Let's keep fishing strong in Wisconsin for years to come
Written by Sheboygan Press   
Tuesday, 03 February 2009 21:59
Last week I talked about the state of hunting in Wisconsin, and this week, I'm going to give you food for thought on fishing.

Fishing is bigger than deer hunting because so many more people participate in it. There are no age restrictions, and more families will, pardon the pun, get their feet wet.

Throughout my 30-plus years of hitting Wisconsin waters, there have been changes.

The alewife infestation on the Great Lakes many moons ago was looked at as total devastation. But it created an awesome fishery when trout and salmon were stocked to help get the pests under control. Charter fishing has gotten absolutely huge, and Great Lakes fishing overall has been stellar for three decades.

Last year however, fishing wasn't as good. Could be the alewife population is down, smelt numbers are most certainly down and fish stocking is down. Hopefully Lake Michigan rebounds this year, and posts its usual high numbers of fish. If not, sportsmen's groups and the DNR will have to take a good hard look at the future of fishing, and make some decisions. This means you as fishermen need to let the DNR know your thoughts, even if you don't belong to a club.

The Lake Winnebago chain got some bad press last year when the dreaded fish virus VHS killed thousands of fish. While the virus isn't supposed to be harmful to people, it caused the DNR to put new regulations in place. Things like killing all the fish in your livewell, draining the water and killing all unused minnows.

The virus, while it is a bad thing, doesn't appear to be having the impact the DNR feared it might. From my own observations, sheephead were the biggest victims.

Walleye and muskie are the two most popular species in Wisconsin and also have the most rules in place. The Winnebago Chain has the most liberal regulations. No size limit, and a five-fish bag limit. Pretty simple. But in other parts of the state, you better know size and bag limits, or risk getting hefty fines. Wherever you fish, make sure you know the rules.

No other state can compare to Wisconsin when it comes to muskie. We simply have the best in the world. But again, rules can be confusing. Some lakes have 34-inch size limits, some 40-inches, and certain clubs would like to see 50-inch limits.

Muskie size limits should be more uniform. Most people don't keep muskie, and the few that are kept, that's not going to affect the population. Fifty-inch size limits simply are not neccesary.

Inland trout are popular as well. But size and bag limits vary so greatly, there is even an extra regulation book needed.

Years ago, there was a bag limit of 50 panfish. Most lakes now have a bag limit of 25. I understand the fear of over-harvesting but was this move necessary? The best day I ever had was about 40, and I doubt many people keep, and want to clean, that many panfish.

If regulations are affecting you in a way you don't like, talk to DNR officials and get to the fish and game hearings in spring. Join a club.

Let's keep Wisconsin outdoors moving in the right direction, and eliminate confusing or unnecessary regulations. Get involved. Your kids and grandchildren will thank you for it.

Shawn Clark is a local hunting and fishing enthusiast.

 
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