TALKIN' WITH DOKKEN: Where does money for sturgeon tags go?
Q. Open-water sturgeon season is right around the corner on the Rainy River. I purchase a Minnesota sturgeon tag every year. Where does that money go? What kinds of programs does the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have for sturgeon?...
Q. Open-water sturgeon season is right around the corner on the Rainy River. I purchase a Minnesota sturgeon tag every year. Where does that money go? What kinds of programs does the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have for sturgeon?
A. I'll have to admit the idea of spending a day in a boat fishing sturgeon on the big border river is sounding pretty good right about now. Sturgeon season on the Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River is catch-and-release only every year from Oct. 1 through April 23. A limited harvest season begins April 24 and continues through May 7, and fishing reverts to catch-and-release only from May 8 through May 15. Sturgeon season then is closed until July 1, when harvest again is allowed through Sept. 30.
The sturgeon tag you mention is only required for keeping a sturgeon during the harvest seasons, and the limit is one fish per calendar year. Only sturgeon measuring 45 inches to 50 inches, inclusive, or longer than 75 inches can be kept during the harvest seasons.
Catch-and-release fishing is allowed during any of the open seasons without a tag.
Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, tells me the DNR sells the sturgeon tags not to generate revenue but to collect harvest information on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River; the $5 fee basically covers the cost of issuing the tag, he said. Anglers who keep a sturgeon are required to register the fish with the DNR.
Drewes also provided data on the number of sturgeon tags issued in the past seven years:
• 2006: 1,485.
• 2007: 2,027.
• 2008: 2,101.
• 2009: 2,488.
• 2010: 2,818.
• 2011: 2,754.
• 2012: 3,098.
Drewes said the DNR's primary focus for managing lake sturgeon has been removing barriers such as low-head dams, stocking and regulations such as the limited harvest seasons and the protection of fish through the stringent slot limits.
Anglers venturing north to fish sturgeon, whether catch-and-release or in hopes of harvesting a fish, should keep in mind that fishing for the species isn't allowed on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods or Rainy River, where sturgeon are protected under changes to the province's Endangered Species Act that took effect in 2009.
Tom Mosindy, a longtime fisheries biologist for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said the 2009 act classified the province's sturgeon population into three broad geographic regions. They're doing well in Lake of the Woods and Rainy River, he said, but not elsewhere in northwestern Ontario, the region that includes Lake of the Woods and Rainy River. The designations someday could be broken into smaller geographical units, but no such action is imminent, Mosindy told the Herald in March 2012.