Fishing, hunting law changes effective July 1

Hunters and anglers should be aware of a number of law changes that will take effect July 1 (as opposed to the usual Aug. 1 date) as a result of legislation passed this year.

Changes to fishing regulations are listed online. Changes to hunting regulations will be listed in the 2009 Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet, which will be available in August.

The new fishing rules are:

* Night bowfishing is allowed statewide from May 1 to the last Sunday in February, with limitations on noise and distance from structures.
* A resident is now allowed to take fish by angling in a state park without an angling license under certain conditions, except in waters where a trout stamp is required.
* Residents age 90 or older may take fish without a license.

New fishing contest rules now include: –

* A 25 boat minimum for the event to require a fishing contest permit (currently 30 participants).
* Rough fish contests and contests with total prize value of $500 or less do not require permits.
* The fee waiver for charitable organizations is no longer available.
* The current maximum contest fees are cut in half.
* The commissioner must develop best practices certification for fishing contests to assure proper handling and release of fish.
* The commissioner must develop an online web-based fishing contest permit application process.
* The commissioner may allow for live release weigh-ins at public accesses.

The new hunting rules are:

* Modify the electric motor restriction while in waterfowl feeding and resting areas from one with 30 pounds of thrust or less to one that is 12 volts or less.
* Allow a person with a valid bear license, prior to the Saturday on or nearest to Sept. 16, to leave a portable stand in a wildlife management area within 100 yards of a legally tagged and registered bear bait site. They also require a person leaving such a stand to affix their name and address to the stand so that it can be seen from the ground.
* Allow free deer licenses to be issued to residents with qualifying military service. The licenses allow the taking of deer of either sex.
* Remove the restriction on possessing crossbows outdoors, and removes casing requirements in a motor vehicle during open seasons for game.
* Establish new gun casing exceptions that apply when hunting and transporting a firearm; removes casing requirements for bows provided they are not armed.
* Allow the commissioner to issue permits to disabled persons to hunt from a vehicle that is valid for the life of the person, if the disability is irreversible.
* Modify the definition of bait for the purposes of restrictions while hunting deer.
* Extend the hours for placing decoys when hunting waterfowl to two hours before lawful shooting (it is one hour currently). Hunters may not leave decoys unattended during shooting hours for more than three hours.
* Prohibit importation or exportation of live coyotes
* Establishes by law the dates and restrictions for the Zone 3 (southeastern Minnesota) deer season for 2009

In other new rules:

* A person may harvest ripe wild rice on or after Aug. 15 (was July 15) to Sept. 30. In 2009, the commissioner may, by posting, restrict or prohibit the harvesting of wild rice on public waters based on the stage of ripeness of the wild rice stands in the waters.

This provides interim authority while wild rice stakeholder workgroups develop comprehensive recommendations for wild rice harvest and management prior to the 2010 Legislative session.

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