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Brad Dokken: Killing a pike to 'save' the walleyes is poor logic

With the outline of a wheeled fish house that had been set on the ice clearly visible in the foreground, five northern pike were dumped and left in late January on Devils Lake. An angler with an appreciation for pike and a knack for removing the pesky Y-bones salvaged the fish, which hadn't been frozen long. (Submitted photo) 1 / 3
Signs bearing the "Keep It Clean" logo will be in place along the south shore of Lake of the Woods this winter encouraging anglers to properly dispose of their garbage when leaving the ice.2 / 3
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In late January, a friend and his son were leaving the ice of Devils Lake after a day of tip-up fishing when they came across five pike laying beside the outline of what appeared to be a wheeled fish house, judging by the imprint on the ice.

The pike hadn't been frozen very long so my friend picked them up and took them home. He's well-schooled in the procedure for taking out the pesky Y-bones that give pike a bad rap, and pike either deep fried or grilled with a spicy seasoning are a family favorite.

In other words, the pike were put to good use.

More recently, I received a photo of a trophy-size northern pike. The pike was impressive and perfectly legal to keep, but it wasn't clear by the email whether the fish had been kept or released.

I emailed the sender back for clarification and was told the angler who caught fish had kept it for mounting, and that keeping it would be "better for the walleye population."

I don't begrudge anyone who keeps a legally caught northern pike for mounting, but I can't help but question the logic that keeping the fish is going benefit the walleye population on this particular lake. Northern pike can wreak havoc in waters where they're illegally introduced and essentially become an invasive species, but killing a pike "to protect the walleyes" in a lake or river where the species is native is naive thinking, at best.

In the case of the five pike on Devils Lake, it's possible they accidentally fell out of a vehicle or tow sled, I suppose, but the evidence presented by the outline on the ice where a fish house had been set suggests otherwise.

"No question what happened," my friend who salvaged the fish said.

If they were dumped intentionally, it's a case of slob fishing at its worst.

It's not that many years ago that anglers on Lake of the Woods left eelpout and even perch—hard as that might be for people to believe—on the ice because they weren't walleyes or saugers and didn't deserve to go back in the lake.

Education and enforcement helped reverse that misguided mindset. Here's hoping the same thing happens with northern pike in their native waters.

'Keep It Clean' working

Speaking of trash on the ice, a newsletter from the Roseau County Soil and Water Conservation District in northwest Minnesota caught my attention this week.

According to the newsletter, the winter "Keep It Clean" program on Lake of the Woods, launched during the winter of 2012-13, is having a real impact on reducing the amount of garbage left on the ice to eventually wash up on shore or sink to the bottom of the lake.

As part of the program, project partners—including Lake of the Woods County, the Lake of the Woods and Roseau County soil and water conservation districts, the cities of Warroad and Baudette, Lake of the Woods Chamber of Commerce, Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau and six resorts—conduct clean-up efforts on 15 miles of Lake of the Woods shoreline annually.

The clean-up results in nearly 1,000 pounds of trash removed annually from the 15 miles of shoreline. At the same time, more than 100 tons of trash—that's not a misprint—is hauled every winter from county garbage receptacles set up at access points along the south shore of the lake as part of the program.

It's unfortunate that a few anglers and others who use the lake don't have the courtesy to pick up after themselves, but there's no doubt the "Keep It Clean" program is making a big difference.

Well done.

Movie has hunting theme

A soon-to-be-released movie with a deer hunting theme was filmed in northern Minnesota.

Set for theatrical release Friday, March 23, "Cold November" was filmed near Hibbing, Minn., where film director Karl Jacob's family has hunting land, according to a news release from Monument Releasing.

Described as a "coming-of-age" movie, "Cold November" tells the story of Florence, a 12-year-old girl who's about to embark on her first deer hunt, an experience that marks a stepping-stone, of sorts, on her journey to adulthood.

"As Florence is taught how to shoot a gun and skin a deer, she gains a deeper understanding of life and death," according to a synopsis in the news release. "When Florence finds herself alone during a hunt, however, expectations dissolve into chaos as she must rely on her instinct and training to follow through with her decisions, pull herself together, and face becoming an adult."

No showings of the movie are scheduled in northwest Minnesota or northeast North Dakota, but "Cold November" will be shown March 23-29 at Mann Cinema theaters in Hibbing and Grand Rapids, Minn.

More info: coldnovemberfilm.com.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. 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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