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Progressive Fish Management


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In my father's day catching fish was all about filling limits.

They prided themselves as food providers and to take a limit was almost

a mark of how good of a provider you were.

This type of thinking has had a profound effect on our fisheries.

The effect is simple and I have heard it way too many times.

It goes like this...."I just can't find those quality fish anymore"!

It's not the fishermen's ability in question here.

It's all due to the fact that those quality fish are not there anymore.

They have been caught and reduced to a fisherman's limit.

I was guilty of fishing with that old mentality.

There were lakes in the past that I'd load up with those quality fish.

I'd come back home with my chest stuck out and say look at these

when I returned home.

Yet those very same lakes have become fished out of those quality fish.

What once had 14" slabs ,now have loads of stunted fish.

If you catch a 12" slab you have found the best it has in it and those slabs are

far and few in between.

Being ignorant was my only excuse. After witnessing what has happened I've learned

catch and release is the only way I can do my part in helping that fishery to recover.

Taking the smaller ones for food has nothing to do with my abilities as a fisherman.

The thought of what you cull as part of ones manhood is no longer an issue.

Releasing those fish is and has in some circles replaced that old thinking.

We can look to the Mille Lacs Lake muskie. It used to be that one went to Ontario for monster ski's.

With the progressive management practices of CPR we are now expecting the next record to come from this body of water.

The smallmouth bass are also making a huge come back due in part to the regulations applied to Mille Lacs concerning those bronzebacks.3,4,5 and even 6 pound bruisers are now being caught thanks due in part to the MNDNR for those tighter restrictions.

Sure the game fish have excelled to some extent from the CPR practices.

We can see how the quality and numbers have excelled from these aggressive management practices,but what about pan fish.

Pan fish have been the target over the years by filling pails of them.

During a hot bite the word spreads quickly and in a very short time frame those quality fish are gone.

As fishermen and women concerned about the future of these fisheries,we need to treat those pannies as we are now doing with game fish.

The DNR has already implemented some tighter restrictions on some lakes to see how those

pan fish respond and I am positive that the same result will be achieved as it has with

the game fish we have in our state.

Those that complain will I'm sure eventually come around in their thinking that it was

a good thing. They will be catching those quality fish once again,yet there's more that can be done without

having big brother leaning on us.

Letting those brood fish go is so imperative to rebuilding our quality fish that are still there.

Thinning out the smaller fish for table fare if you so choose will in the end bring us back to the golden age of fishing.

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The old saying is “it’s never to late to start”. It sounds like someone has and as small as one person is in this world, they can make a deference and I commend him for this.

As far as “catch and release” goes, it is something I have practiced now for about 8-9 years. For me it kind of started out as laziness. After a hard day of fishing, I found my self doubting to clean the fish I got. At one point I started telling my self out fishing, you are going to have a hard time getting your self to clean these fish at 12:00am on a work night. Once it sunk in, even on the hottest bite nights, I found my self tossing fish back. I keep telling my self this until it became a rule.

Now I look at “catch and release” in a total different light. I figure as small of a person I am in this big world, the thousands of fish I have released over the years I might have made a difference, or someone else’s dinner .

I never look bad on people who keep fish, but in my circle of fishing buddies, “catch and release” has become a common practice for the last 8-9 years.

Go figure, laziness was the first reason for the start of my “catch and release”.

A "hot bite" is kind of like anything that people get a rush from, it is very hard to resist. I catch my self when I catch a “nice eater” thinking twice about tossing it back, but my train of thought prevails and down the fish goes.

I will admit, the only time I keep a fish is when it will not swim its way down the hole after every revival trick in the book. I will not leave fish on the ice or in the hole. I think of it as a little bonus and I make the effort to clean it right away when I get home. No matter how small it is.

Also I might add, I have found some major “hot spots” for fish from fellow fisherman who would not tell me, with out knowing my persistence to “catch and release”. Informing them you "catch and release" only, usually softens them up. They know the fish will be back in the same spot. I have gained a lot of respect from my view and some new "hot spots" here and there.

I wonder how many 5 gal. bucket full’s go into the trash a couple days later and never see the table, because they could not controll them selves during a "hot bite", then got lazy about cleaning them? Kind of makes me sick to think about it.

Good luck


Catch and Release, it does help....

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Shack, for me it was about the same thing that converted me over. Me and a bunch of buddies on fishing trips. We would fish until 11-12 at night, after drinking all afternoon, then come into shore and nobody wanted to clean the fish. So I always ended up being the one since I didnt want them to go to waiste. I then told everyone that we are catch and release only! If you dont like it then buy your own boat go fish with it, and clean your own fish. Now we will still keep some in the am to have as shore lunch, but I never keep any from the afternoons, and pm, or bring any home.

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I practice both. I like to have some fish meals but I only need a couple for that. My Dad likes to keep everything, I'm teaching him to throw some back. If my folks are in town I will keep a limit just because my Dad doesn't fish unless he's here anymore. I take the fish home and clean them right away. We have a big fish fry and put what we don't eat in the fridge. My parents will eat on it for a couple of days. I don't see anything wrong with keeping some for the fry pan, but I am getting more into catch and release. Some has to do with laziness, but some has to do with reading on this site and seeing what it does for the fishery.

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Imagine what fishing would be like today if smaller limits were imposed years earlier and/or slots. Now it seems that the damage has been done and it takes even more management and restraint to repair. As the larger fish were depleted, the smaller fish were able to survive and so their population increased. Judging by my aquarium and recent survey results of lakes like Osakis, the more fish there are, the smaller they tend to remain. I imagine this might hold true for lakes to some degree.


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For me it comes down to am I within the reg's. If I am having a good day of fishing and catching quite a few, dang right I will keep my limit of that particular species for the pan or pickling jars (for pike and some other species). I throw back little ones or ones that are no legal, but then again, more times then not, it will be a slower bite or not hiting them that well, I won't keep any because to keep 1 to clean doesn't make sense to me!

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BobT, fish can only grow as big as their enviroment lets them. If you have a small tank (or lake) and a hundred fish in there, they will stay small. If you have a huge tank (or lake) and just a few fish, they will get huge. Mother nature at work.

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I dont think the the physical size of the enviornment has as much to do with fish size as the food supply and quality of the habitat. Too many small fish exhaust the food supply and they dont get enough food to grow to their potential.

Like others one of the reasons I dont keep many fish is the fact that when Im done fishing I dont want to spend another few hours filleting out limits. If I do keep fish I usually just keep enough for myself and/or another person. Its easier for me and better for the lake, win win!

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I grew up always practicing C&R. We have kept a few fish for the table from time to time, but 95% of the time we have fished C&R my whole life.

My dad latched onto the idea early, and it has just been a part of our life. Instead of endless fish frys we have photos of the fish that we have caught. Looking back through the photo albums these years later is almost better than having eaten all of those fish.

The biggest difference I see are attitudes from hard to soft water. I find that ice fisherman tend to fish for food, and softwater guys tend to fish for sport. Granted they are typically the same guys, but with different attitudes at different times of the year.

Corny, but I will leave you with this, "C&R is still cool when its cold."

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I've mainly been a catch and release proponent since I started fishing. Grew up fishing a small lake, 11 acres, that had some smaller largemouth, and overwhelming numbers of sunfish, and bluegill. As the years progressed, the bass eventually started to get bigger. Rumor has it one reached 21.5" out of an 11 acre lake! There were many other large bass in that lake as well that I caught, along with some monster pike, walleye, and catfish.

Word got out, and many people came to keep table fare. It's all legal. A few years later, and even today, there's not much left in that lake besides small fish.

It used to be a nice gem.

Even on larger systems I don't keep larger fish. If I'm keeping fish, I'll keep a few of the medium sized to smaller fish, and let the big ones swim away. Why?! Couple of reasons. First I like to think the littler fish have less toxins built up in their body, and is overall healthier for me, and who ever is eating it. Second, I'd rather keep the gene pool of the larger fish in that system instead of the littler fish. Would rather see larger fish in trips to come.

I think catch and release would benefit many lakes, and rivers around the metro area especially. The metro waters definitely see higher pressure, and thus more catch and keep. I find it disappointing to fish local rivers, and lakes after driving outside of the cities, and having fantastic catches. There is a noteable difference.

The regs are set up to allow catch and keep of limits where applicable. Just wish more fisherman were a bit more conservation minded to allow fisheries to produce as those "golden years" have previously.

Just my 2 cents...

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I think BobT kinda hit the nail on the head. We need to do so much management just to keep waters where they are at today...what would it take to restore them to their previous glory??

One other thing I have noticed is some folks don't think it is OK to go fishing for a day and not catch much. Sometimes I think if it doesn't work out for certain folks it turns into "Well, all the limit hogs fished it out so there is nothing there to catch."

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I am not sold yet on the idea that catch and release is a great management tool. When a fisherman catches a limit and goes home the DNR knows how many fish have been killed. When a fisherman fishes all day and is on a good bite and releases all the fish. The DNR has no idea how many fish were killed and the data to support length limits and limit numbers is not there to review and make a sound decision with. I know everyone does the best they can to release fish so they survive but we all know that does not happen all the time. Example Mille Lacs last spring. I am not supporting taking a limit everytime out but do want to say that catch and release also has a down side. I believe catch and release has to be done with the end result kept in mind if true managemnt of the resource is the end goal. I will get off my soap box now.

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If you are any kind of fisherman practicing catch and release none of those fish should die. Some of the hook designs out there are really great at preventing deep hookings. I know that a style I use results in a good hookset right through the bottom lip just about every time. And even those that are deep hooked can often survive if you cut the hook and release the fish properly. Hooking mortality is overstated, the vast majority of floaters you see die naturally (weak fish often do not survive high water temperatures and the resultant low dissolved oxygen).

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I soak a crawler in the river occasionally, just shore fishing to relax and read. I used to use bait holder hooks, and probably 85% of the fish I caught were gut hooked.

Circle hooks are an awesome option if worried about gut hooked fish. Pretty much only used when bait fishing. Need to set the hook a little different than one would with a regular hook - basically just start reeling it in. I've only gut hooked one fish that must have ate my bait, and just sat in that same exact spot. Not even a dance of the rod tip. Otherwise circle hooks pretty much always hook fish right in the side of the mouth, or on their lip somewhere.

Using crankbaits, or similair, I don't think i've ever had a "gut" hooked fish. Occasionally a bass, pike, or musky will completely inhale a bait, and screw up their gills. That's not good either, but I make sure they are ok to swim away. If it's questionable whether they are going to live, I keep it. It's a blood sport. It's going to happen.

Saw an In-Fisherman not so long back were they were talking about selective harvest. It was a neat show. They were out channel cat fishing, and they were getting frustrated that all they were catching were larger cats. They were intending to keep some fish in the medium range, and let the big ones go but the first few were just too big for them to keep. I wish I had that problem more often. ;\)

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