Commission OKs new bass season

Lansing — Bass season is open. The state Natural Resources Commission ended Michigan’s closed season for bass fishing on April 9 when it voted to open catch-and-immediate-release bass fishing year-round. The CIR season is open on all waters of Michigan unless otherwise closed to fishing, like designated trout streams and lakes in the Sylvania Wilderness Area. The possession season is unchanged.

Approval of a DNR proposal to establish the CIR season was the culmination of a nearly two-year process to create more fishing opportunities. The proposal was a scaled-down version of another proposal that included catch-and-delayed-release (CDR) spring fishing for tournament anglers, which drew the ire of some in the bass-fishing community.

The original proposal submitted to the NRC asked for CIR bass fishing all year, unless otherwise closed to fishing. The proposal also requested a new catch-and-delayed-release bass season from the last Saturday in April to the Saturday before Memorial Day for bass-fishing tournaments registered with the DNR. In a CDR tournament, bass could be kept in a livewell until the tournament weigh-in.

“It’s been a long discussion. This issue has been at the commission for seven months. That’s unusually long for a fishing order,” Nick Popoff, the DNR’s aquatic species and regulatory affairs manager, told Michigan Outdoor News. “At the end of the day there was still a lot of uncertainty about catch-and-delayed-release during the spawn.

“Opening catch and immediate release statewide, all year, creates more opportunity. We’ve got great bass fishing here and we don’t want to negatively impact the resource,” he said.

Popoff said the DNR would work with constituents to develop a list of possible test lakes where a CDR season would be implemented on a trial basis. Public meetings will be held this summer, and the final list will be presented to the NRC later this year. Implementation could begin next spring.

Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation started the discussion on liberalizing bass regulations when it submitted a proposal to the DNR in June of 2013 to expand the bass-fishing season in Michigan.

The Natural Resources Commission temporarily lost  regulatory authority due to last fall’s vote on game management in Michigan. The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which was approved by the Legislature last August, restored that power. However, the SFWCA didn’t become valid until late March. Subsequently, the NRC had a boat load of fishing regulations to act on this month.

Regulations approved at this month’s NRC meeting were not determined in time to be printed in the hard-copy version of the Michigan Fishing Guide. An electronic version, which should include the updates, is available at Michigan.gov/fishingguide

New hook restriction

The NRC approved an order that defines what a lure is and implements hook restrictions on some waters in an effort to protect against rampant salmon snagging. 

Under the new regulations, an artificial lure is defined as a body bait, plug, spinner, or spoon. An artificial lure is not a device primarily constructed of lead.

The order also states that from Aug. 1 through Nov. 15 terminal fishing gear is restricted to single-pointed, un-weighted hooks, measuring 1⁄2-inch or less from point to shank or treble hooks  measuring 3⁄8-inch or less from point to shank only when attached to an artificial lure on the following waters: 
 

Benzie County, all waters of the Betsie River; Manistee County, all waters of Bear Creek, all waters of the Betsie River, and the Manistee River from Tippy Dam downstream to Railroad Bridge below M-55; and Mason County, the Big Sable River (from the mouth upstream to Hamlin Lake Dam).

“This is specifically a salmon-snagging issue and specifically a Lake Michigan basin issue,” Popoff said. “There were two methods of snagging that were legal by the definition of the law. This change should take care of that issue.”

Green Bay walleyes

The NRC voted unanimously to expand the boundary line for the early walleye season in the Michigan waters of Green Bay approximately 6 miles north of the Cedar River. The early season runs March 2 to the Friday before the first Saturday in May.

Great Lakes trout, salmon

The lake trout and splake season in northern Lake Huron units MH-1 and MH-2 has been expanded. The season will now run Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 to align all of Lake Huron into the same season.

Lake trout regulations in Lake Michigan also were changed by the commission. 

Regulations in units MM-1, MM-2, MM-3, and MM-4 have changed to the following: The minimum size limit is 15 inches and the maximum size limit is 27 inches, except the daily possession limit cannot include more than one lake trout  34 inches or greater. 

In MM-5, MM-6, MM-7, and MM-8, the minimum size limit has been changed to 15 inches. In MM-1, MM-2, MM-3, MM-4, and MM-5, the lake trout daily possession limit has been reduced from three to two.

“In northern Lake Michigan we still have some lamprey concerns,” Popoff said. “We’re not seeing rehabilitation as quickly as we had hoped.”

Inland trout 

Regulations affecting brook trout minimum size limits have changed. On Type 4 trout streams, the minimum size limit for brook trout has been reduced from 8 inches to 7 inches.

There also is a new regulation creating Upper Peninsula’s Brook Trout Restoration Areas, and changes have been made to several designated trout lakes.
Northern pike regulations 

The NRC approved additions and subtractions to the list of lakes with special pike regulations, allowing up to five northern pike to be kept daily, but only one over 24 inches. 

Additions to the list include Long Lake in Benzie County; Robarge Lake in Montmorency County; and East Twin Lake in Ogemaw County.

Bankson, Brownwood, and Round lakes in Van Buren County have been removed from the list.

Walleye limit reduction

On Lac Vieux Desert Flowage in Gogebic County, the daily possession limit for walleyes has been reduced from five to three in combination with sauger from the first Saturday in May through March 1.

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