Outdoors blog: DNR stays with no-kill rule for steelhead
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
DNR to stay with "no-kill" regs for steelhead
Fisheries officials with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have decided to continue a catch-and-release-only policy on steelhead in Lake Superior and its tributaries. The decision was announced today after the agency had weighed comments from anglers and angling groups.
Officials said the decision was made based on angler input and also on biological data indicating the steelhead (wild rainbow trout) population is not yet fully restored.
Steelhead first were stocked in Lake Superior in 1895 and reached their peak runs in the 1960s and 1970s. Populations declined through the 1980s and 1990s and have only recently begun to increase.
Currently, the catch rate for steelhead is .10, meaning that it takes the average angler 10 hours to catch a steelhead.
Angler response overwhelmingly supported continuation of the catch-and-release regulation, which has been in effect since 1997. Of 30 responses from anglers, some representing angling groups, all but three supported the no-kill regulation.
The Duluth Charter Captains Association, a group called Kamloops Advocates and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa were the only ones who supported a harvest of steelhead, said Matt Ward, DNR fisheries specialist at French River.
Scott Thorpe of the Lake Superior Steelhead Association supports the catch-and-release regulation.
“Ten hours for one fish is not a recovery strong enough to allow a harvest,” Thorpe wrote in his comments to the DNR.
Anglers and angling groups also were asked by the DNR whether they supported different regulations on Lake Superior than on its Minnesota tributaries, and only the charter captains association supported that idea.
Most anglers and angling groups said they believed the steelhead population is recovering but that it is not “recovered,” Ward said. Many cited the challenges facing steelhead, including a diminished number of smelt, competition for forage with lake trout and harsh conditions in the North Shore tributaries where steelhead spawn.