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Crow Wing pike regulation loosened

Arlene Hukki of Nevis caught this big northern pike in the Park Rapids Area Community Fish House this winter. Beginning with the fishing opener, pike on 5th & 6th Crow Wing lakes will have a 24-36" release regulation, opposed to the previous 40" and under immediate release requirement. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Eight years ago, the Department of Natural Resources implemented an experimental regulation for northern pike on 5th and 6th Crow Wing, 8th, 9th and 10th Crow Wing, Blueberry and Mantrap Lakes.

The Blueberry and Mantrap regulation requires the immediate release of all northern pike between 24" and 36" with one northern pike allowed over 36".

On the Crow Wings, all northern pike 40" and under must be immediately released.

The experimental regulation was implemented to enhance anglers' chances of landing larger northern pike.

Whereas some area lakes have an overabundance of northern pike, which limits their average size and ability to grow large, the Crow Wings had several attractive attributes for fostering the development of large northerns, including an estimated population less than the state average.

However, the DNR augmented the experimental regulation of 5th and 6th Crow Wing lakes for 2011 following a public meeting held last fall.

A complex series of situations contributed to altering the experimental regulation.

From 2001 to 2007, winter fishing on 6th Crow Wing was outstanding, but not necessarily for northern pike. Anglers targeting panfish experienced great success.

But in June 2007, 5th and 6th Crow Wing bluegill and pumpkinseed populations suffered extensive mortality due to columnaris bacteria.

Columnaris is always present in the lakes, but when fish are in a compromised state of health, which is common following the strains of spawning or when water temperatures rise rapidly or are abnormally high, they are more likely to acquire the bacteria and diseases that are always present in our lakes.

Many anglers believed the drop in panfish numbers was directly related to the increase of northern pike in the lake.

The DNR then conducted a survey on northern pike (2009) and found that there wasn't much change in the size structure of the pike in 5th and 6th Crow Wing, but their abundance had increased substantially, most likely due to minimal angler harvest because of the protective regulation for fish under 40".

According to Park Rapids Area Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley, the majority of people providing public comment were opposed to the experimental regulation. "The majority wanted it removed," said Kingsley.

However, after presenting an alternative to removing the regulation, a 24-36" release slot for pike with anglers able to keep northerns under 24" and one over 36", the public was supportive.

Public comments from Blueberry and Mantrap lakes have been positive over the past eight years, with anglers seeing more and bigger northerns than usual. And because both of those lakes have a 24" to 36" required release, anglers are still able to keep certain sized fish for the frying pan or the trophy room.

The experimental regulation change on 5th and 6th Crow Wing will go into effect at the beginning of the pike season, May 14, 2011.

The experimental regulation has not been altered on 8th, 9th and 10th Crow Wing lakes where all fish 40" and under must be immediately released. Possession limit is one northern over 40."