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Fishing tourneys are still popular

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Fishing tournaments are a stable of Minnesota life. Almost every weekend throughout the summer, interested anglers can find at least one tournament to compete in.

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But what we may not know is there are even more tournaments that we thought.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources divides fishing tournaments into two categories: permit and non-permit.

A fishing tournament doesn't require a permit if it meets one of five conditions: 25 or fewer participating boats, not limited to specific waters, all participants are age 18 or younger, limited to rough fish or the total prize value is $500 or less.

Bruce Gilbertson, fisheries manager at the DNR office in Spicer, said regulations take into account the popularity of fishing leagues, which normally compete every one or two weeks on the same body of water and normally have less than 25 boats on the water.

"It's rather silly to have them apply for a tournament and have to get a permit," he said. "We have several fishing leagues in the area that are below the threshold. They are very popular across the state. They usually have about 15 boats. Most of those people are looking to fish with other people who enjoy fishing. They're not looking at the money aspect of it. It's a smaller percentage of people that are interested in the bigger money tournaments."

The size of a body of water determines how often tournaments can be held. The DNR has a chart on its web site (www.mndnr.gov) that shows how many permit events can be held on a lake or river during a month.

Surprisingly, Green Lake in Spicer can only have four permitted contests and two of those can be large contests, which have 50-or-more boats or 100-or-more participants. Lake Minnewaska, in Pope County, has the same restrictions.

On the other hand, Lake Mille Lacs, which has 25 times the acreage of Green Lake, can hold unlimited permitted tournaments.

Green Lake and Lake Minnewaska are two of the most popular bodies of water in the area for many reasons. They both offer great fishing and recreational opportunities. Both are larger in size and can handle the increased traffic.

"Its location in relation to the Twin Cities," Gilbertson said of Green Lake's attraction. "It's a large enough lake to have the kind of boats that are used for those tournaments. The fishing is pretty good. It just seems to fit. For the Lakes region, Green Lake, Otter Tail, Pelican, Gull Lake, it's part of a group of desirable lakes that tournament sponsors would look for."

Dean Beck, fisheries manager at the DNR's Glenwood office, said Minnewaska has improved its status as a bass lake, which has increased its popularity.

"It's got a large size and a lot of bass habitat. It has reasonably good accommodations for tournaments," he said. "The smallmouth population has been continually expanding. That generates a lot of attention. Largemouth are certainly more abundant, but it's the smallmouth that has been getting people's attention. The average weights were a little bit bigger than the Alexandria chain."

But popularity does have its drawbacks. Everyone wants to use these lakes for different reasons and sometimes those reasons clash.

"There's a moderate amount of concern about the number of tournaments on Green Lake. I wouldn't say it's consistent on the specifics," Gilbertson said. "Some people have concerns about professional fishermen coming onto the lake and catching fish. Others have concerns about the traffic on the lake and disturbing the water. People think tournaments could be a vector for spreading invasive aquatic species."

Beck said when he's heard complaints, it's more about access than usage.

"The biggest complaint seems to be congestion at the Starbuck access site," he said. "I don't hear the grumbling that I do on the Alexandria chain."

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