I am a retired DNR fish manager.
I am writing to express my concern about what is going on in Wisconsin fish management these days.
The DNR wants more anglers yet they continue to create laws that discourage people from fishing.
Will creating 110 lakes that have a five bag limit on bluegills or crappie attract more anglers than 110 lakes that have a 25 bag limit on bluegills or crappie? I don’t think so.
Does the five panfish bag limit proposed to be voted on at the fish and game hearing on April 13 mean that the DNR has been mismanaging the 110 lakes that may get this new rule? I don’t think so.
I was mainly a trout stream manager and I spent most of my DNR career in southwest Wisconsin.
I am one of two people (Dave Vetrano was the other) who turned southwest Wisconsin into a world class trout fishing area. We did this by stocking truly wild trout in streams that had only received regular hatchery trout. In just a few years hundreds of southwest Wisconsin streams went from having 100 to 200 trout per mile to having 2,000 to 5,000 trout per mile.
What has been the angler response to this remarkable transformation?
Well, my No. 1 trout stream would have 500 anglers on the May opener in 1970. Now it has about 20 anglers on the May opener.
A very comprehensive DNR study of one of Dave Vetrano’s streams (Timber Coulee Creek) showed that trout fishing activity on this stream declined 61 percent between 1984 and 2008 and that harvest of trout went from about 1,200 per mile to 30 per mile.
What is going on in the trout program in southwest Wisconsin?
In 1990, the DNR decided that 1,000 special rules were needed to properly manage the Wisconsin trout resource. Thousands of local southwest Wisconsin trout anglers quit fishing rather than deal with excessive and unnecessary rules. More than 500 of these rules have been terminated because the only significant thing they did was push tens of thousands of anglers out of trout fishing.
The new 400 or so trout rules to be voted on at the April 13 hearings are not significantly different than the 500+ rules that are still in effect.
If the new program is approved the DNR will continue to make life miserable for regular trout anglers.
Nothing significant would happen to the Wisconsin trout resource if the DNR went back to what the rules were when trout fishing was very popular (a 6-inch size limit and 10 daily bag limit).
I encourage all persons who attend the April 13 hearings to vote no on the panfish rule proposals and no on the trout rule proposals.
Excessive management of Wisconsin waters is a well intended endeavor that has not produced good results. It needs to be stopped.