Time to talk Lake Michigan brown trout stocking, lake trout opportunities
CLEVELAND, Wis. — Anglers interested in expanded harvest opportunities for Lake Michigan lake trout and 2017 stocking plans for brown trout are encouraged to attend two meetings on Jan. 26 at Lakeshore Technical College.
The first meeting will cover discussion of the proposed lake trout emergency rule and will run from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Following a short break, the Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum will convene from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss brown trout stocking plans for 2017.
Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in the Lake Michigan Conference meeting room at Lakeshore Technical College, 1290 North Ave., Cleveland, Wis., 53015. In addition, both meetings will be broadcast online via MediaSite. Interested participants may join the meetings and provide comments by logging into http://dnrmedia.wi.gov/main/Play/fd9df42af4b3457fb31fdc1ebb3c44271d for the lake trout meeting and http://dnrmedia.wi.gov/main/Play/9b35d9295362427299078af2f6b451c31d for the brown trout meeting.
New lake trout harvest opportunities to produce economic benefits
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is moving quickly to develop an emergency rule to increase fishing opportunities for lake trout in Lake Michigan. A scoping statement for the emergency rule and a possible permanent rule were approved by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board in December.
The rule development effort follows a series of stakeholder meetings in 2016 during which anglers expressed interest in harvesting more lake trout. Comments received also favored changing the season length and other regulations for lake trout.
Brad Eggold, DNR Great Lakes District fisheries supervisor, said successful management efforts have improved lake trout populations in Lake Michigan. Currently, anglers are harvesting an average of 29,500 fish each year. The lake trout season is now closed from Nov. 1 to the end of February.
“Changing our lake trout regulations would certainly increase interest in targeting lake trout and would have a positive economic impact with benefits for guides, charter fishing businesses and many lakeshore communities,” Eggold said. “We’ve listened to feedback from anglers and are moving as quickly as possible to put an emergency rule in place. We look forward to discussing this further with anglers at the January 26 meeting to learn more about their preferences for the rule.”
Lake trout populations plummeted following the arrival of the invasive sea lamprey in 1936 and its rapid proliferation in the mid-1940s. Coordinated efforts among federal and state agencies aimed at lamprey control along with lake trout stocking and protective regulations have helped lake trout rebound. In recent years, natural reproduction also has improved in some Wisconsin waters.
The DNR will use angler feedback gathered at the January meeting to develop specific language for an emergency rule to be presented to the Natural Resources Board at the March 1 meeting. In addition, stakeholders can comment until Feb. 8 via phone, mail or email at DNRLAKEMICHIGANPLAN@wisconsin.gov. If the proposal moves forward, the regulation changes could be in place as early as April 1 pending approval by the Natural Resources Board, legislators and the Governor’s office.
Feedback sought for 2017 brown trout stocking plans
As part of efforts to address lakewide changes in the food web, DNR and natural resources managers in surrounding states have worked cooperatively to develop stocking strategies that support a balance in the ratio of predators to prey. Following numerous stakeholder meetings and input opportunities in 2016, DNR will pursue an approach that maintains a diverse fishery and maximizes opportunities for anglers while adjusting stocking to account for lower levels of available prey species such as alewives.
Based on DNR surveys, harvest rates for brown trout are the lowest of any salmon or trout species the department stocks and to meet lakewide management objectives, Wisconsin brown trout stocking will be reduced for 2017. Although some anglers are very successful with brown trout, the overall harvest rate per hour of angler effort targeted toward brown trout is 40.8 hours. By comparison, the harvest rate per hour totals for other species are:
- 9.75 hours for chinook;
- 15.7 hours for coho; and
- 23.2 hours for steelhead.
Todd Kalish, DNR deputy fisheries bureau director, said in particular the Wild Rose strain of fish have not adequately contributed to the sport fishery and will no longer be stocked into Lake Michigan. However, the department recognizes the importance of brown trout to anglers in a number of locations and brown trout stocking will remain a critical component of the Lake Michigan management strategy.
“We appreciate the interest in brown trout and the near shore fishing opportunities brown trout provide in many locations,” Kalish said. “As a result, we will continue to stock seeforellen strain brown trout, which appear to survive better, live longer and grow larger than the Wild Rose strain. The current world record brown trout that was caught in Wisconsin was reportedly a seeforellen strain brown trout. We will continue to work with stakeholders in early 2017 to assess stocking priorities and locations.”
The DNR also intends to continue the offshore brown trout stocking initiative in Green Bay. The Lake Michigan Fisheries Forum meeting will be used to gauge angler preferences and maximize the benefits of the continued stocking. Scenarios for consideration may include allocations based on harvest success; proportional distributions by county; or other factors.
DNR intends to finalize the stocking strategy by February.
Stakeholders who are not able to attend the brown trout and lake trout sessions in person or join via the Mediasite links also may submit written comments. The deadline is Feb. 8. Send an email to: DNRLAKEMICHIGANPLAN@wisconsin.gov, or send a letter to: Bradley T. Eggold, Department of Natural Resources, UWM-GLRF-SFS, 600 E. Greenfield Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204.
For more on Lake Michigan fisheries management, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Fishing Lake Michigan.” Background information including a copy of the presentation to stakeholders from earlier this summer can be found by visiting the DNR website and searching “Lake Michigan salmon and trout meetings.”