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UPDATE and CLARIFICATION: Fishing group clashes with Ingebrigtsen

(Editor's note: The following story contains some clarifications from the article that was posted this morning. The title of Paul Perovich is corrected - he is the Bass Federation's marketing director, not the president. His claim that the federation has cancelled fishing tournaments in the area is not accurate and is clarified in this story. Also, the economic figures that Perovich cited are no longer included and will be more fully explained in a follow-up story.)

The Minnesota Bass Federation has voiced strong concerns against aquatic invasive species legislation introduced by Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. The group also claims that Ingebrigtsen has cancelled meetings with its members and misrepresented the federation's stance on his legislation.

Ingebrigtsen said the group's accusations against him are politically motivated and out of line.

Paul Perovich, Minnesota Bass Federation marketing director, said that Ingebrigtsen's "containment zone" legislation to stop the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species (AIS) unfairly targets tournament fishermen.

Perovich said the legislation would, for instance, make boat washes and inspections mandatory at tournament access points to a lake.

He added that the legislation also leaves unanswered questions, such as who would pay for the costs involved and who would have to have their boats inspected and washed.

Perovich said that the Bass Federation and tournament anglers already take precautions to stop the spread of AIS. He said the Department of Natural Resources also has strict rules governing tournaments, permits and AIS.

"If the senator does not want to have fishing events in the Alexandria area, that's fine," said Perovich in an e-mail to the newspaper. "The Minnesota Bass Federation, effective May 11, has canceled all events in Alexandria and surrounding areas for 2011. You can count on the rest of the state's fishing organizations to soon follow the Bass Federation's path."

On Wednesday, however, Peter Perovich, the president of the Minnesota Bass Federation, clarified the statements made about the fishing tournaments. He said the federation has not told its club members to cancel fishing tournaments in Alexandria.

"We, as a board of directors, do not dictate to the clubs where they'll have their tournaments," Peter Perovich said. "It's up to the clubs to decide."

Paul Perovich said that Ingebrigtsen, who is the chair of the environmental and natural resources committee, has cancelled meetings with fishing groups like the Bass Federation, and hasn't allowed testimony at most of his committee hearings.

Paul Perovich accused Ingebrigtsen of "blatantly lying" on the floor of the Senate on May 9 when he said he was very much involved with fishing groups and they were on board with his new containment zone legislation.

"We're not even close to being on board," Perovich said. "Why is he singling out tournament fishermen? You have to treat everyone the same."

When contacted by the newspaper about Perovich's claims, Ingebrigtsen said the Bass Federation has had ample opportunity to speak to him at any time throughout the session.

"I'm just baffled by what he [Paul Perovich] is saying," Ingebrigtsen said. "I've never turned down a request for someone who wants to talk to me - ever."

Ingebrigtsen said he checked with his office assistant and couldn't find a record of anyone from the Bass Federation stopping by his office.

Ingebrigtsen said that the Bass Federation has opposed legislation that he's supported in the past, such as allowing spear fishing on more Minnesota lakes. He said that many members of the Bass Federation are muskie fishermen who believe that spearing could hurt the muskie population.

Ingebrigtsen said that he's talked with local lake associations that are worried that fishing tournaments could make it easier for AIS to gain a foothold in more Alexandria lakes.

"Quite frankly, right now with the invasive species threat out there, fishing tournaments aren't something we want right now," Ingebrigtsen said.

State Representative Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, was surprised a fishing tournament sponsor would be critical of a bill aimed at stopping invasive species. Wagenius, a key Democrat on outdoors issues, said the effort has broad bipartisan support.

Wagenius is a frequent visitor to her Douglas County vacation property.

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Capitol Reporter Don Davis with Forum Communications Company contributed to this story.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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