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Ask a Conservation Officer: When can you keep a foul-hooked fish?

Q: While fishing on the St. Louis River near Duluth, I was trolling with a spinner rig and landed a walleye that was hooked in the chin behind the mouth. Can I keep it?

A: No. Minnesota's statewide regulation for foul-hooked fish states that a person may not intentionally take fish by snagging, or use a snag line, snag hook or cluster of hooks designed to foul-hook fish.

On most inland lakes, as long as a fish that was hooked elsewhere in the body was done so accidentally, it is legal to keep. However, on Lake Superior tributaries and Wisconsin-Minnesota border waters (St. Louis, St. Croix and Mississippi rivers), there is a specific regulation stating that a fish hooked anywhere in the body except the mouth must be immediately returned to the water.

Some anglers may strongly argue that it is not moral or right to keep such a foul-hooked fish under any circumstances. In a CO's world, this is where we get the phrase, "What seems right isn't always legal, and what is legal doesn't always seem right."

Make sure to check out the Border Waters pages for special regulations in the 2018 Minnesota Fishing Regulation synopsis.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to outdoors@duluthnews.com.

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