State seeks to raise brook trout bag limit
Ontonagon, Mich. — Michigan may be adding a new trout steam category in 2013, created specifically for 10 test rivers where brook trout limits will be doubled to 10 fish per day. The fast-tracked proposal was presented to the Natural Resources Commission at its October meeting in Ontonagon. A final decision is expected in November.
The creation of the special category has some anglers upset. They contend it runs counter to an August recommendation by the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division to keep a 5-fish daily limit in place and scientifically study a handful of rivers to determine the impact of a 10-fish limit.
“I don’t like it,” said Bryan Burroughs, executive director for Michigan Trout Unlimited and a member of the state’s cold-water steering committee, which develops trout stream regulations for the state.
“We shrunk the regulations by 50 percent and a lot of folks spent a lot of time doing that,” Burroughs said. “Now some of the NRC folks have their own interest in adding complexity. We got yelled at for over-complex regulations, so why are we increasing trout regs by 20 percent when the public said no?”
The move to double the Upper Peninsula brook trout limit was initiated earlier this year by U.P. NRC commissioners. They claimed local anglers were disgruntled about the current five-brook-trout limit. DNR staffers then spent several months holding public meetings and gathering angler input via an online survey.
In August, the DNR Fisheries Division submitted a recommendation to the NRC based on the input of 1,400 anglers who took that survey. The report said: “There does not appear to be widespread support for raising the daily possession limit for brook trout.” It also said doing so would benefit “a relatively small percentage of the angling population.”
Brian Gunderman, DNR senior fisheries biologist, recommended keeping the five-fish limit and selecting some study streams to gather fresh data. The scientific research was expected to take six to eight years, but DNR Director Keith Creagh and NRC members wanted it done more quickly.
Gunderman recently told the commission it will be two years before any research is done. There is no money and too few staffers left to take it on next year.
“We told the NRC that we don’t have the staff power to do the study. We are going to need partners from the sportfishing community to pull this off,” Gunderman said. “It will be 2014 before we get out there, but there was a lot of interest in making the regulation change in 2013.”
Burroughs disagrees with the DNR’s direction change and the study method. He supported the original recommendations. One criterion for Type 5 selection is having abundant brook trout populations. But studying those will not provide data that can be applied to streams with smaller brook trout populations, he said. NRC commissioners initially had pushed for a change on every Upper Peninsula trout stream. The research was to determine which types of streams could withstand the additional fishing pressure.
Creating a new Type 5 category also implies permanence rather than experimentation.
Brad Petzke, of Marquette, owner of Rivers North Guide Service, was upset about the recent decision. He opposed the NRC’s initial push for change on all U.P. streams and lauded the DNR’s August recommendation.
“This decision is terrible and does not reflect what DNR Fisheries or the people of Michigan have said they want to happen,” Petzke said. “The NRC is not doing the right thing. Michigan fisheries management will move backwards if this happens.”
Gunderman said the decision can be undone in five years if need be. That’s when the regulations come up for reauthorization.