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Minnesota to allow catch-and-release fish records for some species

ST. PAUL--Minnesota's state-record fish program now will include catch-and-release length records, but for only three species--lake sturgeon, flathead catfish and muskellunge, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced this week.

Bobbi DuChamp and Lori Weber Menke with a sturgeon
Even this sturgeon seemed to be smiling last Saturday when Herald co-workers Bobbi DuChamp (left), Erskine, Minn., and Lori Weber Menke, Grand Forks, participated in the annual Becoming an Outdoors Woman sturgeon excursion near Baudette, Minn. DuChamp caugth the sturgeon, which was either 68 inches or 63 inches depending on who measured the fish before it was released. (Brad Dokken photo)
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ST. PAUL-Minnesota's state-record fish program now will include catch-and-release length records, but for only three species-lake sturgeon, flathead catfish and muskellunge, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced this week.

Traditional catch-and-keep records will remain an option for all species, said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the DNR

Minnesota's traditional fishing records are based on certified weight. The new catch-and-release length records for muskellunge, lake sturgeon or flathead catfish require anglers to measure and take a photograph of the fish before releasing it.

To be considered for the Minnesota Catch and Release Fish program, anglers must submit one photo of the fish displayed alongside a measuring stick, ruler or tape, and one photo of the angler with the fish, DNR officials said.

Several factors led to the adoption of catch-and-release records, the agency said. Primarily, the popularity of catch-and-release fishing is growing, and many anglers are reluctant to harvest muskies, flathead catfish and sturgeon that might qualify for a state record.

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Additionally, in 2015, the DNR established a higher minimum length for muskies, meaning anglers had fewer opportunities to keep them. Also last year, a statewide catch-and-release season for lake sturgeon was adopted, and a greater number of locations were included among waters where anglers can target lake sturgeon.

On Lake of the Woods and Rainy River, several sturgeon have been caught in recent years that easily would have toppled the 94-pound, 4-ounce record that came from the Kettle River in 1994. But the sturgeon harvest season is limited, and the slot limit only allows fish in the ranges of "45 to 50 inches" or "75 inches or larger" to be kept.

This new system allows anglers who don't have a harvest tag or don't want to keep and kill a fish to be recognized with a state record. The minimum length requirement for sturgeon is 55 inches.

"We sometimes hear reports of large fish caught and released that may have been state-record weight," Kurre said. "Now we have a way to formally honor the skill of those who catch and release these fish and recognize Minnesota's outstanding fishing opportunities for these species."

As of Tuesday, Kurre said the DNR hadn't received any reports of potential state record-length sturgeon, but Dennis Topp, assistant area fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Baudette, said plenty of candidates have been caught this spring on the Rainy River and Four-Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods by anglers reporting tagged sturgeon.

"We're seeing all kinds of fish big enough to be entered," Topp said.

For complete rules about applying for a catch-and-release record, go to mndnr.gov/recordfish.

Related Topics: FISHING
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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