Wisconsin: size limit for Chippewa Flowage largemouth bass to be removed

The 14-inch size limit for largemouth bass on the Chippewa
Flowage in Sawyer County will be removed for at least the next
three years, the state Department of Natural Resources reports.

Fisheries officials said the DNR is using its authority to
change the regulation on a temporary, experimental basis until a
long term rule can be developed through the usual rule-making
process, which includes seeking consensus from fishermen and other
interested individuals at the annual fish and game rules hearings.
A public comment period on this experimental rule change runs
through May 16.

The catch-and-release season for both largemouth and smallmouth
bass in the DNR’s northern bass management zone runs from May 7
through June 17. The removal of the size limit for ONLY largemouth
bass, on the Chippewa Flowage, will take effect with the June 18
start of the “harvest” fishing season in the northern zone. The
14-inch size limit will remain in effect for smallmouth bass.

Dave Neuswanger, DNR fisheries team supervisor at Hayward, said
the survival rate of largemouth bass, which have been protected by
the 14-inch size limit for the past 12 years, has been unusually
high, and the Chippewa Flowage now has more largemouth bass than it
can sustain.

Competition among largemouth bass for food has become so intense
that the growth rate for this species has slowed dramatically and
has reached a trigger in state law giving the DNR the option of
removing the size limit. A 2009 survey revealed that largemouth
bass grew to an average length of just 11.3 inches in 5 years.

Removal of the size limit on largemouth bass will enable anglers
to harvest slow-growing fish less than 14 inches long. With
decreased competition for food, growth rate of survivors should
increase, resulting in fewer but bigger largemouth bass.

Neuswanger believes a harvest of largemouth bass will reduce
potential competition with and predation upon walleye, which is the
sport fish of greatest interest on the Chippewa Flowage and the
predator most capable of maintaining balanced populations of
panfish.

Because the 14-inch minimum length limit will remain in effect
for smallmouth bass, informational signs and brochures are being
produced to help anglers distinguish between the two species of
bass.

Smallmouth bass, which have a satisfactory growth rate according
to a 2010 survey, are a popular sport fish in the Chippewa Flowage
and are not known to compete with or prey upon walleye
significantly, Neuswanger said.

Steve Avelallemant, DNR regional fisheries coordinator, said
this is a three-year experiment on a specific body of water and is
not part of any statewide initiative. Throughout the rest of the
state, largemouth and smallmouth bass will remain subject to the
same regulations.

“This is a test case on the separation of these species,
largemouth bass and smallmouth bass,” Avelallemant said. “It is a
focused study and it results from the slow growth rates of
largemouth bass in this particular flowage.”

The DNR will conduct extensive surveys of anglers on the
Chippewa Flowage during the 2011 fishing season. Fisheries
scientists will be able to estimate harvest of largemouth bass and
other species to see if the new regulation works as hoped. Results
of the study will help determine future action.

Public comments on this regulation change are welcome and can be
sent to Dave Neuswanger at DNR, 10220N State Highway 27, Hayward,
Wisconsin, 54843. The comment period ends May 16. If there is
sufficient interest, a public informational meeting will be held to
provide more detailed information about the fisheries experiment
and to obtain observations and comments from interested
individuals.

 

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