Outdoor Notes for Dec. 16: Bear hunting tooth sample requirement

DNR proposes to strengthen bear hunting tooth sample requirement Bear hunters who are successful in 2019 and after would be required to submit a bear tooth sample to be eligible for the upcoming year's bear hunting license lottery under a new rul...

Bear hunters who are successful in 2019 and after would be required to submit a bear tooth sample to be eligible for the upcoming year's bear hunting license lottery under a new rule proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Photo Illustration.

DNR proposes to strengthen bear hunting tooth sample requirement

Bear hunters who are successful in 2019 and after would be required to submit a bear tooth sample to be eligible for the upcoming year's bear hunting license lottery under a new rule proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR has for many years required hunters to submit bear tooth samples. In response to low compliance, the agency two years ago began mailing letters reminding hunters to send the samples. The proposed rule would give hunters an incentive to follow the legal requirement, and the DNR would stop sending the letters.

Biologists use the tooth samples to determine the age of each harvested bear and ultimately estimate how many bears live in the state.

"These tooth samples help the DNR gather enough data for a good population estimate, and we will no longer have to pay the cost of mailing the letters," said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief, in a news release.


The change is the only new proposal in a rule package that moves dozens of temporary wildlife rules that have been in effect for several seasons to permanent status. Because the rules are already in effect, hunters won't notice a difference when they become permanent.

An example of a temporary rule that would become permanent is sandhill crane hunting, which has been open in northwestern Minnesota by temporary rule since 2010.

A copy of the draft rules and more information about how to comment is available online at

The DNR will accept written comments supporting or opposing the rule changes through Tuesday, Jan. 22. Comments may be submitted to Jason Abraham, Box 20, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020 or by email at .

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Leech Lake walleye regulations allow more chances for harvest starting in spring

Leech Lake anglers will be able to keep a wider size range of walleye starting on the 2019 fishing opener.

"Walleye abundance in Leech Lake is currently at a point that we can provide anglers additional harvest opportunity beginning in May," said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in a news release. "We got here through protective fishing regulations and consistently good year classes over the past 10 years."


The new regulations, which will take effect Saturday, May 11, will remove the 20- to 26-inch protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation, but with a four-fish walleye limit, only one of which can be over 20 inches.

Currently, anglers on Leech Lake can keep four fish, but must immediately release any walleye that are within a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. Only one fish over 26 inches is allowed in possession. The four-fish walleye possession limit on Leech Lake has been in effect since 2005.

Adaptive management on Leech Lake

Schultz said each year on Leech Lake, the DNR evaluates the success of current regulations, and looks at fish population data and angler surveys.

"We also work with the Leech Lake Fisheries Input Group, area businesses and community members. They've been strongly supportive of these changes," Schultz said.

Leech Lake's management plan includes goals for the lake's walleye population. Walleye have exceeded the management goals for six of the past seven years, leaving a window open for increasing harvest opportunity. DNR lake surveys show naturally reproducing year classes of younger walleye are present to replace additional fish taken by anglers.

By the same token, if future fisheries assessments or increased fishing pressure indicate harvest should be reduced, the DNR anticipates revisiting the protected slot limit.

Perch populations in the lake, unlike walleye, have been below management objectives for five of the past six years, an expected result of a high walleye population. One goal of additional walleye harvest is to reduce the amount of perch being preyed upon by walleye, which may increase the perch population.


More information about Leech Lake, including the management plan for the lake, can be found at

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Northern pike anglers and spearers gearing up for winter action, new regulations

As cold temperatures begin to make ice on Minnesota lakes, ice anglers and spearers are gearing up for winter fishing action. For many, winter is a time to seek out the eager-to-bite northern pike. This will be the first ice fishing season of new northern pike zone regulations throughout Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The new regulations went into effect in May 2018 and created three distinct zones. While not designed to manage for trophy pike, the new regulations are meant to move pike populations to a larger size more desired for table fare, particularly in the southern and north-central zones.

The move toward new regulations was a response to anglers' concerns about the over-abundance of small, hammer-handle pike in much of central to north-central Minnesota; the low numbers of pike in southern waters; and a desire to protect large pike in the northeastern part of the state.

North-central zone

• Anglers: Limit of 10 northern pike, but no more than two pike longer than 26 inches; all from 22 to 26 inches must be released.


• Spearers: Limit of 10 northern pike, only one between 22-26 inches and 1 over 26 inches; or, only two over 26 inches.

Northeast zone

• Anglers: Limit of two pike; anglers must release all from 30 to 40 inches, with only one over 40 inches allowed in possession.

• Spearers: Limit of two pike; only one northern pike over 26 inches.

South zone

• Anglers and spearers: Limit of two pike; minimum size 24 inches.

The new northern pike regulations apply to inland waters but do not affect border waters or individual lakes, rivers and streams that have their own special regulations for northern pike. Special pike regulations are in place on about 95 waters and always take precedence over statewide regulations. Anglers and spearers should always research the lake they are fishing and must be prepared to reliably measure their fish. Waters with special regulations are identified in the fishing regulations booklet and with signs posted at public accesses.

"Family photo albums almost always include an old photo of someone with a large pike in their hands and family recipes for pickled northern are often considered prized secrets," said Rick Guertin of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association. "The new zone regulations are a big step forward in improving the northern pike sizes in our waters and maybe restoring an interest in pike fishing while also preserving those opportunities for the next generation."


Northern pike are found in nearly every Minnesota lake and stream. Pike are voracious predators that are relatively easy to catch because they willingly bite shiny lures and live bait, such as minnows. Their sharp teeth can easily cut fishing line so many anglers use a steel leader ahead of their hook so they don't have to re-tie hooks, jigs or lures. Early ice often is the best time to go as the fish seem to be more active, and it's easier to cut the hole in the ice. Look for moderately shallow water with aquatic vegetation close by for the best action for pike.

New anglers often shy away from harvesting northern pike because of their reputation as a difficult fish to fillet because of their Y bones. Dozens of instructional videos, often created by Minnesota resort owners and anglers, are available on YouTube and can be a great source for techniques to easily remove the Y bones from northern pike.

For more information about the new zone regulations, visit or contact a local area fisheries office. Contact information can be found in the fishing regulations booklet, available online at


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