the dnr recently banned bait shops from collecting and selling willow cats, a popular live bait in the area, after reviewing existing regulations. on the mississippi river in the winona area, willow cats are as important to walleye anglers as shiner minnows are to anglers in lake country. but until the current law changes, willow cats will be difficult to obtain. however, the spread of exotic species like zebra mussels resulted in a 1998 law that prohibits personal or commercial harvest of willow cats for bait in the mississippi river and st. croix river below taylors falls. so until the law is changed, willow cats can no longer be sold at bait shops in the region. that is until the dnr put an end to sales two weeks ago. “but according to the letter i received from the dnr on may 21, i have to stop until the law is changed.” kaczorowski harvests most of the willow cats he sells in “four or five” lakes around the brainerd area.
although the law has been on the books for several years, nobody looked into it as it related to willow cats until recently. unfortunately, the individual cited didn’t have a license and an investigation followed, according to abraham. “nobody, including members of the dnr, knew it was illegal until they started looking into it.” the dnr agrees and has no problem changing the existing law. it may not get changed until the 2005 legislative session. “we’re looking at a couple of options, and we’d like to change it sooner, but we can’t take it lightly.” dnr fisheries program consultant roy johannes, in st. paul, has no problem changing the current law, but says little can be done until 2005. “we can’t just change an existing law to make it more convenient.” adding to the confusion is the fact that willow cats can still be purchased in wisconsin for use on either side of the mississippi. according to the current law, minnesota anglers who legally obtain willow cats may use them in border waters, but bait dealers may not import minnows from other states to sell as live bait. while getting signatures from anglers in the winona area won’t be a problem, it might not be enough to make a difference until 2005. shop our online store for products and gear: print of the year, outdoor news history book, outdoor news clothing and more!
walleyefirst received a call from kent schroer this morning informing us of a new and steady source for willowcats for the river walleye enthusiasts. after six years of steady trial and error i have been able to raise these fish in captivity. i started with 1000 fish and had 20 fish spawn my first year. i was able to jump ahead several generations by getting several to spawn in january and then again in spring. the fish i sell for bait are raised differently then broodfish stock,as it takes 3 years before they will spawn successfully. getting the willow cats to spawn successfully is complicated, and hatching eggs is even more so.
i have three 1000 gallon insulated tanks outside, because they refuse to spawn inside in any building. these fish have passed a veternarian heath inspection and i am lisenced throught the usda with a type 2 fish farm lisence. even when counted they are only handeld with wet hands and no nets. my customers claim they catch more walleyes on them and they last twice as long as wild fish at home in their tanks as they do not have the stress put on them as wild caught fish do. the fish i sell are 2 1/2- 3 1/2″ long and siome are bigger; up to 4 1/2″. there is a minumum order of 10 dozen as and an appointment is required so i can ready the willowcats for you. last year i sold out by the end of april and didn’t have sellable size fish until july.
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