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Discussion with fishing enthusiasts centers on fall angling

Anglers and tall tales go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But when you put guys that are serious about fishing in a room and add a fisheries manager to the mix, what comes out of a 45-minute session could have been videotaped and sold as a DVD on fishing tips.

Wednesday, members of Little Crow Anglers and West Central Bassmasters, plus Bruce Gilbertson from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, visited the West Central Tribune for an informal talk on fishing during the exciting autumn season. Though not everything discussed can be detailed in this article, here is a summary of what was talked about.

Closer than we thought

Whether the target is walleye or bass, fall is a great time to throw out the line into the water. And one of the reasons mirrors the season opener in May.

"All the big fish are feeding up for the winter," said Bruce Hoaglund, an avid bass angler and member of both Little Crow Anglers and West Central Bassmasters. "If I could fish only one month of the year, it would be from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15. ... For some reason, 40-degree water turns them on."

But you don't need a boat to get fish. The key is to find where the fish can move in and out of the lake.

All the discussion participants agreed that the abundance of shoreline fishing locations is a boon to Kandiyohi County. And they are located near running water. The most popular ones are the fishing pier between Foot and Willmar lakes in Willmar, the shoreline along U.S. Highway 71 at Ringo Lake and the bridges at the northeast corner of Green Lake in Spicer.

"Casting from shore, anglers will catch more with both artificials and naturals. It used to be a big indicator would be the frogs moving to the lake, especially in the early afternoon and evening," Gilbertson said.

"The nice thing about shoreline fishing is you don't necessarily need bait. A number of anglers use twister tails on jigs or Rapalas," added Kurt Novotny, an LCA member.

Shoreline fishing can also be safer for the fish, especially in deeper waters like Green Lake. Like humans, fish in deeper waters will have a little trouble adjusting to the quick pressure change. Pulling those fish out of the water, even if they are released, decreases the chances of survival.

Catch and release

Fishing tournaments, fishing leagues and special regulations have lifted the practice of catch-and-release to a standard of behavior among fishing enthusiasts.

Those who seriously fish wouldn't be able to stay out on the water very long without release their take without running afoul of the state's limit laws. But also, those fish that are in the keeper range this year, might be a little bigger next year, or the year after that. In this way, catch-and-release improves the fishing experience for those who search not for their limit, but for a trophy to hang on a wall.

"In this portion of the state, it takes approximately three years to produce one-pound, 14-inch fish," Gilbertson said. "If you want quality, you can't be killing them and expect to come back and have a crack at catching a fish that's in a size range that isn't real abundant. Anglers tell us they'd like to be able to catch more memorable, quality fish. But you have to give up something to ultimately get that.

"That's were selective harvest and catch-and-release come into play."

Having a replica made - taking a picture of the fish and getting its measurements - is also an option for anglers who still want to display a trophy, Hoaglund noted. But he also said he can sympathize with anglers who want to do it the traditional way.

"I've been fishing bass for 55 years and I'm still looking for the seven-pound (largemouth bass)," he said. "I'd have a problem putting that seven-pounder back in the lake."

Get out there and fish

Fall is a busy time for everyone. There are leaves to be raked, waterfowl and deer to be hunted. But more and more, people are finding time to go fishing.

"For fall fishing, more and more guys are doing it," said John Pikus, another LCA member, "Years and years ago, when archery season started ... they put the boat away and those that fished had the lake to themselves."

Now, he says, there can be as many boats on a Wednesday evening as there are during the spring.

So get out there and fish!