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Pike regulations end Nov. 1 on 15 lakes

Gloria and Terry Rial could keep this northern pike on certain Minnesota lakes but not on others due to DNR experimental regulations. Because of a recent ruling, the number of lakes statewide with experimental northern regulations will decrease to 100, with additional lakes reconsidered in the next few months. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

According to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources press release, fifteen lakes in Minnesota will be posted soon with signs that indicate the current northern pike special regulation will end Tuesday, Nov. 1.

This change is the result of a new state law that limits the DNR to no more than 100 northern pike special or experimental regulation lakes and only allows for length-based rules.

"Currently, we are at 115 lakes with length-based regulations," said Al Stevens, fishing regulations coordinator for the DNR. "To comply with the new law, we are dropping regulations on 15 lakes where fisheries biologists believe the regulation is least likely to achieve its management goal or is a smaller lake connected to a larger lake that also has a special northern pike regulation." Some neighboring counties have an impact from the change including the lakes Cotton and Big Floyd in Becker County and Louise in Cass County. These lakes will revert to the standard statewide northern pike regulation - a three-fish limit with no more than one greater than 30 inches in possession.

These changes are being done temporarily through an expedited rulemaking process to get them in effect by Nov. 1, as the law requires. Stevens said the DNR will also post the lakes this fall and hold local informational meetings in January 2012 before making the changes permanent. Meeting times and locations will be announced in early January.

Because the law enacted this summer also narrowed the definition of allowable special or experimental designated lakes for northern pike to those with length limits, regulations on an additional 17 lakes with catch-and-release or reduced bag limits will also be dropped from special or experimental regulations. The status of these lakes will be addressed through other DNR rule-making authorities in the months ahead.

During the past 20 years, the DNR has introduced many special and experimental regulations to improve the average size of fish and thereby improve fishing quality. For northern pike, special regulations typically require anglers to immediately release fish in a specified size range, often 24 to 36 inches, and limit the harvest of fish larger than the size range to one fish. Park Rapids area guide Jeremy Anderson, owner of Jones' Guide Service, commented that "removing the experimental regulation on certain lakes makes sense, but only in specific situations. Limiting the number of lakes with experimental northern pike regulations to 100 isn't necessarily good.

"Most lakes that have a protective slot for northern pike show increased size and numbers of larger pike," states Anderson.

"Yet certain bodies of water, those that have too many northerns to begin with or lakes that possess massive spawning grounds for northern pike, don't typically display the increase in size structure that the experimental regulations are intended for." Anderson expands, "I enjoy having lakes in our area where I can catch a bunch of nice 'eaters', but also like the pursuit of a trophy, typically on the lakes with experimental pike regulations."