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home : outdoors : fishing
May 23, 2018

2/9/2018 7:29:00 AM
Natural Resources Board approves fisheries advisory questions
Beckie Gaskill/lakeland timesLocal anglers Bruce Kohn and Larry Felten await a tournament weigh in on Lake Minocqua. One advisory question on the spring hearings questionnaire this year could make a change to tournament fishing bag limits in years to come.
Beckie Gaskill/lakeland times

Local anglers Bruce Kohn and Larry Felten await a tournament weigh in on Lake Minocqua. One advisory question on the spring hearings questionnaire this year could make a change to tournament fishing bag limits in years to come.

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

In last month's Natural Resources Board (NRB) meeting, one of the agenda items was to approve several questions which would be listed as advisory questions on the 20178 Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spring hearings questionnaire. Nine fisheries questions in total were approved by the board.

Here are the fisheries advisory questions sportsmen can expect to find on their questionnaires in April:

1. Do you favor establishing a statewide, continuous open season for bass fishing but allow harvest only during the traditional season?

Currently fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass begins on the first Saturday in May and continues through the first Sunday in March, with a closed season for two months in between. Some have expressed an interest in expanding this fishing opportunity. As of now, in many rivers, their impoundments and Lake Winnebago have continuous open seasons. According to the packet received by the NRB during the presentation, having this continuous catch-and-release season in March and April could make it more difficult to enforce the closed season for other species such as walleyes and northern. Possession, however, would still be prohibited and would be readily enforceable.

2. Do you favor an exception that allows participants in permitted fishing tournaments to adhere to the standard statewide five fish bag limit and a 14-inch minimum size limit - as long as all bass are released back to the same waterbody?

In waters managed as a trophy bass fishery, it is common to have a one-fish bag limit, with that one fish being over 18 inches. This restriction greatly reduces the number of fish an angler can possess in a fishing tournament. This rule would create an exception, which would improve fishing for everyone by "eliminating a source of conflict between non-tournament and tournament anglers that can make it challenging to establish what some believe are the most appropriate regulations for a waterbody," according to the background of the question. Tournament regulations, the background stated, are readily enforceable due to the permitting process by the DNR. Bass are currently the only species for which regulations may be more restrictive for tournaments than for non-tournament anglers.

3. Do you support an effort by the Department to develop panfish regulations for the Mississippi River that are consistent between the states, more simple than current rules, and with a lower bag limit than under current rules?

Because panfish rules on the Mississippi have not been revised for many years, some feel as though they may not provide adequate protection for those species or adequate distribution of harvest among anglers. Currently, Wisconsin allows 75 pan fish to be harvested per angler per day. Twenty-five of those may be yellow perch, rock bass and crappie; 25 may be bluegill and pumpkinseed and 25 may be white and yellow bass.

Minnesota allows for a 125-fish per day harvest with 25 in each of the following categories, white or yellow bass, crappie, rock bass, sunfish (bluegill, pumpkin seed and hybrids) and yellow perch. Iowa allows 25 bluegill, crappie and pumpkinseed, 25 yellow, white, rock and hybrid (wiper) bass and 25 yellow perch with no closed season.

In Minnesota, the possession limit for each species is the same at the daily bag limit. In both Wisconsin and Iowa, the possession limit is twice the daily bag limit. DNR from the three states is interested in simplifying these regulations as well as reducing daily bag limits. Specific recommendations would be topics to be voted on at later spring hearings before adoption.

4. Do you support an effort by the department to develop gamefish regulations for the Mississippi River that are consistent between the states, reflect current angler interests, and which may protect larger predators?

Mississippi River regulations, the background states, have not been revised or reviewed in the last 20 years.

"A joint review of regulations could result in recommendations that are more in line with angler expectations, consistent between states and proactive in protection large predators," the background states.

Large predators will become increasingly important as the invasive carp ranges expand. With this question, as well, specific recommendations would be the topic of future questions on spring hearings questionnaires if approved.

5. Do you favor increasing the minimum size limit for sturgeon on Lake Superior from 50 to 60 inches?

According to the background information, with increased interest and harvest of sturgeon on Lake Superior in recent years, it is likely management goals for the fish are not being met due to the slow growing, late spawning nature of these fish. These goals include rehabilitating and maintaining spawning, self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon. By increasing the size limit, fish would be allowed to spawn at least once before becoming susceptible to harvest. It would also reduce harvest without eliminating opportunity to harvest. The proposal would also simplify the rules, making the limit consistent with most other Wisconsin waters.

6. Do you favor increasing the minimum length for walleye, sauger and their hybrids from 15 to 18 inches and reducing the daily bag limit from 5 to 3 and maintaining the year round open season on Lake Koshkonong and the Rock River from the Indianford Dam to Jefferson Dam?

7. Do you favor a season closure during the standard gamefish closure for all gamefish on Lake Koshkonong and the Rock River from the Indianford Dam to the Jefferson Dam, but maintaining a 5-fish bag limit and a 15-inch size limit?

Currently, these waters are managed at the statewide regulation of 5 fish with a limit of 15 inches. The season is open year round. According to the background information, there has been a recent interest in looking further at regulations to offer greater protections to this fishery. From 2002-2016 data collected, the average exploitation rate was determined to be 42 percent on these fisheries, as opposed to the widely accepted 35 precent maximum exploitation rate for sustainable walleye populations. This proposal seek to gain public input on the regulation of walleye in these waters.

8. Do you favor reducing the walleye bag limit from five to three on the Lake Winnebago system?

According to the background information, "Recent results from a reward tag study have indicated that there are years where the exploitation rate, particularly of immature and adult females (walleyes), is very high." Reducing the bag limit should help to reduce those exploitation levels and help to ensure substantiality of the walleye populations. Winnebago System Waters includes Poygan, Winneconne, Butte des Morts and Winnebago and all of their tributaries "from their mouths upstream to the first dam including the Fox River from Lake Winnebago upstream to the dam above Princeton and all its tributaries from their mouths upstream to the first dam."

9. Do you favor expanding the prohibition on use of whole/live fish for bait on set lines and bank poles in order to reduce mortality of flathead catfish in the upper Fox River in Winnebago, Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties and the Wolf River in Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca and Winnebago counties?

Due to the slot limit (36-42 inches) on Lake Winnebago, it is necessary to release a number of fish that are caught, whether because they are within this protected slot or because a flathead catfish is already in an angler's possession. When whole or live bait is used, fish may suffer deep hook wounds, torn flesh, or mortality either immediately or later due to infection. Expanding the prohibition of use of these baits on the upper Fox and Wolf Rivers, the background information said, would help to reduce or eliminate waste of flathead catfish caught with these methods. Flatheads, it said, are unlikely to be attracted to other baits commonly used to target channel catfish. Use of whole or live fish is already prohibited on lakes Butte des Morts, Little Butte des Morts, Winnebago and Winneconne as well as Poygan and the Black River in Jackson, LaCrosse and Trempealeau counties.

These are but some of the advisory questions to be presented to sportsmen at this April's WCC and DNR spring hearings. Spring hearings are help in every county across the state. Meeting dates and times can be found my searching "spring hearings" on the DNR website dnr.wi.gov.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bgaskill@lakelandtimes.com.

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