BY SCOTT RALL
The Globe outdoors columnist
I get asked all the time why Minnesota does not offer anglers the opportunity to fish with two lines in the summer months. It is a debate that precedes the extinction of the dinosaurs.
I just read Ron Schara’s column in Outdoor News and he states he wrote about this same question back in 1970. Minnesota outlawed two-line fishing in the open water season 99 years ago.
I looked around for about 20 minutes to see just how many walleyes an angler catches per hour in Minnesota and could not find it. If my memory serves me right, it is about .7 walleyes per angler hour fished. This is one fisherman with one line. Would fishing with two lines mean an angler would catch more fish? I think the answer is that it absolutely depends.
If I am muskie-fishing with a giant bucktail, I cannot cast two rods and reels at the same time. I could cast with one line and soak a sucker minnow under a bobber on the second one.
In this scenario I think harvest would increase slightly. If you take this second line possibility and spread it out across Minnesota, I think the harvest would increase in some areas and be unchanged in others. The difference is related to traditional fishing methods used regionally to catch different species in different kinds of lakes.
Let’s take a shallow prairie lake like those in southwest Minnesota. Almost all of the walleyes caught in the open water season are caught trolling crank baits. These are plastic or wooden baits used to imitate a smaller fish swimming in the water. If I am fishing alone, I will change the color or size of the crank bait every 15 minutes until I contact a fish. If I could fish with two lines, I could test two colors at the same time and cut in half the time to find out what color the fish want on that day.
The sooner I figure this out in my fishing day, the more successful I can be. Imagine three fishers with two lines each testing six different colors and lure sizes all at the same time. More lines will allow for more experimentation and will result in more fish in the boat.
Proponents of two-line fishing will say that because the limit is six fish, and as long as you quit at six, it wouldn’t matter if you caught those six fish with one line or 20. On the other side of the coin is that the reason the limit of six fish per day works now is that very few anglers ever catch six fish in a day.
I would say that even very good anglers only catch a limit of six fish about 20 percent of the time. If all anglers caught six fish every day, the quality of our fishing would nose dive to the bottom of our fishing history. There is no way the DNR could keep up. The Minnesota DNR, by the way, opposes two-line angling in the summer months.
You can fish two lines in the winter, so why would two lines in the summer make any difference? It is because you cannot realistically ice fish an entire lake in one day like you can in a boat. Mobility limits ice anglers from drilling holes from end of the lake to the other.
I don’t much care if you can fish with two line or one. The one reason I would oppose two lines is to limit in any measurable way the double dippers. These are anglers that will catch a limit, load the boat go home drop of the fish and re-launch the boat to take a second limit of fish in a single day. I have even heard of triple dipping during periods of hot bites.
On lakes like ours I believe harvest would go up. The fishing would be great early on and would taper off with the additional fishing pressure.
The bill being considered in the Minnesota senate today would charge an additional $5 per license to fish with two lines in the summer.
If there are anglers that want a second line really badly, then charge $35 extra for the line. The increased revenue could be used to increase the stocking rates in those lakes that I think would be affected.
In the end it really doesn’t matter all that much to me. I fish for the solitude, tranquility and the opportunity to shut off the electronic world of cell phones and the like.
Make your opinions known. I think it has the best chance of passing this year in all of the almost 50 times they have tried.