MARQUETTE - Two conservation groups lobbying the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to gather baseline data before adopting a proposed trout stream regulation that would allow anglers to keep 10 fish a day on all or portions of 10 designated Upper Peninsula streams.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission has the proposed new rule -part of a "Statewide Trout, Salmon, Whitefish and Lake Herring Regulations" package- scheduled among the DNR director's action items on the agenda for its meeting Thursday in Lansing. If approved by DNR Director Ken Creagh, the regulation would take effect April 1.
The groups wanting more study include the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. Bryan Burroughs of Michigan Trout Unlimited is scheduled to discuss the brook trout bag limit before the NRC, prior to Creagh's potential action.
A recent limit catch of Upper Peninsula brook trout. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources director is expected to decide next week whether to adopt a recommended new stream regulation, allowing a daily bag limit increase to 10 fish on all or portions of 10 select streams. (John Pepin photo)
"Our position is simple: We are not opposed to a change in any trout regulations as long as it is supported by sound science," said Jim Cantrill, president of the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Marquette. "We are not opposed to systematically choosing streams so as to see if regulatory changes impact fisheries, but only to the extent the MDNR is prudent in the number and type of stream that is chose and that we have reliable baseline data to judge impacts."
Streams with waters included in the proposal are: Bryan Creek (Marquette and Dickinson counties), Dead River (Marquette County), Driggs River (Schoolcraft County), East Branch Ontonagon River (Houghton and Iron counties), East Branch Tahquamenon River (Chippewa County), Ford River (Dickinson and Iron counties), North Branch Otter River (Houghton County), Rock River (Alger County), Upper Tahquamenon River (Luce County) and West Branch Huron River (Baraga County).
Currently, there are four categories of trout streams; this proposed additional category is referred to as a Type 5 trout stream. On Type 5 stream segments, the daily possession limit for brook trout would be 10 fish and the minimum size limit would be 7 inches. All or portions of 10 Upper Peninsula rivers and tributary streams are being proposed for the Type 5 category and have been selected from existing Type 1 streams (which have a daily possession limit of five fish and 7-inch minimum size limit).
Proposed Type 5 streams would constitute 6 percent of the current Type 1 stream mileage.
During the next several years, the DNR Fisheries Division would work with a variety of partners to assess the biological effects of the possession limit increase on the brook trout populations in Type 5 streams.
Cantrill said the "experiment" includes too many test streams and one-Bryan Creek-which is a major focus of the Fred Waara Chapter's conservation efforts.
"The MDNR does not have sufficient data at this time to make a decision based on fisheries science," Cantrill said. "Nor do we believe the agency has sufficient resources to gather the needed data before the start of the 2013 trout season."
Cantrill said the Trout Unlimited chapter would "certainly be willing to lend a hand in getting the needed data, but only insofar as it is done before any given stream is open to a 100 percent increase in creel limited for brook trout."
"We believe this rush to re-regulate is not in the best interests of the resource and is motivated by political, rather than natural, science," Cantrill said.
The DNR said the new regulation effort is in response to requests from anglers to increase the daily possession limit on brook trout across the Upper Peninsula. The issue was discussed at the September meeting of the NRC in Ontonagon. The commission recommended to Creagh the DNR implement the new proposal.
"There is little biological evidence regarding how many brook trout can be kept without harming sustainable population levels," said Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter forest ecologist. "There is absolutely no scientific reason that these limits should be different in the U.P. from the Lower Peninsula."
In a news release, the Sierra Club said that "for many years, the fishing regulations for keeping brook trout have been simple-five fish per day per person-but recently, a small but vocal minority of UP residents including the two Natural Resources Commissioners began agitating for the limit to be raised to 10 fish per day, per person, in the U.P. only."
The Sierra Club said that "with no notice to the public, the Coldwater Resources Steering Committee or stakeholders," the DNR announced its proposal on Oct. 15, allowing a little more than three weeks after the announcement before the decision.
"To make matters worse, the proposal indicates research on the effects of the regulations will commence after the regulations are changed," Roberson said. "The DNR has no data on current conditions, and consequently will have no ability to assess conditions and effects after the new regulations."
Maps and written descriptions of the upstream (where applicable) and downstream boundaries for the proposed Type 5 regulation are available at www.michigan.gov/ fishing.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org