"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
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
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 "