The Department of Natural Resources is turning its nets on us.
Their trawls, in the form of online surveys and public comment sessions, aim to scoop up as many anglers as possible, hoist us sopping wet over their boat deck and dump all of our opinions onto the sorting table.
For that to happen, we need to abide by swimming headfirst into their nets and filling out their surveys and/or attending the public meetings. Local meetings are scheduled for April 12 at Cheboygan Sportsman's Club, April 16 at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, and April 19 at Grayling Nature Park on James Street. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.
Online surveys can be accessed at www.mi.gov/dnr. Click "Fishing."
Here are the listings of species being considered for regulation changes and the options up for debate in the online surveys and public comment sessions. Have you cast your opinion yet?
Pike: To prune or protect?
Since 2007, the DNR has been exploring a new management plan for pike. Current statewide regulations carry a 24-inch minimum size limit and a creel limit of two fish per day. Some lakes with too few pike -- or too many -- have special regulations of catch-and-release only or no minimum size limit at all to thin the herd, so to speak.
Three statewide pike regulation options, deemed a "compromise" between the DNR's Fisheries Division and the Warmwater Resources Committee, including various angling groups, are being presented:
1. Minimum size limit of 24 inches with a possession limit of two fish (current rule)
2. No minimum size limit with a possession limit of five fish with only one more than 24 inches
3. Protected slot limit between 24 and 34 inches and a possession limit of two fish
Personally, I don't see a need to tinker with the existing size and possession limits statewide. I do feel there are lakes out there that are overrun with small pike. Those lakes could benefit from more smaller pike being kept to thin the population of the predator fish, allowing remaining fish to grow larger with less competition.
I am not a biologist. But the DNR puts forth a tremendous amount of energy and resources toward efforts like its "Status & Trends" surveys where fish populations of individual lakes are surveyed regularly. They know which lakes could benefit from special regulations like these as do the anglers who fish those lakes. I feel that's where public opinion should be directed, not at statewide regulation changes.
Muskie: More take
Muskies played a starring role as I grew up fishing. Every June for the better part of two decades, my family trip took us to the western Upper Peninsula and lakes where muskies dwell.
We'd spend a week chucking monster bucktail spinners, jointed Believers and Creek Chub Pikies until our arms gave out. We dragged hundreds of pounds of weeds into the boat, smoldered in the hot sun and got soggy in heavy rainstorms.
For our effort, we'd catch maybe a handful of muskie over the course of the week and have dozens of 3- and 4-foot fish follow our lures up to the boat only to turn away at the last second. The biggest fish I ever lost was a muskie that escaped by tearing a hole through the landing net after a 20-minute fight, and I'm still beating myself up about it.