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

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Sportsmen Since 1967

State proposes new trout regs

Lansing – Michigan’s seven regulatory categories of inland trout
streams could become just four under a proposal drafted by the
DNR’s Fisheries Division.

The goal, said biologist Todd Grischke in a phone interview with
Michigan Outdoor News, is “to simplify the regulations while still
protecting the resource.”

The Type 2 category, which currently has minimum lengths a few
inches longer than the basic Type 1, would cease to exist, its
waters folded into Type 1, which would have slight minimum length
changes.

The consolidation also would combine Types 5, 6, and 7, often
called special rules water, and experimental stretches such as the
Mio-to-McKinley “trophy” segment of the Au Sable, into a single
“gear-restricted” category, with local managers empowered to
fine-tune regulations for the rivers under their purview.

Thus, they’d be adjusting rules to fit the needs of the river
and its trout, not forcing the river into a pre-existing set of
rules.

When the new “type” system was adopted in 2000, Grischke said,
it was done with provisions to evaluate how the new rules worked,
what impacts they had on fish populations, and how well anglers
accepted them.

Model streams were selected for study, particularly those on
which the stricter Type 2 rules were being adopted, and trout
populations tracked before and after the new rules took effect.

Type 2 included a 10-inch minimum on brook trout, which were
otherwise under an 8-inch minimum in the Lower Peninsula and 7-inch
in the Upper Peninsula; a 12-inch minimum on browns, which had been
under the same minimums as brookies; and a 12-inch instead of
10-inch minimum on rainbows, among other species minimums.

The goal was more big trout.

The results? “It hasn’t worked,” said DNR Fisheries Division
Chief Kelley Smith in a news release.

On all but two of those in the Type 2 category, there wasn’t the
desired increase in numbers of trout, nor of numbers of large
trout, according to Grischke.

In the two exceptions, significant habitat work had been done,
likely explaining their increases.

“That supported our opinion that environmental factors have more
to do with improving trout populations than do our regulations,”
Grischke said. One bumper-crop year-class, he said, can have more
effect than long-standing rules.

And so, the simplification was proposed.

“This is an opportunity to change something that didn’t work,”
Grischke said, and to try to simplify things.

One setting in which higher minimum lengths, or no-kill, or
reduced creel limits can make a difference is in waters considered
“exceptional” by biologists. Those are to be folded into a new
“gear-restricted” category.

Still, the changes affect a small portion of Michigan’s stream
trout fishery.

“Eighty to 85 percent of our 17,000 miles of trout streams are
still Type 1,” Grischke said.

Those waters will have changed rules, too, if the proposal is
adopted, but relatively minor.

Under the proposal, minimum lengths would depend on species, not
location – a 7-inch minimum for brook trout, and an 8-inch minimum
for browns, both statewide.

The effort to simplify rules is what led DNR officials to
request changes to rules for the Au Sable River from Mio to
McKinley, a designated “trophy” stretch that had been under special
rules for decades.

The DNR’s earlier proposal for changes there brought protests
from the conservation group Anglers of the AuSable and others, and
the decision was made to leave current rules in force for now.

But the DNR did announce large-scale creel census and survey
work on the river this year. Three creel clerks – two of them in
boats and one on foot – will talk with anglers about their fishing
efforts and success; if they have fish, clerks will ask to measure
them.

The survey goal is to determine catch rates and get harvest
information.

“We’ve tried to model what will happen under various management
scenarios,” said DNR fisheries biologist Dave Borgeson in a news
release. “But we have to answer a couple of basic questions. Those
questions are: How much harvest is there with the current
regulations; and are catch rates high enough to produce significant
hooking mortality?”

That information – as has the multi-year Type 2 river data –
will help guide future management.

The DNR’s Proposal to Modify Michigan’s Trout Stream Regulations
is available on the agency’s web site, www.michigan.gov/dnr, on the
Fishing menu. Comments can be made there, or in writing, through
June 12.

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