Hardy anglers who’d like to drop a line in the Mississippi will find a few spots off limits this winter. Department of Natural Resources chief of fisheries Marion Conover says many are after the high concentration of fish to be found in a few key spots on the big river.In winter, he explains fish migrate and look for deep water homes for winter, and some preferred by anglers like walleye and sauger like the deep “holes” in the main channels by the lock-and-dams. Conover says the DNR is the last agency that would want to restrict recreational fishing, but it’s proving fatal to fish in those areas, when they’re hooked in their deep winter habitat. Many are very small, especially the sauger caught in winter, so anglers will release them, but after being reeled in 40-50 feet to the surface, the agency’s found 85-percent will die after being caught and released there. Conover says in rougher winters the areas are mostly inaccessible anyway. He says the last few winters have been to mild, the ice didn’t freeze up the whole river, so some “hardy souls” in boats have been able to anchor right over the deep spots and fish for walleye and sauger. So fishing will be officially closed in the areas right below the dams for winter months, starting next year. Beginning in January, fishing will be closed for a short distance below and lock-and-dams at Bellevue, Dubuque and Clinton until March 15th. Conover says while many anglers understand what the agency’s trying to do, others object to closing winter fishing below the dams despite the high death rate of fish caught and released. Next winter and from then on, the new ban will be in from December 1 through March 15.
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