There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the lake trying to catch some fish. Whether that be in a boat or on the shore — there is nothing better.

Minnesota’s fishing opener is almost here. It’s time to make sure your boat is ready to hit the water, your rods and reels are prepped and your tackle box is stocked. But most importantly, make sure to get your fishing license if you haven’t already.

May 14 marks the opening of walleye, northern pike and trout season. Catch-and-release bass season also starts on Saturday. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regional fishing report, ice out on area lakes was a bit later than usual, but now seems to be following the typical track. 

For walleye, the local DNR office suggests looking at lakes such as North Center (Center City), Pokegama (Pine City), Knife (Mora) and Green (near Princeton) lakes. Watch the shallower lakes for active walleye.

As for northern pike, the DNR says both East and West Rush Lakes and nearby Goose Lake should provide good action as well as true trophy potential. 

There are some special regulations for northerns on both East and West Rush Lakes, however. The pike possession limit is now three, with a protected slot from 26-to-40 inches, and you can only keep one that is greater than 40 inches. Anglers considering Goose and its connected lakes should be aware of crappie (daily limit of five fish) and walleye (fish smaller than 17 inches must be immediately released) special regulations in place.  

If you are looking to fish the St. Croix River this weekend, the DNR’s report says the river has many accesses for small boats and also ample shore and wade-fishing opportunities, with much of the riverbank in public ownership. Being a border water, size and bag limits are different. The walleye bag is six but with a 15-inch minimum. The northern pike bag is five with no length restrictions.

For more information or to check on lakes outside of our area visit the DNR’s fishing report site at  www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/outlooks.html.

New sunfish regulations on area lakes

The DNR recently introduced the Quality Sunfish Initiative, a statewide effort by fisheries managers to increase the size of sunfish. The QSI has increased the number of lakes with special sunfish regulations that will protect or improve sunfish populations on select lakes using reduced harvest. It will also help provide managers with insights into what  determines success or failure of reduced bag limits for sunfish.

The QSI works by reducing the number of fish that are allowed to be taken from certain lakes. Many of the lakes in Pine County have a good sunfish population and will continue to operate under the current statewide regulations of 20 sunfish per angler. 

However, in the case of Cross and Pokegema Lakes near Pine City, the number of sunfish that are allowed daily is going from 20 to 10, according to Hinckley Area Fisheries Supervisor Leslie George. “This is an effort to protect the quality-sized fish that currently exist,” she said. 

The DNR’s goal with this initiative has been to increase the number of lakes with reduced bag limits from 60 to 250 by 2023.

Why the DNR recommends releasing bigger fish

One would think that when sunfish overpopulate the best strategy would be to harvest more of them, however, science has shown that to be ineffective and can even contribute to the problem. 

The larger male sunfish set the tone for the size of the rest of the population. The big males get the best spawning locations, attract more females and are better at protecting the nest and eggs. According to the DNR, their mere presence forces other males to make the choice to grow big. Without the larger fish, the smaller males can focus their energy on reproductive growth rather than physical growth. So by releasing the larger fish limits reproduction which in turn limits the number of smaller fish in the lakes. 

Don’t have a boat? No problem, there are many fish from shore opportunities in the area and statewide. The DNR offers a couple shore fishing instructional videos that cover general shore fishing basics for lakes and rivers. You can find the vidoes on the website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishwildlife/outreach/index.html#tab-1-2 then under methods. You will also be able to find the 2022 regulations on their website.

Hopefully, you will be able to get out and enjoy the 2022 fishing opener. Take your kids or grandkids out, teach them how to fish, respect nature and have fun. Who knows? You may even start a new family tradition. Even if you don’t catch anything, you will certainly make unforgettable memories.

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