The sturgeon catch continues to be strong with trophy class fish being landed. So far this year the catch and size has been amazing to say the least. There are natural factors that are allowing this good fortune for anglers this year. The top being the overall management of not only the sturgeon but all of the other species that exist within the waters of Lake of The Woods.
Since the early 1980’s annual monitoring has been conducted. Information gained from the Minnesota DNR during their data collection has been a major factor in providing a sound scientific basis in order to help direct management decisions. Cooperative shared information with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have played a major role in the sustainability of sport fishing on Lake of The Woods for the past 30 years. It also should be noted that it’s not only the creel surveys that provide the information needed for the management direction. Spring spawning, zooplankton, seine netting to detect spawning success and forage base present and fall gill netting assessments all play a major factor with the management practices, policies and creation of the rules and regulations. All directed to sustainability of our great fishery.
Sometime around 2017, the DNR engaged a group of 14 stakeholders referred to as the Lake of The Woods Fisheries Input Group (LOWFIG). The input from this body provides a divers local and statewide perspective aimed at sound recommendations regarding management. LOWFIG published a comprehensive plan spanning 5 years (2018-2023). Their plan is intended to build upon the successes and knowledge gained form previous plans by recommending specific goals and objectives. The overall goal is to aid management actions aimed at preserving a high quality, species diverse fishery on Lake of The Woods. With their plan came a new addition to the survey practices known as “moving averages”. This is accomplished by averaging the most recent 3-year observations in order to reflect the current trends. The use of three years is vital to smooth out the highs and lows over any given year over year.
The inclusive plan not only targets the species of walleye, sauger, northern pike, lake sturgeon and other types of fish. The objectives also target environmental review and shoreline protection/projects to further the security and enhancement of valuable habitats needed for sustainability. All geared to ensure that you will continue to enjoy the bounty Lake of The Woods consistently provides.
Despite a reported gap in walleye in creel surveys conducted in 2019, the current late/early season catch with the broodstock of 3 – 5 years ago was strong. The same survey showed an increase in sauger and proof of that has been seen throughout the ice and into the late season just before the season closed a few weeks ago. Interestingly, the keeper walleye range in age between 3 to 9 years old. And the slot (19.5 – 29”) fish will range between 6 to 20 years in age. Trophy walleye (spawning females 30” and above) that were landed during the late season are between 16 to 20+ years old. This proves the sustainability and management efforts that are being pursued are in fact working.
The 2021 forecast for Lake of The Woods is looking good. In 2019 the targeted harvest of walleye was 540,000 pounds (6 year moving average). A 2019 report that was reflecting 2018 results showed an actual harvest of 492,000 pounds. Due to covid restrictions the 2020 survey was not able to be conducted. However, there was a creel survey that was able to be conducted during this past ice season. This being the case, I would venture a guess that unless something was discovered during the ice survey, the catch limit will remain around 540,000 pounds and we will not only see the same rule and regulations of this past season, but we will also see the same if not a better catch.
Wrapping up, as stated at the beginning of this report, the sturgeon catch is truly out of this world. If you would like to capitalize on the catch and enjoy some time on the water, we invite you to give us a call. Take advantage of our current 35% off cabin rentals now through May 13, 2021. Our kind and friendly booking agents will assist you with planning a trip to remember. In addition, if you are planning a trip up north for the coming season let River Bend Resort or The Walleye Inn take care of you. Don’t wait to call. We are currently taking reservations daily and dates are filling up quickly.