to Your Heart's Content
Fall is upon us here in the United
States. As the days cool, the fish eat voraciously in preparation
for winter. It is a good time to fish.
Many states have implemented slot
limits to help selected fisheries. A slot limit is a certain size
of fish that must be released. Most often, but not always, a slot
is between seventeen and twenty-five inches. Every fish caught in
this “slot” must be released immediately.
The theory behind slot limits is to protect the midsize fish, the
fish in the slot, and allow them to grow for a few more years. At
one time, the thought was that releasing the small fish would create
a better population. After all, the small fish could grow into bigger
fish. However, many lakes can only support so many fish. The total
biomass that a lake can support includes both the big fish and the
small fish. If small fish are overrepresented, then the population
of big fish may suffer. By releasing the fish in the slot, you help
to build the population of bigger fish in the lake.
It also helps to remove the smaller fish from the population. If
you catch fish that are shorter than the slot, say fourteen inches,
it benefits the fishery to keep that fish for the freezer or the
Rainy Lake, on the Minnesota/Ontario boarder, is a premier walleye
lake and a good example of how slot limits have helped to steward
In 1994, the Minnesota DNR implemented a slot limit of seventeen
to twenty-five inches on Rainy Lake. Anglers could keep one fish
over twenty-five inches but had to release all fish in the slot.
The limits were enacted in response to poor catch rates. Years of
overharvest by recreational and commercial anglers had decimated
the walleye population.
The slot limits were successful. Shortly after the regulations were
enacted, catch rates increased from one walleye every 4.5 hours
of fishing to one every 1.5 hours.
When you are out on the lake this fall, fish to your heart’s
content. Find a lake in your area that has slot limits and fill
your freezer with fish that are smaller than the slot. Release those
fish that are in the slot. Let 'em swim to and fight another day.
You will be helping to steward your local lake and will have a hand
in creating a population of "more and bigger fish."
For More Conservation Tips visit www.recycledfish.org