Springfield — How does one get summer anglers fired up in January? DNR may have found a way, albeit quite by accident.
A published fishing tournament rule that turns out not to be a rule drew a passionate response from the state’s fishermen earlier this month. The 2015 Illinois fishing regulations recently posted on the DNR website, implements a weigh-in curfew during hot summer months. Specifically, the rule reads, “Permitted hook and line tournament fishing during the months of July and August south of Interstate 74 and during the month of August north of Interstate 74 shall be held only in the morning or after 5 p.m. and all weigh-ins must be concluded by noon.”
As word of the rule spread, anglers took to social media to show their disapproval. Clubs around the state that host tournaments began calling DNR.
As it turns out, the entry was never meant to be included in the list of Illinois fishing regulations, much less the 2015 Fishing Digest.
“That proposed new regulation-restriction came from discussions and an early draft of the 2015 fishing regs but was removed last fall,” DNR Assistant Fisheries Chief Stephenson said. “It was an internal mistake that the regulation was not only left in but that the 2015 regulations were posted at this time as well.”
Unfortunately, a draft of the rule was put in place and will make it into the printed digest, which is not yet distributed. The process for printing the DNR Fishing Digest and other publications is complicated because the materials have to be sent to the printer far in advance.
The 2015 Fishing Digest, which has yet to be distributed, was sent to the printer in September.
Fisheries Chief Debbie Bruce set the record straight by emailing, “The provision that is in the 2015 Digest that requires tournaments to complete weigh-ins by noon will not be implemented in 2015. It has been removed from the online IFishIllinois Digest and the DNR website has been changed.”
Stephenson explained that the “warm month water restriction” proposal was a reaction to complaints received from anglers and citizens who had observed dead fish in the water near boat launch ramps where fishing tournaments recently had been held.
While the restriction curfew was published in error, there are new regulations that will be implemented this year. Bruce noted that DNR will implement a new tournament permit requirement for all tournaments.
“We have had tournament permit requirements for a number of years, but we are changing the requirement to apply to all tournaments,” she said. “We need to know how many tournaments are occurring on Illinois lakes and collect information, particularly from the most heavily used lakes for management purposes.”
Stephenson said that a new online system for securing a tournament permit is expected to be beneficial for all involved. A tournament director will be able to go online and fill out a form for the tournament. If it’s a state site, the site superintendent will get a copy of the application, as will DNR Fisheries. A response will be sent to the tournament director indicating if the tournament has been approved. The director can then take the form to the site.
On the back end, the director is expected to return to the DNR site after the tournament to provide information, such as how many fish were caught and how many boats participated.