Proposed regs tabled for ‘trophy’ AuSable waters

Lansing – The “research” rules, under which the AuSable
mainstream from Mio to McKinley has become well-known trophy brown
trout water, will remain in effect, as-is, for at least another
year.

DNR Director Rebecca Humphries earlier this month postponed
making changes in the river section’s regulations, specifically a
proposal from her agency’s Fisheries Division that would have
afforded the stretch’s trout protection that the Anglers of the
AuSable and Trout Unlimited’s Michigan Council said was improved
but still insufficient.

Current regulations will remain in effect for an additional
year, the DNR said in a news release, while the Fisheries Division
collects creel data and reviews all of its trout-fishing
regulations.

Leaders of the angling groups had assailed as insufficient the
DNR’s proposal, claiming that it had ignored the information field
staffers had collected from anglers and others in public meetings
and research efforts.

That proposal would have raised the minimum for browns, lowered
it for rainbows, and allowed year-round fishing.

Rusty Gates, founder of the conservation group Anglers of the
AuSable, said in an e-mail response to Michigan Outdoor News,
“Fisheries Division did a very thorough job of gathering public
input the first time around. Lansing (DNR headquarters) did its
usual terrible job of making a recommendation. So they’ll do it
again. It’ll cost another year.”

Biologists say the 14 miles of the AuSable River below the Mio
dam warms because of the impoundment above, making it too warm for
natural reproduction of trout. But its rich waters grow – quickly
and large – brown trout planted in it.

That means it can grow trophy trout better than can most
Michigan streams, and it’s for that characteristic that it’s been
managed. Anglers come there, often from far away, to try for the
20-inch-plus browns they know swim there.

It was the potential to produce trophy fishing that the fishing
groups sought to nurture, while the management agency sought
simplification in its fishing rules.

In 2000, the DNR created a new system of trout-fishing
regulations that included a seven-type classification of stream
stretches.

Managers decided then that the Mio stretch, which had long been
under rules that included creel limits lower and minimum lengths
longer than general rules, along with no-bait regulations, didn’t
fit in any of the categories, and left it under the longstanding
rules it regarded as “experimental.”

A push within the agency since has been toward simplified rules
with fewer exceptions; that led to the effort to “mainstream” the
mainstream segment.

DNR officials held public meetings, collected data, and ran
computer simulation models to project the results of regulation
proposals.

That was the field work Gates and others applauded.

They gave the raspberries to what emerged afterwards.

The Fisheries Division proposed classification of the Mio water
as Type 6 – and changes in that category’s rules to a higher,
15-inch minimum length on brown trout and a lower, 10-inch minimum
on rainbows. Fishing would be legal year-round; rainbows could be
kept all year, brown trout only during the regular season.

Michigan TU and Anglers of the AuSable agreed with some of those
points, but wanted no-kill of rainbow trout outside of the regular
season and release of all brown trout year-round.

Brian Burroughs, executive director of TU’s Michigan Council,
had earlier pointed out that the DNR’s own computer modeling had
shown that no-kill rules could double or more the number of browns
more than 20 inches long, compared to a 15-inch minimum.

Following Humphries’ decision to postpone new Mio water
regulations and re-evaluate the state trout stream rule framework,
Burroughs offered his thanks in a letter to her and Fisheries
Division Chief Kelley Smith. He also pledged his group’s efforts to
further those efforts.

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