New trout regulations for Lake of the Woods

? Christmas came early for Sunset Country anglers who enjoy catching lake trout when the Ministry of Natural Resources last week announced changes have been made to lake trout regulations on Lake of the Woods starting in 2010.
Following significant public review on options for managing the lake trout harvest on Lake of the Woods outside of the Clearwater Bay area and Whitefish Bay, implementation of a catch-and-release lake trout season will begin on Jan. 1.
This new regulation applies to all areas of Lake of the Woods, outside of Whitefish Bay and the Clearwater Bay area, which both have their own set of specific regulations that allow for the harvest of some fish.
Those regulations will remain in place.
This means that all lake trout caught incidentally or purposely outside of these areas on Lake of the Woods throughout the entire season must be released.
A problem has been identified in recent years as more lake trout catches were occurring outside of traditional areas, especially during the winter season, most likely as a result of trout covering more area chasing and feeding on smelt—a relatively new baitfish species in the lake.
Although most anglers were releasing these typically large trout, some were harvesting them on a regular basis.
I was very happy when I heard the news of this new regulation because it still allows anglers the option to fish for lake trout; they just have to release them.
It is significant because in my opinion, trout of the quality size found on Lake of the Woods cannot be consistently caught within hundreds of miles of Lake of the Woods—it is a truly unique and special fishery.
Further, lake trout probably are the best fighting and fun-to-catch fish in Lake of the Woods during the ice season. So, as anglers, we should appreciate the fact these large fish do exist here and be happy to release them.
There are countless smaller lakes in the region that have great lake trout fishing for anglers who like to keep a few.
If you do, in fact, catch a lake trout on Lake of the Woods this winter, there are a few simple steps to ensure they can be released happy to fight another day. Obviously, if it is cold out, keep the fish in the water. Or if you must take them out, hold them gently, remove the hook, and get them back quickly.
I cringe when I see anglers pull fish on the ice and let them flop around in the snow around the hole.
These fish are extremely slow-growing and fragile, so please take care of them.
This brings up one of the advantages to fishing in a shelter during the ice season: the angler and the fish are protected from cold conditions. Fish caught in a shelter easily can be released without risk of freezing eyes and gills.
I want to thank area MNR employees Scott Lockhart and Barry Corbett, along with all the other folks who worked to implement these regulations in a timely manner before the resource was potentially compromised.
Lake trout season opens Jan, 1 and you can bet I will be out chasing them somewhere that day! In the meantime, we have some excellent walleye, crappie, and stocked trout fishing opportunities that are hot right now!
I wish everybody a great holiday—and may you all find a hot new lure in stocking on Christmas morning!

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