Tracker Pixel for Entry

​The Conscientious Fisherman

by Diane Miller | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Outdoors | June 26th, 2014

Cover by Raul Gomez

Interested in catching fish this summer? Staying out of trouble with the DNR? Preventing the spread of zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil? Catching and releasing a monster fish? Catching and keeping a monster fish? Helping a caught fish survive? Securing the future wealth of lakes country? Earning the respect of veteran fisherman? Learning about fishing ethics?

Hundreds of thousands of people fish in Minnesota and North Dakota every year, so we want to make it as easy as possible for folks to understand some of the most standard, vital rules and regulations that state DNRs have strategically put in place.

Just how strategic are these rules are regulations?

Detroit Lakes professional fishing guide Jerry Sondag knows quite precisely how strategic and important these regulations are, especially as a specialist of muskies, which are some of largest, most rare fish in the region.

Sondag, who’s strictly a catch-and-release fishing guide and has caught and helped others catch hundreds of muskies over the years, said fishing keeps getting tougher every year. There are a number of reasons.

“Out of natural reproduction (of muskies) under 1 percent of those eggs actually hatch, under 1 percent of those reach juvenile stage and under one percent of those grow to full maturity,” Sondag said to HPR. “So you’re talking a fraction of a percent actually grow to full maturity in natural reproduction.”

Because of the difficulty of naturally spawning certain types of fish, mainly muskie and walleye, states use hatcheries to stock and grow fish to later be released in lakes and rivers for catching.

According to the Minnesota DNR, “Hundreds of Minnesota walleye lakes would today offer little or no walleye fishing were it not for regular stocking.”

Fishery supervisors are employed all throughout North Dakota and Minnesota to manage fish populations.

“We basically protect fish populations from overharvest and manage them to the best of our ability to keep a well-balanced fish community in our lakes,” said Jim Wolters, a Fergus Falls-based area fisheries supervisor.

In Minnesota, about 900 lakes are stocked with walleyes and less 100 lakes are stocked with muskies.

Sondag said it’s a tough process to get muskies stocked or restocked into a lake.

“A lake has to meet a certain criteria before they’ll put them in,” he said. “When they find a lake that meets a certain criteria, they have to go through a very tedious approval through lake associations, through the DNR, through the local government in order to get stocked.”

Local and regional fishing organizations like Muskies Inc. and Walleyes Inc. exist, in part, to help fund fisheries.

“Our organizations will put in thousands of dollars to feed these little fish to get them to this (about 30”) big. Maybe one percent make it to this (about 48”) big,” Sondag said.

In Minnesota and North Dakota, anglers are only allowed to keep one 48-inch-or-longer muskie, nothing smaller. In Minnesota, anglers are allowed only one 20-inch-or-longer walleye, or six less-than-20-inch walleye.

Fisherman who dislike throwing back more than one large fish, passing up extra meat for the dinner table, may find it interesting that larger fish are less safe to eat and more likely to contain mercury and other contaminants than smaller fish.

According to the DNR and Minnesota Department of Health, children and women of childbearing age are not recommended to eat walleye longer than 20 inches, pike longer than 30 inches and muskies of any size. All other adults are recommended to eat these same species only once per week. Smaller pan fish, like sunfish and crappie, have no restrictions for older adults and men.

Wolters said fish like crappie, sunfish, pike and bass are able to reproduce naturally without the need for stocking.

“But in order to keep them going, we need to protect the habitat that they need to spawn successfully,” he said.

One of the biggest threats to fish habitats is the spread of aquatic invasive species, like zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil. These nonnative species are harmful to fish populations, water quality and water recreation.

“Once an aquatic invasive species gets into a lake, it’s almost impossible to eradicate,” Wolters said.

Here’s how to prevent the spread:

From the Minnesota DNR Fishing Regulations guide (also applies for ND):

Clean all visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other prohibited invasive species** from watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment before leaving any water access or shoreland. It is illegal to transport them whether dead or alive.

Drain water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait container, motor) and drain bilge, livewell, and baitwell by removing drain plugs before leaving any water access or shoreland property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.

Dispose of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches and worms, in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one waterbody to another. If you want to keep your live bait, you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.

Before fishing, you should know

(These apply in Minnesota and North Dakota)

:: It’s illegal to cull fish that have already been caught and kept. For example, if you’ve reached your possession limit and catch a bigger fish after the fact, it’s illegal to throw back a fish on your stinger or in your bucket.

:: For catching-and-releasing, handle the fish gently and quickly to increase its chance for survival.

:: Only angle for fish in deep water if you intend to keep what you catch.

:: Hold a fish by its belly and lower lip, not by its gills or eye sockets.

:: Avoid littering. Plastic bags, fishing line, styrofoam, six-pack holders and other garbage can kill fish and other wildlife.

:: If entering from a public access point, read posted signs for up-to-date, lake-specific rules and information.

:: When in doubt, refer to the DNR Fishing Regulations guide, available online and at all places where fishing licenses are bought.

Wolters: “In order for regulations to work and to accomplish what they are intended to do, we do need compliance from anglers. Abide by those regulations or those regulations won’t work.”

Why fish? ‘It’s so boring.’

For Sondag, the hours of boredom are overshadowed by the few minutes (sometimes seconds) of “sheer madness.”

“When one hits,” he says, “It’s like your adrenaline goes through the roof … the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”

Learn about Jerry and his fishing guide at



North Dakota:



Tracker Pixel for Entry LionsWay2 Tracker Pixel for Entry SkootersPlumbing

Recently in:

FARGO - The March For Our Lives event that began in Washington D.C. on Saturday by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors, spread across the nation sparking more than 800 “sibling” marches, including a rally…

South by Southwest in Austin Texas, where does one even begin to say how it inspires, invigorates, and exhausts--but in the best way possible. We spent two weeks at SXSW this year working and playing. In that time we had a chance…

Thursday, March 29, 6-7:30pmMake Room, 17 8th St S at Main AveThey love indigo, a natural plant that produces the bluest of blues. Come and learn how to use indigo in dyeing, and practice the art of Shibori (Japanese tie-dye) to…

As we eke out our final hours in Austin, the quiet is almost stifling. It’s the combination of a collective citywide sigh of relief after the storm that was SXSW and the anxiety and uncertainty of the anonymous package bombings…

Why is our life expectancy dropping?We don’t grow bananas in this country but we are rapidly becoming a banana republic. Because of prescription and illegal drug deaths, a firearms death rate 25 times any other developed country,…

Although the temperatures were sub zero last Sunday, the crowd and competitors were certainly on fire at the Holiday Inn in Fargo for the 5th Annual Bartenders Battle.This event has become a highlight of the year for the service…

I had heard rumblings among the small but close-knit service industry folk in Downtown Fargo. Eric and Sara Watson were looking to sell, but it wasn’t until this morning that a phone call and email were sent my way and I was…

In Fargo, we are certainly used to long, cold winters, but that doesn’t make us any less anxious for them to end with each coming spring. The arrival of warmer weather means longer days and finally being able to see green again…

A captivating lead performance by Lene Cecilia Sparrok anchors the stout and handsome “Sami Blood,” winner of the award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Fargo Film Festival.Set principally in the 1930s, director Amanda…

In my tenure at the High Plains Reader, I have devoted a lot of column inches to promoting the local music scene of the Red River Valley. However, I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t also bring your attention to another…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“The thing to fear from the Trump presidency is not the bold overthrow of the Constitution, but the stealthy paralysis of governance; not the open defiance of law, but an accumulating subversion of norms; not the deployment of…