Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Culling in Minnesota

Brandon Palaniuk learned the hard way this weekend that Minnesota is anti-bass; anti-tournament, even though he was trying to follow the convoluted and antiquated Minnesota culling laws.  Fishing the biggest and best-paying bass circuit in the world, the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, he was DQ'd after gaining a hefty lead for culling just inside the Minnesota state line.  He most likely lost the $100,000 first place, the free entry into the Classic later in the year (guaranteed $10K+), and whatever bonuses his sponsors may have had for 1st place and a Classic entry.

Keep in mind, nearly all states allow culling in tournaments.

Just to clarify exactly how he broke the rules, he inadvertently culled just inside the Minnesota state border on the Mississippi River, which wanders through backwaters, on land, through the main channel, etc.  It isn't right down the middle of the channel as one might expect.

Here's the related rules that most fisherman are arguing need to be addressed:

2013 Minnesota Fishing Regulations

Page 3: "Fish must not be retained longer than is needed at the site of capture to unhook, identify,
measure, and photograph. Placing the fish in any type of container or on a
stringer is not immediately released. Any fish not immediately released is
considered to be “reduced to possession.”"

Page 13:  "Once a daily or possession limit of fish has been reached, no culling or live
well sorting is allowed."

Mississippi River WI/MN Border water specific rules:

Page 72:  "[MS River] Smallmouth and Largemouth daily possession limit: 5 fish (14" minimum)"

Page 74:  "It is illegal to cull fish that have been reduced to possession [on the MS River WI Border Waters]"

The way the rules read, you can cull as much as you want until you reach the daily limit on inland Minnesota waters, regardless of whether the fish is put on a stringer, caged, or kept healthy in an aerated livewell.  Page 13 of the 2013 regs make it clear that you can cull until daily possession limit has been reached.  The daily limit on Minnesota waters is 6 bass, not 5 like on the MS River.

If you are on a WI/MN border water, you can't cull whatsoever according to Page 74, regardless of being at your limit or not.  If you cross the official state line into WI you may cull because WI laws allow for it in a tournament, even if you caught your fish on the MN side of the river.

Technically speaking, Palaniuk broke 2 rules in the 2013 regs.  He not only culled in a MN border water (broke rule on page 74), but he also culled after already reaching his possession limit in MN (page 13 rule).

These are the rules as they are written, and they are just plain wrong.  Why are these rules in place?  To prevent fish death and preserve the fishery.  Most bass tournaments in the state of Minnesota have a 100% live release rate after the tournament is over; after the fish have been sitting in the livewell all day.  They are healthy and swim off to be caught another day, but technically this shouldn't even be allowed if an angler is already at his limit for the day, which again makes no sense if the goal is preserve a fishery.  There are heavy penalties in bass tournaments for killing a fish so anglers do everything they can to keep the fish healthy and happy in their livewell.  An enclosed livewell that constantly cycles in clean water keeps fish alive.

Laws against releasing fish put on a stringer, which are often dragged behind the boat all day, make sense.  Fish put in baskets don't seem to live too long either.  If fish are being kept with the intent of fileting and eating them, force people to keep what they reduce to possession.  Don't impose these laws on the folks who are keeping fish alive to be released later, like in all bass tournaments. 

Minnesota needs to re-evaluate these antiquated laws to allow for culling of live fish from an aerated livewell, or do what Wisconsin did and allow for culling in tournaments with livewells only: http://www.bassmaster.com/news/new-law-allows-culling-wisconsin

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