posted on May 04, 2011 10:46 :: 2107 Views
Are There Too Many Fishing Regulations?
As I kid I didn’t spend time reading the fishing rules and regulations, though I knew the daily limit on pike was three, walleye was five and perch had no limit. If we were fishing on a different lake or reservoir, I trusted my Dad would let me know of a size restriction or other lake specific regulation, such as no minnows or a minimum length restriction for walleye.
Later on we fished a few times in Minnesota and in the name of full disclosure I haven't fished in Minnesota since Tom Kelly was managing the Twins and Frankie Viola was making his sweet music on the mound. In similar fashion, Dad and the resort owner kept us abreast of the regulations.
As a teenager I realized that natural lakes and manmade reservoirs had different types of fish habitat, and some waters got a lot more fishing pressure than others. Even with that understanding, however, special regulations like slot limits and minimum size restrictions were still not easy to digest.
Today, as part of an agency responsible for managing the state’s fisheries, I understand that special regulations are sometimes needed – and North Dakota has several such instances. On the other hand, I also appreciate the philosophy of the Game and Fish Department’s fisheries professionals that special regulations like slots limits and size restrictions that don’t add any value to the fishery resource, can hinder anglers.
It seems that some avid anglers feel that complicated rules would improve fishing on some waters, while the vast majority of anglers would rather deal with fewer regulations that emphasize a more positive fishing experience.
Be honest with yourself. Hypothetically, if you could buy a fishing license and then not have to worry about daily limits and species or bait restrictions, it’s likely the relaxation factor would click up and potential frustration factors would diminish.
Of course, I’m not advocating for a fishing free-for-all. We need regulations, but the Game and Fish Department’s philosophy is to remove regulations that no longer serve their original intent. The flip side is that any potential new rules must address a biological or social need.
Year after year, Game and Fish biologists are testing, studying and surveying fishing destinations of North Dakota. In addition to the Missouri River System and Devils Lake, anglers at Homme Dam, Jamestown Reservoir and Lake Tschida all want the best for their backyard fishing destination.
Over the last year, Game and Fish biologists and managers compiled and extrapolated data on the high interest fishing waters of North Dakota. Angler effort and creel surveys, along with tagging data and reproductive rates, were all put to the test of meeting benchmarks for possibly establishing some type of fish size regulations such as slot limits or minimum or maximum length regulations.
At this point, based on catch rates, mortality and growth rate of walleye, more stringent regulations are not warranted on Devils Lake, Sakakawea, the Missouri River or any other water in the state.
The Game and Fish Department has a wealth of information on its website (gf.nd.gov) that helps further explain these management decisions. Just look under the “Fishing” tab, and browse around in the various subsections.
One last item to pass along is that current fisheries management is based on current knowledge and information. As we all know, weather and water levels change frequently in North Dakota. If fish population dynamics change, the need for special new rules might also change.
Given the excellent fishery prospects for the next few years, though, let’s hope those changes aren’t soon to come.
Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org