Summary of Factual Data and Analytical Methodologies: This emergency rule is necessary in order to ensure a sustainable Lake Michigan trout and salmon fishery over the long-term that provides economic and natural resource benefits for all affected. The rule expands Lake Michigan lake trout harvest limits and season lengths. These changes will allow Wisconsin anglers to have increased fishing opportunities on Lake Michigan and possibly increase their harvest of lake trout.
The proposed rule will:
• Increase the lake trout daily bag limit for all Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan from 2 daily to 5.
• Change the current March 1 to October 31 open season to a year-round open season in Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan, except that the Mid Lake Reef Complex under NR 20.03 (23) would remain a closed area.
Lake trout harvest, seasons, and refuges were established by each agency to maximize the chances that the rehabilitation objectives set for lake trout were achievable. Data have shown that Wisconsin anglers could harvest around 80,000 lake trout and not jeopardize the chances for lake trout rehabilitation in Lake Michigan. Over the last 20 years, Wisconsin anglers have consistently harvested very low numbers of lake trout, averaging only 29,500 fish per year.
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In recent years, the Lake Michigan Committee has recommended and the states approved several chinook salmon stocking reductions to match predators with available prey (alewife). These reductions in 1998, 2006 and most recently in 2013 were mostly tied to Chinook salmon with no other species taking any appreciable reductions in stocking numbers. In 2016, the Lake Michigan Committee recommended another chinook salmon stocking reduction. In conjunction, this rule would allow increased harvest of lake trout, reducing the number of trout in the lake and decreasing the predation pressure on alewives. The changes to lake trout bag limits, season lengths and refuge areas would also provide more fishing opportunities and respond to angler desires. This rule focuses on lake trout in order to balance management options among species that prey on alewives.
Anticipated Private Sector Costs and Economic Impact of Implementing the Rule: Because of the increased bag limit and longer season, the rule is expected to have a positive economic impact on recreational angling businesses, including fishing guides and charter fishing businesses. (Governor’s Executive Order 50, none or minimal economic impact - less than $50,000). We expect the impact to be minimal, however.
Lake Michigan offers a massive and diverse sport fishery. Lake trout are harvested in areas accessible primarily to anglers and charters with specialized gear. These anglers also pursue several other species of trout and salmon. The availability and bag limit for lake trout may not be the primary motivating factor in people’s decisions to go fishing on lake Michigan, hire a chartered trip, or to invest in the type of gear that is necessary. The availability of lake trout does contribute greatly to the opportunities available and the very high quality of the Lake Michigan fishery. These rules will maintain these excellent fishing opportunities as well as the economic benefits of spending by anglers.
Each year, Wisconsin’s Great Lakes fishing opportunities draw some 178,000 anglers (as measured by the sale of the Great Lakes Salmon and Trout stamp) who spend more than 1.2 million days fishing. According to the American Sport fishing Association, these anglers contribute $114.3 million to the economy through direct retail expenditures and generate more than $12.5 million in state and local tax revenue.
Effects on Small Business: Because of the increased bag limit, longer season, and additional areas that allow lake trout fishing, the rule is expected to have a positive economic impact on recreational angling businesses, including fishing guides and charter fishing businesses. (Governor’s Executive Order 50, none or minimal economic impact - less than $50,000). When the permanent rule is pursued, the Department will conduct an economic impact analysis to gather comments from any individuals, businesses, local governments, or other entities that expect to be affected economically by the rule change.
The rule is necessary in order to ensure a sustainable lake trout fishery over the long-term that provides an economic and natural resource benefit for all affected. The rule does not impose any compliance or reporting requirements nor would any design or operational standards be contained in the rule.
Agency Contact Person: Scott Loomans, 101 South Webster St., PO BOX 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921. (608) 267-2452, firstname.lastname@example.org
Section 1. NR 20.20 (73) (n) 2. and 3. are amended to read:
COUNTY AND SPECIES
OPEN SEASON (both dates inclusive)
DAILY BAG LIMIT
MINIMUM LENGTH OR OTHER RESTRICTIONS (SIZE)
(n)Trout and salmon
2. Green Bay, major Green Bay tributaries, all other waters of Lake Michigan, Lake Michigan tributaries
Continuous except the open season for lake trout is March 1 to October 31
5 in total but only 2
may be lake trout
3. All other tributary streams, rivers and ditches to Green Bay upstream to the first dam or lake
First Saturday in May to the first Sunday in March
5 in total but only 2
may be lake trout
Section 2. Finding of emergency. The welfare of recreational angling businesses and recreational anglers is threatened by a decline in the alewife forage base in Lake Michigan. Chinook salmon feed primarily on alewife and the alewife population decline threatens the valuable chinook salmon fishery in the lake. Lake trout also consume alewives as part of their overall diet and are not currently as desirable by angling businesses (guides and charter boats) as chinook. This rule would allow increased fishing opportunities and harvest of lake trout, reducing the number of trout in the lake and decreasing the predation pressure on alewives. The department finds that the emergency rule process is necessary in order to implement lake trout bag limit and season changes for the 2017 fishing season and to ensure that the Lake Michigan fishery continues to be sustainable.
Section 10. Effective Date. This rule shall take effect upon publication in the Wisconsin state paper pursuant to s. 227.24 (1) (c).
Section 11. Board adoption. This rule was approved and adopted by the State of Wisconsin Natural Resources Board on March 1, 2017.