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Little Mantrap largemouth, similar to this one caught by Michael Baumert, are required to be released through a DNR experimental regulation. That 12 to 18 inch slot is scheduled for review and the DNR seeks public comment on September 17 at 7 p.m. in the lower level of Northwoods Bank. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Little Mantrap regulations to be discussed

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Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources has, over the past few years, increased its focus upon management of trophy caliber fish. Not only is angling in Minnesota a numbers game, both in terms of fish populations and revenue generated by the sport, but is simultaneously experiencing a "bigger is better" mentality.

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Various experimental regulations have been put in place for species like bass, muskie, northern pike, walleye, crappie, even sunfish and perch, aiming to increase angler odds of catching a lunker.

Slot limits, minimum lengths and decreased limits hope to make Minnesota waters a premier destination for fishing enthusiasts. Though that may already be the case, the DNR is striving to make fishing even better.

One lake in the Park Rapids area that has accommodated an experimental regulation is Little Mantrap Lake. The DNR's original and current focus is largemouth bass, specifically striving to double the average angler catch rate of largemouth bass 12 inches or greater.

To do so, the DNR first held a public meeting in the fall of 1996. In May of 1997, an experimental regulation requiring all bass between 12 and 18 inches to be released, with one bass allowed per angler over 20-inches, was implemented, scheduled to "sunset" in March of 2005.

In September of 2004, leading up to the experimental regulation's re-evaluation, another public meeting was held.

At that time, a "toolbox" regulation was proposed.

A toolbox regulation is a choice of 2 to 4 general regulations per species and situation that is intended to increase population and size while decreasing confusion for anglers in recognizing the regulation's requirements.

That proposal was for all bass 12 to 20-inches to be immediately released with one bass over 20 inches allowed. However, the paperwork process had a glitch and therefore the original regulation continued for five more years, until 2010.

A public meeting, set for Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the lower level of Northwoods Bank opens up the regulation for public comment.

According to data compiled by the Park Rapids Area Fisheries through trap net, gill net, electro-shocking and angler creel surveys is quite interesting.

In the early stages of the regulation, from 1997-2007, angler catch rates of largemouth bass over 12-inches tripled, which accomplished the DNR's goal of at least doubling catch rates.

However, from 1997-2004, compliance with the regulation was an issue since many anglers were unaware of the experimental slot.

A goal was set to increase angler knowledge of the regulation to 85% of anglers, which was accomplished as well (86% up from 68% compliance in 2002-03).

Contrary to popular belief, angling hours on the lake actually increased over the course of the regulation's span, even though people could not keep bass in the slot.

Another interesting fact is that catch rates of fish within the slot increased dramatically, though the density of bass didn't show much change. In other words, many of the fish caught were probably landed more than once, providing numerous anglers with action.

Anyone not able to make the public meeting or those who would like to talk with the DNR privately are asked to contact Doug Kingsley or Edie Everts by sending a letter to the Park Rapids Area Fisheries, calling the station at 732-4153, stopping in or emailing Doug Kingsley at doug.kingsley@dnr.state.mn.us.

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