Anglers can weigh in on 10-year plan
A new 10-year panfish plan that focuses on habitat improvements, predator management and revised bag limits to boost panfish management across Wisconsin is up for public comment.
The state Department of Natural Resources will hold three meetings statewide in early February to encourage feedback and one of the meetings will be held in Waupaca.
That meeting is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Waupaca Area Public Library, 107 S. Main St.
Other meetings will be held in Hayward Tuesday, Feb. 9, and Waukesha Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Panfish are the target of more anglers in Wisconsin than any other group of fish. The management plan aims to improve panfish opportunities for anglers, including restoring size structure on lakes where smaller fish have become more prevalent in recent years, improving habitat, engaging anglers and supporting research on panfish.
The DNR developed its 10-Year Strategic Plan for Managing Wisconsin’s Panfish with extensive public input, data analysis and review of existing literature and is now up for a final round of feedback before being implemented, said Max Wolter, a DNR fisheries biologist and panfish team leader.
“We’ve received substantial input from anglers and listened to their concerns ranging from the role of predators to fishing pressure to habitat changes on some lakes,” he said. “To make sure we’re addressing anglers’ concerns in the plan, we’re scheduling a final comment period and a series of public meetings for Hayward, Waukesha and Waupaca.”
To date, the draft plan has been shaped by more than 3,500 responses to surveys, more than 30 public meetings and multiple questions on two spring hearing questionnaires for the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
Wolter said the panfish team focused on meshing the technical side of panfish management with common themes that emerged during the public input process.
“Ultimately, we produced a plan that blends background, technical information and a strategic framework for better managing panfish over the next 10 years,” he said.
The plan pays extra attention to improving and protecting habitat and discusses the use of predators in managing panfish, two areas anglers consistently supported. Support for statewide regulation changes drew mixed responses from the public, but most anglers supported using regulations to improve underachieving lakes, a strategy that is laid out in the plan.
Given the timing of the regulation cycle and support for improving underachieving lakes, a set of experimental regulations on 94 lakes was proposed on the 2014 spring hearings and supported. These regulation changes will go into effect April 1, 2016.
Area waters on that list include Waupaca County’s Graham, Hartman, School Section, Stratton, White and Shadow lakes; Waushara County’s Witters, Big Hills, Irogami, Kusel and Porters lakes; Portage County’s Emily and Lime lakes; and Shawano County’s White Clay Lake.
The experimental regulations will be evaluated over the next five years.
The DNR also welcomes written comments, which will be given the same weight as comments presented at the public meetings. Comments can be mailed by Friday, March 18, to Max Wolter, DNR fisheries biologist, 10220 State Highway 27 S., Hayward, WI 54843 or emailed to him Max.Wolter@wisconsin.gov.
The draft plan and experimental regulations can be found on the DNR website by searching “panfish plan.”