Field Notes: Big Trout Changes
With winter's icy grip in retreat, southeastern Minnesota streams have once again regained their hold on anglers who spent winter dreaming of flies, spinners, bobbers, and, of course, trout. But just beyond the tranquil scenes of springtime fishing are significant changes in regulations on 22 trout streams in six counties.
The regulations, which take effect when the stream trout season opens April 16, require anglers to release fish of certain sizes in order to produce larger trout for anglers to catch in the future.
The regulations are the product of several years of work and debate among the DNR, local citizens, Trout Unlimited, and Minnesota Trout Association.
"We learned that trout anglers want a variety of experiences. Some want larger fish. Others want more fish. For still others, it's taking a few fish home to eat,"said Jason Moeckel, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager in Rochester. "The new regulations represent a reasonable balance of these wants. As a result, anglers will have the ability to find an experience that suits their preference."
Southeastern Minnesota has 680 miles of designated, fishable trout waters. More than 2,400 DNR fish-population surveys indicate the trout population has tripled there since 1970. Moeckel said the new regulations apply to about 129 miles of the top trout waters.
Special regulations can help to grow larger fish in catch-and-release-only streams and can protect larger fish in streams with protective slot limits. But they're not a cure-all, Moeckel said.
"Our long-range plan for cold-water resources details further efforts to monitor trout populations, conduct angler surveys, and improve trout habitat," he said. "In addition, it calls for us to work with citizen groups, landowners, and industry to improve watersheds and water quality." Anglers might not notice significant changes in the number or size of trout they catch for several years. The new regulations appear in the 2005 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook and will be posted at public accesses on affected streams. See 2005 Trout fishing regulations in southeast Minnesota.