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BDub

Changing fishing regs for Basswood

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BDub

Received the following long email from Ely area guide Sue Rosenwinkel. Please comment to the DNR.

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The Minnesota DNR is planning to change some fishing regulations which would negatively impact BASSWOODLAKE anglers:

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/reg_changes.html (the notice)

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/fisheries/rules2007.pdf (the proposed rules)

They want to make the season and limits for northern pike on all of Basswood the same as inland waters, which would reduce the limit on the border areas of the lake from the current 6 fish, to 3, and close the season after February until the general fishing opener, when it has been open year round in those areas. The 24" to 36" protected slot would remain the same.

There is a comment period through 4:30 pm, June 6, (mailed comments to be received by then) on these proposed rules, and if 25 people request it, a public hearing will be held on June 20. You do not have to attend; written comments can be submitted to be considered at the hearing. According to the official notice, requests for a hearing must be submitted in writing by June 6, including full name, address with zip code, and phone number, sent to Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR, 500 LaFayette Rd, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020. Comments on the rules can be sent to the above contact by email at Linda.Erickson-eastwood@state.mn.us. phone 651-259-5206. The proposed rules, comment procedures and Statement of Need and Reasonalbeness (SONAR) are available at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/fisheries/index.html.

The critical thing to do right away, is to send the letter requesting a hearing. Note that you don't have to include your reasons in the request for a hearing, just the portions of the rules you object to, and the changes you want made, if you don't have the time to compose something before the mailing deadling. The contact person, Ms. E.E., stated to me on the phone on Friday June 1, that she IS counting emailed requests for a hearing, if they contain name, address and phone no. I don't trust that, but if you miss the mailing deadline, it's worth a try. She also stated in the cover letter I received, that a phone number is required, though the official notice does not. (She told me on the phone that she wanted the phone numbers so that she could contact people to notify them of the hearing).

We should submit comments to the above email address, and it might be useful to CC them to the Commissioner of Natural Resources, Mark Holsten: Mark.Holsten@dnr.state.mn.us . It's apparent that Ms. E.E. does not want to accept or respond to public input on this matter, and the Commissioner should know that her department did not fairly and appropriately follow the rulemaking procedures, and misinformed the public.

Comments can also be sent directly to the Administrative Law Judge, Richard C. Luis, Office of Administrative Hearings, 100 Washington Square, Ste 1700, Mpls, MN 55401-2138, only AFTER it is determined that a hearing will be held. Those can be sent anytime until the close of the hearing record, and at least 5 days after the hearing. (Judge Luis (pronounced Lewis) told me that these shouldn't be sent to him until after the hearing (??) This was a bit unclear.) He also stated that the DNR had to present the comments received in their entirety at the hearing. I'm not sure that I would trust them, so I may send some directly to the Judge, as insurance.

The only rationale given in the proposed rules or the Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR) for the changes, is to reduce angler confusion and enforcement problems, and make the regulations consistent.

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/fisheries/SONAR2007.pdf

The most confusing thing to most fishermen would have to be the incorrect signs which have been posted at the boat landings and resorts on Moose lake since the slot limit was enacted. They state that the pike limit is 3 on Basswood. Period. No mention of the border area rules, when the regulation booklets and the actual Minnesota Rules have continued to differentiate those limits, and continuous season. Does the agency have so little respect for our rights that they don't even consider that we deserve correct information? With all the federal hoops folks have to jump through just to get to Basswood these days, they can certainly understand a few extra sentences in the fishing regs. And anyone who doesn't check the rulebook would assume that the rules were the same as inland waters.

And which lakes does the DNR want Basswood to be consistent with? Other border lakes? The pages and pages of experimental and special management waters in the regulation booklet? Increased complexity seems acceptable for more restrictive regulations. It's ok for Lake of the Woods, the St. Croix River, and the Mississippi to have different regulations for certain bays, and sections, but it's "too confusing" on Basswood?

Nothing in the proposed changes, the SONAR, or the recently released Lake Management Plan for Basswood (attached) indicates any biological necessity for reducing the pike limits or shortening the season. All it says about the Basswood regs is basically: "The proposed changes for border waters... are not expected to have a significant impact on anglers or associated businesses. Many of the changes are technical in nature. The changes should result in more common regulations and less confusion for

anglers."

The Management plan states that "Northern Pike numbers…have been very stable", in the top 25% for its lake class, and that the summer fishing pressure is "probably light to moderate". Probably? This seems to imply that the DNR has no recent analysis of angling pressure on Basswood. "Pursue regulation changes…" is mentioned under "Operational Plan" in the above document. "Recreation Use Survey", and "Creel Survey" show up down the page under "Potential Plan". The Plan included no reference to any existing, or past creel survey, or recreational use survey, or any other estimate of the actual pressure. Only speculative opinions by the author. And plans to possibly do such surveys after implementing more restricitve limits, and closing the late winter/early spring season . Cart before the horse. That's like a surgeon amputating a limb, and only later checking it for gangrene. I asked the Tower area Fisheries Supervisor, who initiated the slot limit, whether he had considered the fishing pressure on Basswood when deciding on size limits, and the answer was no. No? The severely limited access, resort closures, and increased restrictions by the Forest Service allow very few boats on the lake, and the number of anglers appears to have dropped dramatically over the last 5 years or so, as anyone who visits the lake regularly will attest. The DNR doesn't seem to have considered this fact. And the late winter-to early spring pressure would have to be insignificant. A few dogsleds and walk-in fishermen. 3 or 4 boats in early May? Certainly not enough to justify closing the season, when this is one of the very few angling opportunities we have left in March – early May.

The SONAR also describes how people were notified when they first proposed the changes in 2005. They sent direct Request for Comment notices only to selected groups and individuals. And only some of those were accompanied by cover letters with the details of the proposed changes, that the author thought would affect those individual entities. The text of the notice which was available to the GENERAL PUBLIC stated only "changes that would improve consistency of regulations, such as Basswood Lake border waters for northern pike...". This was what was sent out via the cybernews email service, what the general public on the snail mail list received, and what was posted in the State Register for March 14, 2005. No details. And the notice stated: "The DNR has not yet prepared a draft of the possible rule amendments ... and does not anticipate that a draft of the rules will be available before publication of the proposed rule." !!! NO MORE INFORMATION WAS AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC, AND NOTHING IN THE LEGAL NOTICE WAS SPECIFIC ENOUGH TO ALERT ANGLERS THAT THEY WOULD BE LOSING PRIVILEGES.

Only the cover letter, that I happened to get, since I had been involved in a resort business locally, gave the details: "Basswood Lake (Lake Co.) currently has two different regulations for northern pike. The DNR is proposing to adopt the experimental regulations and inland seasons for all Minnesota waters of Basswood Lake." and "...make the Canadian border waters northern pike limit the same as the inland limit for lakes not under experimental or special regulations. This change should simplify the rules and reduce angler confusion."

The SONAR exclaims: "Despite the extensive outreach done by the DNR, very little input was received regarding the proposed rule changes." Now they will use this engineered lack of objection to move ahead with their desired restrictions.

Some of the groups they contacted directly, by the way, include the Izaak Walton League, and the Sierra club. I'm sure the Friends of the Boundary waters got all the details about closing the season in late winter/early spring. I have a feeling that's what's really behind this. It's possible some individuals at the DNR are in bed with those eco-terrorists, who think that if they can keep 1 motorboat or dogsled out of the BWCA, they will go straight to Allah. The author of the Lake Management Report for Basswood, in describing winter activity on the lake, stated: "Snowmobiles are not allowed (but are often used) throughout Basswood Lake." I guess the author doesn't like snowmobiles. Probably doesn't think much of motorboats or dogsleds, either. Interesting that just a few weeks ago, Kevin Proescholdt, of the Izaak Walton League, formerly of the Friends, put out a news release with the same complaint.

When I contacted the author of the proposals, Ms. Erickson-Eastwood, back in 2005, to ask where I could get more details, I was directed back to the website: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/reg_changes.html

Again, nothing but: "Changes that would improve consistency of regulations, such as Basswood Lake border waters for northern pike..."

The current official Notice of Intent to Adopt Rules, which was AGAIN the only thing sent to folks via snail mail, the cybernews service or published in the State Register, is just as vague. It doesn't even mention Basswood, just "changes include ... Canada border fishing restrictions for walleye, northern pike and sturgeon." It directs people where to get a copy of the proposed rules, but contains nothing alarming enough to make someone want to wade through reams of documents to find out what rights they might be losing.

And once again, only the cover letter sent to selected groups and individuals contains the actual details.

When I pointed out the conflict between the signs at the public landings, and the rule books and actual Minnesota Rules, Ms. E.E. stated in an email to me on October 10, 2005: "The Basswood regulations are not new. The change being proposed in this rule package is technical in nature. As was stated earlier, this change is to clean up and clarify in the law that all MN waters of Basswood are the same northern pike regulation as (inland regulations and the special protected slot limit)."

ARE the same? Technical in nature? In 2005. Clean up and clarify? Why then, are they now proposing them as a change.? Apparently Ms. E.E. considers that the regulations ARE whatever the DNR WANTS them to be, regardless of due process.

Joe, Geiss, Tower Area Fisheries Supervisor, author of the original slot limit, wrote the following in an email dated April 4 of this year:

"However, although I included the change to inland season and bag limit for northern pike for all Minnesota waters of Basswood Lake along with 24-36" protected slot regulation at that time, the season and bag limit changes somehow were not carried through the rule adoption process for the northern pike protected slot regulations."

So, it seems the regulations never were changed, legally, despite Ms. E.E.'s statements. The legality of the proposed rules is one of the subjects we're allowed to comment on. Certainly it should be illegal to make false claims regarding the regulations, and post incorrect information signs in public places. Also, it ought to be illegal to discriminate by only SELECTIVELY informing the the public of proposed rule changes. And HIGHLY illegal to use one's office at the DNR to advance a personal agenda. Or is it just simple autocratic arrogance?

The severely restricted access (easily verified), and existing slot limit, coupled with declining fishing pressure, ought to be more than enough to achieve the stated desired result of a tropy pike fishery on Basswood. It's already a trophy pike fishery. And it's a simple quantitative concept that the total pike harvest equals the number of fish taken per angler, MULTIPLIED by the number of anglers. I guess math isn't required in DNR school, these days. It seems the DNR doesn't even HAVE a current estimate of the pressure on Basswood, or really care to measure it.

The SONAR states: "The primary purpose of the game and fish rules is to preserve ... desirable species ... while ensuring recreational and commercial opportunities for those who enjoy wildlife-related activities and continued use of these resources." These proposed changes accomplish neither.

Most anglers support regulations which are shown to be necessary to preserve the quality of fishing for ourselves and future generations. When there is science behind them. Perhaps there is another agenda involved in this issue.Perhaps we need a "Sportsman's Bill of Rights" to ensure that we have a right to keep all the hunting and fishing privileges we currently enjoy, until and unless the Agency shows a demonstrated biological need to forfeit them. We have to give up enough of our rights and privileges out of necessity; we can't afford to lose any to simple bureaucracy. Once lost, they're gone for all generations.

Perhaps some arguments that could be used to oppose the rule change would include:

1. The DNR did not follow the correct rulemaking procedure since

The public notification was discriminatory; no details were available

The public was illegally mislead by the incorrect signs into thinking the rules had already been changed, and thereby discouraged from commenting.

2. There was no need or reasonableness shown, and there is no biological necessity for the changes. If there was justification, it wasn't made available to the public.

The DNR didn't take into account the fishing pressure, either in the '02 proposal, or now, and the May - September use has declined dramatically.

The off-season pressure is minimal and couldn't significantly affect the pike population.

Failing any demonstrated need for the changes, we should make sure the DNR employees are not trying to promote personal agendas.

3. Other lakes/rivers have different rules for different bays/sections. (Lake of the Woods, the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers)

4. If they claim there was support in '02, they shouldn't use it as justification now.

The season/limit rule changes were never enacted into law; people who didn't comment then should have an equal voice now, and others may have changed their views.

5. Preserving anglers' privileges should take precedence over simplifying the regs for the benefit of the DNR.

I am hoping we can have some effect on the outcome of this process, because they're talking about changing the regs for the other border lakes, next.

- Sue Rosenwinkel

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BRULEDRIFTER

Oh NO, not more regulations!!! tongue.gif

I guess I don't see how this NEGATIVELY affects anything. Looks like something that will, in the long run, help the fishing on the lake. Less can be kept, and they need to be smaller ones. Sounds like it'll be trophy waters in the coming years. As far as interpreting the regulations, i guess I'll have to read them in the official print in the book to see if they're confusing, but I really don't think they will be. All one needs to do to interpret the regs is read them, and bring any questions to their local DNR office.

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Great Outdoors

This does negatively affect fishing on Basswood. It will mean that the walleye season will close in February, instead of April 14th like all other border water lakes, and northern fishing will not be opened year around. These regulation changes only affect a small part of the lake, so really do nothing as far as reproduction goes. This will also negate the business for sled dog guides that rely on this northern and walleye fishing for their late March and April customers. License sales to young residents has decreased so one would think the state would want to increase fishing opportunities, not decrease them.

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yukon

Just another way for the government to restrict activity in the boundary waters. (even though this is state)

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SledNeck

sounds like a good plan

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