MADISON, Wis. – Two separate measures regarding lake trout harvests in lakes Superior and Michigan gained approval by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board on Wednesday.
The separate measures reflect the difference in lake trout abundance between the two Great Lakes. Next steps will involve stakeholder meetings in both regions.
For Lake Superior: The Natural Resources Board approved an emergency rule to amend lake trout harvest limits for the 2016-17 harvest season to reflect continued challenges to the population. Terry Margenau, DNR Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, said the recreational season runs from Dec. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2017. The commercial fishing season is open from Nov. 28, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2017.
Under the rule, in the area known as WI-2 extending east of Bark Point, only two lake trout may be harvested per day. In WI-2, lake trout must be greater than 15 inches but only one may be greater than 25 inches. If the recreational harvest reaches 7,350 or 75 percent of the total allowable recreational lake trout harvest of 9,800 fish, the recreational lake trout season will close with no further harvest or fishing for lake trout allowed in the WI-2 area.
West of Bark Point, in the area known as WI-1, the current three fish daily bag limit will remain for lake trout with a 15-inch minimum size limit and only one lake trout may be harvested over 25 inches. Even if the recreational season closes east of Bark Point, up to three lake trout per day may continue to be harvested west of Bark Point.
The emergency rule separates lake trout from the current five total daily bag limit for trout on Lake Superior. Under the rule, anglers will be able to take up to two (WI-2) or three (WI-1) lake trout per day as well as up to five other trout per day.
“While lake trout were formerly part of the five trout bag limit, the new rule will allow an angler the potential to harvest, for example, five brown trout plus their bag of lake trout,” Margenau said. This would apply to both WI-1 and WI-2 waters of Lake Superior.
The rule also revises harvests for commercial fishers and prohibits previously allowed fishing in the Gull Island refuge. However, because of agreements among the parties to the Lake Superior Fishing Agreement, the rule also removes restrictions from the Hagen’s Beach area, opening this area to commercial fishing between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2016.
Margenau said the department anticipates holding a public hearing in late January in northern Wisconsin on the emergency rule. For more on the rule development process for lake trout in Lake Superior, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Lake Superior fisheries management.”
For Lake Michigan: The board approved a scope statement for development of an emergency rule and a permanent rule. Changes to the current lake trout rules could include an increase in the lake trout daily bag limit from the current level of two lake trout per day; allowing a year round open season in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan, except for the Mid Lake Reef Complex; and allowing fishing on the Mid Lake Reef Complex from January 1 to September 30.
The scoping statement and rule development effort follow a series of stakeholder meetings in 2016 during which angler expressed interest in expanded fishing opportunities for lake trout. Comments received also favored changing the regulations for lake trout.
Brad Eggold, Great Lakes District fisheries supervisor, said the department anticipates holding a public meeting in January or February as part of the rule development effort. For more on Lake Michigan fisheries management, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Fishing Lake Michigan.”