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Brad Laabs column: Enjoy hunting panfish until 'fishing opener' May 12

We will have several weeks of panfish action available before the May 13 "fishing opener" arrives.

As of 12:01 a.m. (just after midnight Friday, May 12), the season opens for gamefish, which include walleyes and northern pike.

The bass opener will be May 27 this year. As of last year, you can still target bass from now until the opener, but you can't keep any until the official "bass opener" date. Musky fishing season will open June 3. You may not target those fish before the opening date.

The DNR has finished up the collection for the hatchery already this year. Another year of this harvest happening very early. The weather seemed to cooperate nicely for bringing numbers of fish to the netting operation. With the walleyes all done with their spawning, the warming water, and several weeks now before the opener, we should be setting up for a very good opening weekend and start to the gamefish season.

A reminder of some waters in our area that are seasonally closed for taking fish; The southwest bay of Maud Lake is closed from April 17 until June 30. The Pelican River 500 feet upstream and 500 feet downstream from the Dunton Locks bridge between Muskrat and Sallie is closed from April 5 until April 28.

Other sections of the Pelican River that are closed from April 5-May 31 include the section below Bucks Mill Dam to Buck Lake, and from Big Detroit Lake north to highway 34.

The new open water season regulations are out for Upper Red Lake. This year you can keep 4 walleyes with one over 17 inches. Your state possession limit of 6 walleyes can't include more than 4 Red Lake walleyes. The northern pike harvest will be 3 fish between 26-44 inches (must touch 26 and can't touch 44).

I have still not heard any word on the previous discussion of a change in the daily bag limit for walleyes. Like I stated at the time several months ago, due to the longevity of the 6 fish standard limit, it may be a long time of discussion before we see any implementation. If I hear word, I will pass it along.

It is looking like budget cuts are coming that will affect fish and wildlife management as well as state parks and trails. As of now, the cuts will reduce lake stocking by about 20 percent. About 200 lakes will see significant reductions in stocking or stocking will be totally eliminated. We will also see the impact in the number of conservation officers that help protect our natural resources.

Boat accesses will also get reduced attention, improvement, and maintenance. I am glad our area DNR made the access improvements in our area over the last few years. We will not experience this consequences of the public access issues of the budget cuts as much as some other areas of the state. If you see the crews out, thank them for being so proactive in our area!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)