Spring fish and game hearings: Sportsmen again support conservation
On April 8, the DNR and Conservation Congres held their annual spring hearings in all 72 counties across the state. Perhaps due to new, online voting, the results came back but had to be corrected, so the release date was a bit later than usual. The results were also delayed because, with the new online voting, those who did not attend the hearings in person were given three days to fill out online responses.
Question No. 10 asked if the DNR should offer an exception that allows participants in permitted fishing tournaments to use the standard statewide five-fish bag limit and 14-inch minimum size in bodies of water that have special limits for bass, as long as all bass are released back to the same body of water.
I didn’t think it would pass, but it did statewide by a vote of 4,648 to 3,304.
Question No. 11 asked if anglers would favor a statewide (including Michigan boundary waters), continuous open season for bass fishing, but allow fish to be kept only during the current traditional season. I felt it would pass and it did, 4,470 to 3,229. We’re the only state in the country that has a season limit for bass. Because it hasn’t hurt fishing in other states, it made sense for Wisconsin voters to follow suit.
Question No. 16 overwhelmingly passed by a 5,120 to 2,488 vote. It asked if residents would favor reducing the daily walleye bag limit from five to three (only one could be a sauger or hybrid) on the Lake Winnebago system in Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago counties.
Most anglers voted in favor of conservation in exchange for fewer fillets on their plates. They also followed suit on Question No. 28, which asked for tighter walleye restrictions on Lake Koshkonong, the Rock River and Crawfish River. The proposed regulation would establish a minimum length limit of 18 inches and a daily bag limit of three for walleyes, saugers and hybrids and maintain a year-round open season on Lake Koshkonong, and certain parts of the Rock River and Crawfish River. It passed 4,318 to 1,873.
I felt these rules changes would pass, but was also a little concerned that anglers would feel that both systems were healthy enough, even with current regs. It’s good to see that most anglers wanted to act for the future of our fishing and not just their next trip to each system.
Question No. 56 passed 5,390 to 2,978. It asked if people would support a statewide baiting and feeding ban. I honestly didn’t know if they would garner support from the state as baiting/feeding deer has always been nearly a 50-50 split. Some people, particularly up north, have never known hunting if it wasn’t over a corn pile. Whether or not people are finally buying into the concept that deer baiting can help increase the chance of CWD spreading is anyone’s guess, but this vote points toward the notion.
Attendance was down overall in Waukesha County, but part of that could have been due to online voting being made available. Many people were anxious in that they felt that anti-hunters and anti-anglers could vote to restrict any type of hunting and fishing opportunities without the need of having boots on the ground. While there certainly was strong favor for most questions that reduced bag limits and sizes, if it was swayed at all by antis, they probably helped make our opportunities better.