NRB takes on new rules for state fisheries

By Tim Eisele

Correspondent

Oconomowoc, Wis. – The Natural Resources Board has adopted
emergency regulations for the hook-and-line sturgeon season and has
approved hearings on permanent rules regarding viral hemorrhagic
septicemia (VHS) virus and increasing the commercial catch of
yellow perch in Green Bay.

Sturgeon emergency rules

An increase in angling pressure, especially from nonresident
anglers, has led to a steady increase in the number of lake
sturgeon harvested annually during the hook-and-line season.

Steve Hewett, DNR chief of fisheries policy, told the NRB that
the overall exploitation goal for lake sturgeon is 5 percent, but
in some waters is estimated to be between 20 and 30 percent.

Since 2000, in an effort to reduce harvest on the Wisconsin and
Menominee rivers, the size minimum alternates from 50 inches during
even years to 70 inches during odd years. In essence, this made
harvest possible one year, but mostly release-only the following
year because of the absence of 70-inch fish in both river systems.
This year the size limit would be 50 inches.

‘We are very concerned about exploitation rates this year,’
Hewett said.

The DNR proposed and the board approved an emergency rule
increasing the size limit from the 50 inches to 60 inches, and
shortening the season from six weeks to four weeks on all inland
waters that have a hook-and-line sturgeon season.

Hewett said exploitation figures were not available until
recently.

The DNR intends to take the same question to the 2008 spring
fish and game hearings as it works on creating a permanent
rule.

Ed Harvey, chairman of the Conservation Congress, supported the
change, saying the Conservation Congress Sturgeon Study Committee
was especially concerned about the harvest of female sturgeon.

Green Bay perch

The DNR intends to hold hearings regarding increasing the
allowable commercial harvest of yellow perch from Green Bay from
60,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds each year. The hearings – approved
by the NRB – are expected to be held in Peshtigo and Green Bay in
mid-August or September.

Bill Horns, DNR Great Lakes specialist, said the sport fishery
is regulated by bag limits, while the commercial harvest is
regulated by total allowable commercial harvest and individual
transferable quotas.

‘We try to allocate the yellow perch harvest equally, but it is
not equal for every year, but over the long run,’ Horns said.

Young-of-the-year perch recruitment each year is highly
variable. The DNR has tracked an extraordinary 2003 year-class,
which is similar to excellent year-classes in 2003 in other lakes
such as Huron and Erie.

‘All the data we collect show that the yellow perch biomass in
Green Bay is climbing, and all reports indicate that fishing is
very good and has recovered,’ Horns said.

VHS rules

The board gave the DNR permission to hold six hearings in August
regarding a permanent rule meant to prevent VHS from spreading to
inland waters of the state. Hearing sites and dates will be
announced later.

The order limits the transport of live fish away from the known
infected waters (Great Lakes, Mississippi River, Lake Winnebago,
the Fox River downstream to Green Bay, and all connecting waters
upstream to the first fish barrier). The rule also requires
draining water from boats and equipment when leaving those
waters.

The permanent rule will require that bait dealers apply for a
DNR permit to harvest wild bait from any water, and keep daily
harvest records. It bans the use of imported live bait (with some
exceptions) and prohibits the use of dead fish, fish eggs, and
frogs as bait, with some exceptions, as well.

The permanent rule includes some changes and ‘clean-up’ of the
emergency rule.

Hewett said VHS has been confirmed in Little Lake Butte des
Morts, Green Bay, Lake Winnebago, and Lake Michigan.

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