Increased Flexibility Proposed for Michigan's Warmwater Fish Bag Limit

As anglers across the state know, the combined daily possession limit for Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye, and the Flathead Catfish have all had a combined daily possession limit of five fish total, with no more than 2 pike.  This to some anglers seems like a small amount, compared to all the effort it takes to get out on the water.  Especially in the winter when fishery consists of using private shanties, and permanent rental shanties, which in turn also generates a cottage industry for the anglers.  The common complaint coming from the angler community has been that it is too much effort to cut a large hole and set up a shanty or too expensive to rent a shanty for the daily possession limit to be five total fish.  Especially in the winter when Northern Pike fishing is popular but the limit is only two fish.

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With the current regulations allowing for the combined daily possession limit of up to five total fish including, up to five Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass, up to five Walleye, up to two Northern Pike, or up to five Flathead Catfish in any combination totaling five.  Anglers have requested that the DNR consider separating these fish from the combined daily possession limit as a means to increase angler opportunities. The DNR review concluded that there was no biological benefit to retaining the combined possession limit and there has been support from the staff.

MUCC also discussed these regulations this June at our 2015 Annual Convention and passed a resolution supporting spliting the Combined Possession Limit, while also supporting an increase in bag limit for pike in certain waters such as Lake St. Clair. We want our anglers to have the best opportunity available as long as the fish populations can sustain it!

At a Fisheries Division meeting the issue was discussed and 92% of the biologists were in favor of separating the CPL, concluding that the impact would be small enough and would allow for greater flexibility in managing individual species. As a result this new proposal modification would eliminate the CPL and would allow anglers to possess up to five Smallmouth or Largemouth Bass, up to five Walleye, and up to five Flathead Catfish, separately.  While the general statewide Northern Pike count would remain at two per day.

 As it also coincides with the daily possession limit there has also been talk of increasing the CPL for Northern Pike to be changed from the limit of two fish to five fish, in proposed Lake St. Clair’s system including Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River, and the Detroit River.  Northern Pike fishing on these proposed waters has historically been a major component, but again anglers have the common complaint about effort for such a small catch number.  Northern Pike spearing on these proposed waters have dramatically been reduced due to the low daily limit possession of two fish.   

 The goal of the statewide Northern Pike harvest reduction was based on reducing fishing mortality.  This was really important on smaller bodies of water and waters that have lost Northern Pike spawning habitat due to lake level manipulations and loss of marsh areas.  However habitat in the proposed Lake St. Clair system has seen improvements over the last 40 years, where it once was low in water clarity and sparse in aquatic vegetation it has shifted to clearer waters with much higher vegetation.  Meaning that the Northern Pike population is much higher in these waters, so anglers get excited as this new proposal has seen much positive response and is headed towards a success!

The Natural Resources will be discussing these changes at their next monthly meeting on September 10 in Lansing, for possible action in October. Fisheries regulations approved now will likely not go into effect until the 2016 license year, which begins April 1, 2016.

 

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