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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?


05:54 pm - Wed, April 25 2012
Dan Varns said:
I agree that rules need to be realistic & simple, Bernie. Asian carp is becoming a real problem in many states and the easier plan we have in place for fishermen to assist the better. But I have to disagree with your statement about the GF&P being "notoriously powerful." After reading the article in Sunday's Argus Leader I worry they may not be powerful enough. No licences required for guides and outfitters, & lax enforcement by the state we now know has led to poaching and other abuses.
06:30 pm - Wed, April 25 2012
Steve Hovland said:
No, the GF&P needs to act now. While you're having "a discussion", Asian Carp will infest SD's waterways and then it's all over...ask the people of Illinois...
06:50 pm - Wed, April 25 2012
Don Radel said:
Sorry Bernie, but I side with the State on this one... As you have said seining has been going on for a long time, if I seine south of the dam, but fish north of the dam am I not still in the Mo. by your thoughts? And if the fishing is not good there and move on to Lake Vermillion, Lake Mitchell or points elsewhere do you really belive the minnows will be dumped back at the same spot there were collected? No, this law, as most of our laws are not against the law abiding, but for those that live in the "grey" area of life. A little statute encouragement is not a bad thing if it makes someone think twice and possibly prevent the spread.
06:37 am - Thu, April 26 2012
Bernie said:
As David Hume said, "The truth springs from arguments among friends." Good points, I'll see how they sell at Gramp's today.
08:48 am - Thu, April 26 2012
dave tunge said:
I think the new law makes sense and was done for the protection of our SD waters but also is highly unenforceable. I can't imagine wardens sorting minnows from a bucket to identify illegial species.
09:11 am - Thu, April 26 2012
Bernie said:
Dave, my understanding is that you can't net minnows of any species in the protected areas.pm7yy.

I agree that it is done for a good reason, but wondering if there is a more logical way to accomplish the same thing. Maybe not.
09:38 am - Thu, April 26 2012
dave tunge said:
Probably not. My point was that you may be able to identify illegal minnows but how can you ever ascertain where they came from? It would be more of an honor system that all but the crooks would abide by.
12:29 pm - Tue, May 1 2012
Gary Pederson said:

Hate to see more regulations, but I agree with the Game Fish & Parks. The last thing we need are Asian Carp in Lewis & Clark lake, Francis Case or Oahe. If the new rule reduces the chances of, or delays the spread of these fish to the upper Missouri river system, I am for it.

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