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These are questions often discussed in the boat, fish house, coffee shop and campfires around the state—questions that are now being discussed at citizen specie resource committee meetings organized by the Minnesota DNR around the state.

There are no easy answers, that is for sure. Or do we do anything at all? How do we get the message about the importance of ethical fishing practices and focus on how wrong it is taking more fish then legally allowed?

Ninety percent of fish harvested from a body of water can happen during the winter. The resources are accessible, and people have more time for fishing during the winter compared to the summer.

With more anglers fishing longer hours on the ice, it is possible a spike in fish harvest is happening.

Are anglers getting the message of the importance of ethical harvest practices that fits best for the resource? For example, an angler relatively new to fishing recently shared his experience on a hot crappie bite with a friend of his. The lake had a five crappie limit. The crappie were found in 35 of water and very cooperative. Instead of keeping a limit of five fish apiece and stopping, they kept fishing, releasing the smaller ones, concentrating on keeping only the bigger fish. The pair admitted to releasing 80 to 90 crappie in one evening., assuming that all the fish released survived, which is not always the case. Crappie caught in deeper water, then released, are at risk for delayed mortality.

At an area lake, several wheelhouses converged on a hot crappie spot. They were part of a larger statewide organization with over 15,000 members. On a lake of less than 500 acres, the group fished day and night. They wanted only the larger crappie. They tried to release the smaller ones. Realizing the fish that could not be released, they refused to keep the fish. They chose to bury them in the snow, with the carcass remains of crappie that were cleaned and taken home. They relied on fishing spots marked with GPS coordinates shared from another wheelhouse outing.

Another group converged on Lake of the Woods, camped on a walleye/sauger spot. During three days of fishing, they caught eight limits of walleye and sauger, all which were consumed while on the ice, then kept a limit for each angler to take home.

It is not the wheelhouse that causes concern. Instead it’s those inside, raising eyebrows.

In my opinion, we shouldn’t blame or limit wheelhouses with special restrictions. The popularity of ice fishing has increased with better equipment, and wheelhouses are part of the boom. Comfortable wheelhouses and warmer clothing enhances the appeal for more people to ice fish and stay out longer on the lakes. Placing more restrictions could curb fishing enjoyment and participation. Instead, let’s educate anglers as to why it is critically important to always practice of ethical fishing for the long-term sustainability of the resource. Limits are set for a reason and it’s important to adhere to them.

There are two types of fisherman:  Those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish! Although, I don’t consider snagging as fishing!

Many try to justify  snagging by  saying that spawning salmon are going to die anyway. That is true,  but the  SPAWN also dies with the fish!.  We need to preserve our future crop of salmon so we can enjoy the fight and natural beauty of a strong salmon run. Plus it makes the fish very line shy and less likely to actually bite. I don’t want any part of snagging and feel it should be banned! For those of you that are snagging , here is what you should know:

A sport fishing license and Illinois salmon stamp are required for snagging. Coho and Chinook salmon only may be snagged from October 1 – December 31 at four locations in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan. The daily bag limit for Coho and Chinook salmon is 5 fish, singly or in aggregate. Every salmon 10 inches in total length or longer must be taken into immediate possession; sorting is not permitted. All fish other than Coho and Chinook salmon must be returned to the water immediately.

Snagging is only permitted at:

  • Waukegan Harbor – North Harbor basin only
  • Winnetka Power Plant discharge area. Directions: From I-94, take Tower Road east, North (left) on Sheridan Rd., East (right) at the entrance to the beach.
  • Lincoln Park Lagoon – from the Fullerton Avenue bridge to the Southern end of the Lagoon.
  • Jackson Park Harbor – both inner and outer lagoons.

No snagging is allowed within 200 ft of a moored watercraft or as otherwise posted. It is illegal to buy, sell, or barter any salmon or parts thereof (including eggs) taken by snagging. A fishing license with a salmon stamp is required.


Catch, photo & release (CPR) is the common practice of musky hunters. The results of CPR have become obvious. More and bigger musky! CPR sounds easy, but even the most experienced musky hunters will tell you it can be difficult at times. Poor handling of a musky can defeat your best intentions of a safe release. Basic CPR can help ensure  that your musky (or any other fish) lives to grow and fight another day. Please help educate others on quick, safe release methods.

If your fish is one that the regulations say is illegal, in that is is not adipose fin clipped, then you will have to release it unharmed without taking it out of the water.  In this case you should not tire the fish unduly, but get it in as fast as possible to ensure that it has a good survival.   There are a couple of ways to go here.  A hook release can be used.   This is like a small gaff hook with no sharp point on the end.   In use, when the fish is close to the boat & tired enough that you can grasp the leader a foot or so from the fish, use this hook remover by reaching out & hooking the line.   Next bring the remover close to the  fish, & with the other hand holding the leader, quickly raise the hook remover handle while at the same time lowering the hand holding the leader.  What this does is raises the fish’s head into the remover, but reversing the hook & putting the weight of the fish to unhook itself.    

Depending on the size & specie of the fish, & whether it is tangled in the leader, you may have to net it, but keep it in the net tight against the side of the boat which incapacitates the fish.   Also rolling the fish on it’s back does wonders to quiet it.  Unhook the lure & tip the fish out of the bag without bringing it aboard. 


Muskies are more difficult to catch than other species because there just are not enough to go around in any given lake. Although “Catch & Release” has caught on, there are still assholes  out there that keep Muskies to eat, or just for proof that they finally caught one. Some even keep legal sized Muskies to mount, regardless of their size. How about the fools that  KILL  Muskies by using SUCKERS!  It should be banned  forever…..

With the cost of a typical fishing trip, the uncertainties of success, and the appeal of a fish dinner, why should anglers want to adopt the practice of catch and release? Aside from certain regulations, such as bag limits or size limits, there are a number of good reasons for releasing a portion of the catch alive.

First, catch and release offers a sensible way to extend the fishing trip after a reasonable or legal catch limit has been reached. If the trip involves a guide or charter service, catch and release can prolong an enjoyable recreational opportunity, giving anglers more value for their money.

Second, several recent studies have suggested that as anglers gain expertise in a particular fishery or fishing technique, they often develop an interest in “limiting their kill instead of killing their limit.”


Over the years of salmon fishing on the Great lakes, I have a have seen it all!  There was the time when I was trolling in front of the break wall at Burns Ditch…..Suddenly a fishing rig came out of now where and cut right in front of my boat. I had to put my boat in neutral, or I would have crossed over his lines. I yelled at this moron and he just looked at me an laughed!  I yelled, “You stupid Asshole!”…..He laughed again and keep on trolling. In the mean time , the lines I had out were laying on the bottom. My boat drifted on an angle and  three of my lines get crossed…..I ended up loosing two lures and a mess of leadcore fishing line…..

This one happens just about every fishing trip!  Some jerk that has no consideration for anyone but himself, cuts in front of your boat going about 50  mph creating a wake that just about knocks you out of your boat!

How about the fool that trolls over your planer board or downrigger lines?

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore you with more examples…..  There are some real assholes boating on the Great Lakes, especially during the peak Summer months! We have all had days where some of the things described above have happened to you.  It is never ending , and really ticks me off!   How can people be so ignorant! If you have been fishing on the big ponds for any length of time,  this is certainly not news to most of you. But there are others out there that just have not had the benefit of reading articles like this. At any rate it behooves us all to review occasionally a code of conduct which ought to govern our boating and fishing behavior. Understanding  that this is a vast subject, I wanted to cover the most basic points.

AT the Ramp

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  1. Always use the staging area to get your boat ready before getting to the ramp, not at the ramp!
  2. Make sure your drain plug is in, and there is nothing sticking out from the sides of your boat like: Downriggers, rods and rod holders etc. I broke off one of my downrigger rod holders  because I was careless at the launch.
  3. Know your rig and how to back it up prior to launching your boat. I’ve seen many mishaps and accidents caused by boaters that had no idea how to back down a ramp.

Finally, make sure you check out the ramp before backing down, and try to launch your boat as safely and quickly as possible.

Trolling the Waters 

  1. Check out the flow of traffic, and either join it or fish the edges.
  2. When  traffic is really heavy, use the shortest leads possible from cannonball to the lure and on directional divers. Forget about outriggers,  planer boards and long lines. Also, I don’t recommend using leadcore line.
  3. Use extreme care to avoid closing on another boat or approaching too closely.
  4. When a troller has a fish on, steer a wide birth and be prepared to bring up your rigs if the fish heads your direction. Keep a good distance from shorelines, break walls  and piers unless there are no anglers on them. Stay outside of the casting range of these area.
  5. This is one that is seldom followed even by the experienced Great Lakes troller: When you are fighting a fish in traffic, do not put your motor in neutral!  On a big fish, try to get some lines in and just slow down a little. Naturally, if there is little or no traffic, you can do what you want to land the fish.

Trolling on the Great lakes is kinda like driving your car. It’s really hard to avoid the assholes out there that just don’t give a damn. All we can do is adhere to these basic Codes of Conduct and  follow the “GOLDEN RULE”.

If a boat ramp could talk…. What some stories it can tell!

A True to Life Story At The Ramp!
Got the boat out the other day. We pulled into the launch and 4 rigs pulled in behind us. We prepped the boat and got in the water in maybe a couple minutes.

Next guy waiting in line forgot to load his boat while he were launching so he politely pulled aside so the person behind him could launch. Well he forgot to load his boat as well. That doesn’t stop him from backing down in the one lane launch and then loading his boat which took about 10 minutes. Then he actually gets his boat in the water. Well now it won’t start, so tack on another 10 minutes.

I had pulled our boat off to the side so others could launch while I waited for my FIL to park the trailer. I was within about 20 ft of the guy loading his boat in the launch, and I turned to a friend and said extra loud (so the whole launch could hear) “See that guy over there loading his boat up? He should’ve been doing that while he was in line waiting. Now he’s holding everyone up”. I think he’ll remember next time.

There are millions fishing each season in the United States. With this vast number of fisherman,  there must be an awareness of how important conservation is! Here is a  Sportsman Creed I found in an old book…..I guess some things never change!

  • A sportsman will kill few fish, a much smaller number than the law allows; and liberate uninjured all smaller ones. This isn’t just a matter of consideration of others…..the little fish you toss back this season is the big one you will catch next season.
  • A sportsman will not, for the purpose of staying below his legal limit of catch, release a fish so hooked that a fatal injury has been caused.
  • A sportsman will not intentionally use tackle, if any, opportunity to escape if the angler plays his part unskilfully; he will use the lightest tackle that he considers advisable considering the size fish he is likely to hook, where he is fishing, and his experience in playing fish.
  • A sportsman will not go fishing for food alone.
  • A sportsman will not interfere with another sportman’s  fishing: nor will he hog a pool.

A sportsman so conducts himself toward the property of another that the owner will welcome…..not forbid- future fisherman. In short, a sportsman will follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”