Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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DNRE eyes lake trout reg changes

Grand Haven, Mich. – State resource managers want public input
on possible changes to lake trout regulations for Lake Michigan to
help simplify the system and complement rehabilitation efforts.

DNRE officials recently presented possible changes to lake trout
season dates, and size and catch limits, at a Michigan Sea Grant
informational meeting in Grand Haven. More public meetings are
scheduled for the northern Lower Peninsula during the summer.

There are four main options for new season dates: Jan. 1 through
Sept. 30, which would add four months to the season for units south
of the Leelanau Peninsula; Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, adding one month
to units north of Leelanau, and five months to central and southern
lake units; and April 1 through Oct. 31, which cuts two months from
the northern units, and adds two months to the central and lower
lake. The fourth option is to open the season year-round.

DNRE officials will meet in Glen Arbor, Traverse City, and
Charlevoix this month and next to discuss the season changes, as
well as size and catch limits, for the northern units and Grand
Traverse Bay. The DNRE implemented those regulations in 2006 with
the cooperation of state tribal leaders.

“In the northern part of Lake Michigan there is a higher
potential for overharvest,” said Jay Wesley, DNRE manager for the
state’s southwest fisheries. “For the southern part of Lake
Michigan, we are not seeing higher levels of harvest, so we’re not
really looking at size limit changes as much.”

Bill Winowiecki is a member of the Lake Michigan Citizens
Fishery Advisory Committee that worked with the DNRE to craft the
changes. He said current size and catch limits for Grand Traverse
Bay – fish must be between 20 and 25 inches, with one over 34
inches – are creating frustration for sport and charter anglers
there.

“We’re catching a lot of big fish and a lot of small fish, but
nothing in the slot. And there is no way you’re catching a 34-inch
lake trout,” Winowiecki said.

From Arcadia to Northport, on the Lake Michigan side of the
Leelanau Peninsula, fishermen are throwing back more fish,
Winowiecki said, because “50 to 60 percent of our fish are too big”
for the maximum 23-inch size limit.

“We’re killing a lot of fish,” he said. “We are only catching
about one-fifth of what we’re allowed in the Arcadia to Northport
region.”

Winowiecki said officials also will discuss daily limits at the
public sessions. He reserved judgement on any changes without
further public input, but said, “The general consensus is the
charter folks want two fish (per day) any size. The public is
pushing for a three-fish limit.”

Winowiecki said he’d prefer the season remains closed during the
lake trout’s fall spawning season. About 20 people who attended the
Grand Haven Sea Grant session this month preferred an April 1 to
Oct. 31 season.

Others would prefer to take lake trout on Lake Michigan all
year, said Denny Grinold, state affairs officer for the Michigan
Charter Boat Association.

“We’ve been trying to get our season open all year long for some
time. Why not, when there isn’t that much fishing pressure?” in the
southern section of the lake, said Grinold, who fishes out of Grand
Haven.

The DNRE’s Wesley said near-shore lake trout stocking, an
element of a rehabilitation plan for the fish, has helped anglers
land more lakers in recent years. Grinold said anglers also are
“starting to see bigger fish,” all the more reason to open the
season all year.

“It would be nice for the season to be open in early spring,” he
said. It also would provide “an opportunity for shore anglers to
get trout they weren’t able to before.”

Upcoming public meetings on lake trout regulations for Lake
Michigan will be held 7-9 p.m. July 12, at the Northwestern
Michigan College University Center in Traverse City; and 7-9 p.m.
July 14, at the Charlevoix DNRE Fisheries Research Station.

Anglers also may submit comments to DNRE-Lake-Trout-Regulations@michigan.gov.

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