Rumblings of Trout Regulation Changes

General trout, fishing, conservation, or anything outdoors related discussion. Trip reports and stream conditions welcome, but please do not name streams.
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Rumblings of Trout Regulation Changes

Post by brntrout »

Over the last year or so I have been hearing little things said here and there, and some that have slipped out by DNR Fisheries that suggests they want to get rid of the current C&R trout regulations in SE MN. Having been deeply involved with the process of getting the current regulations in place and being part of the SE MN Trout Advisory Group (SEMTAG) that MN DNR put together its unclear to me why they would want to change regulations. After going through an extensive 3 year process which the DNR included 6 regional and metro area public input meetings, the public by clear majority wanted the current C&R regulations implemented.

The idea for the current regulations was to increase the abundance of adult and quality size trout ( trout over 12 inches) that angler prefer to catch. From DNR electro-fishing data that goal has been reached on just about every stream that had the new regulations implemented on them. However, other streams without C&R regulations are now doing almost as well. Because of that fact it appears certain individuals within the DNR feel the regulations are no longer needed. I would say this, I remember before the regulations where implemented trout angling was nowhere as good as it is now. Based on DNR electro-fishing data there was CONSIDERABLY LESS TROUT over 12 inches on all streams and overall abundance on many was a lot poorer as well.

I would also say C&R angling has now become the norm for most anglers, but that would not have happened without C&R regulations being implemented. IMO since C&R angling is now the mind set of most trout anglers, our trout angling is now much superior on ALL streams simply because most anglers now release the vast majority of their trout especially larger trout. Without the regulation changes creating that change in mind set I doubt that would have happened?

I say, don't try fix something that is not only not broken, but working quite well, and even improves the streams that do not have C&R regulations?

Any opinions on this subject?

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Post by mcktrout »

My recent observations match your data:
-More 12"+ fish caught
-Fewer people with creels.

I remember when everyone had a creel (with a few carrying stringers) and did their best to fill them everyday. The result was a decline in fish size, not necessarily numbers. Before C&R and slot limits fish size had decreased to mostly 4-6" fish. While fun on the first cast, the small fish get to be a nuisance if that's all you are catching all day long.

Today, I expect to catch a few 12"+ and maybe even a 14-16" fish every time out. (Expect, not always execute!) The C&R regs have definitely made fishing a better experience.

That being said, if behavior has changed and everyone is doing C&R, there is something to be said for making the regs simpler. Easy to understand and easy to enforce. Less printing and signage cost. Less for the DNR CO's to chase down, freeing them to do other work.

If regs change and fishing gets worse, will we have to spend all the money saved to get them reinstated? I don't know if it's worth it.

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Post by shebs »

I would add that it would be nice to be able to keep the occasional deeply hooked fish on slot streams. I know that's a small percentage for most of us, but it always kills me to have to "release" a dead or dying fish because it's inside the slot.

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Post by brntrout »

shebs wrote:I would add that it would be nice to be able to keep the occasional deeply hooked fish on slot streams. I know that's a small percentage for most of us, but it always kills me to have to "release" a dead or dying fish because it's inside the slot.
It is kind of bothersome to me as well. The problem would be the small percentage of anglers who would use that opportunity as an excuse to kill trout that were not deeply hooked.

What most anglers want is the opportunity to catch quality size fish 12" > on a regular bases. If we want good abundance of quality size trout "just to catch" the regulation in place has to protect 12" > fish from harvest. Under the general regulation, five fish with only one over 16 inches that probably means fewer trout of quality size would survive and abundance would likely go on a slow decline to the point it was before C&R regulations were implemented. At least we know what we have now under the current C&R regulations is pretty darn good. If we change the current C&R streams back to all having General Regulations I would bet the quality of our fishing would decline.

However, if the General Regulation was changed to a 5 fish limit with only one over 12 inches being kept, the abundance of trout over 12 inches might not be different than it is now. However, that is "only an assumption" on my part. Point being, having quality fishing for trout over 12 inches will most likely mean protecting trout over 12 inches from harvest in some manner.

Not matter what is done or NOT DONE, data does support C&R'ed trout with bait is a high mortality risk

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Post by shebs »

Yeah, I 100% agree on all counts. I'd like to see something like you mentioned, a one over 12 limit instead of one over 16. I think the goal is good, and the tactics effective, I have only the slightest quibble with the existing slot regs.
That said, this regulation has little to no impact on my harvest or fishing strategy, but on one or two occasions per year when I gill f*** a 14 and have to put it back for the raccoons to find.

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Re: Rumblings of Trout Regulation Changes

Post by jrs »

I think the problem is that we get an over abundance of less than 12" fish on many streams which limits potential for larger fish on those streams.

Many anglers, myself included, contribute to this as we rarely keep fish. In my case, I fish 12 months a year so most of the time that I'm fishing c&r is in effect and has become ingrained in thinking, preparation, and methodology. I need to consciously think and prepare for keeping fish.

I like the different regs by stream - general, slot, c&r. I also like the slot regs but wonder if they should be more widespread (more streams) and whether the upper slot limit should be increased, to say 20".

What I would change to encourage more harvest of smaller fish is extending the harvest season. Keeping a few less than 12" fish in Jan, Feb, Mar or Oct on a popular slot stream doesn't seem like it would hurt the stream and it might get anglers in the mind set to keep a few smaller fish more regularly during the rest of the season

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Post by trouts »

I don't really understand the need for the change. Why change something that is working. As already mentioned on this forum many times, suggesting others keep the smaller fish in the 10" range would help many streams with higher populations.

The DNR might be thinking there are so many C&R anglers that changing the regulations won't hurt much. I would disagree, because most anglers keeping fish keep the largest trout they can catch. They need to come up with a publication encouraging anglers to keep the smaller fish. It only takes one angler to ruin a stream. I watched one summer as a local fished from a stretch of brookie stream at least 3 times a week keeping his limit each time. This was a stream where only the very upper section held brookies and most of the stream was in bad shape due to very poor land use and farming practices. As I'm sure everyone can guess he wiped out most of the older reproducing brookies and the stream still has not recovered. All while he was technically following the regulations.

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Post by Cutthroat »

Maybe a blanket regulation that requires the release of every trout over 12 inches would make sense from a conservation perspective---and to the most simple mind that can't understand ANY regulatory complexity... :lol:

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Post by brntrout »

Cutthroat wrote:Maybe a blanket regulation that requires the release of every trout over 12 inches would make sense from a conservation perspective---and to the most simple mind that can't understand ANY regulatory complexity... :lol:

Really, if you think about it, ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE as Cutthroat and others have suggested, does anyone really think there is a possibility to increase abundance of trout over 12 inches if we allow harvest of any of them? I'm going with it ain't going to happen! Even allowing bait on streams with C&R restrictions IMO is not a good idea. The increase in hooking mortality from C&R'ed fish with bait is very high, "at best" one out of three are going to die anyway, personally I think its closer to half will die.

I have talked with DNR Fisheries on whether the 12' to 16" slot regulation that allows bait has worked. Their comment about it, which I find laughable is, The slot streams allowing bait don't seem to be much different from the 12" to 16" slot streams that have artificial only restrictions. Then they justify their statement by saying, most bait angler don't fish those areas anyway because they can't keep the larger trout, so they pretty much avoid ALL C&R regulation streams! Now, if that doesn't make you shake your head tell me about it? Let me see, so their saying the slot regs that allow bait are working because bait anglers are refusing to fish those areas, well then, doesn't that mean the people who are actually fishing those area's are actually practicing C&R with artificial lures and flies then?

So in reality the "12 to 16" slot regulation that allows bait is only working because bait anglers do not fish there! If they did fish there the outcome of electro-fishing data on those streams would likely be quite different

Evidently, it appears in their mind another reason to possibly justify changing regulations, WHICH ALSO MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL!

BTW, "ALL the C&R regulations" we have in place today in SE MN were hard fought for by Minnesota Trout Association and TU. The actual regulation changes themselves that are in place are MTA and TU recommendations not MN DNR's. However, the only regulation that isn't a MTA & TU regulation recommendation is, you guessed it, the 12 to 16 inch slot that allows bait !That regulation didn't make sense then, and it doesn't now! The only reason the slot reg with bait exists is because we had to compromise with the DNR in order to get the rest of the regulations implemented.

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Post by S.T.Fanatic »

Personally I agree with what the DNR supposedly said in Tom's post above. The end result is the same without angler discrimination so in the end who cares.

I dont think it would be a problem If the DNR lifted the C&R regs for a time period that included the first four weekends of the general season. That would spread out the fishing pressure for the "opener" and shouldn't have much of an effect on large trout reduction. From there on out you could return to the current regulations so trout on C&R streams would be protected the remainder of the season.

I have thought for a very long time that the one trout over 16" reg is complete crap and is potentially doing more harm than any other regulation there is. Even a 12-16" slot is complete crap. Who came up with the standard that a 16" trout is large?

I don't know how well it would be followed but what would be wrong with having to register "large" trout and maybe making it in line with deer hunting where there is a one buck limit (one trophy trout harvest limit). I would think the large trout registration information could be of great value to the fisheries department in charge of making BMP's for the resource. CO's make random checks with all the taxidermists after deer season wouldn't take hardly any more time to ask to see paperwork on trout. (I realize not all large trout get mounted)
“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?” Aldo Leopold

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