Legislator regrets hasty decision on Fish Lake limitsSen. Satveer Chaudhary said Tuesday he made a mistake when he promoted legislation that would require walleye possession restrictions on Fish Lake north of Duluth.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Sen. Satveer Chaudhary said Tuesday he made a mistake when he promoted legislation that would require walleye possession restrictions on Fish Lake north of Duluth.
After hearing from unhappy residents who learned of the legislation when it was reported Tuesday in the News Tribune, Chaudhary said he’s willing to repeal the measure first thing next legislative session.
Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, is chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which deals with many fishing and hunting issues.
He also owns a house on Fish Lake.
The Legislature, in the Omnibus Game and Fish Bill passed Saturday, directed the Department of Natural Resources to implement the special regulations for walleyes on Fish Lake, although no regulations were specified. The legislation came about, Chaudhary said, after some Duluth-area residents contacted St. Louis County Commissioner Dennis Fink, hoping to get a slot limit in place on Fish Lake walleyes.
Fink said he contacted Chaudhary about the matter. Chaudhary said he asked Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, to include the amendment in the House Omnibus Game and Fish Bill.
But Dill and Chaudhary circumvented the DNR’s usual public input process by mandating new regulations, and Chaudhary started hearing from opponents Tuesday.
Tim Wagner, owner of Hi-Banks Resort on Fish Lake, said he called Chaudhary to protest the restrictions. DNR fisheries officials say the walleye harvest on Fish Lake would have to be cut by 30 percent to 40 percent to increase the number of walleyes more than 20 inches long. That would require anglers to throw back all walleyes from 14-20 inches or from
Such restrictions would destroy his business, Wagner said.
“I had tears in my eyes,” Wagner said. “We made it through the recession by the skin of our teeth. That would close me down. It would give me a year and I’d be done. If they do this, everyone will go to Island Lake.”
Chaudhary, reached in the Twin Cities on Tuesday evening, apologized for the last-minute amendment.
“Obviously, I have complete and utter egg on my face,” Chaudhary said. “Thinking that moving fast on these special regulations was something the community wanted was completely wrong, and I should have investigated further before acting.
“I had a chat with Tim (Wagner). He was practically in tears talking to me. It absolutely broke my heart that I would disappoint a good friend. Whether I think protecting fish even minimally is the right thing to do, it’s important that everyone should be on board.”
Chaudhary said he’ll host a meeting to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hi-Banks Resort on Fish Lake (5392 Fish Lake Dam Road).
The DNR does not recommend changing the current walleye regulations on Fish Lake, said Deserae Hendrickson, DNR area fisheries supervisor at French River. The walleye limit on Fish Lake is the same as the general statewide walleye limit on inland waters, six in possession with no more than one over 20 inches.
“I called the DNR headquarters and told them I acted prematurely, and that if folks don’t want any minimal protection, the first thing I’ll do next session is repeal it,” Chaudhary said. “And we’ll have plenty of time because (as written) it wouldn’t take effect until March 1, 2011.”