Slot Limits

May 27, 2010 by  

By Doug Leier

I’ve got one lunker fish to my credit and I won’t lie, it was more about luck than skill, and that’s how it usually works for me.

Save for the hardcore anglers who spend more time fishing than sleeping, the majority of us are not on the water fishing three hours a day for five days a week, rain or shine. So I feel pretty confident saying that most anglers probably don’t have a lot of stories about the “Big One,” and some of those likely wouldn’t even make the list for most of our more intense peers.

My big fish story begins and ends on a small reservoir in LaMoure County, and involves a 40-inch pike – chuckle all you want but you don’t know the story, and it’s not real important to hear how I fought it for three hours. Okay, maybe that’s an embelishment, but anglers understand that many trophies are not remembered only for how big they were, but also include the totality of the experience.

Catching a big fish with light line, a broken drag and no net in marginal conditions creates a vivid memory. By the way, my story includes all of those. After landing my whopper I fully intended to release the fish, but it was just injured too badly, so it ended up grilled. I’d have been more than happy to return it to the lake.

I suspect my thoughts at the time were similar to those of many anglers, that keeping a fish of a lifetime isn’t always necessary. Many of us are apt to practice CPR – catch, photo and release.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists have for many years analyzed and weighed additional regulations that would require release of some big fish instead of leaving that decision up to individual anglers.

Potential new regulations receive the same analysis as those that already exist. Those that don’t provide a clear biological or social benefit typically don’t get on the books, and those that no longer serve their original purpose are often removed. For instance, Game and Fish this year removed minimum length restrictions for walleyes on two lakes because after many years they didn’t really accomplish their intended purpose.

Along that same line, Department biologists seriously considered, and then decided not to implement a “one-over” rule, specific to walleyes, that would have allowed only one fish over a certain length in the daily limit. While some anglers feel such a rule would save many big fish from harvest, Game and Fish evaluation from several different angles did not identify enough favorable outcomes to justify adding a new restriction.

Previous Department creel surveys show most anglers practice self-restraint and don’t, as a standard practice, keep more than one trophy fish from an outing. Biologists evaluated the potential of a 20- or 22-inch one-over restriction on the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, and discovered only 10 percent of the boats with one angler and 5 percent of the boats with multiple anglers kept more than one walleye greater than 20 inches.

While fisheries biologists did not feel a one-over regulation was necessary for the current two-year proclamation period, conditions are always changing. Who’s to say we’ll never need such a regulation in the future, but for now new restrictions aren’t necessary to maintain the good fishing anglers are enjoying.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by
email:[email protected]


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