The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will gather input from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other stakeholders regarding fishing regulation changes this week. 

The NRC will meet virtually on Thursday to consider a relatively short agenda. The Michigan DNR will host the meeting, and a recording can be viewed using this link

NRC members will have a fresh slate of business at this meeting pertaining to fisheries issues. Members of the NRC and DNR staff have worked diligently to address issues of transparency in this regulation-setting process after some issues arose in June and July. 

MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter said these specific orders are important for local stakeholders to review and weigh in on.

“These proposed regulation changes will impact a number of bodies of water around the state and are aimed at assisting the DNR in meeting management goals,” Trotter said. “MUCC staff will continue to work diligently on behalf of our member-passed resolutions to ensure that anglers are well represented in this process.” 

In June, members of the NRC requested that the format of their meetings be changed to address “New Business” and “Old Business” rather than items up “For Information” or “For Action.” Commissioners cited more flexibility in decision-making and added transparency as the reason for this administrative change. 

New Business

The NRC will take up five fisheries orders at this meeting dealing with topics ranging from hook size and gear restrictions to fishing seasons and stream designations.  

The first order on the agenda deals with the legal size of fishing hooks on the Bear River in Emmet County. According to angler feedback, the special hook size restriction zone was confusing and needed clarification. The order under consideration would add common landmarks to more clearly denote the area in question and would put the order in place from the  footbridge north of Lake Street upstream to Lake Street Dam (T34N, R5W, S6). Similar orders are also in place in Allegan, Benzie, Berrien, Charlevoix and Van Buren counties. 

The second fisheries order on the agenda intends to alter spearfishing regulations on North Manistique (Round) Lake in Luce County. If passed, this order would open the lake to  spearfishing through the ice for northern pike and muskellunge from December 1 through March 15. 

A third fisheries order deals with spawning closures on the Betsie River Homestead Dam area in Benzie County, as well as the Torch River in Antrim and Kalkaska counties and the Douglas Lake pike marsh in Cheboygan County. In this order, NRC members will consider measures to close portions of the Betsie and Torch rivers to fishing during spawning runs to reduce potential harms to those fisheries. This order would also remove the restrictions on the Douglas Lake pike marsh, to “get rid of an unnecessary regulation,” as noted in the memo

The fourth fisheries order intends to alter the designations of certain trout streams, which would alter the regulation classifications of these bodies of water. DNR Fisheries Division recommends adding Carter Creek in Roscommon County and removing Wright Creek in Oscoda County from the order. 

Lastly, members of the NRC will consider an administrative rule regarding state-licensed commercial fishers. This order is used to address issues impacting management of the state-licensed commercial fishery for the better protection, preservation, maintenance and harvesting of the fish. According to the memo, these rules have been renewed annually for the past four years and require renewal again in 2020. It is recommended for renewal without change.

No old business will be considered at this meeting and there are no items for consideration by the DNR Director Dan Eichinger. 

Commissioners will also receive an update on hunting and fishing license sales. Since the onset of COVID-19, the sale of hunting and fishing licenses has increased dramatically year-to-date, and this trend is expected to continue this month. While it is likely more individuals are taking advantage of the outdoors while working remotely, it is also important to note that some of these trends may be the result of the DNR’s new online license platform. 

About Charlie Booher

Charlie Booher is a State Conservation Policy Fellow with Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

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