Anglers who fish in Itasca and western St. Louis counties benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Grand Rapids area fisheries staff.
Area Fisheries Supervisor David Weitzel and a staff of seven full-time and up to nine short-term seasonal hatchery employees manage 618 fishing lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams. These waters include popular fishing destinations such as Lake Winnibigoshish as well as Bowstring, Cut Foot Sioux and Pokegama lakes.
The Grand Rapids fisheries crew takes walleye eggs at Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake during the spring spawn.
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Virtually all the work of the Grand Rapids area fisheries staff is funded by money raised through fishing license sales. But reductions in buying power due to increasing costs for products, services and equipment have put this work and the recreational opportunities it creates at risk.
In response, the DNR is seeking a fishing license fee increase in the 2017 legislative session. The increase would raise the price of a resident annual fishing license from $22 to $25. Other fishing license types also would increase. The proposed increases should sustain existing fisheries operations until 2021.
The increase for an individual license – roughly the price of a scoop of minnows – will not add staff or build programs. Rather, it will simply sustain existing programs and area office budgets, many of which already are reduced.
State law prohibits tax dollars, including funds generated by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment and Minnesota State Lottery, from funding area fisheries offices and the core work they do. Fisheries management that creates world-class fishing here in Minnesota is a user-funded, user-benefit system.
General hunting and fishing license fees were last increased in 2012 at an amount designed to keep game and fish operations solvent for about six years. Prior to that, it had been 10 years since the last general fee increase. Periodic fee increases – one about every five years since 1970 – are how Minnesota funds routine fisheries management. Many fishing organizations traditionally have supported periodic fee increases because high-quality fishing is recreation worth paying for.
In November 2016, the Game and Fish Fund Budget Oversight Committee – a citizen group that monitors the DNR's fisheries, wildlife and enforcement revenues and expenditures – recommended that the Legislature increase fishing and hunting license fees during the 2017 legislative session.
The DNR's fisheries section has a long tradition of belt-tightening. Statewide, staff size is down about 13 percent from roughly a decade ago. Moreover, the section is holding an additional 24 vacancies, most of which will not be filled even with fee increase. This means it is common for field offices to have fewer employees and leaner budgets than they once did.
|Dave Weitzel||Area firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Matt Ward||Assistant area email@example.com|
|Sandy DeLeo||Office administrative firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Gerry Albert||Large lake email@example.com|
|Kris Koski||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Doyle Hass||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Steve Mero||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Mark Henry||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Warren Foster||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|