The red drop leaf table in the kitchen was the place for my dad to sit us down to discuss what was on his mind, including household conversations on outdoor ethics. Unpleasant at times. Recalling an incident when my older brother and I spent opening day of duck season learning duck identification 101, dad found out we had shot redheads during a special teal season. At another meeting, dad summoned myself and fishing buddies to the "red table." It was spring and dad was upset. In his opinion, we were catching and keeping too many crappies. A farm boy at heart, a slogan we had heard before, "There is a time to sow and a time to harvest." Buckets of crappies we were keeping did not meet with his approval. "But dad, we are legal to take crappies in the spring during the spawn; we haven't done anything wrong,"my brother said. Dad agreed. "No, it isn't illegal but it is unethical to act like a of bunch game hogs. What would happen if we didn't have any fish to catch, because you kids take too many. Time to stop"
Years that followed we continued to fish spring crappies, dad passed away when I was a junior in high school, but his words still bounced around in my head. As time went on, instead of taking a bunch of fish I was satisfied to keep a few for a fresh meal, leaving them alone to finish spawning. Today, still enjoy catching and keeping a few spring crappie, always putting resource first. Rarely take a limit on a outing, nor do I go back for more.
Remembering dad's words. "What would happen if we didn't have any fish to catch." Think about that, it's good point. As I follow social media it becomes increasingly clear it is about catching and harvesting a lot of whatever. Stringer shots, been in a few myself, later discouraged, now are being replaced by fish in a live well. Catch and release, a practice put into place so anglers can release bigger fish while trying to catch fish for a meal, changed to the new normal. Anglers keeping a limit of fish, then keep catching and releasing forgetting delayed mortality.
Crappies and bluegills are the target right now. Early ice out means a wide window of opportunity before the walleye season to focus and harvest spawning bluegills and crappies. Potential is high, for a lot of fish to be harvested this spring. Some fishermen feel that it is ok to keep multiple limits daily. Doing so robs fish from you and I. Off the record, one fishery biologist I spoke with last week had this to say. Over harvest of crappie and bluegills during the spring spawn is dangerous to the future of resource. With small bodies of water, typical of Minnesota lakes areas, the impact to the resource can be more dramatic compared to larger bodies of water. Best practice is to keep just a few for a meal or two, otherwise leave them alone until after the spawn.
Tom Neustrom, Grand Rapids fishing guide, educator and tireless, strong advocate for the resource, stays off bedding fish of all species. He educates his clients to always put the betterment of the resource first. Anglers at all levels of expertise, he advises, need to be informed and aware to the importance of the resource is and its future. As a professional angler he encourages fishermen, it's ok to keep a few spring crappie or bluegill for a meal. However, the overharvest of any fish specie will result in its reduction for the future.
Hungry for for beer battered smelt! Mark your calendar for April 29, 2017 at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1 mile south of Menahga on Hwy 71. Come early to enjoy beer battered smelt, all beef hot dogs, Finnish flatbread and all the other fixings, 4 to 7 p.m. Adults, $11. Ages 6-12 years $6, 5-under free.