Pike, muskie regulation changes considered

Lansing — State fisheries officials are recommending new pike and muskie regulations for numerous Michigan lakes as part of a management strategy developed in recent years through public meetings and stakeholder input.

DNR fisheries managers presented recommendations to the Natural Resources Commission to move Michigan lakes into one of three pike-regulation categories based on the growth potential of the fish in different types of habitat.

Statewide, pike harvest is subject to a minimum 24-inch size limit, but DNR officials are recommending several lakes they believe are better suited for two other specialty restrictions: a 24-inch to 34-inch protected slot limit, and no minimum size limit with only one fish over 24 inches allowed. The daily bag limit is suggested to remain at five fish.

Nick Popoff, aquatic species and regulatory affairs unit manager for the DNR, said officials enacted the management strategy for pike last year, and spent the past 12 months assessing which of the three pike regulations best fit individual lakes. Lakes with a high abundance of pike 24 inches or smaller have limited ability to grow bigger fish, Popoff said, and are best managed with no minimum size limit, with only one fish allowed over 24 inches.

DNR officials recommended adding 15 lakes to the no minimum category: Chief Lake in Manistee County; Horsehead Lake in Mecosta County; Crystal Lake in Montcalm County; Cut River and Houghton Lake in Roscommon County; Diamond, Nichols, and Ryerson lakes in Newaygo County; and Beals, Benway, Ellsworth, Hanley, Scotts, St. Clair, and Wilson lakes in Antrim County.

“These are all fairly small lakes,” Popoff said. “Typically these lakes don’t have the ability to grow large pike, but we’re trying to see if we can grow a few over the 24-inch size limit.”

Fisheries managers are recommending removing the no minimum size limit on three Upper Peninsula lakes, and imposing the protected slot limit regulation instead. Those lakes include Michigamme Reservoir and Peavy Pond in Iron County, and Schlatter Lake in Keweenaw County. Fisheries managers also want to add the slot limit regulation for Iron and Sunset lakes in Iron County, and Carney Lake in Dickenson County.

“Our data are showing they do have the ability to grow large pike,” Popoff said of the U.P. lakes. “So we want to protect those fish in the 24- to 34-inch size slot.

“The protected slot limit is used to try to balance the size structure of the northern pike population,” he said.

DNR officials suggested changes for muskies, as well.

Popoff said DNR officials have “identified the Great Lakes muskie strain as the management direction for the state,” and are suggesting reg changes to protect future broodstock waters and native remnant populations.

Big Bear Lake in Otsego County will be used for broodstock, so fisheries officials want to increase the minimum size limit for muskies on that lake to 50 inches, and to shorten the season to run between the last Saturday in April and November 30.

“We’re establishing a 50-inch minimum size limit to really protect those fish, but allow anglers to keep a trophy if they catch that fish over 50 inches,” Popoff said.

DNR fisheries managers are suggesting similar protection for Barry County’s Gun Lake, home to a remnant population of Great Lakes muskies, by moving the minimum size from the statewide 42-inch limit to a more restrictive 46 inches.

The proposed pike and muskie regulation changes have garnered about 70 percent support from anglers who attended one of 17 public meetings to discuss the proposals, as well as through online and phone polls, Popoff said.

The NRC reviewed the recommendations at its Aug. 8 meeting in Muskegon, and is expected to vote on the changes at its Sept. 12 meeting in Lansing.

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