DNR seeks changes in pike, muskie regs

Lansing — After nearly three years of discussion and public comment, the DNR Fisheries Division is proposing several changes to the state’s pike- and muskie-fishing regulations. The proposals were expected to be presented to the state Natural Resources Commission on Sept. 13, then open for more public comment. DNR Director Keith Creagh will take action on the proposals at the Oct. 11 NRC meeting in Ontonagon.

“We’ve gotten a lot of public comment for almost three years now. It’s been a good process. Anglers are probably anxious to see what we’re going to do,” Kregg Smith, DNR fisheries biologist, told Michigan Outdoor News.

So, without further ado …

Pike

For northern pike, the DNR is proposing a slot limit to protect fish between 24 inches and 34 inches on six lakes. It also wants to eliminate the 30-inch minimum size limit for northern pike on eight lakes; limit the take of pike over 24 inches on lakes with no pike size limit to one per day; and add 12 lakes and remove two from the list of waters where pike may be taken at any size.

The DNR Fisheries Division has worked with the Warmwater Resource Steering Committee to develop these proposals. Public comment was accepted between March and May of this year, and the specific proposals were developed from those comments.

“It is difficult to apply one all-purpose regulation to northern pike because of the wide variation in growth rate across the state, the wide variation in exploitation, and the density-dependent nature of the species,” the DNR wrote in a memo to the commission. “Anglers have indicated their support to add another management option to possibly improve northern pike size structure, given that it will only be on a limited number of lakes.”

The proposal calls for a 24- to 34-inch slot limit on Pine Creek Flooding in Allegan County, Long Lake in Kalamazoo County, Bass Lake in Kent County, Blind Sucker Flooding and Bodi Lake in Luce County, and

Townline Lake in Montcalm County.

Additional lakes from other areas of the state could be considered for slot protection in the future.

“There is the potential for more lakes to be added in the future,” Smith said. “The low number (of lakes in the proposal) is because staff has not had time to review all their waters and get public comments on those waters.”

The proposal also calls for removing the 30-inch minimum size limit for northern pike on Fish Lake in Barry County, Cable and Porter lakes in Iron County, Lake Gratiot in Keweenaw County, Fish Lake in Marquette County, and Big Bass, McKeever, and Grassy lakes in Schoolcraft County.

“The (30-inch minimum) regulation was characterized as too restrictive, so managers were hesitant to place it on too many waters,” the DNR wrote. “Anglers have indicated their support for these changes, and law enforcement personnel have been involved in the process and are supportive of the recommendations.”

If approved, the proposal would remove Pine Creek Flooding in Allegan County and Bass Lake in Kent County from the list of lakes on which there is no minimum size limit for northern pike. It would add to that no-minimum-size-limit list: Nawakwa Lake in Alger County, Trout (Carp) Lake in Chippewa County, Eight Point Lake in Clare County, Lyman Lake in Delta County, Millecoquions Lake and South Manistique Lake in

Mackinac County, Bass (East) and Shag (Big) lakes in Marquette County, Pug Lake in Montmorency County, Diamond Lake in Osceola County, and Ocqueoc and Tomahawk lakes in Presque Isle County.

On all lakes with no minimum size limit for northerns, the proposal would limit to one fish per day the number of pike 24 inches or larger an angler could keep.

“On lakes we have evaluated that have no minimum size limit we have seen the size continue to decline,” Smith said. “We hope (this proposal will) allow more fish the opportunity for an additional year or two of survival (and growth) and to help stabilize those populations.”

Muskies

The state also is seeking a couple changes in muskie regulations.

One would change the muskie possession limit from one fish per day per person to one fish per year. The other proposed change would require anglers who want to catch and keep a muskie to have a muskie harvest tag. The tags would be free of charge and available at all license dealers, but would have to be in the angler’s possession when the fish is caught. Anglers without a tag would have to release every muskie they catch.

“From March 26 through May 25, 2012, the public was given an opportunity to comment on the regulations developed and proposed by the WRSC, and a muskie possession limit of one fish per year, per angler was the most supported option,” the DNR wrote.

The Oct. 11 NRC meeting will be at the Theatre of Performing Arts, Ontonagon Township Memorial Building, in Ontonagon.

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