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Steve Foss

Change the inland lake trout season!

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Steve Foss

Hi all:

I'm thinking about writing an opinion piece and submitting it to outdoors and editorial page editors at newspapers that cover the northern third of the state.

Currently, inland laker season is closed from the end of September until January, and then again from March until the May opener.

Biologically, there is no reason to close the season except during the spawn, so I could see it being closed from end September until the end of October or even into November a bit, but open at all other times. Socially, as with the spring walleye opener, winter laker opener up here in the arrowhead is a bit of a celebration, but it's on a very small scale compared with the walleye opener, and I don't know a single fan of inland lakers who feels there's a good reason not to be able to fish for them from first ice onward, all the way through ice breakup and into the open water season.

Now, certainly I'm not the first to think of this. I know it has been brought up a few times with legislators in the last couple of years, and that will continue to happen. In considering this, I first wanted to get as much feedback as possible from the great members and staff here at HSO/FM.

I'm not only interested in hearing from people who agree with me. There may be things I haven't considered, so I'd like to hear from anyone with an opinion.

Thanks for your time, everyone. grin.gif

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finnbay

Great Outdoors and I have talked about this a little. I'm no fish biologist and so am playing the devil's advocate on this. Aren't procreation and growth of lake trout relatively slow compared to other game species? If so (and please don't be afraid to educate me if I'm wrong) would there be a significant dent put into the population with the longer season, especially when they seem to feed most actively after ice up? Also, there are relatively few lake trout waters and would more pressure be put into those areas? Now, in all reality, I wouldn't mind getting an earlier start than presently is in place. Maybe open all trout the same time as lakes within the BWCA.

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Steve Foss

Thanks, Ken. You are correct on everything you said. It's one weak point in the argument. They dropped the limit from 3 to 2 a couple/three years ago, presumably for just that reason.

An expanded season could also involve slots or length limits to counteract the slow growth. The vast majority of traditional laker anglers are where pike anglers were 15 years ago — they keep even the medium and big fish. Smoking lake trout is a VERY long and deep tradition, and the bigger ones make the best smokers.

Keep the thoughts coming! grin.gif

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finnbay

Steve,

I'm sure there could be some formula for balancing the resource. In all reality, though you'd never know it by reading this forum lately, the lake trout fishing fraternity is relatively small compared to pike, walleye, bass and panfish club. And, most of the lake trout water is far enough back in the woods, I don't think the numbers of lake trout fishermen will grow much. The BWCA and Quetico are probably the biggest buffer for protecting the species even without additional changes!

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Capt.Blaine

In Canada the season opens in Jan. and stays open until the fall. It works for them!

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caseymcq

Steve -

It is funny you would bring this up. There is an article in this weeks Outdoor News about a recent report the DNR presented to legislators. The report covered the rationale behind the current trout seasons. The idea that they are more aggresive during the winter makes them more susceptible to overharvest. Add that to the fact that they are also found in shallower water and the chance for threatening the sustainability increases. Put a handful of guys with your talent for catching lakers(but possibly not your same ethics/respect/appreciation for the resource) on the ice for a greater duration and there is a serious threat to the population.

The lakes in the BWCAW are more remote (tougher to get to) so they don't see as much pressure thus decreasing the chance for overharvest. Canada has a lot more lake trout lakes than Minneosta (and bigger) so pressure would be spread out more, again decreasing the the chance for overharvest.

I am glad the DNR has recommended sticking with the current system. I appreciate winter trout fishing and definitely want to see management towards the side of protecting the resource considering what I have already mentioned and the fact that lake trout are relatively slow growing fish.

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Great Outdoors

Finnbay,

The season used to stay open, Jan 1st until Sept. 30th.

This ended for some unknown reason in the early 70's.

This proposed change is to make the openers and closing the same, whether inside or outside the BWCA, & would be for all trout species.

There are 226 trout lakes (lake and stream) in Lake, Cook, and St. Louis County.

The DNR's argument against (if they don't like the idea) will be that everyone will be on Burntside, Snowbank, and a few lakes on the Gunflint Trail, hammering the fish and depleting their numbers.

My argument would be that all fishermen (whatever the number may be) would be divided equally amongst all the 226 lakes, and there would be absolutely no pressure.

Both of us are full of bull...., and the truth lies somewhere in between.

The DNR is supposed to present their report to the legislature on or about February 1st, and they'll take it from there.

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Steve Foss

Casey, thanks for pointing out that report/article. I missed it. Makes good sense, mostly, though I think slots/length limits might have a mitigating effect on fishing pressure. And I thank you for your confidence in my abilities and my ethics. I'm as human as the next person, but must admit that for the last couple years I release anything over 3 pounds, and I release ALL unclipped (so probably native strain) lakers in Burntside. I'd even be for a plan that opens up the seasons completely year-around but makes part of that season C&R only.

Jim, you make some sense, too. And we're on the same basic side here, I think. I feel compelled to say, though, that just because it was done a certain way before the 70s doesn't mean it was the right way. We're all learning as we go, and that includes me, you and the DNR.

Keep the opinions coming, everyone. So far some really good thoughts in here.

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Great Outdoors

Steve,

I agree that just because it was done in the 70's, doesn't make it good.

However, Lake Superior is open from December 1st through September 30th on the Minnesota side, why the exception??.

There was no reason given to close the season in the 70's.

Mark Heywood, former DNR fisheries guy in Ely, along with former game warden, Art Gensmere traveled to St. Paul in the early 90's to try and have it re-opened as it was earlier.

Mark said there was absolutely no reason to close it in March.

Being as how he was the head of the Ely office, one can safely assume that he would be well aware of any studies that would harm the population if the longer season were allowed to return.

His quote to me after coming back from his futile attempt was, "They wouldn't give us the time of day. They would not even discuss it, period!!"

No slow growning, no danger to over fishing, no nothing, just NO.

This leads me to believe that it was a political move.

Too lengthy to discuss here, stop in the shop tomorrow and I can explain the prior events in more detail.

Anyone else in the area that is interested, stop in or call 218-365-4744.

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Big Country

Steve, you are a very honorable man. Releasing unclipped and anything over 3. I can respect that. But I feel the majority of fisherman don't walk the same path as you. I have heard many say that with Lakers, they want more, more, more. Money spent getting to the area (this does not affect you as you are there), time and effort to catch the elusive trout, all factors to consider the reasoning behind catch and keep everything. I personally feel that leaving it open longer would attract more interest thus leading to a reduction in the slow growing Laker community. Keep it as it is gets my vote. It's like the opening of deer season. A ritual that burns in the heart of every Laker fisherman. BC

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finnbay

Hey, Capt!

Don't know how much fishing the Canadian side gets off the end of the Gunflint after the U.S. side closes, but I know above Basswood and points north, the pressure is close to zero even with the season open. I've gone up that time of year and fished Burke, Sunday and North Bay of Basswood and have been by ourselves with little evidence of anyone else. We used to make an annual trip as soon as the ice would go off through Burke up to North Bay. Almost always by ourself. It is VERY difficult to do it legally with RBAC, licenses, Park fees etc and the Canadians watch it VERY closely that time of year. For all the trips we made I can only remember 1 or 2 where we didn't get a chance to talk to at least a Canadian warden and/or a Mountie. There were NO Canadians coming in from the north to fish this area. Chances under those conditions of being overfished are very slight.

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JustinG

Something else to keep in mind. There are ALOT of trout fisherman who are strictly stream trout fisherman. Alot of those guys fish strictly stream trout in designated trout lakes. There isn't a single reason for a closed season on a put-and-take fish population in a designated stream trout lake. Those fish were stocked for our enjoyment and do not reproduce anyways. I guess we could also bring that point up. I am one of the odd balls who enjoys fishing both streamers and lakers.

Another point to keep in mind is this: Ely is not the only area that has lake trout. Burntside and Snowbank aren't the only 2 lake trout lakes in Minnesota. There are lakes around Grand Marais and Grand Rapids also (Can't think of any more areas right now!) that attract laker fisherman. There are lake trout fisherman who strictly fish BWCA lakes. Lake Superior also attracts a crowd when it is safe to go out there. I don't believe over harvest would be an issue if the season was opened in mid December and stayed open all the way until October. You can't get out on deep laker type lakes until the end of December anyways and there isn't going to be a whole lot of people after the ice gets weak chasing them either. So, its a cosmetic thing for the most part anyways.

Keep in mind also that Snowbank and Burntside have been pretty dead during the week. You can have these lakes all to yourself Mon-Fri. How many fisherman go out there in January when it's -30 below?? I bet it wasn't busy anywhere this weekend because of the cold. How many people actually catch a fish out there anyways? Not too many. I do, but most people don't cool.gif (hehehe! comic relief!) Alot of days go by for most serious trout fisherman that they don't even get a hit all day. I don't even keep any I catch!!! I would be willing to bet there is way more catch and release going on than people expect.

Another point to keep in mind is this. Trout fisherman are pretty insane. You cannot believe how many trucks with sleds and wheelers and fishing equipment are heading north to places like Crow Lake and Lake of the Woods and other places in Ontario after the MN season is done. The sickest of all trout fisherman are going to get their fix someplace. When I go through the border stop in the Falls on my way to Kenora, most of the vehicles stopped there are all fisherman heading up there for lake trout. Alot of those dollars spent in Canada could be spent right here.

Other fishing towns in MN have a long and busy season catering to fisherman. Towns like Baudette, Waskish, Grand Rapids, Bemidji, etc. all have fisherman from first ice until late ice. Our ice season basically got started last weekend. Fisherman come to place likes Ely and Grand Marais for trout and nothing else. I haven't seen hardly any fisherman rolling into town loaded up with sled and fishhouse until last week. They go other places for Walleye and Crappie-people can argue with me on this, but they come here for trout. A litlle bit longer season is going to help local businesses out also. Look how busy our little town is going to be next weekend!!!

Justin

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Steve Foss

Good perspectives, Justin.

Lake Superior has entered into the discussion a couple times. I just want to make it clear that Lake Superior and inland laker lakes are quite different.

I was speaking specifically about inland lakes and seasons.

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Great Outdoors

Steve,

You are correct about Superior being a different lake, larger, more places for fish to retreat to, etc.

But Superior is governed by two sets of rules, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Commercial harvesting is also allowed.

There are also political reasons why Superior has the 12/1 thru 9/30 season.

You probably won't be fishing today in this balmy weather, so stop in and I can add a little info about the Superior stuff.

Coffee on about 8:30, or when ever I can drag my butt out the door, & into the cold car for the 20 minute ride:(

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Steve Foss

G.O., I'm not interested in changing Lake Superior regs, and it's not really part of the intended discussion. I'm heading out to fish pretty quick, actually. grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

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Surface Tension

Steve, sorry I'm not with you on this one and I'm actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. I think whats been said is contradictory and I don't agree with most of it.

Why did the DNR lower the limit from 3 to 2 Lake Trout? To lower the harvest numbers of Lake Trout.

The longer season you proposed contradicts what the DNR has done to reduce harvest.

You say you don't keep Lakers over 3 lbs. You also said you were for Quality Deer Management and will let the small bucks walk but didn't you shoot a spike this season? Lets just say that situations change as they present themselves and keep the thought open as to what we harvest.

Back to releasing 3 lbs and over. Why do you do this if you think the Lake Trout population is in good shape, good enough to expand the season.

Lake Trout have the potential to grow very large. For that reason I'm more apt to release those small trout and give them the chance to get to a respectable size. Then again its relative to what lake your on. Some Lake trout lakes just don't put out large Lakers. I wouldn't think twice about keeping a Laker that is a average representative to its waters.

Yes lake trout are slow growing, that growth is at is slowest in young trout. It takes longer for a Lake Trout to reach 3 lbs then it does to go from 3 to 6 lbs. At that larger size a trout is then able to forage on the heavy smelt population that B-Side has. At a young age that lake trout is competing with those smelt for forage. Once those young trout reach a certain size they are out of the woods as far as being preyed upon and stand a good chance of survival.

I guess my point is not so much about season length but more of

harvest size. I believe your wrong there when you put those that keep a quality size laker and release those small ones in a bad light. Personally I would rather see those small Lake Trout released to grow and get to what is a Lake Trout.

Slots and C&R seasons on Lake Trout. I'm in the mindset that fish are food. The day Lake Trout turn into a what Bass and Muskies have will be a sad day. At any rate I'll bite on the slot and C&R aspect. Taking fish out of deep water is a sure way of killing that fish when their air bladder expands with the pressure change. Lake Trout are able to cruise the entire water column and expel that air without the air bladder expanding. However the ability to do so while being fought on hook and line is hampered some. Lake Trout are notorious for bleeding easy around the gills. Even with careful handling it can't be helped and often the cause is from the hook. If that fish is out of a slot or in a C&R season then that fish is wasted. I'll liken this to the Lake Trout Opener. We released a lot of Lake Trout, all of which were in good shape. We did that because if we had gotten to the point that we had our limits the trip would have ended right then. We won't take that chance of having to release a trout that is damaged and also its morally and legally not right.

I'll end saying, if we can have a longer season without more regulations, reduced limits, and slots then I'm for it. From what the DNR has done in the past by lowering the limit I don't see how that can happen. Now I understand that you living close to Lake Trout waters could have a different perspective where the possession limit wouldn't matter as much as the guy that drives a couple hours. I can also see how someone that won't eat a fish could come in a propose C&R only.

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BRULEDRIFTER

I agree ST! Good take on it!

If there are any changes, all I'd like to see is the season extended a month in the winter. Close it the middle weekend in April. This gives some people an extended chance at fishing for trout, and will help towns like Ely and Grand Marais keep some more tourism during a really hard time to draw tourists in.

I also would hate to see lakers become like Muskies. I have good C&R ethics, and when you can only keep 2, you tend to be a little selective on what you harvest, especially when they're snapping!

Keep it simple!

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caseymcq

 Originally Posted By: Great Outdoors
However, Lake Superior is open from December 1st through September 30th on the Minnesota side, why the exception??.

It is an entirely different fishery. Huge expanse of water with a lot more fish and a lot more forage.

 Originally Posted By: Great Outdoors
But Superior is governed by two sets of rules, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Actually it is governed by four sets of rules: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario.

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caseymcq

 Originally Posted By: JustinG
Something else to keep in mind. There are ALOT of trout fisherman who are strictly stream trout fisherman. Alot of those guys fish strictly stream trout in designated trout lakes. There isn't a single reason for a closed season on a put-and-take fish population in a designated stream trout lake. Those fish were stocked for our enjoyment and do not reproduce anyways. I guess we could also bring that point up. I am one of the odd balls who enjoys fishing both streamers and lakers.

Good point Justin, I would tend to agree with you on this one. The only thing I can think of, which is really reaching for rationale it is just a wild idea that popped into my head, is to give enforcement officers an oportunity to do other things. The openwater stream trout season closes shortly before deer hunting. This way the CO's don't have to check honest fisherman, they can gear up for deer hunting enforcement and head out to look for bait stations, etc. Closing it in the spring maybe so they have time to store winter equipment and prep summer equipment. Like I said this is just a off the cuff idea I had.

I am also one of those odd balls that fishes both.

 Originally Posted By: JustinG
How many fisherman go out there in January when it's -30 below?? I bet it wasn't busy anywhere this weekend because of the cold.

I was suprised to see the number of people out on Snowbank yesterday (Saturday). There were even some nut jobs riding snowmobiles to fish out there.

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Surface Tension

The Streamer lakes as said are put and take.

However angler pressure on these lakes makes a night and day difference. If given the chance, those Trout can get of quality size. With that size, they as table fair increases. For that reason I see the closed seasons as an effective tool to reduce that pressure giving those trout a better chance to grow.

Typically, those lakes are small which increases their susceptibility to become over pressured so given all that I'm in favor of the current seasons. On some of these lakes you'll even find them closed to winter fishing.

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Capt.Blaine

 Quote:
If given the chance, those Trout can get of quality size.

A slot would let them grow to a good size.

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the angler

are you talking a slot size on stream trout captain?, the life expectancy of stream trout is about 3 to 5 years. no doubt that the trout opener yeilds the greatest harvest of them, they haven't seen a lure or anything 2 and half months. the seasons could be kept open longer even at least thru the end of the month.

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the angler

couple other things, the fish will grow depending on their food source. point in case the DNR stocked tofte lake every year with rainbows and splake nearly 4000 of each every year, rainbows had dominated the lake before that, during that period the splake popullation and sizes exploded resulting in state records , now its stocked bi annually with half the fish.

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JustinG

One other point to throw on the table: Fishing with a tip up and a cisco or a big minnow baited on it. I know that fishing with a set up like this is a pretty fast way to mortally hook a trout. Think about how a trout runs and swallows this kind of bait. They will pick it up, make a run with it, then stop and turn that cisco with their mouth and swallow it head first. Any good trout fisherman will wait for the line to stop on their tip up and then resume running again before setting the hook. The second time they start moving again, they have it swallowed all the way in and you've got 'em. How many of those fish are bleeding like a stuck pig on the ice? Mostly all of them. Typically jig fishing without a stinger hook attached will result in the fish getting hooked in the roof of their mouth and there is little blood loss with a single hook. I don't know what the mortality rate is comparatively, but I got to believe a lip hooked trout is going to survive alot easier than one that is hooked deep. Its just a thought for the C&R fisherman.

Justin

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finnbay

Very true, Justin. Especially in the old days when we used to string ciscoes, the only way you would catch them was to let them run until next Tuesday. Quickstrikes help that if the fisherman pays attention to their rigs. When we started using those we were able to hook about half in the mouth without the hooks getting to the gills or below. Still, that's only half. Was talking to a Canadian warden one time while being checked in the Quetico and asked what type of lures he used and why. Also asked what to do with a gut hooked trout if it needed to be released. Ontario had done a study with that and found that if a gut hooked trout had the leader cut without an attempt to remove it, the fish had about a 30% chance of survival. That's not to take in Surface Tensions earlier discussion on bringing trout in from great depth - another mortality factor. Trout in general are more at risk of mortality any time they're caught.

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