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The end of the ice fishing season is here

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I probably should have included the reminder about fish closing dates in my article last week when I also talked about fish house removal dates. Oh well, I am still not too late to get the message out for the few that may not know, or get confused about the opening and closing dates.

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Feb. 26 is an important date this year. It marks the closing of the season for walleye and sauger on inland waters. Border water seasons are still open including Lake of the Woods and the Mississippi River. The Northern Pike season is also closed in our area on Feb. 26. The season does remain open on the border waters for northern, and many from our area will travel to catch the trophy fish on Lake of the Woods late in the ice fishing season.

Bass season also closes on Feb. 26. The smallmouth bass season has been "catch and release" only from Sept. 12 until now. Largemouth bass have still been available to harvest through the ice season until the Feb. 26 date.

Rock bass are not included in the bass opening and closing dates. You can catch and keep up to 30 fish per day, and the season on them is open all year. Feel free to harvest these if you desire! Please! Most of us locally consider them to be a rough fish and leave them alone. I have come across some visitors to our area that have confused them with crappies. This has happened several times. I have attempted to educate them on fish identification for their future fishing. I must admit I am secretly pleased that some of the rookies make this kind of mistake. They are helping thin out the out of control rock bass population on some of our area lakes.

About the time the season for walleye, sauger, bass, and northern pike closes in our area, the bite activity can be replaced with fishing for whitefish and cisco. We still have a very active pan fish bite that will continue until the ice is no longer safe. Crappies, sunfish, and perch can still be caught and harvested, as their seasons never close. They are fun to catch and are great at the table. Our area draws many anglers from around the state to take advantage of our ice conditions and the active pan fish bite that exists here.

Just a reminder also that the daily limit and possession limit are the same. The per person sunfish limit is 20 and crappie limit is 10. Perch does have a 20 per day and 40 in possession limit. Make sure you check individual bodies of water in our area, as some do have size and harvest limits that are different from the state base numbers.

It is sometimes easy to lose track of how many you have caught, kept, eaten, and frozen. The days of filling the freezer should have been over a long time ago. It is hard for some to break old habits. People by nature have a little of the "hoarding" gene in them. Find a different outlet for that character issue other than over harvesting this great resource of ours. We will have many visitors that will sneak away with over limit catches. We can't do much about what others do (unless we know, then call T.I.P.). We locals need to be good stewards for the sake of the future of fishing in our area.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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