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Our States Perch Controversy
January 3, 2000
by Rick Paquin

I just read a story about two men going up to Lake Winnibigoshish (Winnie) and limiting out on perch from 9 to 12 inches. Those are respectable perch in most anglers books.

The problem comes in with the daily and possession limit, which is currently at 100 perch for both. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing a 20-fish daily limit with 30 in possession for this spring.

I talked with many resort owners around Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Mille Lacs lakes.

Perch by Backwater EddyPerch by Backwater Eddy
There appears to be a consensus that the proposed limit is due to the amount of perch being taken out of Winnie. Yes, Winnie is a perch factory.

The question is - are we having a problem on Winnie alone, or is it really a statewide problem? If it's a statewide problem, where does the DNR get their proposed limit from? A cut of 80 percent on the daily limit and 70 percent on the possession limit deserves some very convincing answers from the Minnesota DNR. An emotional 'save our fish' cry doesn't cut it. We want to know the facts behind this proposal.

Mille Lacs Lake has been hit with regulation after regulation to manage that fishery. With the initial turmoil about negative affects to business on that lake, it would now appear all is well and healthy on Mille Lacs. The second-best year on record has just been concluded, with over 700,000 pounds harvested and over 500,000 pounds released back into the lake.

The DNR did a great job of explaining those regulations. After a few years in effect it appears they were correct. Currently, there is confusion among anglers with respect to the perch regs. Many think the 20-fish limit is already in place. Many more of us are unsure what good the limit is going to do statewide. Perch are a very prolific fish.

If it's only for Winnie, why aren't we managing it like we are Mille Lacs? I believe we are going over board on the huge reduction in the perch allowed. Perch make great table fare and they take pressure off of our state's finest gamefish, the walleye. Perch recover very quickly. The Mille Lacs Lake die off a few years back proves that.

No matter how we preach catch and release, there will always be those that are strictly fishing for meat. I have no quarrels with those who use the resource for meals. I, too, enjoy fresh-caught Minnesota fish.

However, there will be many who catch their limit of perch and then switch over to a hunt for walleye meat, to bring home the 'pounds' necessary for their fish frys. Many would be happy to stick with perch - if they have a reasonable limit to work with.

Is there a middle ground here? I for one, would like the state to tell us why a 25-daily limit with 50 in possession or even a 30-daily limit with 60 in possession wouldn't work as well as what they are proposing.

It would seem the proposed limit may have another undesirable effect. 'Culling' for only the largest perch, leaving a lake dominated by smaller perch. The lower the limit, the more pronounced this effect will be.

Again, we must bear in mind that perch are lower on the food chain and they produce much higher numbers, than other fish, in lakes where they are common. Even so, they should be managed properly.

With that said, if this concerns you, please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural resources to get your questions answered. Here is the contact information:

Minnesota DNR
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Roger Holmes, Director
(651) 297-1308
fax (651) 297-7272.

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