Computer program glitch delays Lake of the Woods trap winter survey results

April 1 – BAUDETTE, Minnesota – Final numbers won’t be available for some time, but it appears ice fishing pressure has eased slightly this winter on Lake of the Woods, based on rough data gathered from from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. ‘ Winter survey in the net.

Most likely. Perhaps.

There have been some glitches with a new computer program the DNR used this winter to compile trap survey data, and the agency’s information technology specialists are working on the bugs, Phil said. Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Baudette. 31.

“We will be way behind on our actual survey results because of this,” Talmage said. “There’s a whole bunch of issues with that, and it leaves us in a tough spot. At this point, hopefully we can sort that out ahead of our summer season on the pitch.”

The Lake of the Woods winter trap investigation began in mid-December and ended about a week and a half ago, Talmage said.

“In a nutshell, I don’t have the data yet,” he said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”

Despite the glitch, Talmage says, it looks like the winter fishing pressure could be in the range of 2.5 million angling hours, although that’s just a guess. That would be down from the record 2.8 million hours in 2020 and 2.7 million hours in 2021.

Information on walleye and sauger catch rates was not immediately available due to the software issue, he said.

As the Herald reported last May, anglers over the winter of 2020-21 kept around 215,000 pounds of walleye and 312,000 pounds of walleye on Lake of the Woods, down from recent averages of 250,000 pounds and 350,000 pounds, respectively.

MNR manages Lake of the Woods with a “target harvest” of 540,000 pounds per year for walleye and 250,000 pounds per year for sauger, averaged over a six-year period.

The walleye harvest in recent years has averaged around 520,000 pounds per year – just below the target, according to MNR estimates – while the six-year average for sauger is d around £430,000 a year.

Most sauger harvesting takes place in the winter.

Last winter, MNR changed the design of the Lake of the Woods creel survey, with the addition of a clerk who worked in a “creel shack” – a skate-style fish house set on a trailer – which was transported to various access points to interview the fishermen coming out of the ice at the end of their trip.

Previously, MNR only interviewed ice fishers when they were actively fishing.

“We asked you how you did that day, but we weren’t sure how long you ended up fishing,” Talmage said. “And we also didn’t know if your catch rate had changed. Or, more importantly, ultimately, how many fish did you actually keep?

“With the new survey, we actually know your actual catch rates and your actual fishing time for that entire day, so that gives us better insight.”

This will allow fisheries managers to more effectively “model” regulations in the future if there is a need to change catch limits, he said.

“Going forward, we can actually use this data and say how a change in regulations would potentially affect angler behavior,” Talmage said.

MNR uses a similar format for its winter survey of Upper Red Lake, Talmage said.

Ice melt on the Rainy River, which flows between Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods along the Minnesota-Ontario border, continues to lag due to persistent cold weather. A few hard-core anglers began dragging boats on the shore ice to reach open water at Franz Jevne State Park near Birchdale, Minn., but no boat launches were open Thursday.

Talmage says he wouldn’t be surprised if the ice on Rainy River in Baudette doesn’t occur until Sunday, April 17. From there, the river still has about 10 miles to go before reaching Lake of the Woods.

The spring walleye season that traditionally draws thousands of anglers to the Rainy River ends Thursday, April 14.

If Talmage’s prediction is confirmed, the boat ramps on the Rainy River above Lake of the Woods and Baudette will be even more congested than usual.

“You look at the forecast, and we don’t have rapid warming” on the horizon in the Baudette area, he said. “I haven’t seen a day even in the 50s for about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks.

“That’s when we have the crazy long lines” at the boat launch, he added. “They don’t have the ability to disperse. Ideally you get more available access, and that distributes that pressure.”

On the upside, late ice melt will likely mean large upstream tributaries such as the Little Fork and Big Fork rivers closer to International Falls, Minn., will not have open water until April 14. When the tributaries open up, the flow of ice and debris traditionally muddies the Rainy River, and walleye fishing comes to a halt until the water clarity improves.

Talmage says he crossed both tributaries on Wednesday on State Highway 11, “and they’re a long way from opening up.”

Gordon K. Morehouse