Special Regs Breed Giant Pike

Remember this one from early ice last year? Shoggie (Guide Dave Shogren — 218/765-3197) and I were fishing the same lake that produced the giant pike shown in yesterday's post — a small lake that "shouldn't have" monsters like this in it.

We've been catching a lot of monsters from a lot of small lakes over the past few years in Minnesota. We think it's largely because of special regulations that  encourage growth to sizes that can keep other fish populations under control. But, looking at the special section on Pike Management in the Department of Natural Resources website, it's hard to find much on the special regulations instituted unless you dig for it. One might think they would be blowing their horn a little louder with results like these at hand.

Once we get on these bad boys, it's hard to switch gears and get back to doing our duty — which is pursuing everything else we need to discuss in the 2014 In-Fisherman Ice Guide and elsewhere. We have more of them close to home than I've seen in the 22 years I've lived up here in Lake Country.

Statewide in Minnesota, the limit for pike is three fish with only one over 36 inches. On most lakes with special pike regulations you're still allowed three fish, but all fish between 24 and 36 inches must be released. And on some special waters, anglers are allowed to keep only one pike, and it has to exceed 40 inches. That's the regulation most pike freaks (like Shoggie and I) would like to see instituted on all our lakes.  Special regulations would allow increased harvest on lakes with a burdensome population of hammer-handles (pike in the 16- to 24-inch range).

Another thing Shoggie dislikes is poor shoreline management by property owners. Destruction of riparian habitat is probably public enemy number one when it comes to maintaining trophy pike populations. Here's what the DNR has to say about it under Northern Pike Habitat:

"Good habitat is the key to producing northern pike. Given relatively clean water, adequate forage, and abundant shoreline marshes and wetlands for spawning; northern pike will proliferate without further help.

"Many northern pike spawning areas have been lost to drainage, dredging and shoreline development. They are destroyed by the farmer who drains a seasonally flooded wetland adjoining a stream or lake, and by the cabin owner who kills the cattails along the shore of a shallow bay. These areas must be protected through shore land regulations that prevent draining, filling and other destruction of shoreline wetlands. Also important are regulations that prevent wholesale removal of the shallow-water aquatic weeds that provide cover to young northern pike and their prey."

Property owners who destroy riparian habitat then defend the action by saying, "It's my property and I can do what I want with it," are selfish in the extreme. They negatively impact the property values of everyone living on that lake, and everyone living in the surrounding community. They negatively impact tourism, which impacts the entire region and much more. It takes money out of the pockets of the local  lodge owner, the restauranteur, and the owners of local gas stations and grocery stores. It impacts camp grounds, motels, box stores, outfitters, tackle manufacturers, and boat sales.

Not only are they selfish, they're fouling their own nest, reducing the lake's bio mass, and dragging down the value of their land. Removal of natural habitat around lake shores results in declining water clarity due to increased runoff reaching the water. It's been proven that even small declines in water clarity can have a significant effect on lakefront property value. Just how much impact can declining water quality in one lake have on a community's real-estate values? Read this study from Bemidji State University and find out. More on this topic in upcoming posts. But next up: Beating mid-winter panfish blues.

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