Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Bass anglers hooked on C&R season

By Yvonne Swager

Correspondent

Alpena, Mich. – The impact of Michigan’s new
catch-and-immediate-release bass season is yet unknown, but anglers
say they are pleased with the additional long-awaited fishing
opportunity.

‘Bass fishers had been looking into a longer season for years,’
said Gary Towns, the DNR’s Lake Erie Management Unit supervisor.
‘It was the contention of tournament bass fishermen that more bass
fishing wouldn’t cause harm.’

The new season started last year and will run for at least five
years, then will be evaluated. Bass may be caught and released on
all Lower Peninsula waters beginning the last Saturday in April
through the regular season openers on the respective waters. That
means the catch-and-release season runs through the Friday before
Memorial Day on inland waters in the Lower Peninsula, and through
the Friday before the third Saturday in June on Lake St. Clair and
the St. Clair and Detroit rivers. In the U.P., the
catch-and-immediate-release season runs May 15 through the Friday
before Memorial Day.

The new season was the culmination of a long process of looking
into changes, Towns said.

The social impact was a factor in considering the new fishing
option, and Towns said some 10,000 surveys went out in order to
gather public feedback.

‘We tried to get an idea of what the impact would be,’ he
said.

Those surveys came back with some unexpected results, according
to Dan Kimmel, conservation director for the Michigan BASS
Federation.

‘(The DNR was) completely surprised by the survey to the
public,’ Kimmel said. ‘They really found how out of touch they were
with the public.’

The perception of public concern about protection of spawning
bass prompted officials to expect more mixed opinions, Kimmel said,
but a surprising amount of fishermen surveyed were in favor of the
new season.

According to Kimmel, a catch-and-release season started in 1989
on six lakes in southern Michigan showed no negative impact. He
said a three-year report on that project indicated no apparent
effect on the bass population, and that study continued for 16
years.

Kurt Newman, DNR Lake Erie Basin coordinator, said the impact of
the new fishing season may not be determined any time soon.

‘I don’t think this is something we can answer in the next five
years,’ Newman said. ‘The bottom line is, there are a lot of holes
in the understanding of what’s driving bass populations.’

An evaluation framework is being developed for implementation
during the 2008 season. Newman said the evaluation is intended to
provide data for an informed decision regarding renewal of the
season in 2011.

‘Starting the new season became a question of risk management
and risk tolerances. Some said because we couldn’t provide data
whether the season would be good or bad, it should be allowed,’
Newman said. ‘We tend to err on the side of being more
conservative.’

Partnerships are developing between tournament directors and
state officials as the project progresses, Newman said, and he’s
glad to see bass fishing receiving focus.

‘Bass fishing is huge and getting bigger all the time. It’s good
to see it getting this much attention,’ he said.

Bass fisherman Mark Gomez has fished the limited
catch-and-release season in the past and welcomes the new statewide
season.

‘I’m thrilled with the extra opportunity to go fishing at this
time of year,’ Gomez said.

Partial to bass fishing, Gomez has participated in many bass
tournaments.

‘Bass fishing has taken up most of my opportunities on the water
in the last 10 to 15 years,’ he said. ‘You can throw a variety of
different lures. Bass put up a good fight, and they jump. I
consider them more for recreation than food.’

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