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Updates on rule changes for 2006

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Kal-Kevin

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This is copied with the permission of the writer

This was posted on “the lake St. Clair network”

MDNR Fisheries make Michigan bass season recommendations for 2006

At the August 23rd coolwater external committee meeting, the MDNR fisheries staff unveiled their recommendations for the 2006 Michigan bass season. After going through their recent evaluation of the situation combining public meeting comments, studies and survey comments, the MDNR announced they will take the following recommendations to the Director and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC):

1) Keep the existing bass season opener on the Saturday before Memorial Day, and the existing 3rd Saturday in June opener on the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River system;

2) Catch-and-Immediate-Release (CIR) of bass will be allowed statewide on all waters of the Lower Peninsula from the last Saturday in April until the regular bass season openers, and from May 15 until the existing regular bass season opener in the Upper Peninsula. All waters statewide include all inland lakes, rivers and streams, and the Great Lakes and connecting waters. Exceptions would be existing special regulation lakes and areas to be spelled out in the regulations.

3) Eliminate the special April 1 opening on the 6 test bass lakes so they will now open at the same time other lakes open since these lakes are no longer being studied.

- A monitoring and assessment protocol will be implemented to evaluate the new regulations structure.
- A fisheries order will implement the new regulations with a 5-year sunset clause although any serious concerns could be addressed before the 5 years are up.
- Special regulations areas such as the Beaver Island Archipeligo and the Sylvania Tract are still under review.

The MDNR will review the CIR season for the lower Great Lakes since the main concern for the initial start date is to match existing pike, trout and walleye season openers, and these Great Lakes waters are open all year. MDNR fisheries leadership will announce their recommendations on this suggestion later this fall. This is looking positive so far.

Now that the MDNR fisheries has announced their initial recommendations, the next steps in this process are:
- Input from this coolwater external committee are considered;
- Post card data received back from anglers who did not respond to the mail survey are analyzed;
- A final report is written which will be presented to the Director and NRC;
- Fisheries leadership provides their recommendations for information to the NRC at the September 8, 2005 meeting in Houghton, MI;
- The recommendations are presented for public input and review at the October NRC meeting in Lansing;
- Action is taken on the recommendations at the November NRC meeting;
- The final outcome goes to the MDNR Director as Fisheries Order 215 for signature to enact;
- The new fisheries order would go into effect April 1, 2006.

The MDNR also announced they are going to a 2-year fishing guide effective 2006 as a cost-saving move, so there would be no further changes to fishing regulations until 2008. This was a factor in the final decision fish division made regarding the bass season issue, and why it was importance the change could go directly to the Director as a fisheries order instead of requiring legislation that would probably delay any change until 2008.

Dave Borgeson announced he was confident the MUCC would support these recommendations. The coolwater external committee was unanimously supportive of the recommendations. Ron Spitler and I are acquiring the support of the various bass angler groups in Michigan, and informing BASS and other organizations also.

First of all, now that you see the outcome of this long and challenging process, I want to make a few comments. Ron Spitler was extremely instrumental, with his over 30 years of fisheries experience, knowledge of the MDNR and irrefutable expertise on the subject making a huge difference in the final outcome of the MDNR fisheries recommendation. Ron was able to work with BASS biologist and Conservation Manager Chris Horton, and on his own collecting data and studies that had a measurable impact on the MDNR decision. Ron's impact was significant. Thank you Ron.

Anthony Adams also was very instrumental in many ways, especially in single-handedly pulling off the important set of successful bass meetings we anglers had last year to develop our plan and spearhead our movement. Anthony's persistence was felt throughout the process. Thanks Anthony.

Bob Gwizdz was heavily involved from the start getting information quickly out to large number of anglers, and seeing clearly through the confusion and challenges to where this could end up if followed wisely. Bob's articles were great. Thanks Bob. Keep up your great work in reporting the outdoors to the public.

Other media persons also had significant impact at important times. People such as Louie Stout, Bill Parker and Kevin Elliott to name a few. I’m very sorry if I left any names off here. I thank them all and especially want to point out the supportive forum Bob Bauer gave us a number of times on his 97.1 FM radio show.

Thanks also to the participation and counsel of all the folks at BASS HQ. They helped all of us quite a bit and are continuing to help now and into the future with compiling tournament results and providing additional data and counsel. Thanks Chris, Noreen and Bruce.

The support of MUCC is almost always necessary to get something like this accomplished. It was enjoyable to have the MUCC in support of more bass fishing opportunity. Other major tournament group leaders also have done quite a bit, especially Russ Hirdes at BBT, Jim Sprague at NBAA and of course Anthony Adams for ABA. Several fishing/outdoor companies also had significant impact, particularly Randy VanDam and D & R Sports along with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's.

Additionally, there are way too many other people to thank everyone individually without writing another longer 'book.' All of you who attended meetings, who spoke at meetings, who posted your opinions and debated on the forums, submitted written comments, obtained petition signatures and just kept the faith, thank you so much. No single person or small group of persons could accomplish something like this without the support and desires of the many. Thank you all so much and I hope you all get special enjoyment next spring out of your fishing.

But we aren't done quite yet. We still have to positively support this position and smoothly advance these recommendations through the rest of the process as detailed above. We can all help smooth the way for approval and implementation of a new CIR bass season in Michigan by our actions and support. I know I want to start by commending the MDNR fisheries division for reaching the conclusions that they did by looking at all the input and not making a final recommendation until they had considered all the input from all the anglers who cared enough to be involved. I believe that doors have been thrown open that will help all of us, and more importantly, the bass fishery in Michigan, long into the future. I commend the MDNR fisheries division for showing they will put a new and increased emphasis on the importance of the bass fishery in Michigan to so many anglers.

the rest of this story is in the next posting


Kal-Kevin

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part two of rule changes

We need to support these recommendations as the best possible outcome under present conditions that we could expect to receive. We need to meet the MDNR half way to get these recommendations passed to benefit all bass anglers in Michigan, and to move forward in a new era of bass management for our waters with improved relationships between bass anglers and the MDNR.

A number of things came together to get our MDNR to come up with the recommendations they put forward. I think considering them will help all of us understand how we have come to this point and why we should accept and promote them.

Survey results were very important in this final outcome. Key among them were:
- A majority of respondents said they would accept more complex regs;
- 58% said they release 90-100% of their legal-sized bass;
- >62% said they supported early season CIR opportunities, and it was 50/50 on how respondents felt about the importance of adding CIR opportunity - the MDNR particularly felt this meant a majority of anglers would accept a spring CIR season;
- The results of two questions asking about the importance of the existing opening days and the willingness to give up the existing opening days showed the majority of anglers were saying don't change opening day;
- And, additionally the MDNR interpreted the answers to question 18 about how much more fishing you would do if there was a new CIR season as showing there would not be a significantly risky increase in spring fishing since they felt only 10% of respondents said they would fish many more days (44% said they would fish the same, 23% said they would fish a few more days and 24% said they would not fish then).

The MDNR considered only opening up CIR on 20-40 large lakes, but this would have probably meant public meetings for each lake with the vocal involvement of lake associations and other parties for each lake. Also, they would have to develop a process to choose the lakes to include. It was felt this could take 1 to 2 years to complete. When added to the new 2-year fish digest schedule, it would delay any change until 2008. The MDNR does want to provide additional fishing opportunities when they can.

The MDNR stressed they are not trying to fix something that is broke, but do want to increase fishing opportunity without undue risk on the quality of fishing. They define quality of fishing as health of the fish; numbers of fish in the population; size of fish; simplicity/complexity of regulations and public values towards catch-and-release fishing over nesting bass.

Key considerations were what was the biology telling them about biological risk; what was the social risk - what were anglers telling us; and keeping regulations simple without compromising the quality of the fisheries/resource. This last factor also leads into not making any decisions without involving the law division's opinions, and ease/difficulty of enforcement of proposed regulations.

By not changing the existing season opener, the need for legislation was removed. The need for legislation could have meant a delay similar to other possible proposals that along with the new 2-year fishing guide would have delayed any change until at least 2008. MDNR fisheries feels their recommendations above best meet all the needs identified by them and supported by the majority input from anglers through all the methods.

Another positive coming out of this process and the meeting were promises from the MDNR that improved communication and cooperation will be coming from the MDNR fisheries biologists with bass anglers and bass tournament groups to investigate ways we can work together to protect and improve bass fishing in Michigan. Jay Wesley, MDNR fish biologist from Plainwell was outspoken on this issue. Ron Spitler and I also had a great discussion with Mike Thomas after the meeting about looking cooperatively into issues affecting the St. Clair system and bass.

So yes, I feel this is a big win-win for all of us, and we should support it positively and wholeheartedly as an acceptable outcome we can all live with. I hope you agree.

This post has been edited by djkimmel: Aug 25 2005, 08:07 PM