Bass Season Catch-and-Delayed-Release Regulation Change Up

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At the next Natural Resources Commission meeting on September 10th, a topic of discussion will be the Fisheries Order 215, which establishes the statewide warm water species sport fishing regulations. There are several regulation changes proposed for this Order, one of which will require the registration of all bass tournaments and instituting a new Catch-and-Delayed-Release (CDR) bass fishing season on 12 proposed waters for registered bass tournaments only. 

Earlier in the spring of 2015, a year-round Catch-and-Immediate-Release (CIR) bass fishing season was approved by the NRC after the Michigan Bass Nation wrote a proposal requesting new opportunities for bass fishing. The CDR came up later in NRC discussions as further opportunities for the bass angler community to partake in. The anglers indicated that a CDR season would enable them to expand bass fishing opportunities further during the year-round CIR season. Our MUCC Resolution that was approved in 2014 clearly supports an earlier bass harvest opener for Lake St. Clair, in line with the rest of the state.

While there has been some push back in making this change, MUCC has been supportive of the concept of testing the impact of CDR fishing on the bass populations to fill in the gaps in uncertainty. Michigan anglers have already been fishing over the bass spawn throughout northern Michigan and the UP for decades with no significant impact and we believe that that should also be tested in southern Michigan as well as testing how CDR may or may not impact populations compared to direct harvest. There is no reason to believe that our northern Michigan bass are somehow different than our southern Michigan bass.

This new CDR season would require Bass Tournament Registration, which would allow the DNR to improve their understanding of tournament effort and provide additional biological information about bass fishing tournaments in Michigan. The Department would recommend that all bass tournaments register online using the Department’s Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System (http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/fishingtournaments/). As a result this will allow the DNR a broader opportunity to collect information on monitoring bass tournament effects on the bass populations. Once a tournament has been registered online the DNR will be notified of the upcoming event, and will include a contact person to follow up with. The requirement of registration will allow the Department a chance to build and develop relationships with the angler groups, which in return will benefit the bass populations in Michigan!

The CDR tournaments would be allowed from the last Saturday in April through December 31and anglers participating in a CDR tournament would be allowed to legally possess bass in their livewells during the closed possession season. Afterwards, all the bass would be released back into the waters from which they were caught upon completion of the tournament.

Since there is some uncertainty about the biological effects that the CDR could have on bass populations the DNR collaborated with bass organizations in an effort to choose a group of small lakes where CDR tournaments could be monitored. There were originally 16 lakes chosen but later White Lake (Muskegon County), Holloway Reservoir (Genesee County), Wixom Lake (Gladwin County), and Half Moon Chain (Washtenaw County) were removed from the list due to public and fisheries biologists feedback. The 12 lakes that are now proposed are based on their importance to the bass organizations and whether any prior historical surveys on bass information had occurred. The Fisheries Division held several public meetings where staff met with anglers to provide information regarding the new CDR opportunity and received feedback based on anglers input as to which waters in the Lower Peninsula will be permitted to hold CDR tournaments. The following lakes proposed for this new regulation include:

1. Lake Charlevoix (Charlevoix County)

2. Burt Lake (Cheboygan County)

3. Mullet Lake (Cheboygan County)

4. Houghton Lake (Roscommon County)

5. Hardy Dam Pond (Mecosta and Newaygo Counties)

6. Muskegon Lake (Muskegon County)

7. Gull Lake (Barry and Kalamazoo Counties)

8. Gun Lake (Allegan and Barry Counties)

9. Portage Chain of Lakes (Livingston and Washtenaw Counties)

10. Kent Lake ( Livingston and Oakland Counties)

11. Cass Lake (Oakland County)

12. Pontiac Lake (Oakland County)

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