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TALKIN WITH DOKKEN: Fish fillets on the ice

Q. I’m going to be spending two nights in a sleeper house on Lake of the Woods in a couple of weeks. I know Minnesota only allows a daily limit, with no possession limit, for most species, but what is the law as far as filleting and consuming fish when on the ice?

A. This answer is specific to Lake of the Woods — which requires anglers to release all walleyes from 19½ to 28 inches in length — but here’s what Page 13 of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations book says about consuming fish on the ice:

“When fish are consumed on the ice or on a watercraft that is docked and moored to shore, the carcass of a fish with size limits (other than statewide size limits) must be retained in such a way that the carcass may be readily unpacked, unwrapped and separated so that the carcass may be examined, measured and counted to ensure compliance with size restrictions for that day. The fish carcasses must be retained with head, dorsal fin and tail intact, and the carcass will be counted and included in a daily possession limit.”

It’s clear you can’t fillet any fish you don’t plan to eat on the ice, but to me, at least, it wasn’t clear by the regulations whether the carcasses have to be retained for the duration of time on the ice or if they can be discarded daily. So, I checked on that with Lt. Pat Znajda, District 1 enforcement supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in northwest Minnesota.

According to Znajda, carcasses from fish consumed on the ice only have to be retained for the 24-hour period when they were caught. For rule-making purposes, that 24-hour period goes from midnight to midnight. So, if you’re staying on the ice for two days, you only have to retain the carcasses from fish consumed on the first day of the trip for that 24-hour period.

Bottom line: Don’t fillet any fish on the ice that you don’t plan to eat, retain the carcasses from the fish you eat on a given day so they can be easily measured and identified, follow the size and species limits and you will be fine.

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Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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