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Can Fishermen Be Trusted?
Apr 25, 2012
I stopped at Gramp's, a favorite hangout for hunters and fishermen in Yankton. It's a convenience store with homemade soup, real black coffee, sinful cookies and Dimock cheese.
I was on a second cup of coffee when Larry, the proprietor's husband, came by to ask about some new law or rule from Game, Fish and Parks that says he can no longer net minnows for bait in the Missouri River.
GF&P is notoriously powerful in South Dakota, but any new rules must be approved by the legislature's Rules Committee so I contacted two buddies on the committee. Yes, they said, there is such a rule. Nobody opposed its adoption so it sailed through.
Soon after my inquiry, some of the top brass at GF&P emailed me to explain the department's position. News travels quickly in South Dakota. Naturally, it has to do with the spread of Asian Carp. Gavins Point Dam in Yankton is the last defense against this dreaded species' emergence into the Upper Missouri. The carp are a big menace to boaters and anglers downriver, and GF&P will go to any lengths to keep them out of Lewis and Clark Lake and the other lakes to the north.
The worry is that fishermen will seine minnows in the Missouri, the Big Sioux or the James and then use the same minnow bucket as they travel northward up the Missouri. They might eventually dump the minnows in a reservoir and, voila, the Asian Carp will have arrived.
Thus the new rule. But of course the new rule, to be effective, will require education. Families have been netting minnows for bait in this Dakota Country long before GF&P existed. It is a tradition, a time-honored practice that seemed ecologically friendly for generations.
To stop people from doing so will take time. Wouldn't it be just as easy to demand that anyone who nets minnows must release those minnows the same day in the same spot?
Nobody is on the side of the Asian Carp, but rules have to be realistic and sensible. Let's have a discussion — is there a better way for GF&P to proceed?