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Look at all the options


Many people, at least around here, appear willing to accept a reduction in limits for such fish as walleye, bass and northern from six to four.

Those who support such a move are quick to point to Rainy Lake, which seems to be rebounding after walleye limits there were cut from six to three. Truthfully, though, one has to wonder whether the reduced limit (and slot size restriction) is behind the resurgence, or the fact so-called U.S. "day-trippers" can’t keep any fish any more.

No doubt the sanctuaries are playing a role, too.

It’s a similar story on lakes like the Manitou, where fishing is being touted by some as the best in years. But again, how much of the reason stems from the reduced trout limit that’s been in effect for well over a decade now--and how much from stemming the flood of "day-trippers?"

In fact, opponents of the proposed limit changes, using Ministry of Natural Resources figures, claim non-residents are taking the bulk of the fish from area lakes (upwards of 85 percent) so they should be the ones who face the restrictions.

The challenge, then, is finding the happy medium that preserves our "high quality" fishery without hurting our lucrative tourism business, and alienating resident anglers who, by the MNR’s own numbers, aren’t the source of the problem.

One solution being put forth, including by the local Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, is to make any changes "lake specific" as opposed to a blanket rule across Northwestern Ontario. A big drawback there, however, is the enforcement nightmares such a move would be sure to cause.

A problem with catch-and-release, or slot size restrictions, is that there’s a good chance a fish caught and then thrown back won’t survive.

Meanwhile, one major element missing from this debate is a change in the fish seasons. What impact would closing the walleye season a month earlier have on the fishery, or delaying the opener longer to make sure all the fish have had time to spawn in years when spring comes late?

The best news in all this is the admission by Gord Pyzer, district manager for the MNR in Kenora, that they haven’t done anything for years. And now when they want to make changes, people are taking notice.

Conserving our fishery for future generations is the way to go, and it’s great to finally see the ministry taking some action of late. But let’s be sure any changes are well thought-out, and every possible option explored, instead of grasping at an obvious choice that may not be the right move in the long run.

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