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Lake Trout Catch And Release Hooks DNR Board's Attention

Lake Michigan and Lake Superior Trout Quotas Set At DNR Board Meeting

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 5:00pm

By Chuck Quirmbach

The state Department of Natural Resources Board has approved lake trout quotas for Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and started the discussion on why some fish die after anglers catch and release the fish.

At the Board's meeting in Madison on Wednesday, members expanded lake trout fishing in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan, but not by as much as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had planned.

DNR staff and Lake Michigan sport fishing clubs had agreed on a proposal to increase the daily bag limit for lake trout from two to five fish. But board member, Frederick Prehn led a move to increase the harvest limit to just three.

He told the board: "My rationale on this is just my conservative side. If you put optics on this, the perception is we have a lot of information to gather."

Prehn says he wants to know more about the overall biomass, or fish population, in the lake, and how the DNR resolves ongoing concerns with commercial anglers. 

The board went along with Prehn on a 4 to 3 vote. 

The rule also expands lake trout season from seven months to year-round in most of the Wisconsin portions of Lake Michigan.  

There was little debate on a plan to expand fishing of lake trout in Lake Superior. The board approved that proposal, following a presentation by DNR Lake Superior Fisheries Team Supervisor Terry Margenau.

Margenau said for much of this decade, the population of the highly-prized fish was down in the lake and the state had to reduce the harvest. But Margenau says there's been improvement.

"Lake trout numbers are up. That's good news, and I think partially because we've tightened our belt over the past few years and we're seeing the benefits of that. We have several strong year- classes coming into the fishery," he said.

Margenau says the harvest quotas for both state and Chippewa-licensed commercial anglers could see modest increases. The same goes for recreational fishing. The new state rule still allows the early closing of the recreational season, if needed to protect the lake trout population.  

Near the end of the DNR Board meeting, member Gary Zimmer asked the DNR for a closer look at how to improve the number of fish that survive, after being caught and released by Wisconsin anglers.

Zimmer said a recent study showed 38 percent of lake trout that are returned to Lake Superior quickly die. He says there are problems protecting other fish species, too. 

"I've seen people handle fish very poorly. I take as much precautions, but I'm not sure I know all the answers, either. Or, what is the best way to release a fish," he said.

 Zimmer says fishing rules in many parts of the state require catch and release. The DNR says it has "taken note" of Zimmer's request for an evaluation of fish mortality.

View the story with photos at:

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