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No walleye this year for Crosslake-Ideal Lions fishing tourney

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Only two species of fish — northern pike and largemouth bass — will be sought by anglers at this year's Crosslake-Ideal Lions Club tournament on Saturday, June 14, at Moonlite Bay Family Restaurant & Bar in Crosslake.

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Typically, participants in the annual catch-and-release tournament will fish for walleye as well. This year, however, the event, which is held the same weekend each year, falls on the first day of statewide restrictions that do not allow for the catch-and-release of walleyes in fishing contests because of high mortality rates.

The catch-and-release restriction on walleyes does not apply to individual anglers, said Marc Bacigalupi, Brainerd lakes area supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

In fishing tournament settings, however, releasing dozens of walleyes into a shallow bay area with warmer water can shock the systems of the fish typically found in cooler, deeper waters.

"Walleye are particularly sensitive," Bacigalupi said. "A walleye can get released and look OK, but turn up dead the next day."

The state rule that applies to restrictions on live release weigh-ins states that "all inland and border lakes located in and south of Traverse, Grant, Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Mille Lacs, Kanabec and Pine counties, except Lake Mille Lacs" are subject to a restriction from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Crow Wing County falls into the second category, north of these counties, where restrictions begin June 14 and go through Labor Day.

Joe Doerfler, chairman of the tournament, said some of the walleye anglers wanted to keep the fish and donate them to the elderly or organizations, rather than not including them in the contest. The Lions decided unanimously not to take this route.

"Our main objective when we started this tournament was to be catch-and-release," he said. "Once you start changing your rules in midstream, then I don't think you stand for much."

Bacigalupi said he gave the Lions the option of moving the date of their tournament, but they wanted to keep it on the same Saturday as in the past, the second one in June. In most other years, this falls before the restriction date.

The tournament, which is in its 26th year, is unique because of its inclusion of three species. Most fishing tournaments focus on one particular species of fish.

Doerfler said that the popularity of walleye in the tournament has grown considerably from when it first began, but he expects that only a few anglers focused specifically on that species will choose not to participate in this year's tournament.

The Lions award a total of $7,400 in prize money, with the first-place angler taking home $2,000. Prizes are given down to 20th place, and anglers with the heaviest of each species also receive an award.

All proceeds from entry fees are used in the Lions Club's charitable donations.

There is still time to enter the contest; Doerfler said they will accept entries through Friday, June 13, but will cap the number of boats allowed at 100 total, or 200 total anglers. Cost for entry is $125 per team. Call 218-692-2122 for more information.

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