Each year the Wisconsin DNR holds an Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing and Conservation Meeting. This year those hearings will be held on April 14th in each county in Wisconsin. The location for each county can be found on the DNR Website here. For Oneida County, the meeting will be at James Williams Middle School. For Vilas County the meeting will be held in the St. Germaine Elementary School Gymnasium, and residents of Forest County can attend their meeting at Crandon High school. The meetings all begin at 7:00 p.m.
The public's response is being sought for a variety of questions regarding all fishing, hunting, and trapping in Wisconsin. There is also an opportunity for audience members to give their input on each question, but the public is reminded that those opinion sessions are limited to three minutes for each person per question. Prior to the meeting, there will also be an election in each county for Wisconsin Conservation Congress delegates. That information is also available on the DNR Website.
Many of the questions in these spring meetings are regarding fishing, of all kinds. Last year, a proposed 3-line per person trolling idea was received negatively by the general public at these meetings. This year, the question was revised. The question now proposes a 1-line trolling rule in 17 counties and 3-line trolling in the other 55 counties be legalized.
The second question asks if a catch and release season should be established for game fish that would replace closed fishing seasons. This question puts in place a restriction that it must be proven there are no significant biological impacts. It is not clear how this metric will be measured, however. The second part of this question asks residents whether only artificial lures should be allowed in the event that a catch and release season is established to replace a closed season on game fish. The line of thinking in this question is that, with live bait, fish are more apt to "inhale" the bait and swallow the hook, thus increasing the mortality rate of fish caught during this time.
Question #4 regards Sturgeon catch and release on Minnesota boundary waters. The question asks residents if they would support a year-round catch and release hook and line season year round on the Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters. There would still be closed seasons during the spawn and the existing harvest season would remain intact, as the question reads. The reason for this change, as stated in the DNR Spring Hearings Pamphlet, would be to keep regulations consistent with Minnesota.
Again, the question on Mother's Day weekend and the season fishing opener is being debated. The question is posed: would residents favor changing opening weekend of fishing season from "the first Saturday in May" to "the first Saturday closest to May 1st" ? This would ensure that Mother's Day weekend and Opening Fishing weekend would never be the same weekend.
Question 6 is specific to catch-hold-release bass tournaments. In these tournaments, fish are held in the livewell of a boat for up to 8 hours of a tournament, but are all released alive back into the same body of water from which they were caught at the end of the tournament. The question asks if these tournaments could be exempt from this protected slot limits strictly for permitted tournaments. The reason for these limits, it is stated, is that these slot limits tend to be used on waters where there is an overabundance of bass and an increase in the harvest of small bass, it is thought, can improve the growth rates in the fisheree and increase, overall, the size of the fish. In the case of catch-hold-release bass tournaments, however, all fish are being released alive back into the same body of water from which they were caught. None of the fish are "harvested", and thus the slot limit allowing the harvesting of smaller fish to improve the size of the average fish would mean little. The other contingency for a permitted tournament to fall under these regulations would be that any fish caught in the permitted tournament that would die during the event would be donated to the local food pantry so that good may come of the unfortunate incident. It is also stated that the fisheries biologist who reviews the tournament application would maintain the rights to approve or deny this exemption.
Question 7 is fairly straight forward. The current regulation used to manage trophy bass is an 18" size limit. Many anglers have seen this as a limit on some area lakes such at Stella and Crescent. These are only 2 of 80 lakes in Wisconsin that are impacted by this ruling. This question asks if it would better serve the trophy bass population to increase that size limit to 20".
In questions 8 -10, the DNR is interested in the type of regulation residents prefer in order to produce the best size fish out of area fisheries. The question simply asks which is preferred: a maximum size limit, a slot size limit, or a "1 over" allowance.
There are also several questions regarding panfish. The first asks if residents believe there is an overall need to increase the general size of panfish in Wisconsin. Several other questions are in regards to lowering the daily bag limit on panfish. The feedback needed here is reducing the daily bag limit from 25 to anywhere from 15 to 5, or if area stakeholders are in favor of leaving the limit alone. Of course, there are a wealth of factors that should be taken into consideration in every question, and these are no different. Other questions from here funnel down to different regulations for different bodies of water, and may require more public input before any changes are made. Other questions in the pan fish section of this Spring Hearing involve the preservation of fishing habitat and the improvement of that habitat.
The remainder of the fishing-related questions for 2014 involve Trout fishing. A question asks residents if they would be in favor of an early catch and release season on all inland trout streams from Jan 1 through the Sunday preceding the first Saturday in May. Or, would residents favor extending the end of trout season until October 15th? Another question asks if resident anglers would favor adding a trout catch and release season from October 1 to October 15. One of the sticking points to all of these changes would be that they would be proven to not affect the Trout population in any specific area. Specifics can be found in the DNR pamphlet.
Overall, whether an angler is in favor or opposed to any of these proposed regulations, it is most important for residents to attend the meetings in their county of residence. There are many other questions posed that have not been addressed here, and all outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen are encouraged to attend these Spring Hearings to learn more about what is being proposed.