Natural Resources Commission November Recap

Last week on November 9, 21017, the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) took action on two major fisheries orders that have been discussed for months and will go into effect April 1, 2018.

Among the most controversial to some in the audience was the statewide warmwater regulations for muskie (FO 215.18), where the Department’s goal is to expand muskie fishing opportunities by instituting a catch-and-immediate-release (CIR) fishing season open year round, among other regulation changes. Several fishing guides and muskie organizations were strongly opposed to the CIR on Lake St. Clair.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs has continued to point out that DNR Fisheries biologists have no vested interest in “devastating” (as opponents have claimed) the fishery in Lake St. Clair and wouldn’t have proposed this regulation if there was data suggesting it would have a population level impact.

In addition to muskie, there have also been major changes for several U.P. streams where a controversial 10-brook trout bag limit has been approved. This is double the 5-brook trout limit in the rest of the state. In total, this fisheries order (FO 200.18) includes 34 sections of stream comprising 1,128 stream miles or 8% of the UP’s Type 1 streams. NRC Commissioner J.R. Richardson has asked that the DNR further review the issue to possibly add additional stream miles in 2019.

Michigan Trout Unlimited has continuously communicated their concerns with this policy. They point to recent findings from a DNR study of 8 pilot streams where the bag limit was doubled that document: No increase in angling activity occurred; most Michigan anglers preferred the standing 5 fish limit, and brook trout populations declined in the treatment streams while increasing in the control streams – showing a negative impact to brook trout populations from doubling the bag limit.

Other actions items that were taken up this month and approved, included some changes to bow, spear and crossbow fishing regulations (FO 219.18), regulations on freshwater mollusks (FO 228.18), and netting regulations (FO 229.18).

In other news, the Department presented an update and another order to re-designate Bay City State Recreation Area to Bay City State Park and expand some hunting opportunities in Tobico Marsh (Wildlife Conservation Order No. 7 of 2017). In the original proposal, the DNR recommended expanding hunting opportunities, which included, hunting and trapping in refuge except Sept. 1-Dec. 15, lowering the northern boundary, opening hunting on the western edge, and allowing hunting by permit near the southern boundary. Currently, hunting and trapping areas have no firearm restrictions.

As a result of several compromises in light of concerns brought forward by residents that live near the area, the current proposal now recommends: 150-yard no hunting buffers along a main trail loop, firearm and refuge restrictions, no motorized watercraft, and trails closed to hunting. In addition, there has been another recommendation to limit a newly opened hunting area to waterfowl-hunting only, which will appear in the final order before the NRC.

The next meeting of the NRC is scheduled for December 14 at the Lansing Center.

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