Those with an interest in hunting, fishing, trapping or anything outdoors have the chance to provide input at the DNR spring wildlife and fisheries proposed rules hearing and annual Conservation Congress county meeting.
The annual hearings, one in each Wisconsin county, are slated for Monday, April 8, starting at 7 p.m.
Those attending will have the opportunity to elect delegates to represent their county on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and to weigh in on DNR wildlife and fisheries and Conservation Congress advisory questions and citizen resolutions.
A list of meeting locations and a booklet of the questions attendees can vote on is available on the DNR website. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search “spring hearings.”
A few of the issues attendees will be asked to consider:
Largemouth bass, trolling
Among proposed rule changes attendees can vote on is whether or not the early catch and release season for largemouth bass should be removed in the Northern Bass Management Zone and their harvest allowed under existing size and bag limits.
Smallmouth bass would still need to be immediately released during the early catch and release season. Past attendees of the hearings have supported separate management of largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Last year, hearing attendees voted in favor of a WCC advisory question regarding the elimination of the early catch and release season for largemouths in northwest Wisconsin.
The DNR says analyses of data indicate eliminating the catch and release portion of the season would not alter overall harvest of either largemouth or smallmouth bass. Analyses do indicate that smallmouths attain better size as a result of the existing season structure. There is no indication that the same is true for largemouth bass.
Another proposed change would allow motor trolling on all inland waters with up to three lines per angler.
Trolling is currently allowed on all waters in 19 Wisconsin counties and on one or more waters in 45 counties.
Last year, hearing attendees voted to allow motor trolling statewide, but voted “no” on three separate questions asking if they favor trolling with one, two, or three lines. Vilas County voted “no” by a large margin on the question of motor trolling, while Oneida County responders were slightly in favor of allowing it.
Currently, motor trolling is allowed on five lakes in Oneida County and on none in Vilas.
Wolves and dogs
Among the DNR advisory questions are four that touch on a hot-button issue. The questions seek input on the training of dogs to hunt wolves.
Though Act 169 established a wolf hunting season which allowed hunting with the aid of dogs, a lawsuit resulted in an injunction that stopped the practice until after harvest quotas for the first season were met. The wolf hunting and trapping season closed Dec. 23.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter C. Anderson ruled Jan. 4 that dogs could be used to hunt wolves, saying the DNR had no duty to impose restrictions on hunting wolves with dogs, but also saying that an existing rule that allows training dogs on wild animals does not address problems that could arise between dogs and wolves.
Under a DNR proposal, training dogs would be allowed during the period of the hunting season when hunting wolves with dogs is legal and during the month of March. Trainers would be limited to six dogs in a pack.
The dogs would be required to have some form of identification such as a tattoo or collar with the owner’s name and address attached. The trainer would also be required to possess rabies vaccination tags for the dogs. Training would be restricted to normal hunting hours.
While the DNR questions address facets of training, another advisory question seeks to find out if citizens want the practice allowed at all.
A Natural Resources Board question asks if the voter would favor legislation to prohibit the use of dogs to hunt wolves and training dogs to hunt wolves.
One DNR proposal would make permanent the current one fish bag limit and 18-inch minimum length limit for bass on Vilas County’s Sparkling Lake. Also, the daily bag limit would change to three fish and the minimum length limit would be reduced to 18 inches for walleye (currently there is a one-fish bag and a size limit of 28 inches).
Special regulations have been in place on Sparkling lake since 2002 and are due to expire in 2014. Among the management goals for the proposal is controlling invasive populations of rainbow smelt and rusty crayfish through increased predation.
The DNR says these rule changes will aid an ongoing study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and the DNR on the control of exotic species.
Another proposal concerns a project meant to evaluate angler acceptance of non-toxic fishing tackle.
The proposal would restrict anglers fishing Escanaba, Nebbish, and Pallette lakes in the Northern Highlands Fishing Research Area to non-lead sinkers, weights, and jig-heads if these weigh less than one ounce or measure less than one inch in diameter.
The purpose would be to protect loons and other water birds that sometimes ingest smaller tackle and also to increase public awareness of the potential hazard.
Voting results for an advisory question to put lead restrictions on these lakes last year were 1,646 in favor and 1,703 people opposed.
One proposal would mean a daily bag limit of five and a 15-inch minimum length limit on walleye on Iron County’s Sandy Beach Lake. Currently, there is a five-fish daily bag and no minimum length limit but anglers may keep only one fish over 14 inches.
The management goal is to maintain walleye as the dominant sport fish by protecting young walleye and increasing the number of adult walleye.
Under another proposal, Lake Six in Iron County would have a daily bag limit of five northern pike with no minimum length limit for (current regulations allow two fish with a 26-inch minimum).
The DNR wants to reduce northern pike density in order to improve growth rates and decrease predation on panfish, which it says currently exist in low abundance in Lake Six.
The Oneida County meeting will take place at James Williams Middle School, 915 Acacia Lane, Rhinelander.
The Vilas County meeting will take place at the St. Germain Elementary School gymnasium, 8234 Highway 70 West, Saint Germain.
The Iron County meeting will take place at the Iron County Courthouse, 300 Taconite Street, Hurley.
Look for more on the spring hearings in upcoming editions of The Lakeland Times.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.