Forward by Wired2fish
Wired2fish is excited to report that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is soliciting angler input on an expanded bass fishing catch-and-release season. Please follow this survey link to learn more about the proposed change to the bass season, and its justification, followed by a short questionnaire.
Per Eric Altena, Bass Technical Team Management Chair: “As with all potential regulatory changes, there is a public input portion that is needed to determine if the change will sit well with the majority of anglers in the state of Minnesota. We would like your input regarding offering a catch and release season from the current closure (typically the last Sunday in February), through the current state fishing opener (defined as the Saturday two weeks prior to Memorial Day Weekend).”
Wired2fish, Inc. strongly advocates for conservation and commonsense science-based approaches to fisheries management. With several Minnesota-based staff, our team recognizes the growth and importance of bass fishing in our state and views expanded bass fishing angling opportunities as a way to support angling recruitment without adverse effects on the resource (per the existing science provided below).
As the law now stands, anglers largely target prespawn bass from the current state fishing opener (the Saturday two weeks before Memorial Day Weekend) through the spawn in late May to early June. Expanding this catch-and-release season allows for excellent prespawn open-water angling for bass for an extra two to four weeks depending on location in the state.
From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Bass fishing in Minnesota has become increasingly popular. Anglers have questioned the need for closed bass seasons. In the interest of increasing bass opportunities, the DNR’s Bass Technical Team (Fisheries staff dedicated to bass research and management) has discussed a year-round angling season concept. The Team looked at available biological information from Minnesota and in the scientific literature and is seeking public comment on updating the existing catch-and-release season.
Currently, bass angling is allowed during the general walleye fishing season and closed from the end of ice fishing until the walleye opener.
PROPOSED CHANGE TO BASS SEASON
The proposed bass season would simply replace the closed bass season with catch-and-release bass angling. Catch-and-release will still be in effect for the first two weeks of the general fishing season through most of the state. In the northeast zone, the harvest season that starts on the walleye fishing opener will remain in place.
- Opportunity to expand early season angling statewide.
- No biological evidence that Minnesota bass populations are stressed. Survey data has found that bass length frequencies have improved (Figure 1), and recruitment has remained stable (Figure 2). Abundance has also been generally increasing across the state (Bethke and Staples, 2015).
- No biological evidence that catch-and-release fishing will pose a conservation issue. Although individual nests can fail when bass are angled during spawning (Ridgeway and Shuter, 1997; Hanson et al., 2008), such failures have not been shown to reduce bass recruitment (Zipkin et al., 2007; Allen et al., 2011; Trippel et al., 2017).
- There are enforcement concerns that offering early angling for bass may increase opportunities for anglers to target walleye and pike during their closed seasons. While this is possible, anglers can already target these species out of season by “fishing for perch or crappies.”
- Cooler water temperatures would result in low release mortality for bass or unintended species such as walleye and pike.
- No other states have a closed season for bass except for the northern part of Maine.
The Bass Technical Team fully expects that a catch-and-release season could be offered without significant impacts to bass or other species.
Figure 1 Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass proportion of fish captured by electrofishing from 1993-2019 for fish greater than 14″.
Figure 2 Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass young-of-year captured per lake during nearshore sampling, with backpack electrofishing and seining 2009-2021.
More details can be found about the fishing in Minnesota here.