep only walleyes under 19.5 inches. In an effort to give the walleyes who choose the Rainy River as their spawning grounds the best chance of reproduction, the limits were changed.
Most anglers who drop a boat into the icy waters of the Rainy River in the spring are after big walleyes, numbers of walleyes and the chance to actually fish walleyes in the open water in March and April. The thought is most didn’t come to keep two fish per day, although, most normally did keep them when they caught them.iv
The second change has to do with ice fishing. Starting March 1, 2019, the winter limit of walleyes and saugers moves from a combined limit of 8 fish, with only 4 of those 8 being walleyes to the new regulation which is a combined limit of 6 fish, up to 4 being walleyes. This change basically takes off two saugers off of the daily limit for ice anglers. The reason? Again, sustainability of the resource.
The past two winters, Lake of the Woods has experienced over 2 million angling hours on the ice. With this kind of pressure, the DNR didn’t want to find out what the breaking point of saugers is, thus, by lowering the total catch by two, it greatly reduces the harvest over the course of the year enabling the resource to thrive.
Having a combined limit of 6 fish is a good amount of fish to harvest in a day and on Lake of the Woods, there is a good chance you will actually catch them.
Overall, response the the rule changes have been positive by the input received from the MN DNR. Like anything in life, there are a variety of opinions. The overall intent of the group was about sustainability of the fishery. Sure, there may be some folks who decide not to come to Lake of the Woods or the Rainy River due to some tweaks in fish limits, but the group believes a healthy fishery has to be first and foremost and the rest will follow.
The MN DNR keeps close tabs on the walleye and saugers in the system and believe it is very healthy. There are good numbers of different sized fish and the future looks bright.
Change isn’t easy. In today’s world with bigger boats and technology, wheelhouses you can live in and have a line down 24 hours per day and a variety of other trends in the fishing industry, it is important to change with the times to keep Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River world class fisheries.