Anglers who fish in Beltrami, Clearwater, northern Cass, and northern Hubbard county area benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Bemidji area fisheries staff.
Area Fisheries Supervisor Gary Barnard and a staff of five full-time and two part-time employees manage 113 fishing lakes and 220 miles of rivers and streams, including popular fishing destinations such as the Upper Red Lake, Cass Lake, Lake Bemidji and Itasca State Park Lakes.
Bemidji fisheries staff conduct a winter creel survey on Upper Red Lake. Information obtained from a creel survey is used to estimate fishing pressure, total harvest and the size composition of the harvest. Harvest information complements the fish population data needed to properly manage fisheries.
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Virtually all the work of the Bemidji area fisheries staff is funded by money raised through fishing license sales. But reductions in buying power due to increasing costs for products, services and equipment have put this work and the recreational opportunities it creates at risk.
In response, the DNR is seeking a fishing license fee increase in the 2017 legislative session. The increase would raise the price of a resident annual fishing license from $22 to $25. Other fishing license types also would increase. The proposed increases should sustain existing fisheries operations until 2021.
The increase for an individual license – roughly the price of a scoop of minnows – will not add staff or build programs. Rather, it will simply sustain existing programs and area office budgets, many of which already are reduced.
State law prohibits tax dollars, including funds generated by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment and Minnesota State Lottery, from funding area fisheries offices and the core work they do. Fisheries management that creates world-class fishing here in Minnesota is a user-funded, user-benefit system.
General hunting and fishing license fees were last increased in 2012 at an amount designed to keep game and fish operations solvent for about six years. Prior to that, it had been 10 years since the last general fee increase. Periodic fee increases – one about every five years since 1970 – are how Minnesota funds routine fisheries management. Many fishing organizations traditionally have supported periodic fee increases because high-quality fishing is recreation worth paying for.
In November 2016, the Game and Fish Fund Budget Oversight Committee – a citizen group that monitors the DNR's fisheries, wildlife and enforcement revenues and expenditures – recommended that the Legislature increase fishing and hunting license fees during the 2017 legislative session.
The DNR's fisheries section has a long tradition of belt-tightening. Statewide, staff size is down about 13 percent from roughly a decade ago. Moreover, the section is holding an additional 24 vacancies, most of which will not be filled even with fee increase. This means it is common for field offices to have fewer employees and leaner budgets than they once did.
Area Trout Stream Maps
Upper Red Lake
|Gary Barnard||Area firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Andy Thompson||Assistant area email@example.com|
|Andrew Wiering||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Tony Kennedy||Large lake email@example.com|
|Tony Standera||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Brain Herwig||Research email@example.com|
|Robert Ekstrom||Aquatic habitat firstname.lastname@example.org|