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Swamprat72

Loss of SE stream easements?

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I just got home from the proposed regulation meeting in Caledonia and heard some interesting things. First as we walked in there were people with "Nightcrawlers only" t-shirts on. Next while inside there were a few people with signs "It's your vacation, but its my land" and "Keep family fishing alive" amongst others. Curiously, I didn't see anyone advocating the use of flies only. The people there were the ones who own the land that the DNR gets permission to set up easements from. They make their living off this same land and want to see things remain as such. I overheard one lady say that if the regulations get passed her family and her neighbors wanted to take out the easements. My brother said he heard someone say they wanted to put up signs saying "live bait fishing only" and "No fly fishing on my stream." While I fish for trout mainly with artificial lures and fly fish occasionally, I still like to pick up the crawlers and relax while I fish, after all it was how I was taught. Some of these regulations are inevitable and for the good of the sport and I think that most of them know it, but it's a case of "not in my backyard." Granted, I wasn;t there for all of it only about 2 hours, but this is what we saw and heard. I would like to thank the DNR for putting on the public meeting forums, as it is all of us who are affected by what is done. What have the rest of you seen or heard at these meetings? I thought this was a good place to rant a bit.

[This message has been edited by Swamprat72 (edited 08-26-2004).]

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This is kind of a newbie question, but what are these easements on the streams? Are streams not normally public like lakes are?
Also, why do people care how you fish? I mean, if they don't want people in their stream then they shouldn't want live bait fishers either, right?
I think I just don't know the politics of streams...

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These streams are not public waterways and many of them go through their pastures. According to the guy from the DNR that I talked to last night, the easements are bought by the DNR from the money we pay for the trout stamp, amongst other resources. He also stated that these should not be taken for granted. By the way not every stream has a public easement, look at the Southeast MN trout stream map and it tells you which streams have these easements. These landowners are the ones I used to ask permission to go fishing from every year for about 16 years. The last few my friends have been getting denied by some of them, maybe because he is not a "local"?

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The proposed new regulations are a very touchy topic. Briefly, here are the basic facts. I grew up about six miles from Forestville, and have been fishing the South Branch since I was five. I and pretty much everyone else agree that there aren't many big trout in most streams. The problem is many people, especially some but not all locals, are opposed to protecting trout in some sections of streams. Restricting some waters to artificials and imposing size limits is viewed by many locals as a threat to fishing with crawlers, and keeping the fish they catch. Fundamentally, and this is why many landowners and locals get so heated about the issue, many locals believe that their interests are being ignored in favor of fly anglers from the Twin Cities.

As you can imagine, and have probably seen if you follow public discussions on this issue, stereotypes are used heavily by both sides. "Rednecks, rich lawyers from Minneapolis," etc. At bottom, I would argue it is not really a debate about trout-fishing at all--it is a debate about country versus city, and different lifestyles and ways of making a living. If it were just about trout-fishing, a settlement that gives something to everyone (like the current proposals) could be accepted by the public without this level of shouting and name-calling.

I am in an odd position in that I grew up as a card-carrying local farmboy who fished for trout with crawlers while growing up, and kept everything over 9" or so for the frying pan. I also own land in Fillmore County, although no water goes through it. I haven't lived there in almost fifteen years, although I still fish for trout when I am in the area. Now, I only use spinners and plugs, and release most of what I catch. I suppose I have become one of those people that my old neighbors rant about, because I am fully in favor of the proposed regulations. Not because I want to stop young farm kids like I once was from catching dinner with crawlers, but because I would like to see some stretches of stream where there is a decent chance of catching a trout that is more than 14" long.

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Landowners are already cutting off access to anglers on private land where they have previously given permission because of proposed regs. Want them or not, the proposed regs might bring us bigger fish but we may not be able to fish certain streams anymore. It's becoming an ugly situation on both sides of the coin...with fingers being pointed and polarity increasing.

I want to catch bigger fish. But most importantly, I just want to fish...and with a fly-rod...without being called "anti-family". Fly-fishing IS family fishing to me. And I'm not a lawyer from the Cities...just a "joe" from SE MN.

This is becoming a situation that could use an arbitrator. Even county governments are drawing up proposals against the regs saying their businesses will suffer. In WI, CO, WY, and MT, business has increased in communities near special reg streams. Even right across the Miss from Houston county in Vernon county.
On the flipside, I agree that no kid should be denied a chance to learn how to catch stream trout with a worm and bobber...and this isn't being taken away on 80% of the waters. I'm sure there could be more compromise on both sides of this issue as well.

Maybe Jim W. could chime in a little on this topic, too. He's been on these waters a lot longer than some of us...'specially me. wink.gif

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I wasn't saying I believed any of the stereotypes--that is why I put them in quotation marks. My point is that both sides in the stream trout debate further polarize the issue by lumping their opposites into simple categories. That makes it easier to ignore what the other side is saying.

It is too bad--although I understand where the local landowners are coming from in their suspicion of ***** bureaucrats, I don't get the level of anger and resistance some of them have to the new regulations. I would like to think it is a vocal minority that shows up at meetings wearing "nightcrawlers only" shirts. According to one DNR survey I read, 78% of trout anglers want bigger fish--the new regulations are the best way to achieve that.

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I'm not sure the new regs are "the best" way to approach things, but it is attention the streams in SE Mn need and it is positive or forward movement.

THere will always be unhappy campers in regards to new regs etc.
I have personally witnessed new no trespassing signs and actualy was "swore" off property I have been fishing for years! Go figure, and they granted me permission at seasons start..like every year!???

These are non-designated waters as well????

Law should be developed as evenly and fair as possible. Hard to divy out things for staggered percentages.


If one thing could be accomplished by this attention or proposed regulations is all around fisherman awareness! NO one owns the water! Not one trout fishing technique takes precedence.

The maintenance, management and SHARING of our resources while increasing over all trout fisherman's knowledge on trout habitat, growth rates, forage, clean water needs, easements etc etc etc, is the only true way to Trout fishing ecstasy!

Taking the time to voice your opinions helps, but remember this isn't about you, you or you, it's about for example, my 3 year old's time wading waters his Dad had the pleasure of! Is it much harder than that?

IN a day and age when things appear to be about the "here and now" and "all about me", those CAN NOT be entered in to the over all SE MN Trout and Streams equation(s)!

So before I step off my bumper, remember to stop and say hello or in passing a fellow angler stop and say hello. Take time people these streams will be here hopefully many years past our short stay!!

(Sorry if I did not address specific legislative proposal).

Jim W

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'eyehunter...
Sorry if it sounded like I was calling you on anything. I didn't mean anything negative toward your post at all. We're on the same page.

The people who were wearing the shirts down there were part of, or friends of, the Heartland group. They're a bunch of landowners along the Winnebago who have put up signs saying "Family Fishing Only...No Fly Fishing!". Even on sections of eased land. I wish I was kidding on this. I've heard their rhetoric, that it's the fly-fishing, SUV driving lawyers from the "City" who are pushing for the regs and trying to ruin their "family fishing". They also believe that it's groups like TU who are behind the regs (last I checked the DNR was holding the public meetings, not TU). TU is, though, in favor of the regs as PART OF a plan that will also include more quality habitat improvement on streams that could see special regs.

Their county government is petitioning their state reps in an effort to thwart any proposed regs...also stating that their businesses are already suffering due to strict regulations already in place (even though there are no special or experimental regs in place on their streams).

Like I mentioned before, an arbitrator would help here, but I think it might be past that stage. As Jim W mentioned, many anglers like him have been denied permission where they had been let to fish before. Quite a campaign was launched by those against the regs to get as many landowners against them as possible. Their technique wasn't exactly truthful, and some of their petitions will be found void, but it worked to get a lot of people against the regs.

On a sidenote, I too want to see all anglers coming together, learning more about our resource, and enjoying the streams together, regardless of what tackle they use. This is about the streams, not about flies, spinning reels, panther martins, or rapalas. I love fishing for trout in SE MN, and I want to pass down my love for fishing to my son someday. He certainly won't be using a fly-rod for some time.

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I am not so sure that the proposed regs would accomplish the desired results. Many of the streams in these areas are rather small compared to the population of trout that currently exist in them. This past year, fishing Forestville, I saw more trout swimming in the holes than ever. In 3 days, my group and I personally caught over 100 fish releasing 95% of them. The largest fish caught was 14" with the majority inthe 9-11" range. If the regs are implemented I am curious to know how larger fish in these streams would behave. Trout are cannibals. With competition for food already apparent in these streams, producing numbers of larger fish may have a negative effect. I could be completely wrong, but I am definately curious to see how this will work. I have fished similar streams with similar regs already in place and while I have caught a handful of larger fish I have not caught the same types of numbers of fish as in these other streams. Perhaps the large waters like the Root can sustain vast numbers of larger fish, I just wonder if these smaller streams will be able to sustain similar populations.

As for easements. I would be very unhappy if the existing easements went away. I understand that the streams run through other people's land, and I firmly believe in all land ownership rights. The stream is on their land, if they don't want us there, so be it. Just out of curiousity, if the easements go away do our trout stamp fees go down? If the DNR doesn't have to pay for the easements anymore, one would imagine that our annual fees would go down. Yeah right!

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I am not a fisheries biologist, although I did study to be one once. I wasn't very good at it, so maybe I am not the best person to comment on this. But, here is my understanding of the cannibalism, population, and individual size issue. If trout are allowed to grow larger, i.e. by mandating that fish of a certain size be returned to the water, the overall numbers of the population should not suffer. In most streams, including the Root, there is enough food and cover to permit population numbers to remain as they are, even if individual fish are allowed to grow larger. Cannibalism removes small fish from the stream, and they are replaced through both natural reproduction and stocking. Those small fish are already being eaten now by larger ones, and the harvest of small trout by larger ones would not increase if there were larger trout present in the stream. The "bottleneck" that prevents you and I from finding more fish over 14" in and around Forestville is over-harvest by fishermen, not limited food or cannibalism. I should note that I am relying on DNR and other studies of trout populations for this analysis. Added to the fact that I have fished the South Branch for years and have seen very few good-sized fish, this is why I am in favor of the proposed regulation changes.

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I thought I would address the second part of Bailey's post separately, since he raises a good point on trout stamp fees and private land owners. I have thought this issue over myself, and here is what I have come up with. If private land owners wish to impose "nightcrawlers only" regulations on streams that flow through their land, that is their right. If they want to protect "family fishing" on their land by blocking access to fly-fishermen and spin-fishermen, that is their right as well. However, if they wish to manage their privately-owned trout streams as private resources, then they should pay for stocking their private streams as well. If landowners along a stretch of trout stream block public access or place their own private conditions on that stream, as the Winnebago Creek residents are threatening to do, great. That is their right. If they do so, then they should be more than happy to pay for stocking and maintaining the stream out of their own pockets as well.

What I am proposing is a "scorched-earth" policy if private "nightcrawlers only" regulations come to pass. I believe that the DNR should stop stocking trout or investing in habitat improvement on streams where landowners refuse to allow public access to their streams. I see no reason why my trout stamp fees should go to pay for the maintenance of privately-managed trout streams that I am not allowed to fish on. I realize that the logistics of my proposal are a problem--if one landowner on a stream allows public easements on a mile of stream while the landowners on the other nine miles do not, how do you prevent fish managed by the DNR in the public-access section from dwelling in the privately-managed sections? Still, the principle remains--if private owners block access to large sections of stream, I say that the state should not use any license or stamp fees to maintain that stream for trout fishing.

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Great thoughts, 'eyehunter.
One thing to note, though, regarding easements.
Land that is "eased" along a trout stream has been sold to the DNR. The landowner makes money, and in turn, those of us who buy trout stamps now have EVERY right to fish that stream (responsibly, and treating the landowner with respect by not littering, and by regulations). The landowner has to go through quite a lengthy legal process to take back that easement, as it does belong to the DNR and it is perpetual. The easement still belongs to the DNR if the owner sells the property to someone new.

Regarding the signs posted on the Winnebago. They are nothing but rhetoric, and to be honest they are ridiculous and hateful. They don't impose any actual rules on a stretch of stream, they're just meant to intimidate. Fly-anglers are not making the regs...the DNR is making them. The landowners DO NOT have ANY right to impose their own regulations upon a stream. That would be the same as a cabin owner imposing fishing regulations on their lake. Even though the Winnebago group has put up these signs, you have every right as a licensed angler and trout stamp buyer to fish that stream (the eased portion) as you see fit (within regulations).

I would recommend fishing the eased portion of the Winnebago, as it has good, healthy fish...although you'll have a hard time finding fish over 12". I did catch a couple 14" fish there on a great hatch and had a blast. It's a beautiful stream. I fished with a fly-rod, along the portion (that is eased) that has the big "No FLY-FISHING" signs. It felt great to live in a free country that day, and I'll happily go down again. Whether or not the regs go through, the Winnebago will still, most likely, remain eased...and the signs will probably stay.

I don't believe that this is in any way a "cavalier" attitude towards the landowners. Streams don't, and have never belonged to a landowner...neither have the regulations. The portions that are eased are ours to fish as law-abiding anglers. As far as fishing on private access, I have and will always ask for permission, and I have no problem being denied access...there are hundreds of miles of public access in SE MN.

If they do indeed take away public access, they should lose stocked fish that are paid for by all anglers around the state.

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I am not certain on Minnesota state laws regarding ownership and property rights on small streams, so everything I say now is probably moot. In Iowa, the bed on most rivers within the state belongs to the private landowner who ows the adjacent dry land, although the water that flows over the stream bed is public property. A few of the larger rivers in Iowa are state-owned up to the high-water mark, although private land owners along the state-owned streams still control all land access to the river where it flows through their property.

Anyhow, to wade in or fish from the bank of a stream in Iowa in which the bed of the stream is privately owned, one must secure the permission of the landowner. Since the water that flows over the stream bed is publicly owned, one does not need permission to canoe or boat over a privately-owned stream bed.

I grew up in Fillmore County, but never bothered checking what the laws regarding stream access were in Minnesota, so I don't know if any of this applies to MN trout streams. I was aware that easements were semi-permanent, but I was also thinking of private land where there is no easement, but the landowner allows public access as they please. Anyhow, if Minnesota's waterway laws are similar to Iowa's, a landowner with a trout stream on their property could control access to that stream at will if there was no easement, and could impose conditions for use of "their" stream, i.e. "nightcrawlers only". A landowner could not charge someone with a crime for violating such private regulations, but they could expel someone from "their" stream for violating the terms of use set down by the landowner.

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It's fairly close to that in MN.
According to the law in MN, you can wade through any stream and be within the law. However, the DNR does not recommend wading through stream if you have to cross through barbed wire or fencing that goes through the stream. I respect that. At least in MN, the landowner does not have any say on regulations in place, but their input is asked for proposed regulations.
In MN, if the stream is not eased, once you step foot out of the stream you are trespassing.
Even though a landowner can't control trout regs here in MN, they're certainly able to say NO to someone with a fly-rod, or conversely, say NO to someone with a bucket of worms.

Wisconsin has a "wet foot" law. On any stream, eased or not, you can fish within 10 feet of the water...any further out, and it's trespassing. The tough part on some stretches is getting to within 10 feet.

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With the permission of the moderators, I'd like to post a link to the Caledonia newspaper regarding the DNR open house down there. It's an interesting read, I thought well done.

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Apparently the DNR already has my policy proposal in place, according to the Argus article. That is, posted sections of trout stream in which the public is not allowed receive no trout stockings. It is also good to hear that the news is getting out that streams with special regulations attract more business, not less. There is more to sell trout fishermen than just nightcrawlers, after all.

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Why some guys are so happy when the stream is going to be 'Artificials Only' but get so mad if other people propose it to be
'Crawlers Only'?

I've used any and every lure & bait. I don't mind people fishing next to me using crawlers when I was using artificials. The best thrill comes when I out-fish him.

On the other hand, I like the look of the fly-guy when I let a nice brown go while using crawlers. I think most of them can't believe that a worm dunker ever practice catch-n-release.

Everyone likes to catch bigger fish, but when will the cycle ends? 12" was a good one when I started trout fishing years ago. Now a 15 incher is just so-so to me and a trophy has to be over 24". This is only my personal standard and has nothing to do with any regulation/rule change, stream condition/improvment/designation or whatever. I cherish the memories of catching
some nice fish and wouldn't like it, in the future, when someone tells me that a 25"
brown is nothing to brag about.

Why not take a step back, look around, and enjoy the company of other 'types' of fisherman?

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Hi Crawler,
My beef isn't with any proposed bait-only stream or being excluded from water because I use a fly-rod. It's with those signs being put up ONLY to spite who the landowners think is the enemy...us "big-city lawyer, SUV drivin, yuppy, non-family fly-fishers", and how we as fly-anglers are somehow trying to take away their God-given right. Those words have been used in print by them. I make less than a public school teacher and drive a truck with 112,000 miles on it...but I still fly-fish. Am I the enemy? or the kind of person they're trying to exclude? I guess so.

C&R regs that are proposed would only affect 20% of trout streams in SE MN, and only 33% of the "best" streams. They will definitely not end up on as many streams as they are proposed for.

It can't be denied that the mortality rate for bait-caught fish is 25-35%. Some choose not to believe those numbers, but very detailed studies have been done (and by non-gov't entities, and not by TU). If the DNR is trying to fulfill Minnesota angler demand, and promote growth of larger trout on streams while trying to eliminate their harvest, then excluding bait on a small percentage of streams would be advisable.

People want to catch larger fish. I'm not up to your standards, yet, as I still haven't caught a 20" trout. There is a stream not too far from Roch that has the C&R experimental regs on it already. Every hole has a few nice fat trout in it. Some amazing Habitat Improvement has been done, and a very long stretch fences out pasture (happily, to the farmers agreement) to make for cleaner water, along with native grasses and trees on the riparian.

With a few more streams like this, and the majority (80%) left just as they are, the DNR can provide something for everyone...which has been their goal all along.

Right now, they don't want to just "leave it alone" because that's not what the majority of anglers wants. It's nice to see a gov't entity answering to it's taxpayers and license and stamp buyers.

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Hi, WxGuy,
Maybe you misunderstood what I meant in the post. All I wanted to say is that everyone should open his mind and welcome the other types of fisherman. Try to enjoy fishing to it's fullest and not bothered by some minor stuffs. By the way, I've never fished the area east of Hwy 43 and have no idea where the creek you're talking about is, although I've heard about it.

As for mortality rate goes, I think it depends mostly on how you handle the fish. I use #1 or #2 red hooks while using baits. If I can't see it on the lip of the fish, I cut the line at the mouth. (Will keep fish if it's bleeding.) I've tried circle hooks, but they just don't seem to work well with trout. Some people simply kept the fish out of water too long, trying to un-hook or snapping pictures of the prized catch.

Next time you fish Lanesboro area and see a guy fishing with a 18" cane pole, or a telescoptic rod, stop and say HI.

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