by Bob Jensen

Throughout the Midwest and probably other parts of North America, there are some lakes that have special fishing regulations. Not many lakes, but a few. These special regulations greatly restrict the number of fish you can keep when you go fishing. These lakes are few and far between, and they're usually smaller lakes. Much of the time, the restrictions focus on large or smallmouth bass or muskies, but some also focus on walleyes and northern pike. In all of the lakes I've ever fished that had these restrictions, the fishing was usually very good and sometimes fantastic. Remember, these are public lakes that are easy to get to and have public landings. They aren't private lakes that have limited access.


A change in fishing regulations has depleted the bass population, making it harder for kids to get hooked on fishing.​

One of these lakes that I've been fishing the past few years has undergone a change. The special regulations that protected smallmouth and largemouth bass have been lifted. Where you used to be able to only keep one a day, and it had to be over 20 inches, now you can keep a daily limit of six per day with only one over 20 inches. The catching in this lake used to be tremendous: It's not so good anymore.

Earlier this year, Al Lindner made a comment on the Lindner Media Facebook page; it referred to a photo that appeared in an area newspaper. The photo was a stringer shot of smallmouth bass. Al made a comment to the effect that "I didn't think they ran photos like this anymore" or something like that. The number of people who were upset by that comment was more than I would have imagined.

Some anglers think that if they buy a fishing license, they have a right to keep a limit of fish. I think that sometimes we confuse rights with privileges. Voting is a right: Keeping a limit of fish is a privilege. And if keeping a limit of fish just because you bought a fishing license is a right, then it's wrong. In some, or many situations, a few people keeping limits of fish can be harmful or disastrous to a fish population, especially smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass, especially on smaller lakes, don't move around much and are generally willing biters. Their numbers can be fished down very quickly.

So, why do some anglers (me included) think it's ok to take a limit of walleye, perch, or crappies every now and then, but not smallmouth or largemouth? Why are walleyes, perch, and crappies good for catching and eating, but largemouth and smallmouth good for catching and releasing? I don't know for sure. Maybe it is hypocritical and contradictory, but that's what I and many anglers believe.

I truly believe that most lakes should allow some fish to be kept, but there are some lakes where keeping fish should be very restricted. Not many lakes, but a few. Here's why: I've noticed a change on that lake that I mentioned earlier that had the restrictions on bass. It used to be that when we went there in the spring, the docks would be full of youngsters who were fishing. Even better, they were catching - largemouth and smallmouth bass, and lots of 'em. Mostly 12 and 14 inchers, but frequently a 17-incher, and occasionally, a 20-incher. Those docks with the kids were alive with laughter and squeals of excitement when they caught those bass.

I noticed this spring that there were nowhere near as many kids fishing, and the laughter was missing. So were the bass.

In just two quick years, the bass population - due to catch and keep - has been depleted. And the kids aren't having as much fun. And if they're not having fun because they're not catching fish, soon, they won't go fishing anymore. And that's not right, but it's understandable. Then what will they do? Video games? Facebook? If it's Facebook, I hope they'll post on some fishing Facebook page somewhere that, just because the law says we can keep limits of smallmouth bass, it's just not right.