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The future of Big Sand walleye like this one will be discussed on Wednesday, September 28 at 7 p.m. in the Northwood's Bank community meeting room. The public is both invited and encouraged to attend.(Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Big Sand Lake walleye to be discussed

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One of Minnesota's premier walleye lakes, Big Sand, has an experimental regulation scheduled to sunset. A public informational meeting open for comment with the Park Rapids Area Fisheries is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Northwood's Bank community meeting room in Park Rapids.

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Anyone interested in providing comment on the current and future experimental regulation is invited to attend.

Big Sand is a 1,635 acre lake sitting in the middle of the Mantrap chain of lakes. The Department of Natural Resources website lists the maximum depth at 135 feet. Water clarity on Big Sand is typically around 20-feet.

Volunteers from Big Sand and Little Sand monitor water clarity, dissolved oxygen and water temperature, bi-monthly throughout the summer months.

The current experimental regulation on Big Sand requires all walleye between 20" and 26" to be immediately released. Anglers may keep one fish over 26."

According to Doug Kingsley, Park Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor, "In 1990 the public felt walleye, particularly large walleye, were being overharvested on Big Sand.

"The original regulation, that the public insisted on, was one walleye over 20" in possession. A research project was conducted that included 3-years of annual creel surveys and walleye tagging. That study concluded that the one over 20" regulation would be ineffective at reducing harvest of large walleye. The public accepted an 18-26" protected slot length limit, with one walleye over 26" allowed in possession.

That regulation was implemented in 1995 and scheduled to sunset in 2000. There were no objectives set in 1995, so they were set in 1998. In fall, 1999 it was felt that the regulation didn't have enough time to accomplish its objectives, so following public input meetings it was extended another five years, to 2005," states Kingsley.

"During that time period we saw declines in condition and growth of walleye so in 2004 I proposed to modify the regulation to a 20-28" protected slot, with one over 28" allowed in possession. The logic was to allow more harvest of smaller size walleye, thin out their numbers and improve growth and condition. That proposal was accepted by a majority of those providing input in 2004, so it was implemented in 2005. That is the current regulation, scheduled to sunset in May, 2012."

And the experimental regulation appears to be working. "Abundance of walleye has increased to the highest levels seen in 2001, 2004 and 2006 sampling, and somewhat lower (9.3 per gill net) but still well above the 7 per gill net goal in 2011. The proportion of walleye between 18 and 26" during spring's spawning run has been above 50% since the early 1990s.

Angler catch rates of 18-26" walleye increased from an average of 0.06 per hour in the 1990-92 creel surveys to 0.20 per hour in 2002. The estimated catch rate of walleye larger than 26" increased from 0.004 in 1990-92 to 0.010 in 2002", says Kingsley.

Anyone unable to attend the September 28 meeting is asked to contact Kingsley at 732-4153 or dkingsley@state.mn.us.

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