Wisconsin, Michigan agree on Menominee River sturgeon rules
Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 15 August 2006 16:39

The upcoming sturgeon fishing season in the Menominee River bordering Wisconsin and Upper Michigan will be cut in half under plans announced Tuesday by wildlife agencies in the two states to protect the population of the ancient fish.

The more dramatic change will come next year, when the most popular section of the river will be restricted to catch and release fishing only, said Steve Hewett, a fisheries expert for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Madison.

The sturgeon in the river represent the largest population of the fish in the Lake Michigan basin, but fishing success by anglers in recent years has raised concerns that too many sturgeon are being caught, Hewett said.

Since 1990, the number of sturgeon taken annually from below the Hattie Street/Menominee Dam in the cities of Menominee, Mich., and Marinette, Wis., to the bay of Green Bay has grown from about 90 to more than 200, Hewett said.

No hook-and-line fishing of sturgeon is permitted in Lake Michigan, he noted.

Tom Turner, a spokesman for the DNR in Green Bay, said the changes announced Tuesday will eliminate the confusion of each state having its own regulations for the waters that separate the two states.

"Now they are treating the river more like a common fishery," he said. "If rules and regulations are the same, enforcement is the same."

The lake sturgeon is a throwback to the age of dinosaurs 100 million years ago. The fish can live to 100 years old and grow to nearly 200 pounds and more than seven feet long. Sturgeon have bony plates instead of scales, among other unique characteristics. Females do not become sexually mature and start producing eggs until they are 20 to 25 years old.

The agreement between the states for this fishing season, which opens Sept. 2 and closes Sept. 30, is to enforce the most lenient of either states' regulations, and for 2007 and beyond, the regulations will be exactly the same, Turner said.

In past years, the sturgeon season lasted through October.

Some of the cooperative regulations include:

Every angler who intends to keep a sturgeon must now buy a carcass tag - $20 for a resident, $50 for a nonresident - and the fish must be registered. In past years, the tags were free.

There will be two size limits for keeping a sturgeon instead of catching and releasing it. The minimum size will be 70 inches below the Hattie Street/Menominee Dam in the cities of Menominee, Mich., and Marinette, Wis., to the bay of Green Bay. Above the dam, the minimum size will be 60 inches.

Next year, only catch and release will be allowed below the dam.

Residents of Wisconsin and Michigan must have a resident fishing license. Residents of other states must have a nonresident license issued by either state.

Wisconsin residents under age 16 or born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a fishing license.

Michigan residents under age 17 do not need a fishing license.

Hundreds of anglers do hook-and-line fishing for sturgeon each fall, with the Menominee River the top spot, Hewett said. The next three in Wisconsin are the lower Chippewa River, the lower Wisconsin River below Sauk City and Lake Wisconsin west of Poynette.

Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh has the largest population lake sturgeon in North America, but the only sturgeon fishing done there is through the ice with spears in a tightly controlled season in midwinter, Hewett said.


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