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Brad Laabs column: Not all 'keepers' should be kept

The concept of selective harvest and catch and release have been around for many years now.

The idea is to help develop a sporting habit to fishing, and have anglers actively participate in a voluntary way to management of the resource. There is no problem in keeping a few for the table, just be selective with the species you are keeping to eat.

It is a good idea to throw the little ones and the big ones back. Sometimes a fish gets injured and it is better to harvest that fish than put it back to die later. That just happens sometimes. If you are into selective harvest and have been for a while—it is hard to be in a situation where you end up keeping a fish that typically goes back for others to also enjoy catching (and spawning for future fish and fishing).

If you are on a lake with a slot (restricted sizes for some types of fish), you can still not keep that fish that is in the slot, even if it is bleeding and not going to survive. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but it is the way it has to be. I know it is hard to believe that not all fisherman are honest, but some would abuse the exception if it were allowed and lie about a fish in the slot fish being injured.

I will give an example of just how incredible it is that we have the fishing we have, and why doing our part to help manage the fisheries only makes sense. I will use some walleye information as a reference. I wrote about this about seven or eight years ago and was just recently asked about it again.

On average, a spawning female walleye will lay about 85,000 eggs, with about 10 percent successfully hatching. With the fry of that hatch, it is estimated that only 1 percent will live through the first year. The mortality rate after the first year is about 50 percent per year until a walleye reaches two pounds (or around 18 inches).

It takes a walleye in our area about six years to get to that two-pound range. The math is, about 125 keepers will come to maturity for every 1 million eggs.

I know that the DNR hatching and stocking programs increase and improve this production, but not enough to justify taking the brood stock fish out of the system for ego or meat. The reason for lake limits, slots, daily and possession limits, is to help manage the fisherman as well as the fisheries.

The regulations are very liberal, in my opinion, and because you are allowed so many or, as an example, one over 20 inches, doesn't mean you need to take one. Yes, the law says you can, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea.

Yes, there are exceptions. My suggestion is to only take a brood stock type of fish if it would be a waste not to, due to a survival issue.

The better we are as good sportsman, the more we pass that value on to others. I believe it is an important value for all, but especially our youth anglers. They are the future, and can grow into the sport with a health conservation attitude and respect for the fisheries.

Practice CPR (Catch, Photo, Release). Let's do our part to keep the future of fishing healthy by practicing both selective harvesting and CPR.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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