Walleyes for Tomorrow (WFT) is initiating a proposed change for the walleye size limit regulations on the Manitowish chain of lakes and there will be a special meeting held on Aug. 14 to gauge public support of that change. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Manitowish Town Hall on Highway 51 and Airport Road.
The current regulations allow one fish over 14 inches and two fish under 14 inches to be harvested. WFT would like to see that changed to a harvest limit of three fish between 15 and 20 inches and no fish between 20-24 inches. The change would also allow one of three harvested fish to be over 24 inches.
The proposal supports the extensive stocking efforts of WFT on the chain over the last few years.
“In 2016 and 2018 we stocked over 40,000 walleyes in the Manitowish chain and those fish are getting up to where anglers are keeping them right now,” Headwaters Basin Chapter of WFT president Tom Kramer said. “We’re looking for those fish to mature so they’re large enough for natural reproduction. By giving them another year or two to grow there’d be more adult fish. We’d like to see more adult fish for natural reproduction.”
At one time natural reproduction was booming on the Manitowish chain and there became an over abundance of young fish, hence the allowable harvest of two fish under 14 inches.
“We wanted to thin those fish out to get them to grow a little bit,” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) region program manager Mike Vogelsang said of the current regulation. “There was so many of those young fish in the population it was actually slowing their growth and there weren’t many fish over 15 or 16 inches in the chain.”
Times have changed, however, and the chain now struggles with natural reproduction. The proposed regulation change would now protect those younger, smaller fish in hopes that they reach adulthood and reproduce.
“We aren’t seeing that super reproduction that we had 15 or 20 years ago, so a 15 inch minimum would help protect those smaller, juvenile fish now,” Vogelsang said.
Additionally, the 20-24 inch slot would protect the fish that make it to that prime spawning age while still allowing for a trophy fish over 24 inches.
According to state statute NR 20.35, because the current regulation was a special regulation when put into place years ago and the proposed change is the already established standard for the Northern region, the traditional three year process through the Conservation Congress and Natural Resources Board which most rule changes require could be bypassed.
“It could potentially go into place next season,” Vogelsang said of the proposed regulation change.
But before anything can happen NR 20.35 requires a public meeting.
“The purpose of that would be to present the most current data we have on the chain to the public and gauge whether or not there would be support for a change,” Vogelsang said.
DNR fisheries biologists will be on hand at the Aug. 14 meeting to address public questions and concerns.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]