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Brad Laabs: Going over the limit hurts the future of fisheries

During the last couple of weeks, both the North Dakota DNR and the Minnesota DNR have had some major “busts” of fishing violations. In the biggest case in North Dakota, a number of anglers were abusing the hot bite and “double dipping” limits of walleyes. The anglers were going out in the morning and getting a limit, cleaning and packaging them, and going back out in the evening and getting another limit. This was repeated by numerous anglers for several days. North Dakota allows an angler five fish a day with a two day (10 walleyes) possession.

In Minnesota, several incidents have occurred at Mille Lacs Lake. One of the violations was an angler keeping a fish that was not within the legal size requirements. Further investigation found that angler to also be in possession of over limit fish from the lake that were also not in compliance with this year’s slot restrictions. Mille Lacs has a two walleye limit per angler and the fish must be over 18 inches and under 20 inches in length. A husband and wife that live close to the lake were found to have way over their limit in their possession in their freezer.

These incidents were so significant they received press. Officers from both states were quoted as recognizing that they only intervene in a very small fraction of the number of violators abusing the fishing resources. The selfish population of anglers doing this behavior are stealing from the public. They are damaging the resource. These kinds of abuses can affect the future of the fisheries for future generations.

Officers from both states also made similar comments about the need for help from other anglers to address the population of violators. They can’t be everywhere all the time. It takes a public that is willing to step up and inform officials of offenders. It takes education and instruction about sportsmanship and conservation responsibilities to help change an attitude of some that still believe they are “entitled” to take advantage of a resource when it is producing well.

I am glad these situations get publicized. I am happy to see that consequences of fines and/or loss of privilege occur. I like that equipment can get seized as a result of this kind of selfish, disrespectful behavior and attitude toward a natural resource. Hopefully, the publicity and consequences will prevent this behavior by some. Maybe it will make a few that have been abusing their privilege stop.

Almost all of us that fish or hunt have probably violated a game law without intending to break the law. We are human and we screw up. You may have shot the gun a minute late or a minute early. Three early season crappie anglers go out and are catching them fast, the counts off by one (31 instead of 30) when you clean them...everyone feels bad and blames the others for the screw up. When we are being responsible about trying to follow the rules and be a good steward and we screw up, we feel bad.

These are not the situations we are talking about when it comes to violations. The violators we are concerned with don’t seem to have much remorse other than feeling bad about the fact they got caught. We are talking about those “outdoorsman” that are knowingly trying to get away with breaking the rules. These people justify to themselves and others why breaking the law is fine for them.

We all need to do our best to stop this behavior when it comes to addressing these violators. Confront them if you hear them talking about knowingly violating a game law. Educate young or new outdoor enthusiasts so they grow up with a true healthy respect for the outdoors. Call the MN TIP (Turn In Poachers) line at: 1-800-652-9093 if you are aware of violations occurring. This is a 24hr hotline. I agree with the MN and ND conservation officers, they can’t do it all, they need our help.

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

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