Gar secures protection from Minnesota lawmakers


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – One of Minnesota’s strangest, perhaps coolest, and definitely underrated fish – the gar – is about to receive love.

The long, thin, toothy, prehistoric-looking fish will, for the first time in the state, be protected in the same way as other hunting fish, the result of an outcry on social media following the ‘a series of mass murders that some viewed as unwarranted waste. In a legislature heavily divided along partisan lines, the Minnesota gar species found bipartisan support.

Officials say they’re not sure exactly what restrictions they will place on catching and killing the gar, but the move carries a growing awareness of the change in attitude towards native fish that humbly live on the opposite side of it. spectrum of fishing compared to famous fish like walleye and walleye. bass, reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The much larger Environment and Natural Resources Bill approved by both the House and the Senate and contains a brief reference to the gar: “The commissioner must establish daily and possession limits for the gar.”

This simple phrase has gar advocates – and yes, there are a few – celebrating.

“This is a fantastic initiative for the conservation of these underrated species,” said Solomon David, assistant professor of biological sciences at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. More on point: David is a Gar Researcher and Ambassador, having done his dissertation on the guys in the Great Lakes region, and is the principal investigator at the university’s Gar Lab, which, yes, is hashtag #GarLab on social networks.

“Most states don’t have anything for the gar,” he said.

That is true. Most states, including Minnesota, regard any gar, native to North America, as a “coarse fish” with no limit on how many you can kill, of any size, at any time of year. It is a legacy of the ignorance of European-centered thought when America was colonized and repeatedly applied to native trout and muskellunge – species touted today.

Raw Minnesota fish today include suckers, bluefin tuna, native carp-like buffalo (but not carp) and freshwater drum, as well as guys. These fish have virtually no protection against death, whether from hook and line, archery, or fork-shaped spears through the ice.

Two species of guys (some say “gar” is plural, and the rules have changed) are native to Minnesota, the longnose boy and the shortnose boy. They glide along the backwaters of large river systems and for years they haven’t attracted much attention. Anglers occasionally catch them, but their bony mouths tend to resist hooks. A small subculture of fly fishermen targets them with essentially tassels of wire that get tangled in their teeth.

The larger of the two, the long snout, can live up to 40 years; the official state record, captured in the St. Croix River in Washington County, measured an impressive 53 inches, weighing 16 pounds and 12 ounces.

Brad Parsons, director of fisheries for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, acknowledges that the agency is not exactly sure about the health of gar populations in the state.

“We’re assuming it does, but honestly we don’t know,” Parsons said. Yet the idea that any native fish were regulated as if they were of no value has always angered Parsons, a veteran fisheries biologist who has spent decades studying the tapestry of native fishes of the upper Mississippi River in the Minnesota.

“These are really cool fish,” he said. “At the DNR Pond at the State Fair, it’s the spoonbills and the long-nosed boy that get the most attention.”

When he took over as head of MNR’s fisheries division several years ago, he began a slow campaign to make a difference. This year’s fishing regulations have a half-page section calling on anglers to show respect to coarse fish.

Monkfish, or monkfish, was recently removed from the list of coarse fish and declared a game fish, much to Parsons’ delight.

But the DNR had nothing to do with the start of the new gar protections.

It started as a backlash to a video posted to YouTube by some ice fishermen in Minnesota who speared the gar through large holes in the ice – a legal pastime called “black house spear” which is commonly practiced for the boy. northern pike, but also legal for rough fish and harmful invasive species.

The video, which has since been deleted from YouTube, showed 82 undead sprawled on the ice. The launchers said modern technology, including sonar, helped them target the fish. The incident sparked an uproar – especially because law enforcement officials determined the massacre was legal because the fish were not literally thrown out, but used in a certain way, presumably given as fertilizer , as is the case with non-native common carp.

Similar incidents have drawn backlash elsewhere, including Oklahoma archery fishermen killing and throwing overboard more than 1,000 gar in a single outing. This is the flip side of posting wildlife exploits on publicly accessible websites.

David was one of those who stirred up a stench.

“These are native advanced predators that play a big role in our ecosystem,” he said in a recent interview. “Instead of planting them in a field and justifying it as fertilizer, we should see these fish in the context of other predators.”

For example, David said that, although this has not been established, it is possible that the gar could prove useful in controlling invasive carp moving up the Mississippi River, as the gar often prefers shallow backwaters, even when oxygen is low, and could be the only predator. young carp in these waters.

The situation caught the attention of some lawmakers and Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, introduced the measure.

Initially, several Democratic lawmakers wanted to go further, classifying the gar as a game fish, but the idea lacked enough Republican support to move forward. The resulting compromise will require MNR to set daily and possession limits for the guys – a decision that, in practice, allows them to be as protected as game fish.

Parsons said that while the DNR has nothing to do with the initiative, the DNR is more than happy to do so. He said the next task is to talk to researchers, anglers and other interested parties to try to determine what those limits should be.

“We haven’t really gotten into it yet,” Parsons said. “I would doubt there are any closed seasons, but we could absolutely see limits.”


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