For Antigo Times
ASHLAND, Wis. – An emergency rule governing the lake trout harvest in Lake Superior took effect Monday, Jan. 11 following a series of public input opportunities and administration approvals.
The rule, which includes a daily bag limit of three lake trout in key recreational areas, was developed through extensive public input including an online survey, two public meetings this fall as well as written comments, said Terry Margenau, DNR Lake Superior fisheries supervisor. The emergency rule is designed to preserve a sustainable lake trout harvest in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior and addresses both commercial and recreational harvest limits.
“We appreciate citizens’ involvement, which helped us establish the three fish daily bag limit with size restrictions that support protection of this important resource,” Margenau said. “Lake trout are prized by both recreational and commercial fishers and we believe the current rule strikes a balance that respects the interests of these key stakeholders.”
Population assessments over the last six to eight years indicate a decline in lake trout abundance. The new emergency rule follows a previous emergency rule that had reduced the daily bag limits on lake trout to two fish.
The new rule sets the recreational daily harvest limit east of Bark Point (WI-2) at two fish between 20 and 25 inches and one fish greater than 40 inches. Throughout the open harvest season in these waters, if the recreational lake trout harvest reaches 7,350 or 75 percent of the allowable recreational harvest of 9,800 fish, the fishery will transition to catch and release only for the remainder of the season, which ends September 30.
For waters west of Bark Point (WI-1), the three-fish total daily bag limit includes a 15 inch minimum size limit and only one fish that is greater than 25 inches. Bag limits in the waters west of Bark Point will not be affected by the 75 percent trigger.
The new rule also separates lake trout from other trout species for clarification. This change will allow sport anglers to harvest five trout in addition to their lake trout bag.
“While lake trout were formerly part of the five trout bag limit, the emergency rule will allow an angler the potential to harvest, for example, five brown trout plus their bag of lake trout,” Margenau said. This would apply to both WI-1 and WI-2 waters of Lake Superior.
The rule also revises harvests for commercial fishers and prohibits previously allowed fishing in the Gull Island refuge. However, because of agreements among the parties to the Lake Superior Fishing Agreement, the rule also removes restrictions from the Hagen’s Beach area, opening this area to commercial fishing between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2016.
The recreational lake trout season runs from Dec. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016; the commercial season runs from Nov. 28, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016.