Few fishing bills likely to pass this session

By Chris Niskanen
Article Last Updated: 04/20/2008 02:50:22 AM CDT

An ambitious agenda to change Minnesota's fishing opener and overhaul walleye regulations won't pass the Minnesota Legislature this year.
State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, said his proposal to move the fishing opener back a week wasn't moving forward.
"There was definitely a mood, after complaints from some northern resorters, to slow down the discussion,'' he said. "It doesn't look like it will happen this year."

Chaudhary also supported a DNR proposal to lower the state walleye limit from six to four. That idea was removed from an omnibus Senate bill last Tuesday. DNR officials say the idea needs more support from the public, but Chaudhary still believes it's a good move, despite studies that show a four-walleye limit would lower the walleye harvest by only 7 percent.
Other proposals to change the statewide walleye length limits aren't moving forward, either.

However, two fishing proposals are still alive at the Legislature.
Chaudhary's omnibus bill still includes a "conservation" fishing license that would cost half the price of a standard fishing license but would allow anglers to keep only half a limit. Similar licenses are sold in Canadian provinces.
A bill establishing a voluntary $5 walleye stamp is still alive in the Legislature. The revenue would be used to help pay for the DNR's stocking programs, Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary said he was disappointed that fishing conservation measures and his fishing-opener change won't be passed this year. He vowed to continue talking to anglers and DNR officials about them.

"The time has come for stronger conservation measures for our fisheries,'' he said.
Lead shot restrictions die: Lawmakers also killed a bill that would phase out the use of lead shot for upland hunting on Minnesota public lands in the state's agricultural region.
DNR officials sought the proposal to stop the deposit of lead shotgun pellets on public hunting areas, especially in wetlands. Lead shot is banned for waterfowl hunting, but upland hunters can use it in state Wildlife Management Areas.

The DNR's proposal would not have gone into effect until 2011 after several years of notifying hunters so they could adjust their ammunition supplies.
Chaudhary, though, said he believed the proposal needed more study.

He said he supports the ban on toxic shot for waterfowl and managed mourning dove fields, because many studies have shown harmful effects, but he said that studies on specific upland game, such as pheasants, grouse and rabbits, are sparse.
"I was led to believe this homework was done," he said.
The DNR's Bill Penning, the agency's farmland program wildlife leader, said he has the studies Chaudhary wants to read.
"We believe we have all the answers to the questions,'' he said.
He said the agency is concerned about additional distribution of lead shot in wetlands from pheasant hunters.
"We know we have high densities in these areas, especially during late-season periods,'' he said, adding that the DNR's restriction would be consistent with lead-shot rules on federal Waterfowl Production Areas in the state.

Chaudhary said he feared the lead-shot restrictions would have a negative impact on Federal Cartridge in Anoka, a major manufacturer of shotgun ammunition.
The Ruffed Grouse Society is proposing a national $10 woodcock habitat stamp, which would be needed by woodcock hunters. Officials say the group's members support the proposal, which could raise $1.2 million to $1.5 million annually for a national woodcock improvement plan. The idea is spelled out in the group's spring magazine.

Minnesota conservation officer Tony Arhart in Deer River reported finding starving woodcock along freshly plowed gravel roads after a recent 14-inch snowfall.
Officer Dan Perron was patrolling Mille Lacs Lake when he got a call about an injured animal and found a bobcat crouched on the ice. It stood up and ran away, appearing healthy.
During the recent snowstorms that dropped two feet of snow in the Walker, Minn., area, officer Gary Sommers was driving on a local highway when a car passed him on the right shoulder. Sommers pulled the driver over and asked why he was driving on the shoulder. "I thought you were some dummy driving too slow; besides, the road was too bad to drive on and I could drive faster on the shoulder," the driver said. Sommers asked what the hurry was. "I'm on my way to the casino,'' said the driver, who was issued a ticket.
The Sierra Club has launched an online networking site (sierrasportsmen.org) for hunters and anglers. Officials said the site is acknowledgement that 20 percent of its members are sportsmen and sportswomen.
Phil Talmage is the new area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota DNR in Baudette. He takes over for Mike Larson, who retired after 35 years with the DNR. Talmage formerly was the large-lake specialist for Rainy and Kabetogama lakes.
There's speculation that a cougar shot near Chicago was a wild animal that migrated to Illinois from South Dakota's Black Hills. DNA tests showed it was genetically similar to Black Hills mountain lions. It had no marks suggesting it was a captive cat.