Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Proposal would lengthen fishing season in the Upper Peninsula

By Bill
Parker

Editor

Lansing – The walleye, pike, and muskie-fishing season in the
Upper Peninsula would be extended by two weeks if a proposal under
consideration by the state Natural Resources Commission is
approved. The commission is expected to vote on the proposal at its
Nov. 8 meeting in Lansing.

‘This order would extend the walleye, pike, and muskie season to
the same dates as in the Lower Peninsula,’ said Todd Grischke, a
fisheries management specialist with the DNR. ‘There has been a lot
of discussion on this topic for several years, and we’re finally
moving forward with it.’

Currently, walleye, pike, and muskie season ends at the end of
February in the Upper Peninsula and March 15 in the Lower. The
proposal would extend the season through March 15 on all Upper
Peninsula waters including Great Lakes and connecting waters not
otherwise closed to fishing.

According to a memo the DNR’s Fisheries Division presented to
the commission, the proposal would provide an additional two weeks
of recreational fishing opportunities for U.P. anglers without
jeopardizing the fisheries.

‘Based on data from the Lower Peninsula, where the walleye,
northern pike, and muskellunge season is open through March 15,
angler harvest of these (three) species is low relative to the
remainder of the year,’ the memo said. ‘The most appreciable data
from the Upper Peninsula that can be used to predict the effects of
an extended season are the harvest of walleyes, northern pike and
muskellunge during February, as this may give an indication of the
harvest that may occur in the first two weeks of March.’

Based on reward tag returns in seven Upper Peninsula lakes
surveyed between 2001 and 2005, just 2 percent of the annual
walleye harvest and 4.5 percent of the pike harvest occurred in
February. The February muskie harvest showed similar low
numbers.

‘Given the annual exploitation rate (15-20 percent for walleyes
and 20-25 percent for northern pike) for lakes surveyed statewide
from 2001 to 2005, there is, in our opinion, a buffer for
additional harvest of walleyes and northern pike in most lakes,’
the memo said. ‘This is especially true given that the statewide
minimum length limits for walleyes and northern pike independently
allow for significant protection of these species. For muskellunge,
given their high minimum size limit (42 inches) and low harvest
rate, it is unlikely that extending the season two weeks in the
winter will have any effect on the population.’

Some anglers and resort owners in the U.P. are pleased with the
proposed change.

‘I think it’s a great idea and I don’t think it will hurt the
fishery at all,’ said Barry Drews, owner of Bear’s Nine Pines
Resort on Lake Gogebic in the western U.P. ‘Walleye season used to
be open into March. I used to live in Wisconsin and I would come
here to fish for walleyes in March. When they changed the date, I
quit coming.

‘Now I own a resort here, and from that perspective I think it
might help our livelihood. I don’t think it will hurt the
fishery.’

Paul Shingledecker owns the Ridge View Resort on Portage Lake in
Houghton County. He shuts down for the winter, so his business
would not be affected by the regulation change. However, he said
that as an angler, he supports the proposal.

‘It makes total and complete sense to me,’ Shingledecker said.
‘I don’t think it will have a negative effect on the fishery and it
will simplify the regs so the season ends on the same day across
the state. I think it’s a good idea.’

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