Some trout stream regulations are "special" in that they are tailored to individual trout streams. These regulations can also reduce the number of fish anglers can take home. Some stretches of stream, in fact, may be designated "catch-and-release," or "no-kill," areas. In other sections, "slot limits" may be used to protect a certain size of fish (a slot of 12 to 16 inches, for example). Thus, regulations can manipulate trout populations to produce fewer small trout and more trophies. Slot limits also can allow anglers to keep small fish and a few very large fish while protecting faster-growing intermediate sizes.
Many anglers practice catch-and-release even when regulations don't require it. They reason, as one well-known fisherman remarked, that a large trout is too valuable to be caught only once. Trophy-sized trout can be caught and enjoyed again and again by different anglers. Catch-and-release, special regulations and the move to a wild-trout fishery in some streams has done more than just improve fishing. Eliminating the stocking of some streams has saved money. Wild-trout management also has led to a healthier fishery-one that can maintain itself, even during times of neglect or tight money.
Despite success with wild-trout fisheries and catch-and-release angling, there have been failures as well. Some streams are too infertile to produce large trout no matter how long they remain in the stream. In these instances, catch-and-release may have little effect. In other cases, a slot limit of the wrong sizes has put too much pressure on small fish, leaving too few to grow large and produce an acceptable number of trophies. Because of differences in the physical characteristics of streams, the results on one river cannot be simply transferred to another.
The success of any program depends first on setting clear, realistic objectives (for example, increasing the number of trout larger than 13 inches). Then, regulations must be carefully tailored to the stream on which they will be applied. Finally, the stream must be surveyed by electro fishing or creel censuses to determine if the regulations are working as planned.
Minnesota has moved toward wild-trout-management on several streams on the North Shore and in the southeast, which depend solely on natural reproduction. The DNR has begun experimenting with catch-and-release regulations and various slot limits on a few selected streams to improve the quality of Minnesota's stream-trout fishing and to offer anglers another fishing alternative. Nonetheless, wild trout and restrictive regulations will only be a part of the state's diverse approach to trout management. The trout-stocking program will continue to be important to Minnesota's fisheries management. The program will provide trout in marginal waters and give anglers, who don't care about the thrill of catching a wild trout, a chance to take home a trout.