The Last Windrow: Be prepared for changes in regulations this fishing season

Fishing spouses must both be present to get combination licenses and regulations on fish limits have changed

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Anglers won't be able to lie about their partner's weight when they buy a Minnesota fishing license anymore.

Your beloved will be at your side. I guess it's the state's way of correcting angler corruption. I thought all anglers were honest. Well, at least the bulk of them.

One of the more humorous happenings during my years of dishing out Minnesota fishing licenses was when a man entered and asked to purchase a combination husband and wife fishing license. In those distant days, the wife didn't have to be present to accomplish the feat. The husband would dutifully fill out his information and then he was asked to fill out his wife's birthdate, eye color, hair color and weight.

Suddenly, a serious look came across their faces, especially if their wife was standing nearby.

I watched men twitch, tremble, stare at the ceiling and mumble to themselves as they tried to give an accurate description of their beloved. Some had been married for more than 50 years and still they shook in their boots.


I watched men twitch, tremble, stare at the ceiling and mumble to themselves as they tried to give an accurate description of their beloved.

Finally, with beads of sweat trickling from their brows, they would come up with details that might remotely describe their wife. More than once the wife would be standing in the background when she heard her husband utter his guess at her date of birth, weight or eye color. She would saunter up to him and ask who he was describing.

It might have been the start of a divorce - who can say? I tried to stay neutral.

New Minnesota regulations now declare that the wife must be present to give her own information and sign her own name to the license in person. In a way, the new law gets men who can't remember anything off the hook. To secure such a license, now the wife must attend the occasion with her driver's license.

The new regulations "bible" we received this year should come with a lawyer. The rules that used to take space on one side of a sheet of paper now make up a book of 90 pages. Obeying fishing laws has become rather complicated, one might say.

In my teens. I would purchase a license from Al Hawks Grocery in Westfield, Iowa, and not even be given a rules sheet. Of course, all there was to catch in that part of the country was catfish, carp, gar and bullheads. None had a limit on them at the time. The only rule I ever received from Al was always the same: "Don't fall in!"



The rule book I've been looking through now lists special regulations for a hundred or so lakes. In an effort to increase the size of panfish, some lakes now allow you to take only five crappie or sunfish daily. Special walleye and northern pike regulations are also in place in many lakes.

It wasn't so long ago that the only length limits on fish in Minnesota was a 40-inch minimum length on musky. Now there are length limits on almost every game fish that swims.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for enhancing the fishery in the state. But many who have journeyed to the state over the years to fish did so with the thought of maybe taking home a meal or two of fish. Those anglers spend millions of dollars each year, and over the years they have been a staple of the summer crowds that come north.

I'm wondering what effect these new rules will have on that fishy segment of the tourist population. But really, what choice do they have? Most states around Minnesota and across the border in Canada have issued similar restrictions on their lakes and reservoirs as well.

Technology has just made catching fish easier than it once was. After all, when you have $2,000 worth of electronic gear in your boat and you're after a critter with a brain the size of a pea or smaller, there is a distinct advantage that wasn't there in earlier years. I think that trend will continue.

But, one thing hasn't changed. Those big, husky, bearded, camo-clad men who stomp into a bait shop and ask for a combination license for themselves and their wives still won't remember their spouses' date of birth, eye color, hair color or weight. It will be good that their partner now will be standing at their side with that information in hand.

It might save a marriage or two.


See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!

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