Itasca County Anglers May Soon Face Pan Fish Limits

By KBJR News 1

June 14, 2011 Updated Jun 14, 2011 at 7:37 PM CDT

GRAND RAPIDS, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---Angers may soon be limited in the amount of pan fish they harvest on certain lakes on the Iron Range.

A 5 fish bag limit has been proposed with the goal of preserving the fish population for both Sunfish and Crappie.

About 16–million Sunfish and 7–million Crappie are harvested each year in MN making both pan fish the first and second most harvested fish in the state.

Research conducted by the MN Department of Natural Resources and Grand Rapids Area Fisheries has shown declines in the quality and size of fish in Itasca County Lakes.

"In recent years there has been a lot more interest in having opportunities to catch large sunfish," said Assistant Fishery Supervisor, David Weitzel. "So what we are looking at is some of the lakes that have the potential to produce large fish. We are proposing a regulation change where you would only be able to keep 5 fish."

The regulation proposals are well defined and specific to lakes or chains of lakes. Those in favor of the limit want to preserve the game for future generations.

"We have to remember that pan fish are one of the only game fish that don't have a closed season," said Russ Wedl of the Split Hand Lake Association. "They are open tweleve months out of the year where the Walleyes the Bass and the Northern, the small mouths, they all have a closed season. The pan fish don't."

Two area lakes, Graves and Bass Lake have been regulated under the five fish limit for the past ten years.

"When this regulation first went in there were "resorters" on this lake who opposed it," said Hidden Haven Resort Owner, Bob Barton. "I think you'd be hard pressed to find any resort owner now, who thinks it was a bad idea. And part of it is change is tough, people don't like change."

The regulation changes rely heavily on public support. The proposals will be opened up to public input in the fall.

"Really what is important is to judge how much public support is out there," said Weitzel. Is this something the public is interested in how important it is to the community? Are they willing to give up the privilege of harvesting some fish to ensure that we have quality fishing in the future?"

If the proposals pass in the fall, implementation would begin as early as 2012.

A review of the fish limits would be done in the year 2022.

Posted to the web: Jennifer Walch