Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Another great week to start off the open water fishing season! Fishing has been consistent even with the ever changing weather last week. Some boats still catching over 100 fish in a day, weeding through small fish to find good keeper walleyes and saugers. Key depths around 17-24' of water. Good fishing all across south shore. Fish are responsive to most kinds of bait right now but jig and a minnow is the best presentation with pink and gold jigs standing out.  Some anglers pulling spinners.  Others hit reefs in 25-30', also good. Jumbo perch and pike mixed in all over the lake. 

Walleyes are still in the Rainy River but fishing has slowed besides a good morning bite. Most walleyes have headed back to the lake but some remain in the river. Same as the lake, a jig and a minnow have been best tactic for boating walleyes.  Sturgeon fishing is closed until July 1st.

Up at the NW Angle, anglers are hammering fish.  Many have limits before lunch.  Fish are all over islands such as Oak Island and Little Oak. Jig and a minnow up at the angle is the go to method. Gaining steam is trolling with cranks in the shallows or pulling spinners to keep baits moving. Colors should include chartreuse, pink, glow colors and some gold. Key depths ranged from 16-26' of water. Crappies can be found in Canada in 20' of water with sandy bays. Pike being found in current areas.

Managing Bluegills

Managing Bluegills

Until a few years ago, the management strategy for good bluegill fishing—meaning good numbers of hand-size or larger 'gills—was simple: (1) keep the numbers of intermediate-size bluegills sufficiently low so the surviving bluegills have plenty to eat and grow quickly to quality size and beyond; and (2) don't over-harvest large bluegills. That still is an effective management strategy in ponds and small impoundments where the fish community is simple—just two or three species.

The best way to keep bluegill numbers in check? Maintain a high density of bluegill predators in the pond. Typically that predator is largemouth bass. I've repeatedly seen anglers unhooking palm-size bluegills and throwing them on the bank in efforts to reduce the abundance of small, slow-growing bluegills. Good intentions, bad strategy. First, how much fun is it to catch 4-inch bluegills? Second, even the most zealous and dedicated angler can't keep up with the sunfish removal capability of a largemouth bass.

A largemouth bass consumes its weight in bluegills each month when the water temperature is near 75°F. A 4-inch bluegill weighs less than an ounce, a 5-inch bluegill weighs about 1.4 ounces. From spring through fall, a single 1-pound largemouth bass eats at least two dozen 4-inch bluegills or about a dozen 5-inchers each month. Not only are largemouth bass superior bluegill removing machines, they crop 'gills at a much smaller size than do anglers. This is important because a 3- or 4-inch bluegill eats the same food as—and therefore competes with—a half-pound or larger 'gill.

Minnesota DNR fishery biologist Pete Jacobson suggests an opposite strategy may produce quality bluegills that panfish piscatores seek. He found average length of bluegills increased in three of four lakes where the sunfish daily creel limit was reduced from the statewide limit of 30 sunfish per day to 10 per day. During the same period, average length decreased in four similar lakes where the bag limit remained 30 sunfish per day.

Nothing mysterious here, or so it seems—harvest fewer fish, more survive to grow large, and the average length of bluegill increases. Good thinking, but to grow larger, bluegills need food. With lower harvest, more bluegills would survive to share limited food resources, and growth rate should slow. But Jacobson found growth rate increased in the reduced-harvest lakes, and the greatest increase in growth rate occurred in the reduced harvest lakes that had the greatest proportion of large bluegills.

The likely key to why reduced harvest resulted in larger bluegills was not that they survived to live longer and grow larger, but because they didn't begin reproducing until they reached a larger size. Sexually mature fish channel a lot of energy into developing gonads and building and guarding nests, which leaves less energy for body (somatic) growth. By delaying sexual maturity until reaching a larger size, the fish can grow faster because energy is not shunted to reproduction. Jacobson found that average length at maturity of male bluegill increased from 6 inches before the 10-fish regulation to 6½ to 7 inches four years after the regulation was implemented. During the same time period, average length at maturity stayed at 6 inches in the reference lakes with 30-fish limits.

Does that small difference in length at maturity matter? Yes. Faster growth in the regulation lakes translated into bluegills that were 7 to 8 inches long at age-7 compared to 6 to 6½ inches at age-7 in the 30-fish limit lakes. While the 1- to 1½-inch difference in growth may not sound like much, it equates to a bluegill that weighs twice as much at age-7 in the 10-fish-limit lakes as in the 30-fish-limit lakes.

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