Anglers who fish in the Otter Tail and Wilkin county area benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Fergus Falls area fisheries staff.
Area Fisheries Supervisor Jim Wolters and a staff of five full-time and six part-time employees manage 250 fishing lakes and 150 miles of major rivers and smaller streams. These waters include popular fishing destinations such as Otter Tail, Big Pine and North Lida lakes. Area staff also manage portions of the Otter Tail, Pelican and Red rivers.
Collecting muskellunge at night from a local lake to estimate the adult population.
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Virtually all the work of the Fergus Falls 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 – may fill some existing vacancies but will not create any new positions 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.
|Jim Wolters||Area firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Howard Fullhart||Assistant area email@example.com|
|Steve Kubeny||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jody Derks||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Mike Nelson||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Ron Erickson||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Kate Baldwin||Office administrative firstname.lastname@example.org|