Wildlife refuge issues commercial fishing guide permit process
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge has implemented its pilot year of the Commercial Fishing Guide Permit Program for 2020. The refuge waived permit fees and offered a grace period to guides operating in 2019 to allow for a transition into this new program. The 2020 season will be fully enforced and fishing guides operating within the refuge will need to apply for and obtain a permit as well as pay applicable fees. The refuge has management authority and jurisdiction over lands and waters on the Mississippi River between Reads Landing, MN (lower Pool 4) and Le Claire, IA (Lock and Dam 15). Those that operate a fishing guide business within the refuge (Lower Pool 4 through Pool 14), will need a permit from the refuge. In 2018, the refuge determined that commercially guided fishing is an activity compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established. This process, called a compatibility determination, authorizes the continuation of guided fishing on the refuge through a permit system. To learn more about the refuge and refuge compatibility determinations please visit: https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147614047. Fishing guides who believe they may be operating on the refuge, or would like to, should contact Wildlife Refuge Specialist Meta Griffin to obtain a copy of the Program Requirements and Stipulations (2019 through 2024) for Fishing Guide Services on the refuge and a permit application. If you operate a fishing guide service within the refuge, you are encouraged to review this document and submit an application for a permit. Permit applications may be submitted any time between now and March 15, 2020.
SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Upper Red Lake walleye regulations change for winter season
Anglers fishing during the winter season on Upper Red Lake will have a four-walleye bag limit, with only one walleye longer than 17 inches allowed. The regulations, which become effective Sunday, Dec. 1, are the same as those of last winter but more restrictive than during 2019 open water fishing. “Anglers should remember to take a good measuring device along with them on their trip to Upper Red Lake as many walleye will measure just above, and just under, the 17-inch size restriction,” said Andy Thompson, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor. More restrictive winter regulations are necessary because of the amount of fishing pressure during the winter. Anglers spent 1.9 million hours fishing on Red Lake during the winter of 2018-19, significantly higher than the 178,000 hours they spent open water fishing in 2019. Those anglers harvested 293,000 pounds of walleye during the summer and winter of 2019 – a record high for annual harvest since walleye fishing resumed on the lake in 2006. The Red Lake Nation and the DNR manage walleye harvest on Red Lake under a joint harvest plan that was revised in 2015 by the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee. Next year’s open water harvest regulations will be determined following the conclusion of the winter fishing season. An Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee reviews walleye harvest totals and regulation options and provides recommendations for regulations for the state waters of Upper Red Lake. Upper Red Lake fishing regulations are available at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR
Deadline nears for 2020 sturgeon spearing licenses
MADISON, Wis. - The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2020 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime. "The lake sturgeon population in the Winnebago System is robust, both in terms of abundance and size. The adult population contains more fish than we have had in decades and includes a strong representation of 100+ pound fish," said Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Winnebago System sturgeon biologist. "As always, the biggest driver of spearing success will be water clarity, and we will not have an idea what clarity will be like until the weeks leading up to the 2020 season." The spearing season will open Feb. 8, 2020, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by a drawing that operates off a preference point system. The seasons run for a maximum of 16 days or until pre-set harvest caps are reached.
How and where to get spearing licenses License costs are $20 for residents and $65 for non-residents and can be purchased by visiting GoWild.Wi.gov or in person at a license sales location. The minimum spearing age is 12 years old. Youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1 and the last day of the 2020 spearing season can purchase a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after the Oct. 31 deadline. There are unlimited license sales for the Lake Winnebago spear fishery, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a preference point system and limited to 500 permitted spearers per season. Once a person is authorized to purchase an Upriver Lakes license, they are not able to purchase a license for Lake Winnebago. For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, check the DNR website here.
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR
Mille Lacs Lake winter anglers allowed 1 walleye starting Dec. 1
Winter anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will enjoy a walleye harvest this winter for the fourth season in a row, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Similar to last season, anglers will be allowed to keep walleye on Mille Lacs starting Sunday, Dec. 1, with a limit of one walleye between 21-23 inches, or one fish over 28 inches. “It’s good news that anglers will be able to harvest walleye again this winter,” said Sarah Strommen, DNR commissioner. “We’re encouraged to see evidence that our conservative approach to Mille Lacs is paying off, allowing continued walleye angling opportunities on this renowned fishing lake.” Anglers are expected to make Mille Lacs a destination this coming winter. Under very similar regulations, anglers spent about 2 million hours fishing on Mille Lacs each of the last three winters. “When the walleye population can support it, we want to provide anglers the opportunity to harvest some fish,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries section manager. “As in recent winters, we’re confident that the walleye population is healthy enough to support some harvest. “We expect the walleye bite to be quite good on Mille Lacs this winter, which will likely result in a lot of fishing pressure and a relatively high harvest,” Parsons added. “Feedback from our advisory committee and the community has consistently been that a fish in the winter is the first priority for harvest. “If high catch rates continue this winter, harvest may exceed the 15,000 pounds of walleye taken last winter. This may also directly affect open water angling opportunities,” Parsons added. Harvest from the winter of 2019-20 will be counted toward the state’s annual share of walleye from Mille Lacs under the 1837 treaty. State anglers share the safe harvest level with eight Chippewa tribes that have fishing rights under the treaty. The state’s allowable harvest for the coming year will be set in early 2020 through discussions between the state and the tribes. Winter regulations are set after completion of the DNR’s annual fall netting assessment of the lake. The DNR’s 2019 assessment found that the walleye population has remained relatively stable over the past three years, having rebounded from population lows seen from 2012 – 2016. Conservative fishing regulations in response to the population lows have contributed to the recovery, and allowed the DNR to offer a harvest opportunity in recent winters as well as in May 2019 during the open water fishing season.
Insights into fall assessments While encouraged by the rebound in walleye abundance, the DNR continues to take a cautious approach to managing the fishery. Survival of walleye to age 3 and older has been inconsistent in recent years. The fish hatched six years ago – referred to as the 2013 year class – are now 17-21 inches and continue to dominate the population, accounting for about 40 percent of the fish caught in fall test netting. Year classes formed since 2013 show mixed results. Numbers of walleye from the 2014 and 2015 year classes remain below the 15-year average. The 2016 year class appears close to average, while the 2017 year class, now between 12 and 14 inches in length, is above average in abundance. The size of the 2017 year class is significant because since 2008, only the 2013 year class had been average-or-above. “We are encouraged to see additional year classes that will contribute to the fishery in the future,” Parsons said. “Having multiple year classes approaching maturity makes us more comfortable with starting to harvest some of the 2013 year-class under this winter’s regulation.” The assessment also looks at food abundance and walleye health. Perch and tullibee are the primary food source for Mille Lacs’ walleye. Perch and tullibee from 0 to 2 years old were caught in moderate numbers. Walleye condition, or “plumpness,” remained lower than recent averages. The relatively thin condition of fish suggest that forage was limited during parts of this year. This contributed to the high catch rates in Mille Lacs this summer. Limited forage usually results in a good walleye bite because there is less food available for fish to eat, making an angler’s bait all the more attractive. Complete winter fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR
DNR certifies new catch-and-release state record muskie
An angler on Lake Vermilion caught and released Minnesota’s new state record muskellunge, a 57 1/4-inch fish that he called a “true giant.” The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified the state catch-and-release record fish on Oct. 11. The 57 1/4-inch fish had a 25 1/2-inch girth with an estimated weight of about 47 pounds. The previous record was a 56 7/8-inch fish caught on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County in 2016. The record catch took on special meaning for new record-holder Corey Kitzmann of Davenport, Iowa. While alone on Aug. 6, at his family cabin on Lake Vermilion, Kitzmann was sitting at the table tying a homemade bucktail lure. Then he received a phone call relaying bad news – one of his best friends had passed away from a medical condition at age 40. With nobody around to grieve with, Kitzmann went fishing. “I worked my way through my favorite milk run of spots with my newly tied bucktail, thinking about all the ways my buddy had impacted my life and the memories we had shared together,” Kitzmann said. “I’m not sure there is a better place in the entire world to reflect on life than in a boat on Lake Vermilion.” After a couple hours with no action, he pulled up to one of his favorite spots that had been hot earlier in the week, fishing with his bucktail and 80-pound line. “When I set the hook, I knew immediately that I had a nice fish on. It wasn’t until the fish made its way to the side of the boat that I realized I had a true giant,” he said. The fish made a couple of trips around the boat, under the trolling motor, and even gave a jump or two. Kitzmann grabbed his net and managed to make a successful scoop to net the fish and haul it into the boat. A nearby boater and his family had been watching the fight unfold and Kitzmann waved his arms asking for help. A man pulled up, jumped in his boat and was able to take photos and assist with the release. After a few photos, Kitzmann got the fish back in the water, supported its belly and watched the fish swim out of sight. He described what followed as two hours of floating aimlessly across the lake making phone calls to family and friends, including his dad who had gotten him into muskie fishing when he was 8 years old. “As the phone calls winded down I couldn’t help but think that one of my best friends, Brian Cronkleton, was looking down on me that day – Aug. 6, 2019, is a day that I’ll certainly never forget,” Kitzmann said. The DNR announces new state records in news releases, on social media and on the DNR website. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at mndnr.gov/recordfish.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR
Public hearing on Lake Michigan lake whitefish rule set Nov. 20
CLEVELAND, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on a permanent rule regulating bottom trawling for lake whitefish on Lake Michigan. The hearing is Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Lakeshore Technical College (Lake Michigan room) in Cleveland. Written comments on the rule and its potential impacts will be accepted through Nov. 23 to the address on the hearing notice. For hearing information and additional details on the proposed permanent rules visit the DNR website. Bottom trawling for lake whitefish has occurred since 2015 in an area of Lake Michigan near Two Rivers as part of a cooperative study between the department, Sea Grant and a commercial fishing company. Under this proposed rule, commercial fishers could elect to bottom trawl in this area as an alternative to using nets to fill their pre-existing lake whitefish quotas. "The trawl study was created, designed and implemented to determine the feasibility of using a bottom trawl to harvest lake whitefish in this specific area of Lake Michigan," said DNR Great Lakes fisheries supervisor Brad Eggold. "Statistically sound data and science from the study provided the basis for the development of the rule, which provides for the sustainability of lake whitefish harvests using bottom trawls and protects important game species. This rule will create consistent regulations for all commercial fishers that choose to bottom trawl while minimizing incidental catch of important game fish such as lake trout." This rule would standardize gear, monitoring and reporting requirements for trawling for lake whitefish. Limits on the area open to trawling, number of licenses, trawl dimensions, trawling season, amount of time per trawl drag and the overall whitefish quota will prevent overharvest of lake whitefish and minimize incidental catch. To learn more about Lake Michigan commercial fishing, visit the DNR website and search "Lake Michigan fisheries."
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR
Fisheries regulation meeting scheduled in St. Paul