Governor Arne Carlson signed the bill Feb. 12, which provides an extra two weeks of fishing this year for walleye, sauger, northern pike, muskellunge, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Anglers will also be able to take panfish, which have a continuous season every year.
The spearing season for rough fish, catfish, lake whitefish and northern pike has also been extended through March 1 this year, except for Cass Lake in Beltrami and Cass counties.
ďThis is a one-time opportunity to aid those who have suffered as a result of the unusual weather, Rod Sand, DNR Commissioner, said. ďBecause ice fishing began late, we think those who rely on winter tourism income can be helped without hurting the resource.Ē
Chuck Nelson, Paynesville DNR officer, said the ice thickness varies anywhere from 10 to 16 inches. ďIt is not uncommon for us to have 30 inches of ice on Lake Koronis at this time of year. However, in many places there is only 15 inches. I think we can expect an earlier ice out than the last few years,Ē he said.
Nelson wouldnít recommend driving out on the ice with a car or truck. Due to the unusually warm weather, there is a couple inches of slush on the surface of the ice and open water along the shoreline.
ďThere are not as many people out on the ice because of the slush and water on the surface,Ē Nelson added.
Jay Thompson, Paynesville, found the ice only 10 to 12 inches thick about 100 yards out where he was fishing on Sunday. He also found an inch of water on the surface.
Normally, ice fishing houses must be off lakes the last day of February in the southern two-thirds of Minnesota, and March 15 in the northern one-third. The Legislature included a permanent provision in the new law that will extend fish house and dark house licenses (including rental shelters) for the southern two-thirds of Minnesota through Sunday, March 1, any year that the last day of February falls on a Saturday, and extend it in the northern third of the state through Sunday, March 16, any year that March 15 falls on a Saturday.
The angling license of only the fish house licensee will also be extended one extra day through March 1. Anglers without a fish house license, or those using a rental shelter, will need to purchase their new fishing license in order to fish March 1 legally. Minnesotaís license year begins March 1 and continues through the last day of February the next year.
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