Anglers and spearers pursuing northern pike this spring will be dealing with new regulations that will be very challenging, especially for folks who like to spear northern pike in the winter months.
When the new regulations take effect in the spring of 2018, the majority of the state will be in the North Central Zone where the issue is overpopulation of small pike. Anglers here will be able to keep 10 northern pike, but not more than two pike longer than 26 inches, and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released.
Northern pike taken by spearing follow the same rules, except one pike may be between 22 and 26 inches and one longer than 26 inches.
In the Northeast Zone, the new regulation will maintain harvest opportunity and protect large fish already present, and anglers here will be able to keep two pike. They must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession.
Spearers will also be able to take two pike, but only one may be longer than 26 inches.
In the Southern Zone, the regulation will intend to increase pike abundance and improve the size of fish harvested. Anglers and spearers will be able to keep two fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches.
The DNR has been studying the issue of pike fishing and fish sizes for some time, and these new rules are intended to increase the average sizes of pike, reduce the number of small pike in areas and make pike fishing more exciting by having the opportunity to catch a really nice pike more common.
I think it is great that the DNR is trying to find new ways to achieve those goals. When was the last time you or a fishing friend landed a 40-inch pike in Minnesota? It is no longer very common. So, it will be good for all of us if these new regulations achieve their stated goals.
Two areas will present special challenges in the Northern Central Zone, keeping pike 22 inches or shorter and spearing pike under 22 inches. A 22-inch northern pike is really small and skinny. About the only way to prepare them for eating is to bake or pickle them.
Measuring northern pike in the summer will be easy, but for folks sitting in a dark fish house the challenge to determine size will be daunting. Anyone who has speared in 10-12 feet of stained water can appreciate what a challenge that will be.
I believe that most folks who are serious about keeping northern pike are spearers. Of course, people who like to eat pike will keep them in the summer too. However, I don’t have many customers who will care to keep such small northern pike in the summer – they just like the catch and release part of fishing them.
So, it will be interesting to see how these new regulations work out. Hopefully, they are successful.
Ray Gildow is a northern Minnesota fishing guide and outdoor writer.