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Proposal before Legislature would allow two fishing rods

Minnesota anglers can currently use two rods for ice fishing and on border waters. However, if a new bill earns House and Senate approval, they could use two rods per angler during the open-water season. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Minnesota State Representative Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, has authored a bill allowing anglers on state waters to utilize two fishing rods, aligning with neighboring states Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Currently, anglers in Minnesota can use two lines only in border waters or while ice fishing.

If the bill receives House and Senate approval, it would allow Minnesota anglers to use one line rigged with bait and a bobber while casting a second line.

The bill was heard Monday in the House Game, Fish and Forestry Division. Similar legislation has passed the House before but has met opposition in the Senate.

According to the Legislative record, Juhnke testified that he has received calls and letters from anglers and resort owners from across Minnesota urging the two-line limit.

However, the bill met opposition from four people testifying that allowing two lines per angler could put the states fisheries at risk.

Ed Boggess, deputy director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, stated, "It's not a fishery population issue, it's a quality issue," noting that by putting more lines in the water could result in more fish being caught, which could potentially cause stress resulting in higher mortality rates.

Shawn Kellett, president of the Twin Cities chapter of Muskies Inc., also testified in opposition of the proposal, stating, "The bill is more about angler greed than creating a better fishery. If the fishery isn't what it is now, people won't come to our resorts from out of state anyway."

Juhnke says the bill could bring in additional revenue if anglers were required to buy an extra stamp to fish with two rods. For example, if the stamp cost $10, the state could bring in approximately $1 million a year, Juhnke said.

A few notable Park Rapids anglers offered their opinions to the Park Rapids Enterprise regarding the proposed bill. Kenny Barr, an area fisherman, joked that he has a hard enough time maintaining one line in the water. "I'm not for it", says Barr. "You can only have so many fish, whether it takes 10 minutes or 10 hours." Barr surmises the additional line may tempt some anglers to go over legal possession limits.

Park Rapids native Dean Christofferson also opposes the bill. "I really see no reason for it. There's already enough people who leave an unattended line at the end of the dock and now they might think they can have two, although it's illegal in the first place." Christofferson doesn't think allowing two lines will lure more anglers to fish in the state. "That would be like saying you wouldn't go to certain parts of Canada because you have to use barbless hooks. People still go there because of the great fisheries and the potential to land a trophy fish."

Kelly Condiff, a former area fishing guide, has a slightly different view on the topic. "A limit's a limit", says Condiff. "If the limits are enforced, it really doesn't matter how the angler gets to that point, whether they use one rod or more than one."

Yet Juhnke believes the bill is in the best interest of anglers statewide. "It makes the sport more enjoyable when the fish aren't biting."