Winter might be winding down, but fishing opportunities continue, and there are a number of dates and regulations anglers should keep in mind.
On the regulations front, anyone fishing Minnesota waters needs a new fishing license; 2015 licenses expired Monday.
Late winter is prime time for pike fishing on Lake of the Woods, where the season for northern pike is continuous. Just make sure you’re using legal bait.
Smelt is a popular bait choice for northern pike, but anyone using smelt on Lake of the Woods or other Minnesota waters needs to use bait certified as free of VHS, or viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a nasty fish disease that smelt have been known to carry.
Grocery store-variety smelt, while legal in North Dakota, can’t be used in Minnesota. In the most recent weekly report from Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, there were at least two incidents of anglers on Lake of the Woods using frozen smelt that wasn’t certified as VHS-free. Bait shops across the Northland sell bait that has been treated for the disease, and the bait carries special labeling certifying it as disease-free.
The same requirement applies to ciscoes, also known as tullibees.
Deadlines for removing permanent fish houses from the ice are approaching, as well. The deadline in North Dakota is midnight March 15, but the Game and Fish Department this year is recommending anglers remove shelters early, especially in the southern and western parts of the state.
North Dakota’s darkhouse spearing season also ends March 15. Down the pike, so to speak, new fishing licenses in North Dakota are required April 1.
Also of note, permanent shelters on border waters between Minnesota and North Dakota or South Dakota had to be off the ice Saturday. The deadline on Minnesota-Canada borders is March 31.
On Minnesota inland waters, houses south of an east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along state Highway 34 to state Highway 200, east along 200 to U.S. Highway 2 and east along 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border must be off the ice Monday. North of that line, the deadline is March 21.