Trollers want different fee structure for Lake Superior

By Tim
Spielman
Associate Editor

Duluth, Minn. — Is Lake Superior being slighted when it comes to
proceeds from the state trout and salmon stamp? Some Superior
anglers believe so, and now are promoting a “Lake Superior Fishing
and Angling Endorsement” to replace the stamp as a requirement for
big lake anglers, with the funds strictly reserved for Superior
management.

The plan, now promoted by the Western Lake Superior Trollers
Association, would discontinue sharing of current trout and salmon
stamp funds between the Great Lake and streams species of
Minnesota, especially those of the southeast.

Dave Koneczny, president of the WLSTA, said the proposal was
borne of necessity.

“We’re looking for an alternative to the trout stamp for Lake
Superior,” he said. “We’re not trying to do in, or replace the
trout stamp in the state of Minnesota.

“The endorsement would be a dedicated fund, not a stamp,” he
said. “It would give us a funding source for Lake Superior. One
trout stamp won’t be enough to support both of them (the lake and
inland streams statewide).”

Koneczny said the proposal is in its infant stages. “It must be
worked out with the DNR and it must be worked out with the
Legislature,” he said.

Under the proposal, the endorsement would replace the Trout and
Salmon Stamp “and establish an appropriate and stable funding
source for the management of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River
waters, watersheds, rivers, and streams up to the first natural or
man-made barriers.”

Mark Ebbers, DNR trout and salmon program specialist, said he
believed such a change likely would increase funding available for
Lake Superior management, but wonders if a change might reduce the
number of endorsements purchased.

The endorsement would cost Lake Superior anglers $15; the
current Trout and Salmon Stamp costs $10.

According to WLSTA estimates, about 25,000 endorsements would be
sold annually (a total of about 90,000 trout stamps were sold in
2004). That would put about $375,000 into the pot. Another $5,600
would come from resident Lake Superior commercial captain guide
licenses. Two other license sources would add a similar amount, for
a grand total of about $365,000 (administrative costs deducted) for
Superior management.

The proposal calls for dedicating the funding to five areas of
management, including “development, restoration, maintenance, and
preservation of scientifically recognized trout, char, and salmon
species and other game fish species and forage base species
appropriate to Lake Superior waters; rearing of trout and other
species; habitat improvement and maintenance; boat accesses issues;
and Lake Superior law enforcement.”

Ebbers said in fiscal year 2005, the DNR spent about $1.1
million in trout stamp funds. About $150,000 was for specific Lake
Superior projects. Stamp funds also paid for hatchery expenses and
stocking. He said a study showed the 20 percent of those who
purchase trout stamps fish Lake Superior, and believes the number
of endorsements sold would be lower than 25,000.

Some local Lake Superior charter captains believe there’s
inequity in how stamp funds are doled out.

“We’re not getting our fair share of the trout samp money,” said
Dexter Nelson, a charter captain and former president of the WLSTA.
He said the best way to ensure Superior anglers get a fair return
on money they spend for fishing the big lake is to create a
dedicated funding source – the endorsement.

Koneczny said Lake Superior is a unique resource with unique
needs.

“There’s no resource (in the state) that demands so much
attention and costs so much to manage,” he said.

DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam said establishment of a Lake
Superior Fishing and Angling Endorsement would require a change in
state statutes, thus legislative approval. Should the Legislature
take up the issue, Merriam said the agency would use public
meetings “to visit the issue with our stakeholders.”

Charter caps unhappy

DNR officials heard from, among others, Lake Superior charter
captains unhappy with some aspects of a proposed plan that will
guide Superior for the next 10 years, at a meeting hosted last week
by the Western Lake Superior Trollers Association.

“We have a lot of concerns … ranging from forage base management
… to cutting back on stocking,” Koneczny said.

Reductions in lake trout stocking and a discontinuation of the
chinook stocking program both are being met with resistance from
the WLSTA.

A letter dated Jan. 11, from the WLSTA to DNR fisheries manager
Don Schreiner, states: “Our membership is opposed to the
discontinuance of (the chinook stocking) program. We feel that
because this fish species is an off-shore and deep-water fish
species by nature … only returning to near-shore waters during the
spawning cycle, it is inappropriate to evaluate this program for
its near-shore benefits to shore anglers.”

The WLSTA referred to the chinook as “the local recreational as
well as the tourist ‘draw fish’ of Lake Superior.”

DNR officials have stated that the lake trout population has
grown to a point where stock reductions may be considered.
Regarding chinook salmon, the DNR believes the return on stocking
doesn’t justify the program. Officials point out that natural
reproduction accounts for about 95 percent of the chinook
caught.

Another point Koneczny emphasized was “maintenance stocking” of
game fish “to replace the various fish species that are lost to the
predation of sea lamprey and cormorants.”

Because lamprey and cormorant control are under the auspices of
the federal government, fish stocking is the state’s responsibility
(done with angler license and stamp monies), “it is only fitting
and appropriate that some form of various fish species replacement
be arranged and sought out with the federal government.”

A possible special regulation for lake trout also concerns the
WLSTA. A plan draft called for a continued three-laker limit, but
with just one lake trout over 25 inches allowed in the bag;
officials believe the regulation would protect spawners. Schreiner
said studies have shown that mortality of released lake trout is
about 15 percent.

“Depending where you are on the lake, this could be a burning
issue,” Koneczny said of possible deep-water catches.

There’s no timetable for when the the plan must be completed,
but Merriam said he expects the department to finalize the guiding
document soon within coming months.

Categories: Hunting News

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