The Wild Side: Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist
Recently I was having a discussion with DNR Fisheries Biologist John Kubisiak about how fisheries management has been taking a hard look at panfish management, fishing, and related regulations. He shared that, as a result of feedback from the public, they are looking at making some notable changes in their regulations. John thought this would be a good topic for a guest column, as he is currently requesting feedback and there will be a meeting later this month. Since I knew I was taking a few days off this week to spend time with the boys before they go back to school, I asked John to plan his guest column for this issue and fill us all in. What follows is his contribution.
In Wisconsin, DNR netting surveys show a long-term trend of steadily decreasing panfish size. For example, over the last 70 years, average size of bluegill captured in DNR netting surveys across Wisconsin decreased by about 2 inches. Quality panfish are produced by good growth rates, abundant predators and moderate harvest. It takes a little over 5 years for an average Northwoods bluegill to reach 7 inches, a perch to reach 8 inches or a crappie to reach 10 inches. We know that anglers selectively harvest large fish, and angler harvest can crop the top off the population size. It takes a few more years to grow larger fish, so we can’t harvest them as hard as we’re used to if we want to see more large panfish in our populations.
Over the last three years, DNR Fisheries Management staff asked anglers their opinions on panfish management in Wisconsin. We found that most anglers prefer fewer large panfish over abundant numbers of small panfish. There is mixed support for a statewide rule change. About 1/3 of anglers want more restrictive statewide regulations, 1/3 like things the way they are, and 1/3 aren’t really sure. However, there is strong support for trying experimental regulations on a few lakes around the state, so this is what the Department is pursuing. We are proposing restrictive panfish regulations on about 110 waters statewide starting in 2016, with a goal of improving average size. The list includes 17 lakes or chains in Oneida County. Panfish size and growth rates will be monitored in these lakes for about 6 years after the rule change. The regulations and proposed Oneida County lakes include:
5-over-7”: A total of 25 panfish, but only 5 of the “sunfish” (bluegill and pumpkinseed) may be larger than 7 inches. In Oneida County: Bear, Clear (846 acres), Indian and North Nokomis Lakes.
10-10-10: A daily bag limit of 25 panfish, but only 10 perch, 10 crappies and 10 “sunfish.” In Oneida County: Gilmore, Moen Chain, Three Lakes Chain, Two Sisters, Carrol and Madeline Lakes.
5-5-5: A total of 15 panfish, but only 5 perch, 5 crappies and 5 “sunfish.” In Oneida County: Boom-Rhinelander Chain, Hasbrook, Muskellunge, Oneida, Squaw, Gunlock and Shishebogama Lakes.
The full list and other information can be found on DNR website (search for “Panfish Plan” at www.dnr.wi.gov ). This list in not set in stone. Biologists have until October to make changes in their areas based on local concerns, after which the list will go to the Natural Resources Board for approval to include in the spring 2015 hearings. If passed at spring hearings, the rule changes will take effect in May 2016. Three panfish meetings to discuss the rule-change proposal are being held by DNR Fisheries Biologists, including one at Minocqua Public Library, 415 Menominee St., on August 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Contact the local Fisheries Biologist to provide feedback on specific waters. In Oneida County, contact Fisheries Biologist John Kubisiak at DNR’s Rhinelander office, 715-365-8919 or e-mail JohnF1.Kubisiak@wisconsin.gov.
Jeremy Holtz is a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin DNR and writes a weekly column in the Star Journal. To contact him, call (715) 365-8999.