November 23rd, 1998
Fishing Plan for Ontario Border Angering Minnesota Anglers

by Chris Niskanen (Outdoors Editor)

Note: This article was sent by reader Steven McGarthwaite, from the Wednesday, November 18, 1998, St. Paul Pioneer Press. The article is copywrite and may not be reproduced without written permission.
We thank Steven for bringing this to our attention!

"Ontario appears to be throwing another hand grenade in the ongoing fishing border war with Minnesota.

Department of Natural Resources officials on Tuesday were studying a list of walleye proposals that would expand controversial catch-and-release restrictions on anglers who fish in Ontario but stay in Minnesota resorts.

The Ontario proposals would extend catch-and-release walleye rules from Lake of the Woods eastward to all lakes along the Minnesota border, with the exception of Lake Superior.

It means Minnesota-based day anglers would have to return all walleyes and sauger caught on the Ontario side of poplar fishing lakes such as Namakan, Sand Point, Lac La Croix, Crooked, Basswood, Knife, and Saganaga. The proposal potentially could have a large impact for dozens of Minnesota resorters and outfitters who take clients on daily fishing trips into Ontario waters, including those based in Ely and along the Gunflint Trail.

Ontario is purportedly making the proposal as a measure to conserve walleye stocks in border lakes, but Minnesota DNR officials aren't buying it. It is unknown when the rules would go into effect. DNR official were unable to contact Ontario officials Tuesday about the proposals.

Minnesota DNR commissioner, Rod Sando said, "My reaction? If this comes true, it's another case of discriminations against Minnesota-based resorts and Minnesota-based anglers. From our perspective, we don't see any conservation need for this!"

Similar rules were imposed on Lake of the Woods this year. Minnesota resorters at the Northwest Angle were so angered by the restrictions that they asked congress to allow them to secede from the United States and join Manitoba. The secession proposal made national new. Ontario has not backed away from the Lake of the Woods rules, and negotiations with Minnesota officials have been on hold.

Mike Berg, owner of Seagull Creek Fishing camp on the Gunflint Trail, said he couldn't believe Ontario would take such drastic measures. His clients frequently fish the Ontario side of Lake Saganaga. "I can't believe that the Ontario tourism department thinks it's a good idea."

The proposals are listed in an October 15 letter circulating among Ontario resorters from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The border water regulations were apparently a late addition to a longer list of Ontario fishing rules being formulated by the provincial government. The province has been undergoing an extensive public review of fishing rules, which include proposals to slash daily walleye limits throughout the province.

According to the letter, the border-water proposal would extend "current regulations now in effect in the fort Frances-Atikokan area, where anglers who are non residents of Canada, either day-use fishing or camping on Crown land, must practice catch-and-release fishing only, and no fish may be kept for shore lunch. "To retain legal limits of fish, non resident anglers must be property owners [or immediate relatives], be accommodated within a provincial park, or contract for services through the tourism industry."

The letter states the rule extensions would apply to a geographical area that includes all border waters adjoining Minnesota, except Lake Superior. The rules apparently wouldn't apply to Minnesota angler camping overnight in Quetico Provincial Park, which lies across the border from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The letter concludes: "This recommendation is a positive response to the matter of high harvest of fish by nonresident anglers."

When Ontario imposed catch-and-release restrictions on anglers who stay at Northwest Angle resorts but who fish in Ontario waters of Lake of the Woods, it forced anglers to throw back all the Ontario walleyes and saugers, even if they possessed an Ontario fishing license. This was an extension of earlier rules implemented on Rainy Lake. A different standard applies to anglers who stay in Ontario resorts. Instead of dropping from two to zero fish kept, Canadian based anglers still can keep two walleyes daily.

Minnesota DNR officials got wind of the latest proposals when the Ontario letter was forwarded to them by resorter, Mike Berg.

Minnesota DNR Commissioner, Rod Sando, was livid that he hasn't received any official notice from the Ontario government. "for us to find this out in this fashion is not good form," Sando said. "I'm disappointed by the lack of cooperation [by Ontario] in this issue. I intend to review it more thoroughly and communicate with the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources,"

Sando and other fisheries officials said they would contact Ontario officials today to get an official list of proposals."
~ Chris Niskanen "

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